They Have No Answer

The other day, I came across an essay titled “Staining the Silence” on Vox Nova, a Catholic group blog. The author, Mark Gordon, writes about how his son was deployed to combat in Iraq in 2007, how he feared for his safety as any parent would, and how at first he prayed every day for his son’s safe return. But as time went by, he found himself unable to avoid an obvious and unpleasant realization: tens of thousands of parents, despite offering countless prayers of their own, had seen their sons and daughters return from war wounded and broken in mind and body, or not return at all. And he was forced to ask himself:

What right did I have to ask that my son be spared? More to the point, could I even believe in a God who might answer my prayer while ignoring the pleas of all those others?

…30,000 children die of malnutrition in this world each day, many of them in the dust, like animals. Can I believe that they are each simply living (or dying) out God’s unique “plan” for them? Can I believe that while also believing that God’s “plan” for me includes a lucrative new contract, a great bargain at the new car lot, or even the safe return of my son? No.

This is more self-awareness than most theists display, and I give him full credit for it. Not only does he recognize that it would be myopic and selfish to expect divine protection for his own family while others are suffering and dying, he goes on to say that his beliefs don’t offer an answer to the larger problem of evil:

Most of us don’t have the time, the capacity, or the will to dive deeply into scholarly debates about theodicy… We take the questions that flummox philosophers and set them aside; at least until we’re confronted with the reality that life is far more complex than we would like to think. I am confronting that reality this week, and I’m sorry to say I have no real or satisfying answers.

Naturally, there were commenters who objected to this and expressed basically the same viewpoint that’s mocked in this poem – that God specially protects a handful of his favorites while ignoring everyone else:

I think that it was your strong prayers for your son that kept him sane and whole admist that immoral war. Just imagine what your son’s fate would be if his moral, mental, and physical/mortal fate would be had he had no prayers of intercession or supplication to God.

What a bizarre and unsavory theology this is! It says that God is perfectly aware when someone needs help and could intervene at any time, but won’t do anything unless he’s asked – in fact, unless he’s asked by someone else other than the person in need of help. That sounds less like the plan of a compassionate and loving person, and more like the whim of a sadistic tyrant who demands that supplicants stroke his ego before he’ll consider granting a boon.

That view fails the test of morality. But the alternative, which was discussed in the comments, fails the test of reason:

When someone speaks of “God’s plan,” I say: Look at the Cross. That is God’s plan … for me, for those I love, for those children in the dust, for all humanity.

But this makes absolutely no sense! To say that God’s plan for us includes tragedy, agony and heartbreak, but this is excusable because he put himself through the same suffering, just raises further and even more baffling questions. If I lose my job and end up sleeping on the streets, and I have a billionaire friend who could get me out of these troubles any time he wished and not even notice the amount spent, what would it accomplish for him to say, “I’m not going to give you any money, but to prove I have compassion on your plight, I’m going to leave my vast mansion, dress in rags and sleep on the street next to you”? What good would that do either of us?

In the comments, Gordon suggested that God is under no obligation to help the suffering because “I don’t think he is in that business”. But that apologetic just reiterates the question: Why isn’t God in that business? Why does he refuse to provide help that’s in his power to give?

I wrote last year, in “The Poisoned Cup of Theodicy“, about theists who counsel each other to avoid thinking about the problem of evil because doing so damages their faith. This one, to his credit, doesn’t flinch from it as others do, but faces up to it squarely. But even so, he has no more satisfying resolution to offer.

It’s often said that people embrace religion because it brings them solace in times of tragedy. But how true can that really be when those same people admit that religion has no answer to the question of why we suffer? Isn’t what we want a reason, an explanation for the pain we go through? Isn’t that what gives us the ability to endure? I would think that, if anything, it would worsen the problem to believe that there’s an all-powerful god causing it to happen for reasons that are inscrutable to us. It would add an extra level of bewilderment and frustration to misery and leave believers tormented by the thought that they somehow did something to deserve it all.

The atheist’s answer is still the simplest and most persuasive: Suffering happens because there is no god, no cosmic overseer dispensing justice. There’s only randomness and the impersonal forces of nature, which sometimes act in our favor and sometimes against. The only ones who are there for us in times of tragedy are our fellow human beings, and we must rely on each other if we want to make this world a better one. It’s not the most comforting answer, but it has the benefit of being true, and contains no mysteries, no paradoxes, no unsolved contradictions that simply must be accepted on faith.

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://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd

    In a (faltering) defence of the God-deliberately-hurts-us theodicy, I believe the idea is that pain and suffering is necessary to make us into proper people, in the same way that difficulty and adversity is necessary for moral growth. Nozick’s Experience Machine is relevant here: the idea that if we could instantly turn ourselves into the people we wished to be by pushing a button, most of us would recoil at the thought. If God were to do it to us, that would be similarly repulsive.

    Of course this defence completely ignores the people – including children – who suffer from birth to death, with seemingly no reason; or the many people whose suffering seems far more than they can bear and incommensurate with any possible improvement in character.

  • Jeff

    @Philboyd: In a (faltering) defence of the God-deliberately-hurts-us theodicy, I believe the idea is that pain and suffering is necessary to make us into proper people

    Puts me in mind of something Margaret Mead said – the idea that suffering is a necessary component of creativity is just something we tell ourselves to justify our inherent bloody-mindedness.

    Great post, Adam. I’ve heard this “look to the cross” bullshit before. The speaker never sees how utterly irrelevant and self-protective this statement is, and sees any objection as an indication of the objector’s “unregenerate” state.

  • Jeff

    I just replied to the person who left this comment:

    I think that it was your strong prayers for your son that kept him sane and whole admist that immoral war. Just imagine what your son’s fate would be if his moral, mental, and physical/mortal fate would be had he had no prayers of intercession or supplication to God.

    My response:

    So those who died, or were permanently maimed, or will spend the rest of their lives suffering from PTSD – they simply weren’t fortunate enough to have someone praying for them? God stands there, wringing his hands, saying, “Gee, I’d like to help you, but there’s nothing I can do – no one is praying for you.”?

    http://vox-nova.com/2011/07/06/staining-the-silence/#comment-109524

    Let’s see if it makes it out of moderation. I think there’s about a fifty-fifty chance. If it does, my money says that within another comment or two, I’ll end up with, “As a non-believer, you simply can’t understand.”

  • AC

    Philboyd – I think the ‘character-building’ theodicy fails for even more reasons than that. How is suffering necessarily for moral growth or building character? It is pretty much an ad hoc response.

    Not to mention the fact that should a human (Stephen Law’s great analogy is a headteacher of a school) act in the way God supposedly does to induce moral growth, they’d be considered insane.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I think, for the vast, vast majority of people, people who suffer horribly are dehumanized by the experience and perpetrate suffering upon others.

    I don’t think there’s anything ennobling about suffering.

    Many persons have suffered far worse than me, but I’ve experienced my fair share.

    And, I can tell you that I would gladly give away in a heartbeat anything that I might have gained from my suffering to spend just five more minutes with my beloved baby brother.

  • Brett

    To the person who doubts getting out of moderation:

    It seems you have not noted the integrity of the author as Adam has.

    It’ll get through. Of course, what some other poster says in response will also get through and Mr. Gordon can hardly be responsible for any errors in that person’s response.

  • http://journal.nearbennett.com Rick

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with an old high-school friend not long ago. We were catching up after years of lost contact, and she was recounting some sad tale of personal hardship (which now escapes me) and ended it by saying something like “But God never gives us more than we can handle”. The implication was that these hardships are hand-picked by God to help build character OR God would make sure life never got too tough. I responded that people who commit or attempt suicide would probably disagree with her sentiment.

    We’ve since fallen out of contact again.

  • http://deusdiapente.blogspot.com J. Quinton

    I think, for the vast, vast majority of people, people who suffer horribly are dehumanized by the experience and perpetrate suffering upon others.

    This is actually very true. I’m pretty sure that in the literature of child abuse, abused children grow up to subsequently abuse other children and the process repeats. It might be nice to think that suffering builds character, but observation shows that suffering only serves to create more suffering. I don’t know anyone who would wish to be raped/molested as a child so that they could grow up to be a better person.

    Similarly, I don’t think any parent in their right might would rape or abuse their child to attempt to make them a better adult. But of course, that’s the logic that this theodicy posits.

    Of course, there is far more suffering in the world than just human suffering. And it’s gone on for millions (billions?) of years longer than any human has been around. What moral/spiritual growth was going on then?

  • Trnman

    Heaven is proof that god has the ability to create an environment void of all suffering, pain and malencholy. Yet instead of just having everyone instantly born into this utopian world he desires our suffering here on this planet at completely random and often inappropriate times (such as children suffering). Theist often reconcile this paradox with an attempt to rationalize it into two main ideas:
    1. We somehow gain something explicit through suffering
    2. If Christian, then the evil that exist now was brought upon us because of original sin, and the transmission of that sin to all.
    Unfortunately, 1 doesn’t work, and 2 is an atrocity that is more of a control issue than a virtue.

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd

    @Sarah, Quinton

    Yeah, excellent point. While some suffering is probably necessary to build strength (AC, I sort-of reject your claim that we can develop as humans without a measure of pain,) horrible suffering does tend to break something inside people. It’s too easy to buy into the narrative of redemptive suffering – it’s been beaten into our culture for centuries.

  • Elizabeth

    This was beautifully written, as always…I just felt I had to say that. Your writing always moves me deeply.

    Thank you.

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

    AC, I sort-of reject your claim that we can develop as humans without a measure of pain

    If suffering is a necessary component of human development, it is only that way (given the idea that humans were created by god and all that) because god made humans that would require suffering. This does not get god off the hook and only serves to create more theodicy problems.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chapain

    @ OMGF, #10:

    I think a typical evangelical response to your “god made humans that would require suffering” comment would be something to the effect that “god didn’t make us that way; that trait is a consequence of humanity’s fall into a sinful condition.” IOW, god made us perfect, we’re the ones who screwed up our wiring (and the rest of creation’s along with it). That raises questions about god as a designer if he couldn’t make people who wouldn’t fuck themselves up so badly. Surely a perfectly clever designer could have built something into the system to avoid such a catastrophe.

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

    I would also point out that that argument basically boils down to an admission that god is not perfect. Either god knew we would fall and therefore would require suffering that he would then provide (theodicy problems abound) or he’s an abject failure by being completely unable to obtain what he wants (theodicy problems still abound).

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Sarah]: I think, for the vast, vast majority of people, people who suffer horribly are dehumanized by the experience and perpetrate suffering upon others.

    Absolutely so. Suffering teaches people that the world is a cruel and dangerous place. Severe and prolonged suffering eventually destroys a person’s ability to interact meaningfully with others, often permanently.

    Claims that suffering helps people in the long run are destructive. They warp peoples’ sense of justice and the proper (equal) power dynamic between individuals and groups. They create a cycle of deprivation and violence by preventing those who otherwise have the power to intervene in the suffering of others from being seen as anything less than heartless for failing to do so.

    You won’t hear the priests talk about this because it destroys the self-justifying, self-encapsulating, and self-perpetuating nature of the faith.

    [Philboyd]: Nozick’s Experience Machine is relevant here: the idea that if we could instantly turn ourselves into the people we wished to be by pushing a button, most of us would recoil at the thought.

    I don’t recoil at that in the least. Where do I sign up?

    Oh, right. It’s imaginary. Silly gods, why aren’t you real?

  • J

    I can’t help but think of Tim Minchin’s song “Sam’s Mum” and its examination of the power of prayer:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDp6QEKXaFg
    (NSFW language, at least where I work)

  • Patrick

    In the following I’m presenting an attempt of an answer to the Problem of Evil, which may be called “Theodicy from divine justice”:

    - God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from their sufferings (see Isaiah 59,1-2).
    - Unlike God Christians are not perfectly just. Therefore, unlike God, they are in a position to help people with unforgiven sins. By doing this they may make those among them who haven’t yet accepted God’s salvation receptive of it (Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2), which in turn frees these persons from suffering in the afterlife.
    - The greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice (see Matthew 13,27-29). Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it.
    - Someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil (see Genesis 2,16, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16) faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. So, God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s death.
    - A person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect (Luke 16,25) and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife; the amount of suffering in this life is so to speak subtracted from the amount of suffering in the afterlife. So, God may not be inclined to relieve this person’s suffering.
    - A person’s suffering in this life may make the person receptive of God’s salvation (Luke 15,11-21), which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.
    - Those people who suffer more in this life than they deserve due to their way of life are compensated for it by receiving rewards in Heaven.

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

    God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from their sufferings (see Isaiah 59,1-2).

    And, who is doing the forgiving? And, what about sin? Sin is supposedly offense against god, who can’t be harmed in any way, so what offense is there? And, why does god visit suffering upon those he’s mad at? This is not a strong start for your defense of theodicy.

    Unlike God Christians are not perfectly just. Therefore, unlike God, they are in a position to help people with unforgiven sins. By doing this they may make those among them who haven’t yet accepted God’s salvation receptive of it (Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2), which in turn frees these persons from suffering in the afterlife.

    The idea that god can not help anyone who is a sinner is pretty alien, destroys the concept of omni-max, and doesn’t paint god in a moral light. You’re saying that normal Xians are more moral than god. And, why is the default position of the afterlife one where people suffer? Why would a just and good god set that up?

    The greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice (see Matthew 13,27-29). Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it.

    Then god is not omni-max.

    Someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil (see Genesis 2,16, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16) faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. So, God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s death.

    So, you’re pro abortion, right?

    A person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect (Luke 16,25) and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife; the amount of suffering in this life is so to speak subtracted from the amount of suffering in the afterlife. So, God may not be inclined to relieve this person’s suffering.
    - A person’s suffering in this life may make the person receptive of God’s salvation (Luke 15,11-21), which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.
    - Those people who suffer more in this life than they deserve due to their way of life are compensated for it by receiving rewards in Heaven.

    I lump these all together under the heading of, “Gee, sorry you got buggered by that priest Timmy, but here’s an ice cream cone. All better now?”

  • ORAXX

    When people take it upon themselves to tell me about the power of prayer, I respond with the question; How many prayers do you suppose were offered up during the Holocaust, and how well did it work?

  • Charles Black

    At least we can give him credit for recognising the problems of his own religion, though it may be too late for his son though. Better to see through religion now than never.

  • Eurekus

    The best reason that I’ve come across in explaining why God allows suffering is this. He allows it to show the universe the horror of sin. Yes, I said it was the best that I’ve come across, but it’s still terribly pathetic.

    I actually don’t like to talk to theists about the problem of evil, their answers frustrate me too much.

  • Monty

    There are some evils that can actually be explained away by the free will argument and probably some of the others. Lies, betrayal, that sort of thing. But I’ve never heard anything even slightly convincing for natural evils.

  • Jeff

    @Patrick: - A person’s suffering in this life may make the person receptive of God’s salvation (Luke 15,11-21), which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.
    - Those people who suffer more in this life than they deserve due to their way of life are compensated for it by receiving rewards in Heaven.

    Take your God, your afterlife and your psychotic notions of “justice” and shove them straight up your ass.

    Moron.

  • Scotlyn

    The problem with the problem of evil, it that it always demonstrates how the human being who grapples with it has so much more of a moral conscience than the purported god. For this there can only be one answer that can preserve god’s goodness – god’s “mysterious ways.”

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “And, who is doing the forgiving?”

    God is doing the forgiving when people are ready to repent.

    OMGF: “And, what about sin? Sin is supposedly offense against god, who can’t be harmed in any way, so what offense is there?”

    Why shouldn’t a perfectly just being be grieved by sin?

    OMGF: “And, why does god visit suffering upon those he’s mad at?”

    How else can one punish sinners?

    OMGF: “The idea that god can not help anyone who is a sinner is pretty alien, destroys the concept of omni-max, and doesn’t paint god in a moral light.”

    Would it paint God in a more moral light if He answered the prayers of the worst sinners? Wouldn’t the sinners interpret such an experience as God’s approval of their way of living? It is not lack of power that in my view makes it impossible for God to help sinners, but His perfect justice. An analogy from our own experience may help to understand this point. If we say that we cannot do something it can be because we are not powerful enough to do it or because the act would violate our moral principles. This can have the result that, comparing two persons, the less powerful person with hardly any moral principles is able to do things that the more powerful person with strong moral principles is not. Moreover, why should God help a sinner in this life and punish him in the afterlife?

    OMGF: “You’re saying that normal Xians are more moral than god.”

    Whereas the help from God would encourage sinners to continue living an ungodly life, this is rather unlikely with respect to the help from Christians.

    OMGF: “And, why is the default position of the afterlife one where people suffer? Why would a just and good god set that up?”

    What’s wrong with punishing people for their iniquities?

    OMGF: “Then god is not omni-max.”

    In my view God is omniscient, omnibenevolent and perfectly just. He is also omnipotent to the degree that this property is not in conflict to the aforementioned properties.

    As for the idea that the greater God’s beneficial power due to His love is, the greater is God’s destructive power due to His justice, a good illustration of this principle may be found in the description of the church in Jerusalem in the Book of Acts. Here God’s beneficial power was so great that it could heal a crippled beggar (Acts 3,1-10) yet at the same time His destructive power caused the death of two persons who committed what might be regarded a minor sin; they had been cheating (Acts 5,1-11).

    OMGF: “So, you’re pro abortion, right?”

    As a Christian one is not allowed to kill an innocent person. Moreover, in my view with respect to the afterlife a person is in a better position if he or she turns towards God and receives rewards in Heaven due to his or her acts of righteousness than if he or she just goes to Heaven due to his or her inability to sin. So by killing an unborn person one may deprive him or her of rewards in Heaven.

    OMGF: “I lump these all together under the heading of, “Gee, sorry you got buggered by that priest Timmy, but here’s an ice cream cone. All better now?””

    I don’t see why it should be a bad idea that people are compensated in the afterlife for their suffering in this life.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Patrick,

    As an adult survivor of horrific childhood abuse (and no child was more religious or loving or innocent or devoted to God than I was), you are an embarrassment to humanity. When I think of me as that sweet, beautiful little girl and how I begged God to forgive me, how I called out to him, because I must have done something so evil to deserve the pain and torture I received, it makes me want to scream.

    On behalf of all of the innocent children being raped and abused and tortured right now, across the globe, I say — shame on you. Shame on you. You are responsible for their tears. You are responsible for their horrific, unthinkable suffering. Not God. You. Their blood, their agony is on your hands.

    You should be ashamed of yourself. You are probably not embarrassed, but I am embarrassed for you.

    Your ideology is disgusting and inhuman and sick and depraved.

  • Jeff

    @Sarah Jane: Patrick,

    As an adult survivor of horrific childhood abuse (and no child was more religious or loving or innocent or devoted to God than I was), you are an embarrassment to humanity. …

    You should be ashamed of yourself. You are probably not embarrassed, but I am embarrassed for you.

    Your ideology is disgusting and inhuman and sick and depraved.

    Seconded. Of course, he will never understand this.

    The problem is that he isn’t an isolated example; there are millions of them. I’m convinced it isn’t merely the result of enculturation; there’s a neurologically-based cognitive deficit in evidence.

    The inmates are running the asylum. As a species, we’re screwed.

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

    Patrick,

    God is doing the forgiving when people are ready to repent.

    So, god puts creates beings that can not help but sin, puts them in uncompromising positions so that they do sin, then sends them suffering and anguish for doing exactly what he made them do, then decides that he can’t forgive them for doing what he made them do unless they supplicate themselves to him? And, this is supposed to be just and moral?

    Why shouldn’t a perfectly just being be grieved by sin?

    Why should a perfect being be grieved by anything? It’s contradictory in nature.

    How else can one punish sinners?

    ‘Sorry that I gave you dibilitating cancer that will slowly and painfully kill you, but you did jaywalk and I was simply forced to do it.’

    Here’s a novel idea, how about god uses his powers to help people see what they did was immoral and help them to be better people? But, it’s much more simplistic and satisfying to think that god simply smites sinners, isn’t it? Of course, this does nothing to speak about children who suffer or natural evil that afflicts people randomly…or do you think that all the people who died of the latest round of flooding deserved it?

    Would it paint God in a more moral light if He answered the prayers of the worst sinners?

    It would if god would try to help people. Your god seems intent on sitting on the sidelines unless someone does something he disapproves of, and then he pounces by arbitrarily and capriciously causing some bit of suffering…YMMV of course, because some “sinners” don’t suffer very much while others who do less serious offenses suffer quite a bit. (And, this doesn’t even touch upon the difference between sin and immoral actions, which is a rather important distinction.)

    It is not lack of power that in my view makes it impossible for God to help sinners, but His perfect justice.

    It’s not justice at all, it’s indifference at best and sadism at worst.

    What’s wrong with punishing people for their iniquities?

    Hell is infinitely unjust because it is infinite punishment for finite “crimes.” To make matters worse, the “crimes” in question are usually such things as simply not believing. Hell in the mainstream Xian depiction is not a place where immoral people go, but a place where unsaved people go. Those who are saved and selected by god alone on the criteria of what their beliefs are. Your depiction of hell as a place to punish bad people is at odds with mainstream Xianity. Even if your depiction is accurate, it’s still immoral and unjust.

    In my view God is omniscient, omnibenevolent and perfectly just. He is also omnipotent to the degree that this property is not in conflict to the aforementioned properties.

    IOW, you’ve jettisoned the idea of an omni-max god.

    Here God’s beneficial power was so great that it could heal a crippled beggar (Acts 3,1-10) yet at the same time His destructive power caused the death of two persons who committed what might be regarded a minor sin; they had been cheating (Acts 5,1-11).

    Thus displaying the arbitrariness of your god, the inconsistency of your narrative, and the ridiculousness of it all, as well as the injustice and a complete failure of your theodicy.

    As a Christian one is not allowed to kill an innocent person.

    But, abortions would allow for more souls to reach heaven without the possibility of being tainted by the outside world and possibly going to hell. You should be for it.

    Moreover, in my view with respect to the afterlife a person is in a better position if he or she turns towards God and receives rewards in Heaven due to his or her acts of righteousness than if he or she just goes to Heaven due to his or her inability to sin. So by killing an unborn person one may deprive him or her of rewards in Heaven.

    And here you’ve jettisoned the idea of perfect justice. Is it just that a child goes straight to heaven while other people have the ability to fall from grace and go to hell through no fault of either party? Is it just that the child does not get the ability to gain the rewards that others might get? Your god has set up a system that is rife with inequality and some people get the short end of the stick due to this, as set up by god. IOW, god has set up an unequal system whereby some people will get shafted no matter what, which is the definition of non-perfect justice.

    I don’t see why it should be a bad idea that people are compensated in the afterlife for their suffering in this life.

    Because the ends don’t justify the means. Any moral system should understand that. Apparently your god doesn’t.

  • Jeff

    To the person who doubts getting out of moderation:

    It seems you have not noted the integrity of the author as Adam has.

    It’ll get through. Of course, what some other poster says in response will also get through and Mr. Gordon can hardly be responsible for any errors in that person’s response.

    Comment #6 by: Brett | July 28, 2011, 8:38 am

    Well, Brett, the people who are administering the blog in Mark’s absence allowed the comment to go through, but I received this admonishment:

    I’ve decided to approve the comments since they are innocuous and Mark is unavailable. If you write on other forums that your comment is unlikely to be approved, why on earth should we approve it? We have, because it is innocuous, but submitting comments that you believe only have a 50/50 chance of approval is by definition trollish behavior. Rest assured that none of us live in a bubble and are well familiar with these devastating retorts. (And yes that was sarcasm.)

    So now I’m a troll. I’ve unsubscribed from the thread, and won’t be going back.

    Christianity – 2,000 years of defining terms to suit itself as it goes along.

  • http://www.theelectoralcollegestudent.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    When Christians try to tell me that the only thing their god can do when people sin is to punish them, I want to pull my hair out. If you believe in an all-powerful God who has created everything, including the conditions in which humans developed, then you by definition also believe that your god created the environment which influences humans to commit wrongs and “sin” — so therefore the Christian god also bears some responsibility for what people do. It’s hardly a model of perfect justice to set a system in motion, and then blame the system for following the path you set for it.

    People learn by exploring, questioning authority, and through explanation rather than passive acceptance. This is the natural condition of human beings – it’s how children behave, until they are taught otherwise. If you believe God created everything, then you believe in a god who created beings that learn by making mistakes. How can a God of truth expect human beings to develop a moral sense otherwise? Wouldn’t a parent’s first reaction be to educate their child instead of always punishing them? Why couldn’t a perfectly just God do this?

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Teleprompter]: If you believe God created everything, then you believe in a god who created beings that learn by making mistakes. How can a God of truth expect human beings to develop a moral sense otherwise? Wouldn’t a parent’s first reaction be to educate their child instead of always punishing them? Why couldn’t a perfectly just God do this?

    Q: Why doesn’t God educate people peacefully rather than violently and capriciously punish them for sins he defined?

    A: That wouldn’t establish authoritarianism.

  • Jeff

    Q: Why doesn’t God educate people peacefully rather than violently and capriciously punish them for sins he defined?

    A: That wouldn’t establish authoritarianism.

    BINGO!

  • Patrick

    Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    You seem to misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that all people deserve the suffering they experience in this life. One basic idea of my theodicy is that the suffering in this life TOGETHER WITH the suffering in the afterlife is proportional to the sins the respective people committed. So, suffering in this life either results in an increase of heavenly rewards or a decrease of suffering in the afterlife.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I understood you just fine, Patrick.

    And, I still think your ideology is disgusting and sick and inhuman and depraved.

    It is a dehumanizing ideology.

    It trivializes the suffering of humanity (it debases humanity), because, no worries, they’ll get extra cupcakes or virgins or raisins or milk and honey or frankincense and myrrh in heaven after they die.

    Think of the famous tale of the French bishop (I believe) who told the French military to kill all the persons in a town in the south of France (Languedoc), whether it was certain that they were Albigensians (Cathars — deemed heretics) or no, at some famous battle — because why? “Because God will know his own.”

  • Jeff

    @OMGF: Is it just that a child goes straight to heaven while other people have the ability to fall from grace and go to hell through no fault of either party? Is it just that the child does not get the ability to gain the rewards that others might get? Your god has set up a system that is rife with inequality and some people get the short end of the stick due to this, as set up by god. IOW, god has set up an unequal system whereby some people will get shafted no matter what, which is the definition of non-perfect justice.

    OMGF, you know the drill – everyone deserves eternal damnation, it’s unbelievable grace that God has chosen to save anyone at all (I recently came across someone online who said it’s unfathomable grace if God chooses to save only ONE person out of all the billions who have ever lived – seriously), and, of course, the ultimate rationalization/defense mechanism – if God does it, it MUST be right.

    There is no getting through to the vast majority of these people – none. They’re perfectly happy to see everyone else – often, even their own children – in hell, so long as they get the ontological security blanket for the few brief decades they’re here. That’s all that matters. It’s a form of addiction, but I’m convinced it’s more than that – it’s a criminal psychopathy.

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “So, god puts creates beings that can not help but sin, puts them in uncompromising positions so that they do sin, then sends them suffering and anguish for doing exactly what he made them do, then decides that he can’t forgive them for doing what he made them do unless they supplicate themselves to him? And, this is supposed to be just and moral?”

    God provides people, even those who would not enter into a relationship with Him, with a conscience (Romans 1,29-2,16) and at least with a limited ability to act morally (Matthew 7,11). In addition to this God is willing to forgive repentant people their sins (1 John 1,9) and to free them from sinful desires (Galatians 5,16-18).

    OMGF: “Why should a perfect being be grieved by anything? It’s contradictory in nature.”

    I don’t see how a perfectly loving and perfectly just being cannot be grieved by a lack of love and a lack of justice.

    OMGF: “’Sorry that I gave you dibilitating cancer that will slowly and painfully kill you, but you did jaywalk and I was simply forced to do it.’

    Here’s a novel idea, how about god uses his powers to help people see what they did was immoral and help them to be better people? But, it’s much more simplistic and satisfying to think that god simply smites sinners, isn’t it? Of course, this does nothing to speak about children who suffer or natural evil that afflicts people randomly…or do you think that all the people who died of the latest round of flooding deserved it?”

    My comment referred to the suffering in the afterlife, not in this life.

    OMGF: “It would if god would try to help people. Your god seems intent on sitting on the sidelines unless someone does something he disapproves of, and then he pounces by arbitrarily and capriciously causing some bit of suffering…YMMV of course, because some “sinners” don’t suffer very much while others who do less serious offenses suffer quite a bit.”

    The comment I made towards Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy provides an answer in this respect.

    OMGF: “(And, this doesn’t even touch upon the difference between sin and immoral actions, which is a rather important distinction.)”

    I’m very eager to hear about this distinction.

    OMGF: “It’s not justice at all, it’s indifference at best and sadism at worst.”

    Is a judge who sentences a defendant to prison guilty of sadism?

    OMGF: “Hell is infinitely unjust because it is infinite punishment for finite “crimes.””

    Even here on Earth the duration of a prison sentence does not correspond to the duration of the crime for which it is a punishment.

    OMGF: “To make matters worse, the “crimes” in question are usually such things as simply not believing. Hell in the mainstream Xian depiction is not a place where immoral people go, but a place where unsaved people go. Those who are saved and selected by god alone on the criteria of what their beliefs are.”

    In my view it is because of their immoral deeds that people are punished in the afterlife; one’s belief is rather irrelevant. The following analogy may make clear what in my view the relationship between a person’s belief and the respective person’s fate in the afterlife is: Someone does not believe in the efficacy of a vaccination and therefore refuses to be vaccinated. As a consequence he dies of the disease the vaccination is meant to prevent. So, in a sense one can say that his lack of belief concerning the vaccination caused his death. But strictly speaking it is not his lack of belief that caused the death but the pathogen. The effect of the former is only indirect. Analogous to this simply believing in the efficacy of the vaccination is of no use at all. One has to be vaccinated. Applied to the Christian concept of salvation one has to turn towards Christ and receive Him (John 1,11-12).

    The willingness to repent is a vital precondition for salvation (Romans 2,5-11). An unrepentant sinner cannot expect to go to Heaven, no matter what his beliefs are (Galatians 5,6, James 2,14-26).

    OMGF: “Your depiction of hell as a place to punish bad people is at odds with mainstream Xianity.”

    The importance of repentance is an integral part of mainstream Christianity.

    OMGF: “IOW, you’ve jettisoned the idea of an omni-max god.”

    The concept of omnipotence is somewhat different from the other concepts, as an omnipotent being is a logical impossibility. This can be seen from the “omnipotence paradox” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox). One consequence of this paradox is that omnipotence and omnibenevolence are incompatible concepts, as an all-powerful being would also have to be able to decide to be no longer perfectly good.

    Moreover, being loving and being just are moral qualities. Being powerful is an attribute that belongs to a different category. For this reason it is justified to treat omnipotence on the one hand and omnibenevolence and perfect justice on the other hand differently.

    OMGF: “Thus displaying the arbitrariness of your god, the inconsistency of your narrative, and the ridiculousness of it all, as well as the injustice and a complete failure of your theodicy.”

    I can’t see any arbitrariness on the side of God, any inconsistency of the narrative or any ridiculousness of it all.

    OMGF: “But, abortions would allow for more souls to reach heaven without the possibility of being tainted by the outside world and possibly going to hell. You should be for it.”

    As in my view the possibility to repent and accept God’s salvation is open to any person I don’t see why they should be deprived of it by killing him or her while unborn. After all you yourself write: “Is it just that the child does not get the ability to gain the rewards that others might get?”.

    OMGF: “Is it just that a child goes straight to heaven while other people have the ability to fall from grace and go to hell through no fault of either party?”

    If people turn away from God it’s certainly them who are responsible for such a decision. They can’t blame anyone else for it.

    OMGF: “Is it just that the child does not get the ability to gain the rewards that others might get?”

    According to the last point of my theodicy (see above) it’s not only works of righteousness that produce heavenly rewards, but also undeserved suffering. As people who die before they reach the age of accountability deserve heavenly bliss any suffering they experience is undeserved. So, they also have the possibility to acquire rewards, albeit in a different way than other people.

    The only group of people who cannot acquire rewards in one way or another are those who for some reasons or other are not able to experience any suffering. This certainly applies to many aborted children, as in an early stage embryos don’t have any nervous system that enables them to experience pain. But even being in Heaven without any rewards is certainly anl experience worth having.

  • monkeymind

    Wow, Patrick… life, the universe and everything is about earning chits we can later cash in heaven for Red Vines and fun-size candy bars? Seriously, this was the pedagogic model of my daughter’s third grade teacher. I was amazed that it was allowed. It sucked as a way to run a third grade classroom, and it would suck as a way to run the universe. Seriously, you should study other models of teaching and learning that rely on respect rather than manipulation, and witness them in action, and you would realize how f’ed up your god sounds. Aside from the moral problems that others have pointed out, this is not a worldview with any depth or dignity.

  • Jeff

    Patrick simplified: If I say something over and over, that makes it true (this describes every Christian I’ve ever met, actually).

    Patrick, please do us all a favor and go to heaven now.

  • Jeff

    @monkeymind: Seriously, this was the pedagogic model of my daughter’s third grade teacher.

    This is the problem; they’re operating at a third-grade developmental level. They don’t see it, of course; they think we’re just looking for ways to rationalize our state of “sin”.

    They should just change the name of the religion to “Authoritarianism Without Boundaries”.

  • 2-D Man

    I’ve got a long one here, but it was fun to write.

    God provides people, even those who would not enter into a relationship with Him, with a conscience (Romans 1,29-2,16) and at least with a limited ability to act morally (Matthew 7,11).

    Isn’t that the issue, though? In Yahweh’s stupid little scheme, he gives people limitations and expects perfection.

    In addition to this God is willing to forgive repentant people their sins and to free them from sinful desires.

    Oh ho ho! Listen to Mr. High-and-mighty over there. Patrick has been freed from “sinful” desires. He’s so gosh-darn repentant and humble, if we all started being more like Patrick, the world would be completely without suffering, since he never wants to commit sin.

    I don’t see how a perfectly loving and perfectly just being cannot be grieved by a lack of love and a lack of justice.

    Perfection and want are mutually exclusive. See also: married and bachelor, circle and square, red and colourless.

    My comment referred to the suffering in the afterlife, not in this life.

    Then your comment does not address the problems of evil & pain and your theodicy fails. Good to know you agree with us.

    (And, this doesn’t even touch upon the difference between sin and immoral actions, which is a rather important distinction.)

    I’m very eager to hear about this distinction.

    Putting together how each of these actions should be considered immoral is an exercise left for the reader. Bonus points for maintaining consistency throughout. (Resorting to “X decides what is sin and what is immoral” is a Euthyphro violation. Weaseling with a story about a hungry guy on a rooftop is an implicit acknowledgement that sin and morality are distinct.)
    It is a SIN to eat prawn tempura.
    It is a SIN to eat bacon.
    It is NOT a SIN to eat a hamburger.
    It is a SIN to put cheese on that burger.
    It is a SIN to leave gay people alive.
    It is a SIN to leave disobedient children alive.
    It is a SIN to have any contact with menstruating women.
    It is a SIN to wear clothes with mildew on them.
    It is a SIN to put an elastic waistband on your boxer shorts.
    It is a SIN to keep track of Yahweh’s prayer-answering rates.
    It is a SIN to covet things.
    (The distinction is the inability to reconcile all of this with MORALITY, get it?)

    Is a judge who sentences a defendant to prison guilty of sadism?

    No.

    Even here on Earth the duration of a prison sentence does not correspond to the duration of the crime for which it is a punishment.

    Your words are consistent with the idea that humans create gods. I suspect you got this correct by accident.

    [Vaccine analogy]

    Your analogy is flawed. People who don’t believe in vaccinations can still get them.

    For this reason it is justified to treat omnipotence on the one hand and omnibenevolence and perfect justice on the other hand differently.

    Omnipotence leads to paradoxes. It should be treated like nonsense.

    I can’t see any arbitrariness on the side of God, any inconsistency of the narrative or any ridiculousness of it all.

    That is probably because you refuse to do so. Imagine if Vishnu killed someone for committing a “minor sin”, as some sort of juvenile show of power. I’m sure you would say that is arbitrary and ridiculous. The same actions by Yahweh don’t invite the same ridicule?

    According to the last point of my theodicy (see above) it’s not only works of righteousness that produce heavenly rewards, but also undeserved suffering. As people who die before they reach the age of accountability deserve heavenly bliss any suffering they experience is undeserved.

    Ho-o-o-o-leeee shit! This is… just… it’s… you’ve advocated torturing children. “It’s good for them! No, I swear!”
    Maybe you just don’t understand, or something, so I’ll explain. If you say you’ve got a perfect system, people like us will see if we can game the system, such that being evil is the best way to produce good outcomes, or vice versa. In your system, the best way to do this is to maximize the number of children suffering and the severity thereof. This is why we think it’s a bad system. This is why Sarah calls your ideas sick and depraved. This is why your behaviour is viewed as arrogant.
    Does that make sense to you?

  • Patrick

    Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy and 2-D Man

    You both are committing a logical fallacy that can be formulated as follows: “If an idea has had or could have unpleasant consequences, it cannot be true.”

  • monkeymind

    Patrick – there’s no reason to believe it is true. The unpleasant consequences are the reason why we care that other people believe it.

  • Jeff

    According to the last point of my theodicy (see above) it’s not only works of righteousness that produce heavenly rewards, but also undeserved suffering. As people who die before they reach the age of accountability deserve heavenly bliss any suffering they experience is undeserved.

    Isn’t it interesting that the “age of accountability” always seems to correspond with puberty?

    Patrick, everything – and I mean absolutely everything you’ve said here, everything you think is so profound, so well though-out – does nothing but validate our arguments. The tragedy is that you’re too simple to realize it.

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I refuse to engage them. You’ll get farther talking to brick wall.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Patrick,

    Hmmm. Yeah, I’m pretty sure the burden of proof here has been laid at your feet, not mine.

    If you want me to believe that all of my suffering in this life is paving the way for an afterlife of fun and frolic, then you’re going to have to cough up some pretty convincing proof.

    And, so far, I have to say, your case is pretty weak.

  • 2-D Man

    Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy and 2-D Man
    You both are committing a logical fallacy that can be formulated as follows: “If an idea has had or could have unpleasant consequences, it cannot be true.”

    No, Patrick, no. You’re supposed to argue with the unpleasant part of what we say, not some conclusion of what we say. By accusing us of an argument from consequences, you’ve acknowledged and legitimized the idea that your god is unpleasant, which, again, defeats your theodicy.

    (Incidentally, in this case, it’s not actually a logical fallacy. Check this out:
    P1: If an entity is perfectly good, it will not exhibit bad traits.
    P2: Yahweh is defined as an entity that is perfectly good.
    P3: Yahweh exhibits bad traits.
    C1: Yahweh is not perfectly good.
    C2: Yahweh, as defined, does not exist.)

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

    Patrick,
    2-D Man did a good takedown, but I can’t help piling on…er I mean adding some additonal points. I’ll try not to be redundant.

    The comment I made towards Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy provides an answer in this respect.

    What, the one where you claim that people don’t get the amount of suffering they deserve? Want to think about that one for a bit?

    In my view it is because of their immoral deeds that people are punished in the afterlife; one’s belief is rather irrelevant…Applied to the Christian concept of salvation one has to turn towards Christ and receive Him (John 1,11-12).

    Again, want to think about that for a bit (you do see the contradiction, don’t you)?

    The importance of repentance is an integral part of mainstream Christianity.

    Yes, contradictorily it is. And yet, this doesn’t address my comment at all.

    The concept of omnipotence is somewhat different from the other concepts, as an omnipotent being is a logical impossibility.

    Then you don’t believe in an omni-max god, just as I said. So, what are the limits of your god’s powers?

    I can’t see any arbitrariness on the side of God, any inconsistency of the narrative or any ridiculousness of it all.

    No? What is the age of accountability if not arbitrariness, for just one example? That concept alone engenders quite a lot of contradiction as I’ve been pointing out. It does not allow for a fair and perfectly just system.

    As in my view the possibility to repent and accept God’s salvation is open to any person I don’t see why they should be deprived of it by killing him or her while unborn. After all you yourself write: “Is it just that the child does not get the ability to gain the rewards that others might get?”.

    According to the Bible most people will end up in hell. By aborting fetuses you can ensure that they do not end up in hell. You don’t see that as a good thing? You’d rather they end up in hell?

    If people turn away from God it’s certainly them who are responsible for such a decision. They can’t blame anyone else for it.

    Is it possible for someone to live a life free of sin? Answer that question and then tell me who is responsible.

    heavenly bliss

    Do you understand what that word means? How can some people have more bliss than others in heaven? Don’t you understand that you’ve proposed a heaven that is contradictory and not part of mainstream Xian theology? Not only are you jettisoning the idea of an omni-max god, but now you’re throwing out the Xian idea of heaven, which comes with more problems.

    Your theodicy is pretty well dead and buried and seems to be causing more problems than it’s supposed to solve, without actually solving any of those problems.

  • Patrick

    2-D Man: “Isn’t that the issue, though? In Yahweh’s stupid little scheme, he gives people limitations and expects perfection.”

    God doesn’t expect perfection but rather on the contrary our concession that we are imperfect (see Luke 18,9-14).

    2-D Man: “Oh ho ho! Listen to Mr. High-and-mighty over there. Patrick has been freed from “sinful” desires. He’s so gosh-darn repentant and humble, if we all started being more like Patrick, the world would be completely without suffering, since he never wants to commit sin.”

    You haven’t refuted the idea that God is willing to forgive repentant people their sins and to free them from sinful desires.

    2-D Man: “Perfection and want are mutually exclusive. See also: married and bachelor, circle and square, red and colourless.”

    Even if this is true, I don’t see in what way it is relevant with respect to the Problem of Evil.

    2-D Man: “(The distinction is the inability to reconcile all of this with MORALITY, get it?)”

    This is a very interesting issue, but with respect to the Problem of Evil it is irrelevant.

    2-D Man: “Your words are consistent with the idea that humans create gods. I suspect you got this correct by accident.”

    I don’t see why my words are consistent with the idea that humans create gods. As for the issue of punishment of sins, there is proportionality with respect to it, but this proportionality doesn’t express itself by the duration of the punishment, but with the degree of it. This can be seen from Matthew 11,20-24 and Luke 12,47-48.

    2-D Man: “Your analogy is flawed. People who don’t believe in vaccinations can still get them.”

    Analogies often are imperfect. But I think the idea I want to convey should nevertheless come across.

    2-D Man: “Omnipotence leads to paradoxes. It should be treated like nonsense.”

    In my view this is too harsh a conclusion. Even atheists accept the view of omnipotence that I support, as can be seen from the following links:

    http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/arguments-for-atheism/problems-with-divine-omnipotence/

    http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/arguments-for-atheism/problems-with-divine-omnipotence/omnipotence-and-logically-impossible-rocks/

    2-D Man: “That is probably because you refuse to do so. Imagine if Vishnu killed someone for committing a “minor sin”, as some sort of juvenile show of power. I’m sure you would say that is arbitrary and ridiculous. The same actions by Yahweh don’t invite the same ridicule?”

    I wrote that this sin MIGHT BE REGARDED AS a minor sin. Whether or not this is objectively a minor sin is a matter apart.

    2-D Man: “Ho-o-o-o-leeee shit! This is… just… it’s… you’ve advocated torturing children. “It’s good for them! No, I swear!”

    Maybe you just don’t understand, or something, so I’ll explain. If you say you’ve got a perfect system, people like us will see if we can game the system, such that being evil is the best way to produce good outcomes, or vice versa. In your system, the best way to do this is to maximize the number of children suffering and the severity thereof. This is why we think it’s a bad system. This is why Sarah calls your ideas sick and depraved. This is why your behaviour is viewed as arrogant.

    Does that make sense to you?”

    Torturing children would be a violation of the Golden Rule (Matthew 7,12), commanded by Jesus. Moreover, for the torturer such an act clearly does not produce any good. This may also apply to the children, as one can think that when they hear that they had been tortured for religious reasons this might make them reject Christianity.

    2-D Man: “(Incidentally, in this case, it’s not actually a logical fallacy. Check this out:

    P1: If an entity is perfectly good, it will not exhibit bad traits.

    P2: Yahweh is defined as an entity that is perfectly good.

    P3: Yahweh exhibits bad traits.

    C1: Yahweh is not perfectly good.

    C2: Yahweh, as defined, does not exist.)”

    P3 and C1 are mere assertions.

  • Patrick

    Jeff: “Isn’t it interesting that the “age of accountability” always seems to correspond with puberty?”

    In my view the age of accountability sets in once one is able to discern between good and evil, which certainly takes place before puberty.

  • Patrick

    Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy: “Hmmm. Yeah, I’m pretty sure the burden of proof here has been laid at your feet, not mine.
    If you want me to believe that all of my suffering in this life is paving the way for an afterlife of fun and frolic, then you’re going to have to cough up some pretty convincing proof.
    And, so far, I have to say, your case is pretty weak.”

    For a theodicy to be successful it simply has to be logically possible with respect to the logical problem of evil or plausible with respect to the evidential problem of evil (of course plausible given Christian theism and not atheism). There is no need to present a conclusive proof of it.

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

    Patrick,

    God doesn’t expect perfection but rather on the contrary our concession that we are imperfect (see Luke 18,9-14).

    You’re missing the point. god created us as imperfect and then punishes us for it unless we do something to appease him. This isn’t justice anymore than it would be for me to punish my dog for being on the couch…right after I place her on the couch.

    You haven’t refuted the idea that God is willing to forgive repentant people their sins and to free them from sinful desires.

    You haven’t shown it to be true or even logically consistent.

    Even if this is true, I don’t see in what way it is relevant with respect to the Problem of Evil.

    Um, because your theodicy relies on it. Your theodicy relies on god’s plans being frustrated by us mere humans while god also being perfect. It’s not logically consistent. It’s contradictory by nature, and hence your theodicy fails.

    This [sin vs. morality - OMGF note] is a very interesting issue, but with respect to the Problem of Evil it is irrelevant.

    No, it’s not. If god is interested in sin instead of morality, then that’s another problem with your theodicy.

    In my view this is too harsh a conclusion.

    Does god have the power to actually form/run/etc. the universe or doesn’t he? Did he make the rules with perfect foreknowledge?

    I wrote that this sin MIGHT BE REGARDED AS a minor sin. Whether or not this is objectively a minor sin is a matter apart.

    You fail to address the point here. The actions supposedly taken by your god would be seen as horrible if undertaken by a rival god or by humans.

    Torturing children would be a violation of the Golden Rule (Matthew 7,12), commanded by Jesus. Moreover, for the torturer such an act clearly does not produce any good. This may also apply to the children, as one can think that when they hear that they had been tortured for religious reasons this might make them reject Christianity.

    I don’t see how you can say that. The torturers reward would be in the satisfaction of helping children to obtain greater rewards in heaven. Is this not a worthy goal? And, would not the torturer have wished to suffer in order to gain more heavenly rewards? So, yes, your theodicy encourages the torture of others.

    P3 and C1 are mere assertions.

    P3 is an assertion that you implicitly accept, which is why you came up with a theodicy in the first place. You’re trying to show that P3 is not correct. And, you’re not doing a good job of it. C1 is not an assertion, it comes from taking P1 thru P3 as arguments.

    In my view the age of accountability sets in once one is able to discern between good and evil, which certainly takes place before puberty.

    And, it’s still problematic. I’ve pointed out multiple problems that you’ve so far ignored.

    For a theodicy to be successful it simply has to be logically possible with respect to the logical problem of evil or plausible with respect to the evidential problem of evil (of course plausible given Christian theism and not atheism). There is no need to present a conclusive proof of it.

    You’re nowhere near the threshold of logically possible as your theodicy has numerous holes and contradictions.

  • ildi

    The greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice

    God is the Incredible Hulk! Once his awesome wrath is triggered, he can’t stop himself!

  • monkeymind

    Patrick, in order to balance the books of human suffering, you need there to be different degrees of heavenly bliss. That doesn’t make sense to me, if being in heaven means that I have been purged of all my human sins. If I have a lower level of bliss, I won’t be looking at those who have more rewards, and thinking “dang, wish I’d been a better person, or suffered more undeservedly.” I will be perfectly content with whatever bliss I have, otherwise it wouldn’t be bliss.
    In this scenario, I think most people, when confronted with the real possibility of horrific pain and torture as the price of “more rewards in heaven”, would say “No, thank you, the ordinary level of heavenly bliss will do me just fine.” The “more rewards in heaven” are just a paper currency you are issuing to get your books to balance.

    Your balance sheets require people to pay in gold, and be rewarded with Monopoly money, even if you accept the whole ridiculous scenario as true

  • 2-D Man

    Patrick, there’s a lot of other stuff I would like to say, but OMGF said it well enough, and I really want you to see what is wrong with this response:

    Torturing children would be a violation of the Golden Rule, commanded by Jesus. Moreover, for the torturer such an act clearly does not produce any good. This may also apply to the children, as one can think that when they hear that they had been tortured for religious reasons this might make them reject Christianity.

    I’m going to take this apart piece-by-piece and maybe that will help.

    Torturing children would be a violation of the Golden Rule, commanded by Jesus.

    I understand that you don’t want to piss off the triple-god and go to hell, but, what if you consign yourself to hell, and forgo your own salvation? I realize that this might make your head spin, but this is how you game a system: do something the system designer never expected. Your conception of Yahweh never even thought of a person refusing heaven, for any reason.

    Moreover, for the torturer such an act clearly does not produce any good.

    Well, your statement here is in direct contradiction with your words upthread:

    According to… my theodicy (see above) it’s not only works of righteousness that produce heavenly rewards, but also undeserved suffering. As people who die before they reach the age of accountability deserve heavenly bliss any suffering they experience is undeserved.

    See that? You said that any suffering experienced by children is undeserved and that such suffering produces heavenly rewards. Therefore, under the rules you’ve laid down, torturing children does produce something good: a better heaven for those children.

    This may also apply to the children, as one can think that when they hear that they had been tortured for religious reasons this might make them reject Christianity.

    What do you think I am? Irresponsible?! There is no way that I’m going to allow these hypothetical people to reach the age of accoutability.

    So then what happens to a person who acts on this scheme? The obvious point is that they do it once and they’ll end up in hell. But what’s supposed to stop them from doing it again, over and over? If one person consigns herself to hell, could she, potentially send a hundred people to the bestest of heaven?

    And then we have an even more disturbing problem that arises: such a person would be acting in this horrible fashion out of genuine concern for other people! They are treating others the way they would want to be treated. It actually is in line with the golden rule. They might not even be jeopardizing their own salvation!
    Just remember, all of this arises from one simple rule of system design: don’t assume the people using your design know what you were doing.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Patrick,

    I would be satisfied with a logical proof. Just to show that your argument is logically valid. Even if not sound.

    OMGF and 2-D Man have already shown that your argument is logically invalid.

    Oh, you’re using Christian Logic.

    Yeah, I think there’s a reason why we didn’t cover that one in my formal logic class.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Logic is a language to describe relationships between things we might say in this world.

    If you aren’t willing to have a conversation grounded in reality, then that is a conversation stopper.

    You can still make statements about heaven and hell and an afterlife and God, but if you want to convince me of the plausibility of your arguments, you are going to have to, at the very least, show me that your arguments are logically valid.

    You have failed miserably to do so.

    Like Sam Harris likes to say,

    You have removed yourself from the conversation.

  • Patrick

    2-D Man: “I understand that you don’t want to piss off the triple-god and go to hell, but, what if you consign yourself to hell, and forgo your own salvation? I realize that this might make your head spin, but this is how you game a system: do something the system designer never expected. Your conception of Yahweh never even thought of a person refusing heaven, for any reason.”

    I such a person really exists I agree with you, but I doubt it. But even if something like this happened, the harm done in this particular case may not outweigh the good that such a state of affairs produces in general.

    2-D Man: “You said that any suffering experienced by children is undeserved and that such suffering produces heavenly rewards. Therefore, under the rules you’ve laid down, torturing children does produce something good: a better heaven for those children.”

    I was talking about the benefit for the sufferer, not for the children.

    2-D Man: “What do you think I am? Irresponsible?! There is no way that I’m going to allow these hypothetical people to reach the age of accoutability.”

    If it’s not these children that may be made reject Christianity due to such behaviour, it may be other people.

    2-D Man: “So then what happens to a person who acts on this scheme? The obvious point is that they do it once and they’ll end up in hell. But what’s supposed to stop them from doing it again, over and over? If one person consigns herself to hell, could she, potentially send a hundred people to the bestest of heaven?
    And then we have an even more disturbing problem that arises: such a person would be acting in this horrible fashion out of genuine concern for other people! They are treating others the way they would want to be treated. It actually is in line with the golden rule. They might not even be jeopardizing their own salvation!
    Just remember, all of this arises from one simple rule of system design: don’t assume the people using your design know what you were doing.”

    One has to take into account that these children if staying alive could become the tools for other people’s salvation, and by killing them these people’s salvation could be prevented.

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

    I such a person really exists I agree with you, but I doubt it.

    There are numerous examples of parents who kill their children thinking that they want to spare them from having to go to hell. (Andrea Yates IIRC is one example.)

    But even if something like this happened, the harm done in this particular case may not outweigh the good that such a state of affairs produces in general.

    How so? If one person saves 100 children and ensures they go to heaven with great rewards, then only 1 person is losing out while 100 people are gaining.

    I was talking about the benefit for the sufferer, not for the children.

    And, 2-D Man was talking about the situation that your theodicy brings about. It’s not his (or my) fault that you aren’t thinking things all the way through.

    If it’s not these children that may be made reject Christianity due to such behaviour, it may be other people.

    They didn’t have true belief to begin with then.

    One has to take into account that these children if staying alive could become the tools for other people’s salvation, and by killing them these people’s salvation could be prevented.

    We know that most people will go to hell (from the Bible) so if I can save multitudes of children, then the net effect is that most of them will not go to hell. I’ve beaten the system instead. It’s true that some children may grow up to save someone else, but it’s doubtful due to the way the system is rigged against people. Remember, most people will go to hell without this intervention, so the better numerical chance for my children and the children I come in contact with would be to game the system.

  • Patrick

    OMFG: “You’re missing the point. god created us as imperfect and then punishes us for it unless we do something to appease him. This isn’t justice anymore than it would be for me to punish my dog for being on the couch…right after I place her on the couch.”

    There are two possibilities: Either the sinner is aware of the Gospel or he isn’t. If the former is the case, he has no excuse for failing to act morally, as the Holy Spirit enables him to do so (Galatians 5,16-18). But if he is not aware of the Gospel according to Matthew 11,20-24 and Luke 12,47-48 he will be less severely punished in the afterlife. I don’t see why this shouldn’t be justice.

    OMFG: “You haven’t shown it to be true or even logically consistent.”

    It can be shown to be true by examples of people who changed for the better after turning to Jesus. An impressive Biblical example is Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19,1-10). As for the other objection I don’t see any logical inconsistency here.

    OMFG: “Um, because your theodicy relies on it. Your theodicy relies on god’s plans being frustrated by us mere humans while god also being perfect. It’s not logically consistent. It’s contradictory by nature, and hence your theodicy fails.”

    As far as I can see there is a consensus that the idea that God’s intentions can to a certain degree be frustrated by man’s free will is logically consistent. It’s the core argument of the free will defense as a response to the logical problem of evil. For more details see the following link:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/evil-log/

    OMFG: “Putting together how each of these actions should be considered immoral is an exercise left for the reader. Bonus points for maintaining consistency throughout. (Resorting to “X decides what is sin and what is immoral” is a Euthyphro violation. Weaseling with a story about a hungry guy on a rooftop is an implicit acknowledgement that sin and morality are distinct.)”

    In my view the Euthyphro Dilemma is a matter apart that is irrelevant with respect to the Problem of Evil. The following links provide good solutions to the objection based on the Euthyphro Dilemma from a Christian point of view:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6063

    http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/2010/divine-command-ethics-and-the-epistemological-objection/

    http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/2010/divine-command-ethics-when-will-sceptics-update-their-arguments/

    OMFG: “It is a SIN to eat prawn tempura.

    It is a SIN to eat bacon.

    It is NOT a SIN to eat a hamburger.

    It is a SIN to put cheese on that burger.

    It is a SIN to leave gay people alive.

    It is a SIN to leave disobedient children alive.

    It is a SIN to have any contact with menstruating women.

    It is a SIN to wear clothes with mildew on them.

    It is a SIN to put an elastic waistband on your boxer shorts.

    It is a SIN to keep track of Yahweh’s prayer-answering rates.

    It is a SIN to covet things.”

    As far as I can see the acts you refer to here belong to those that were forbidden according to the Mosaic Law. For most if not all of these acts this is no longer the case. This applies to forbidden food (Mark 7,19, Romans 14,2-3, Colossians 2,16-17), as well as to sanctions concerning adultery (Leviticus 20,10 vs. John 8,1-11), idolatry (Deuteronomy 17,2-5 vs. 1 Corinthians 5,9-13), sorcery (Exodus 22,18 vs. Acts 13,6-12) or fortune-telling (Leviticus 20,27 vs. Acts 16,16-18). So, we don’t have to be concerned with these commandments.

    Apart from this as far as I can see there is much agreement among people of different persuasions which acts are regarded as moral and which as immoral.

    OMFG: “No, it’s not. If god is interested in sin instead of morality, then that’s another problem with your theodicy.”

    From a Biblical point of view all sins are immoral. The fact that under the Mosaic Covenant some acts that were regarded as sins are no longer regarded as such under the New Covenant is no argument against this view. Even today we acknowledge that it can depend on the circumstances whether or not we regard an act as immoral.

    OMFG: “Does god have the power to actually form/run/etc. the universe or doesn’t he? Did he make the rules with perfect foreknowledge?”

    In order to form or run the universe it is not necessary to have omnipotence in the absolute sense of the word, but just much power. As for the second sentence I don’t see the relevance of it.

    OMFG: “You fail to address the point here. The actions supposedly taken by your god would be seen as horrible if undertaken by a rival god or by humans.”

    In my view the actions just show that God is so holy that for Him even acts that to us appear to be minor are terrible acts.

    OMFG: “I don’t see how you can say that. The torturers reward would be in the satisfaction of helping children to obtain greater rewards in heaven. Is this not a worthy goal? And, would not the torturer have wished to suffer in order to gain more heavenly rewards? So, yes, your theodicy encourages the torture of others.”

    If there is really a person who wishes to be tortured I agree with you. But I doubt that such a person really exists.

    OMFG: “P3 is an assertion that you implicitly accept, which is why you came up with a theodicy in the first place. You’re trying to show that P3 is not correct. And, you’re not doing a good job of it.”

    I don’t agree with you.

    OMFG: “C1 is not an assertion, it comes from taking P1 thru P3 as arguments.”

    But C1 is only correct if P1 through P3 is as well, and I doubt it.

    OMFG: “And, it’s still problematic. I’ve pointed out multiple problems that you’ve so far ignored.”

    I try not to ignore any points.

    OMFG: “You’re nowhere near the threshold of logically possible as your theodicy has numerous holes and contradictions.”

    That’s not how I see it.

  • Patrick

    monkeymind: “Patrick, in order to balance the books of human suffering, you need there to be different degrees of heavenly bliss.”

    According to Luke 19,11-26, 1 Corinthians 3,10-15, and 2 Corinthians 5,10 even among those who go to Heaven some are better off than others, obviously by receiving more rewards.

    monkeymind: “That doesn’t make sense to me, if being in heaven means that I have been purged of all my human sins. If I have a lower level of bliss, I won’t be looking at those who have more rewards, and thinking “dang, wish I’d been a better person, or suffered more undeservedly.” I will be perfectly content with whatever bliss I have, otherwise it wouldn’t be bliss.”

    If you are happy with a lower amount of bliss or status in Heaven, then so much the better for you.

    monkeymind: “In this scenario, I think most people, when confronted with the real possibility of horrific pain and torture as the price of “more rewards in heaven”, would say “No, thank you, the ordinary level of heavenly bliss will do me just fine.””

    That’s exactly what I pointed out towards OMGF.

    monkeymind: “The “more rewards in heaven” are just a paper currency you are issuing to get your books to balance.
    Your balance sheets require people to pay in gold, and be rewarded with Monopoly money, even if you accept the whole ridiculous scenario as true”

    I think this is far from being obvious.

  • Patrick

    Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I don’t see where my theodicy violates the rules of logic. As far as I can see all the points of it are compatible with each other as well as with God’s properties according to Christian theism.

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

    Patrick,

    There are two possibilities: Either the sinner is aware of the Gospel or he isn’t. If the former is the case, he has no excuse for failing to act morally, as the Holy Spirit enables him to do so (Galatians 5,16-18). But if he is not aware of the Gospel according to Matthew 11,20-24 and Luke 12,47-48 he will be less severely punished in the afterlife. I don’t see why this shouldn’t be justice.

    Numerous problems here:
    1. Being aware of the gospel is not the same as being imbued with the holy spirit as per Xian teachings.
    2. Failing to act morally, or failing to act absent of sin?
    3. If one is not aware of the gospel, one is still punished in hell, but not as severely and this is justice? “Sorry that you grew up on a desert island where the inhabitant have never heard of Jesus Christ and therefore you never had a chance to get to heaven, but that’s simply too bad. You go to hell.”
    4. This doesn’t address my point at all. You’re still missing the point. Maybe if you’d answer one of my questions (that you have so far avoided) it might help. Can someone/anyone live a sinless life?

    It can be shown to be true by examples of people who changed for the better after turning to Jesus.

    No, that does not show support for the idea that god “is willing to forgive repentant people their sins and to free them from sinful desires.” People have changes of heart all the time. There are also examples of people who are better when they reject Jesus or join other religions as well as examples of people who are worse people when they accept Jesus.

    As far as I can see there is a consensus that the idea that God’s intentions can to a certain degree be frustrated by man’s free will is logically consistent.

    Not if god is omni-max/perfect. IOW, you’re asserting that god is perfect, but makes mistakes. And the free will defense is a non-starter. Free will can not exist with an omni-max god for starters and even if we grant free will it is still not a valid defense.

    In my view the Euthyphro Dilemma is a matter apart that is irrelevant with respect to the Problem of Evil.

    First off, I didn’t bring it up. That was 2-D Man (as was a lot of other stuff you attribute to me). Secondly, it only applies if we dive into the distinction between morality and sin, which you seem to want to dive into. Third, there is no Xian solution to the Euthyphro dilemma, despite what people claim.

    As far as I can see the acts you refer to here belong to those that were forbidden according to the Mosaic Law. For most if not all of these acts this is no longer the case.

    Again, not me. Also, I love how Xians simply toss out the Mosaic Law, never with good reasoning. You do realize that Jesus in the gospels supposedly gave a sermon where he extolled the virtues of not only keeping the Mosaic Law but also keeping it so conservatively that even thinking bad thoughts was tantamount to violating it, right? The reason that we are allowed to eat pork now is because we understand that if you cook it properly, you don’t get sick. Of course, you’re basically admitting that your perfect god and his perfect book made some mistakes that had to be updated.

    Apart from this as far as I can see there is much agreement among people of different persuasions which acts are regarded as moral and which as immoral.

    IOW, you are making a distinction between sin and morality, which is bad for your argument.

    From a Biblical point of view all sins are immoral.

    Yet, clearly not all sins are actually immoral. Eating pork is a sin, but it is not immoral (setting aside any arguments about vegetarianism). That you reject it as a sin now doesn’t change the fact that it was a sin then, meaning you’ve rejected the notion of absolute morality and failed the Euthyphro test. Your theodicy fails once again.

    In order to form or run the universe it is not necessary to have omnipotence in the absolute sense of the word, but just much power. As for the second sentence I don’t see the relevance of it.

    The relevance is that god makes the rules, therefore he is responsible for the outcome of those rules. If he knew that his rules would result in the majority of people going to hell, then he is responsible for that. Your theodicy fails once again.

    In my view the actions just show that God is so holy that for Him even acts that to us appear to be minor are terrible acts.

    So, your defense of something like, oh I don’t know, genocide, is that god is so moral and perfect that when he commits it, it’s somehow good? You’ve once again rejected absolute morality, failed Euthyphro’s test, and your theodicy once again fails.

    If there is really a person who wishes to be tortured I agree with you. But I doubt that such a person really exists.

    You doubt that a parent would willingly give their life for their child? Or if someone had nothing left to lose since they were going to hell anyway, that they might decide to help others? Oh, and if all they have to do is repent, can’t they simply do that at the end?

    I don’t agree with you.

    You don’t think bad things happen to good people and vice versa and that god is in control of that? That’s weird, because you’re arguing for theodicy, but whatever.

    But C1 is only correct if P1 through P3 is as well, and I doubt it.

    What you’re trying to argue is that C1 is not a valid conclusion of P1 thru P3. How can you claim that your theodicy is correct and bulletproof if you don’t even know what you’re arguing for?

    I try not to ignore any points.

    But, you are ignoring them. We’ve been shooting holes in your theodicy relentlessly and you shrug it off only to come back and claim that it’s completely intact. Rubbish.

    According to Luke 19,11-26, 1 Corinthians 3,10-15, and 2 Corinthians 5,10 even among those who go to Heaven some are better off than others, obviously by receiving more rewards.

    Again, do you not know what the word “bliss” means, and do you not see how this destroys your concept of heaven?

    If you are happy with a lower amount of bliss or status in Heaven, then so much the better for you.

    Do you really not understand the concept that monkeymind laid out for you? Let me try another way.

    Bliss means perfect happiness. If I look around and see others with greater rewards, might I not decide that I could have done better and obtained greater rewards myself? Would that not lead to regret? If I have regrets, how can I be perfectly happy?

    That’s exactly what I pointed out towards OMGF.

    She’s pointing out that given “bliss” and “more bliss” most would choose the normal level of bliss in order to avoid having undue suffering in this world. IOW, your theodicy of god torturing people and then rewarding them in heaven is not something that people would choose for themselves, yet god is foisting it upon them. What you “pointed out to” me was a different scenario.

    I think this is far from being obvious.

    You’re the only one who doesn’t see it.

    I don’t see where my theodicy violates the rules of logic. As far as I can see all the points of it are compatible with each other as well as with God’s properties according to Christian theism.

    Only if you ignore the glaring and gaping holes in it, sure.

  • monkeymind

    That’s exactly what I pointed out towards OMGF.

    With OMGF, you’re trying support the contention that torture of children would violate the Golden Rule. And you’re saying that my point, that for most people “more rewards” on top of perfect bliss is not just compensation for torture, supports your point.

    Then how is it is OK for God to do it?

  • 2-D Man

    Patrick,
    A few posts up, we had a little exchange like this:

    What do you think I am? Irresponsible?! There is no way that I’m going to allow these hypothetical people to reach the age of accoutability.

    If it’s not these children that may be made reject Christianity due to such behaviour, it may be other people.

    Again, this is where your theodicy fails. In order to condemn torturing people for no reason, you’ve had to invoke a third agent. Compare and contrast these two conversations:

    Generic Person: So I was torturing someone yesterday….

    Me: That’s horrible!

    And

    Generic Person: So I was torturing someone yesterday….

    You: Did anyone find out about it?

    Generic Person : Yes.

    You: That’s horrible!

    Do you see the problem with that?
    (Note: this third agent problem also presents itself when you say the victims might grow up to lead people to heaven.)

  • Scotlyn

    Patrick

    For a theodicy to be successful it simply has to be logically possible with respect to the logical problem of evil or plausible with respect to the evidential problem of evil (of course plausible given Christian theism and not atheism). There is no need to present a conclusive proof of it.

    No, there is no need for a conclusive proof…not unless you also require your theodicy to be persuasive.

  • Scotlyn

    There are two possibilities: Either the sinner is aware of the Gospel or he isn’t.

    There is, of course a third possibility. You’ve read the Gospel, carefully considered it, and have now reached the thoughtful and thoroughly practical conclusion that it really should have been printed on thinner, softer paper.

  • AC

    Little bit late to come back to this thread, sorry.

    Philboyd, I didn’t mean to imply that suffering (in general) is not at all a part of growing as a person (indeed, I’m not sure that not suffering at all is even possible), so I sort-of reject that claim, too. I am just claiming that the character building theodicy should be challenged as an ad hoc response (and as OMGF points out, it doesn’t really get God off the hook).

  • Jeff

    I’ve just checked back in here after a couple of days, and see you all are still arguing with Patrick. Do you really think there’s going to be a sudden breakthrough, e.g. “Ah! I get it! The authoritarian blinders are off at last!”?

    @2-D Man: “I really want you to see what is wrong with this response”

    He isn’t going to see it. He isn’t capable of seeing it. He’s biologically programmed for authoritarianism, and he’s banking his afterlife on this belief system. If other people have to go to hell as a by-product – hey, that isn’t his problem. They’re acceptable losses. This is the mindset with which you are dealing.

    This is an utter waste of time.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    Jeff, I agree that no one in this thread has a chance of convincing Patrick to change any of his views notably. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wasting their time. If, by consequence, Patrick’s viewpoint is shown to be absurd to others reading the thread, it’s fair to declare mission accomplished.

  • Jeff

    @kagerato: If, by consequence, Patrick’s viewpoint is shown to be absurd to others reading the thread, it’s fair to declare mission accomplished.

    That’s what people tell me. I’ve yet to see it happen. As I say, I’m convinced it’s a matter of programming, and there’s now evidence that’s beginning to bear this out.

    Every ex-Christian I’ve encountered has told me the same thing – s/he was never completely comfortable with the doctrine, especially those aspects concerning the afterlife. I think the people who get out will do so sooner or later, anyway, especially as information is now available so readily.

    Perhaps the Calvinists are right; perhaps they never were “Real Christians”.

    I don’t want to be the guy who prevents others from helping people with their exit strategies, but I’ve yet to be convinced that all of this Internet arguing really does produce noticeable results.

  • 2-D Man

    …especially as information is now available so readily.

    You’ve got to realize, Jeff, the only reason it’s readily available is because people bothered to write it.

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “1. Being aware of the gospel is not the same as being imbued with the holy spirit as per Xian teachings.”

    This is certainly true, but if the sinner doesn’t draw the necessary conclusions from his knowledge of the gospel he is to blame for it.

    OMGF: “3. If one is not aware of the gospel, one is still punished in hell, but not as severely and this is justice? “Sorry that you grew up on a desert island where the inhabitant have never heard of Jesus Christ and therefore you never had a chance to get to heaven, but that’s simply too bad. You go to hell.””

    You seem to assume that we humans deserve Heaven. But in fact what we deserve is a fair trial, and I’m convinced that everyone will receive one. Apart from this my theodicy is open to the possibility that people who’ve never heard the Gospel can be saved. One example of such a group of people is the one that I’ve mentioned and that consist of those who die before they reach the age of accountability. Moreover, with respect to someone who has never heard the Gospel it may be the case that his lack of knowledge of the Gospel together with the suffering he endures in this life reduces the amount of the suffering in the afterlife to such a degree that the respective suffering he would deserve due to his way of life is neutralized by it. Consequently, like the person dying before the age of accountability, he would be saved without having to accept the Gospel. Apart from this my theodicy is even compatible with Universalism.

    Another point is that I think that Hell isn’t necessarily a place where people suffer. If we define being in Hell as lacking heavenly bliss, it may well be that the happiest people in Hell experience almost heavenly bliss and may be happier than all of us ever have been.

    OMGF: “4. This doesn’t address my point at all. You’re still missing the point. Maybe if you’d answer one of my questions (that you have so far avoided) it might help. Can someone/anyone live a sinless life?”

    I think it is possible for a person to live a life that is not ruled by sin (Romans 6,11-14), which doesn’t mean that he or she never sins anymore (1 John 1,8).

    OMGF: “No, that does not show support for the idea that god “is willing to forgive repentant people their sins and to free them from sinful desires.””

    I don’t see why people whose life was changed dramatically for the better after turning towards Jesus is not supposed to be supportive of such an idea.

    OMGF: “People have changes of heart all the time.”

    Isn’t it that you confuse “change of heart” with “change of one’s religion or worldview”?

    OMGF: “There are also examples of people who are better when they reject Jesus or join other religions as well as examples of people who are worse people when they accept Jesus.”

    Now it’s me who asks you to show this to be true.

    OMGF: “IOW, you’re asserting that god is perfect, but makes mistakes.”

    I don’t see why accepting people’s free will is to be equated with making mistakes.

    OMGF: “And the free will defense is a non-starter. Free will can not exist with an omni-max god for starters and even if we grant free will it is still not a valid defense.”

    You seem to argue against the scholarly consensus.

    OMGF: “The reason that we are allowed to eat pork now is because we understand that if you cook it properly, you don’t get sick.”

    The reason you give is not the one the New Testament gives (see Mark 7,19, Romans 14,2-3, Colossians 2,16-17).

    OMGF: “Of course, you’re basically admitting that your perfect god and his perfect book made some mistakes that had to be updated.”

    I’m not admitting this.

    OMGF: “Also, I love how Xians simply toss out the Mosaic Law, never with good reasoning. You do realize that Jesus in the gospels supposedly gave a sermon where he extolled the virtues of not only keeping the Mosaic Law but also keeping it so conservatively that even thinking bad thoughts was tantamount to violating it, right?”

    One has to distinguish between the moral commandments of the Mosaic Law, which are still in effect, and the ceremonial commandments, which, after having served their purpose (Colossians 2,16-17), became obsolete.

    OMGF: “2. Failing to act morally, or failing to act absent of sin?

    […]

    IOW, you are making a distinction between sin and morality, which is bad for your argument.”

    I’m not making a distinction between sin and morality, but I’m simply pointing to the fact that people do not entirely agree with respect to questions concerning morality.

    OMGF: “Yet, clearly not all sins are actually immoral. Eating pork is a sin, but it is not immoral (setting aside any arguments about vegetarianism). That you reject it as a sin now doesn’t change the fact that it was a sin then, meaning you’ve rejected the notion of absolute morality and failed the Euthyphro test.”

    If an act is to be regarded as moral or immoral often depends on the circumstances or the motive behind it. But this doesn’t mean that there is no absolute morality.

    OMGF: “The relevance is that god makes the rules, therefore he is responsible for the outcome of those rules. If he knew that his rules would result in the majority of people going to hell, then he is responsible for that.”

    In my view the majority of people go to Heaven, as most people who have ever lived have died before reaching the age of accountability. As for the other people God has created a way out, so I don’t see what He is to be blamed for.

    OMGF: “So, your defense of something like, oh I don’t know, genocide, is that god is so moral and perfect that when he commits it, it’s somehow good?”

    Your example of genocide is not appropriate, as most people regard it as immoral. With respect to the example of the couple cheating described in Acts 5,1-11 the situation is different, as most people certainly agree that the behaviour was immoral. It’s just that they may think that the punishment was too severe. From this one can draw the conclusion that God has a much greater sense of justice than we have.

    OMGF: “You’ve once again rejected absolute morality, failed Euthyphro’s test, and your theodicy once again fails.”

    I don’t agree with you.

    OMGF: “You doubt that a parent would willingly give their life for their child?”

    I responded to your suggestion that there could be people who wish to suffer in order to gain more heavenly rewards. It’s such people whose existence I doubt.

    OMGF: “Or if someone had nothing left to lose since they were going to hell anyway, that they might decide to help others?”

    In my view it’s never the case that one is going to Hell anyway, there is always a chance to repent.

    OMGF: “Oh, and if all they have to do is repent, can’t they simply do that at the end?”

    If someone postpones his repentance so that he can go on sinning, this is a clear sign that he is not repentant and therefore may never repent.

    OMGF: “You don’t think bad things happen to good people and vice versa and that god is in control of that? That’s weird, because you’re arguing for theodicy, but whatever.”

    I’ve never denied that bad things happen to good people and vice versa. What I deny is that this is a reason to question God’s omniscience, omnibenevolence, perfect justice and omnipotence.

    OMGF: “What you’re trying to argue is that C1 is not a valid conclusion of P1 thru P3. How can you claim that your theodicy is correct and bulletproof if you don’t even know what you’re arguing for?”

    A false premise cannot result in a correct conclusion.

    OMGF: “Again, do you not know what the word “bliss” means, and do you not see how this destroys your concept of heaven?”

    From Luke 19,11-26 one can draw the conclusion that more rewards doesn’t necessarily mean a greater amount of bliss.

    OMGF: “Do you really not understand the concept that monkeymind laid out for you? Let me try another way.
    Bliss means perfect happiness. If I look around and see others with greater rewards, might I not decide that I could have done better and obtained greater rewards myself? Would that not lead to regret? If I have regrets, how can I be perfectly happy?”

    I think that just as in this life we can reconcile ourselves with a situation, this certainly is also possible in Heaven.

    OMGF: “She’s pointing out that given “bliss” and “more bliss” most would choose the normal level of bliss in order to avoid having undue suffering in this world. IOW, your theodicy of god torturing people and then rewarding them in heaven is not something that people would choose for themselves, yet god is foisting it upon them. What you “pointed out to” me was a different scenario.”

    In my view it’s usually not God inflicting suffering on people, but other people. But if it is God, then it is certainly for the sufferer’s best.

  • Jeff

    @2-D Man: You’ve got to realize, Jeff, the only reason it’s readily available is because people bothered to write it.

    Posting information and walking away is different from engaging in these endless, fruitless arguments that (in my opinion) lead nowhere.

    Also, by “information”, I don’t merely mean pro-secular arguments, but information about science, history, Biblical criticism, etc. Most of it isn’t written for the purpose of challenging people’s beliefs.

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

    This is certainly true, but if the sinner doesn’t draw the necessary conclusions from his knowledge of the gospel he is to blame for it.

    That depends on your flavor of Xian. Some Xians claim that only god can imbue people with the holy spirit and that is necessary for one to understand the gospels and be saved.

    But in fact what we deserve is a fair trial, and I’m convinced that everyone will receive one.

    That’s not in evidence by your stated theodicy. In fact, in the theodicy that you presented and I responded to, those who have not heard of the gospel do not receive fair treatment. Care to try again?

    Consequently, like the person dying before the age of accountability, he would be saved without having to accept the Gospel.

    IOW, your theodicy/theology cares nothing about morality. The amount of suffering that one endures is what leads to heaven. This is not just or fair as the suffering inflicted is done by god. IOW, god chooses certain people to inflict suffering upon and then rewards them for it. We are not judged according to our own actions, but selectively chosen by god from before time. This is not justice. Your theodicy tells us that god selects certain people for hell from the outset and then puts them there.

    Another point is that I think that Hell isn’t necessarily a place where people suffer.

    This would be at odds with your Bible. But, if you wish to claim that there’s a gradient, how is that different than the present world, except that once one is eternally placed in one spot, no movement up or down the happiness scale is possible, which would be hell for most I should think.

    I think it is possible for a person to live a life that is not ruled by sin (Romans 6,11-14), which doesn’t mean that he or she never sins anymore (1 John 1,8).

    I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. Can a person live their life without committing sin or not? Are you claiming that all humans invariably sin or not?

    I don’t see why people whose life was changed dramatically for the better after turning towards Jesus is not supposed to be supportive of such an idea.

    Well, if you had understood the rest of the paragraph, you would have seen why.

    Isn’t it that you confuse “change of heart” with “change of one’s religion or worldview”?

    No, I’m not confusing anything.

    Now it’s me who asks you to show this to be true.

    Go to any thread on the internet where there are atheist deconversion stories.

    I don’t see why accepting people’s free will is to be equated with making mistakes.

    If god’s plans are being thwarted, he’s making mistakes. It is that simple.

    You seem to argue against the scholarly consensus.

    I’m not aware that this is the case.

    The reason you give is not the one the New Testament gives (see Mark 7,19, Romans 14,2-3, Colossians 2,16-17).

    The NT had to have a theological basis for allowing pork to be eaten, because the rules set down were written as to be prohibitive, end of story. The real reason, however, is that gentiles were already eating pork and no harm was coming to them. Also, the NT proponents wanted to recruit gentiles to their movement but felt that forcing them to follow all the old kosher laws would counteract their recruitment.

    I’m not admitting this.

    It’s implicit in the idea that god’s “perfect” law had to be revised.

    One has to distinguish between the moral commandments of the Mosaic Law, which are still in effect, and the ceremonial commandments, which, after having served their purpose (Colossians 2,16-17), became obsolete.

    And, where is that written?

    I’m not making a distinction between sin and morality, but I’m simply pointing to the fact that people do not entirely agree with respect to questions concerning morality.

    Then you are making a distinction.

    If an act is to be regarded as moral or immoral often depends on the circumstances or the motive behind it. But this doesn’t mean that there is no absolute morality.

    Well, yeah, it sorta does. Was it immoral to eat pork during OT times, but not now? Was it moral to have slaves because the Bible supports it, but not now?

    In my view the majority of people go to Heaven…

    The book that your god supposedly wrote disagrees. It is easier for a camel to pass thru a needle and all that.

    As for the other people God has created a way out, so I don’t see what He is to be blamed for.

    Why should the default position be that one goes to hell unless one is saved? If I have a bunch of children so that I can put them all in cages in the basement for reasons of torture, unless I arbitrarily decide to save one of them, am I blameless for their lot?

    Your example of genocide is not appropriate…

    I don’t see why not. There’s plenty of it to go around in the bible.

    …as most people regard it as immoral.

    Yet, god does it. Go figure.

    It’s just that they may think that the punishment was too severe. From this one can draw the conclusion that God has a much greater sense of justice than we have.

    IOW, god can do whatever he wants, no matter how cruel, vicious, or over the top, and it’s somehow justice, but no other entity would be granted such largesse. That’s why genocide is appropriate here. When anyone or any other god commits genocide, it’s horrible. When your god does it, it’s justice? It’s a double standard and certainly not absolute morality.

    I don’t agree with you.

    Too bad, it’s what you’ve done and you just confirmed it. Genocide is bad unless god does it is a failure of absolute morality and also runs afoul of Euthyphro. That your theodicy contains these problems means it fails.

    I responded to your suggestion that there could be people who wish to suffer in order to gain more heavenly rewards. It’s such people whose existence I doubt.

    They aren’t the people in question, but I don’t doubt they exist either. Look at how many people went into Mother Teresa’s care. She was known for feeling that suffering was good and withholding medicines from people so that they could feel their suffering, thus bringing them closer to god. She was an actual example of a person who gamed your theodicy.

    In my view it’s never the case that one is going to Hell anyway, there is always a chance to repent.

    1. Someone might not believe they have a chance and therefore acts as in a way to save others.
    2. If someone can always repent, then the one who games your system will simply repent before death. Problem solved.

    If someone postpones his repentance so that he can go on sinning, this is a clear sign that he is not repentant and therefore may never repent.

    I don’t see why someone would even feel they need to repent for saving more souls for heaven. Isn’t that what god supposedly wants, even though he sets all kinds of barriers? Either way, who are you to set a timetable on when someone can feel repentance and when they can’t?

    I’ve never denied that bad things happen to good people and vice versa. What I deny is that this is a reason to question God’s omniscience, omnibenevolence, perfect justice and omnipotence.

    We’re not. What we are saying is that given god’s omni-max properties and the fact that bad things do happen to good people, god is acting in bad ways (since he causes suffering for people who don’t deserve it). You agree with this, but try to solve it by saying that they get more ice cream cones in heaven.

    A false premise cannot result in a correct conclusion.

    You are accepting P3 and trying to argue that C1 does not follow.

    From Luke 19,11-26 one can draw the conclusion that more rewards doesn’t necessarily mean a greater amount of bliss.

    IOW, there are differing amounts of happiness in heaven, but not bliss. Is that it?

    I think that just as in this life we can reconcile ourselves with a situation, this certainly is also possible in Heaven.

    That’s not the question at hand. Is heaven a place where there is no strife, no unhappiness, etc as it is pretty uniformly portrayed by Xians? Someone may be able to decide that they don’t need more happiness, but that’s a decision that one would have to come to, meaning strife, undertainty, etc. This is contrary to the idea of heaven and makes for a contradictory notion.

    In my view it’s usually not God inflicting suffering on people, but other people. But if it is God, then it is certainly for the sufferer’s best.

    god certainly never lifts a finger to stop people from suffering at the hands of others, does he. No, he simply gives them an extra ice cream cone in heaven. But, that doesn’t take into account natural evil, which you need to explain. Are you claiming that someone who gets mauled by a bear and lives a life of suffering ever after is better off for it? I’m sure that if you asked the person whether they want bliss in heaven or super-extra bliss in heaven in exchange for the constant day to day pain they feel for their whole entire life, they’d choose the regular bliss to not have the pain. That’s the point. Your god is foisting pain and suffering upon people in order to grant them rewards they wouldn’t even choose for themselves given the tradeoff.

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

    It occurs to me that I didn’t adequately address the whole idea of knowing or not knowing the gospel. I think this is a great example that shows a very non-perfect justice system.

    Person A: Person A grew up on an island where no one has heard of Jesus Christ or ever seen a Bible. Person A is mostly a good person, provides for others when he can, has a nice family, some ups and downs, not a lot of suffering, a pretty average life overall. Person A, however, believes in the volcano god and as such dies and goes to hell.

    Person B is a right bastard. Person B cheats people out of money, steals from his employee’s 401k funds and uses it to fund his extravagant lifestyle where he rarely encounters any suffering what-so-ever. He lives a great life and in the end has an epiphany and repents of all that he’s done to god and goes to heaven.

    Justice or no?

    The fact of the matter is that people are being judged on factors that are well beyond their control in a lot of situations, like the accident of their geographical birthplace. Person A had no control over where he was born, but is punished for it by being sent to hell in the end. Person B gets to live a life of luxury and gets to use the predominant religion of his birthplace as a get out of jail free card (effectively). Yet, this is supposedly the perfect system that god has set up? It is not just at all, let alone perfectly just. Perfect justice requires equal treatment and equal opportunity – that’s something that simply doesn’t happen when god is involved as evidenced by reality. That’s why the age of accountability creates a system that is not perfectly just. It’s a nice thought to think that unfortunate children who die too early to really live get a free ride to heaven, but it destroys the idea of perfect justice.

  • Jeff

    OMGF, you know the canned responses:

    1. God judges people according the the amount of “light” he’s allowed into their lives.

    2. We all deserve to go to hell; it’s unfathomable grace that God saves anyone. Whether or not we think the mechanism by which he’s chosen to do it is fair is completely irrelevant – it’s his universe, he can do with it (and us) whatever he likes.

    This is a psychosis; there’s no breaking through.

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

    Yeah, and I point out that those canned responses have issues too. I know what you’re saying Jeff, but OTOH, if people like Patrick post and and posts go unanswered, the bystanders looking in may very well think it’s because there are no answers for those stances. In my experience, most theists are surprised when one has answers for those types of assertions, because in their experience they’ve never actually seen anyone address those assertions.

  • Jeff

    Well, I certainly haven’t got the stomach for it. It’s always the same garbage. I don’t need to retake Theology 101 each and every time I encounter a Christian – and yet, each and every time I encounter a Christian, that is precisely what s/he expects me to do. Every Christian offers the same tired arguments; it would never occur to him/her that you’ve already heard them, because if you had – why, you’d be a Christian!

    Plus, I have nothing but contempt for them. A willingness to abandon billions of one’s human siblings for all of eternity is indicative of psychopathy. Yes, I know it’s almost certainly a genetically-based disability, but it doesn’t serve to engender compassion in me. They are the worst people in the world.

  • Patrick

    2-D Man: “Do you see the problem with that?

    (Note: this third agent problem also presents itself when you say the victims might grow up to lead people to heaven.)”

    No, I don’t see the problem with that. Maybe I’m somewhat dense, but I simply can’t see the relevance of the Euthyphro Dilemma with respect to the Problem of Evil. It seems to me that we are talking past each other. Maybe things become clearer if I explain how I see the relationship between people’s acts and God’s reaction to it.

    God has given man a moral law. The people of Israel received this law in written form (Romans 3,1-2), the Mosaic Law. As for all other people the law is “written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now defending them” (Romans 2,15, NIV).

    With respect to the Mosaic Law one has to make a distinction between the commandments concerning ceremonial matters and the moral commandments. Already in the Old Testament the latter are seen to be more important than the former, as can be seen from 1 Samuel 15,22, Psalm 40,6, 50,7-15, 51,16-17, Isaiah 1,11-17, Jeremiah 6,19-20, 7,21-23, Hosea 6,6, Amos 5,21-24, or Micah 6,6-8. From this it may become obvious that according to the Bible God is primarily concerned about morality and not about the keeping of ceremonial prescriptions.

  • 2-D Man

    Oh dear. Patrick, you seem to have gotten quite muddled in this thread.

    To start, none of comment #78 was relevant to the quoted question. The question was related to Euthyphro’s dilemma in a minor fashion, so let’s drop that. Euthyphro’s dilemma is my objection; I’ll bring in up when I’m good and ready.

    Here’s what I want you to grasp: in my opinion harming children is wrong. Is that clear? I’ll say it one more time, just in case you missed it: I think it is wrong to harm children, full stop. I hope you agree, but so far I’m not so sure. Here’s why:

    Your theodicy says that harming children may be wrong, depending on the action of a third agent. That’s right, this is how you condemned harming children. These are your words regarding why it is wrong to harm children:

    If it’s not these [harmed] children that may be made [to] reject Christianity due to such behaviour, it may be other people. [Comment #56]

    This implies that, in your theodicy, causing people to reject Christianity is wrong. (Fair enough. I disagree, but it works.) However, it also implies that, in your theodicy, harming children is not wrong*, and this is problematic because harming children is wrong. Did you notice that glaring contradiction?

    As soon as we can use any idea to arrive at a conclusion in contradiction with harming children is wrong, then we know that idea is a bad one because harming children is wrong.

    *You probably don’t understand where this implication is coming from, so I’ll spell it out. Imagine someone is stealing a TV and I say to them, “Don’t steal that TV: watching TV is bad for you.” That would imply that I don’t find anything wrong with theft. The same applies here.

    To reiterate one more time: Your objection to harming children was, “That could lead to something that is wrong.” Because your objection isn’t, “Harming children is wrong.” It implies that you don’t think harming children is wrong.

  • Patrick

    monkeymind: “And you’re saying that my point, that for most people “more rewards” on top of perfect bliss is not just compensation for torture, supports your point.”

    I think that it is in this life that this is the case. Whether or not this is the case for people in Heaven is a matter apart. But I think the Golden Rule applies to how we want others to behave towards us while being in THIS life.

    monkeymind: “Then how is it is OK for God to do it?”

    I guess you refer to the idea that God punishes people by sending them to Hell. In my view one can’t call this torture. After all, how can one punish a person without inflicting some pain on him or her? A painless punishment is an oxymoron. This is even true in this life. One wouldn’t call the act of sentencing a defendant to prison torture. The same applies to running a prison.

  • Jeff

    I guess you refer to the idea that God punishes people by sending them to Hell. In my view one can’t call this torture. After all, how can one punish a person without inflicting some pain on him or her? A painless punishment is an oxymoron. This is even true in this life. One wouldn’t call the act of sentencing a defendant to prison torture. The same applies to running a prison.

    There are simply no words.

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “There are numerous examples of parents who kill their children thinking that they want to spare them from having to go to hell. (Andrea Yates IIRC is one example.)”

    I’m not familiar with this case but as far as I can see this lady was insane.

    OMGF: “How so? If one person saves 100 children and ensures they go to heaven with great rewards, then only 1 person is losing out while 100 people are gaining.”

    You haven’t refuted my claim.

    OMGF: “And, 2-D Man was talking about the situation that your theodicy brings about. It’s not his (or my) fault that you aren’t thinking things all the way through.”

    I pointed out that for the torturer his acts would have no benefit (comment 47), and to this 2-D Man responded that the children would benefit from them (comment 53). So, his answer didn’t really address my comment.

    OMGF: “They didn’t have true belief to begin with then.”

    And by such acts it may become less likely that they would adopt this belief.

    OMGF: “We know that most people will go to hell (from the Bible) so if I can save multitudes of children, then the net effect is that most of them will not go to hell. I’ve beaten the system instead. It’s true that some children may grow up to save someone else, but it’s doubtful due to the way the system is rigged against people. Remember, most people will go to hell without this intervention, so the better numerical chance for my children and the children I come in contact with would be to game the system.”

    But in order to be concerned about people’s eternal fate in Heaven or Hell you would have to be a Christian. But being a Christian you would strive to obey God’s commands, which includes “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20,13, NIV).

    OMGF: “That depends on your flavor of Xian. Some Xians claim that only god can imbue people with the holy spirit and that is necessary for one to understand the gospels and be saved.”

    According to Luke 11,13 God will give the Holy Spirit to anyone asking Him.

    OMGF: “That’s not in evidence by your stated theodicy. In fact, in the theodicy that you presented and I responded to, those who have not heard of the gospel do not receive fair treatment. Care to try again?”

    My theodicy is not dependent on the concept of eternal punishment in the afterlife. It is also compatible with Universalim, i.e. the idea that in the end all will be saved.

    OMGF: “IOW, your theodicy/theology cares nothing about morality. The amount of suffering that one endures is what leads to heaven.”

    This is not correct. According to my theodicy the following factors influence one’s state in the afterlife: One’s moral behaviour (Matthew 16,27, 2 Corinthians 5,10), one’s knowledge of God’s will (Matthew 11,20-24, Luke 12,47-48), one’s amount of suffering in this life (Luke 16,25), and whether or not one has accepted Jesus as one’s Lord and Saviour (Romans 10,8-9).

    OMGF: “This is not just or fair as the suffering inflicted is done by god. IOW, god chooses certain people to inflict suffering upon and then rewards them for it.”

    In my view in most cases it’s not God who causes suffering but other people or adverse circumstances. Some role may also be played by demons.

    OMGF: “We are not judged according to our own actions, but selectively chosen by god from before time. This is not justice.”

    As I pointed out before, we are in any case judged according to our actions. This also applies to Christians (2 Corinthians 5,10).

    OMGF: “Your theodicy tells us that god selects certain people for hell from the outset and then puts them there.”

    God doesn’t have to select people for Hell, as that’s the place where they go anyway if they don’t repent (John 3,18).

    OMGF: “This would be at odds with your Bible.”

    I agree with you that there is no place in the Bible that explicitely states this view. But I don’t think that it is necessarily contrary to the Bible, either.

    OMGF: “But, if you wish to claim that there’s a gradient, how is that different than the present world, except that once one is eternally placed in one spot, no movement up or down the happiness scale is possible, which would be hell for most I should think.”

    It is different from the present world in so far as in the afterlife one really has the state one deserves. In this world this is mostly not the case.

    OMGF: “I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. Can a person live their life without committing sin or not? Are you claiming that all humans invariably sin or not?”

    I think with God’s help one can reduce one’s amount of sins, but one may never be entirely without sin.

    OMGF: “Well, if you had understood the rest of the paragraph, you would have seen why.

    […]

    Go to any thread on the internet where there are atheist deconversion stories.”

    Are there really examples of people who lived a rather immoral life when they were Christans and turned into paragons of virtue after having left Christianity? I know of very impressive examples the other way round.

    OMGF: “If god’s plans are being thwarted, he’s making mistakes. It is that simple.”

    We must agree to disagree.

    OMGF: “The NT had to have a theological basis for allowing pork to be eaten, because the rules set down were written as to be prohibitive, end of story. The real reason, however, is that gentiles were already eating pork and no harm was coming to them. Also, the NT proponents wanted to recruit gentiles to their movement but felt that forcing them to follow all the old kosher laws would counteract their recruitment.”

    In my view the aim of all these laws concerning food or ceremonies was to keep Israel distinct from the surrounding peoples so that it would not disappear and consequently no longer be able to play the role in the history of salvation God had intended for it. Apart from this, I think the Jews could see clearly from the neighbouring peoples that no harm was coming from eating pork.

    OMGF: “It’s implicit in the idea that god’s “perfect” law had to be revised.”

    If things have to be revised due to new circumstances, this doesn’t mean that they were not appropriate before.

    OMGF: “And, where is that written?”

    That the moral commandments of the Mosaic Law are still in effect can be drawn from Matthew 5,17-19, that the ceremonial commandments are no longer valid is written among other places in Colossians 2,16-17 and Hebrews 7,11-10,18.

    OMGF: “Then you are making a distinction.”

    I don’t see why by pointing out that people do not entirely agree with respect to questions concerning morality I’m making a distinction between sin and morality.

    OMGF: “Well, yeah, it sorta does. Was it immoral to eat pork during OT times, but not now? Was it moral to have slaves because the Bible supports it, but not now?”

    It would go too far to go into the issue of slavery. A very informative contribution concerning it can be found in the following link:

    http://www.mandm.org.nz/2010/04/contra-mundum-slavery-and-the-old-testament.html

    OMGF: “The book that your god supposedly wrote disagrees. It is easier for a camel to pass thru a needle and all that.”

    The passage with the camel passing through a needle doesn’t say anything about the number of saved people. Moreover, as most people who have ever lived have died as infants or even earlier and therefore have not been able to commit sins, it seems reasonable to me to assume that they are in Heaven.

    OMGF: “Why should the default position be that one goes to hell unless one is saved? If I have a bunch of children so that I can put them all in cages in the basement for reasons of torture, unless I arbitrarily decide to save one of them, am I blameless for their lot?”

    I think the analogy is not appropriate. One should think of a prison in which some criminals are pardoned whereas others aren’t.

    OMGF: “I don’t see why not. There’s plenty of it to go around in the bible.”

    I made it plain to you why it is not appropriate.

    OMGF: “Yet, god does it. Go figure.”

    You seem to refer to the Conquest of Canaan. In my view genocide is an inappropriate term here, as the events in recent history named with it are quite different from the events described in the Bible. Whereas the victims of the former were defenseless minorities, this was not the case with respect to the Canaanites (Numbers 13, Deuteronomy 4,37-38). Moreover, from Rahab’s fate (Joshua 2) one can see that unlike the victims mentioned before those people had the opportunity to avoid destruction.

    OMGF: “IOW, god can do whatever he wants, no matter how cruel, vicious, or over the top, and it’s somehow justice, but no other entity would be granted such largesse.”

    Whether or not a punishment is “over the top” is often a subjective matter. Even today people do not always agree whether or not a specific punishment is appropriate.

    OMGF: “Too bad, it’s what you’ve done and you just confirmed it. Genocide is bad unless god does it is a failure of absolute morality and also runs afoul of Euthyphro. That your theodicy contains these problems means it fails.”

    Of course by presenting a theodicy I accept P3 hypothetically, but only to show that it is not justified. As for genocide, I’ve never mentioned it with respect to my theodicy.

    OMGF: “They aren’t the people in question, but I don’t doubt they exist either. Look at how many people went into Mother Teresa’s care. She was known for feeling that suffering was good and withholding medicines from people so that they could feel their suffering, thus bringing them closer to god. She was an actual example of a person who gamed your theodicy.”

    By telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10,25-37) Jesus made it clear what it means to help people.

    OMGF: “1. Someone might not believe they have a chance and therefore acts as in a way to save others.”

    But if one believes that such an act has such a result he or she obviously has accepted Christianity and consequently is willing to repent.

    OMGF: “2. If someone can always repent, then the one who games your system will simply repent before death. Problem solved.”

    If you replace “repent” by “feel sorry about what he has done and strives to change”, which in my view is synonymous with the former, you can see that your sentence doesn’t make sense.

    OMGF: “I don’t see why someone would even feel they need to repent for saving more souls for heaven. Isn’t that what god supposedly wants, even though he sets all kinds of barriers? Either way, who are you to set a timetable on when someone can feel repentance and when they can’t?”

    I’m not setting a timetable when someone can feel repentance, but one cannot decide to feel repentance just as one decides to go to bed. Either one is repentant or one is not.

    OMGF: “You are accepting P3 and trying to argue that C1 does not follow.”

    As I pointed out before I accept it only hypothetically.

    OMGF: “IOW, there are differing amounts of happiness in heaven, but not bliss. Is that it?”

    As far as I can see it’s neither philosophically nor theologically inconceivable that there are degress of happiness in Heaven.

    OMGF: “That’s not the question at hand. Is heaven a place where there is no strife, no unhappiness, etc as it is pretty uniformly portrayed by Xians? Someone may be able to decide that they don’t need more happiness, but that’s a decision that one would have to come to, meaning strife, undertainty, etc. This is contrary to the idea of heaven and makes for a contradictory notion.”

    In my view people in Heaven are simply happy with their states, as they know it’s exactly what they deserve.

    OMGF: “god certainly never lifts a finger to stop people from suffering at the hands of others, does he. No, he simply gives them an extra ice cream cone in heaven.”

    I’ve never said that God never intervenes to stop people from suffering at the hands of others.

    OMGF: “But, that doesn’t take into account natural evil, which you need to explain. Are you claiming that someone who gets mauled by a bear and lives a life of suffering ever after is better off for it?”

    Looking at this life as well as the afterlife he is either better off or at least not worse off.

    OMGF: “I’m sure that if you asked the person whether they want bliss in heaven or super-extra bliss in heaven in exchange for the constant day to day pain they feel for their whole entire life, they’d choose the regular bliss to not have the pain. That’s the point.”

    I agree with you. But if they have to suffer anyway it may be easier for them to endure the suffering if they have the confidence that they will be compensated for it. Another point is that according to my theodicy for unbelievers suffering in this life results in a decrease of suffering in the afterlife.

    OMGF: “Your god is foisting pain and suffering upon people in order to grant them rewards they wouldn’t even choose for themselves given the tradeoff.”

    As I pointed out before, it isn’t necessarily God who inflicts the suffering.

  • Patrick

    2-D Man: “Here’s what I want you to grasp: in my opinion harming children is wrong. Is that clear? I’ll say it one more time, just in case you missed it: I think it is wrong to harm children, full stop. I hope you agree, but so far I’m not so sure. Here’s why:

    Your theodicy says that harming children may be wrong, depending on the action of a third agent. That’s right, this is how you condemned harming children.”

    In comment 25 I wrote that as a Christian one is not allowed to kill an innocent person, in comment 47 that torturing children would be a violation of the Golden Rule, commanded by Jesus. From this you can see that I’m fully on your side. It was only in response to the objection that out of utilitarian motives one could be inclined to torture and kill children that I tried to show, by adopting a utilitarian position, that not even when one looks at the issue from this point of view such an act is justified.

  • Scotlyn

    Patrick:

    In comment 25 I wrote that as a Christian one is not allowed to kill an innocent person, in comment 47 that torturing children would be a violation of the Golden Rule, commanded by Jesus.

    Patrick, all you’ve said here, in two variant versions, is that “killing/torturing children is against the rules.”

    That isn’t the same thing at all as saying that “killing/torturing (or in 2-D Man’s terms, harming) children IS WRONG.”

    So do you actually know the difference between right and wrong for yourself, or do you depend on someone else telling you what the rules are?

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Patrick]: In my view in most cases it’s not God who causes suffering but other people or adverse circumstances. Some role may also be played by demons.

    It’s not God’s fault! It’s all those damn demons, you see! And evil people! Damn those evil people! Look over there, the Christians have bunnies!

    (>_<)

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “It occurs to me that I didn’t adequately address the whole idea of knowing or not knowing the gospel. I think this is a great example that shows a very non-perfect justice system.

    Person A: Person A grew up on an island where no one has heard of Jesus Christ or ever seen a Bible. Person A is mostly a good person, provides for others when he can, has a nice family, some ups and downs, not a lot of suffering, a pretty average life overall. Person A, however, believes in the volcano god and as such dies and goes to hell.

    […]

    Person A had no control over where he was born, but is punished for it by being sent to hell in the end.”

    The question what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel is addressed in the following link:

    http://lukenixblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/video-those-who-havent-heard.html

    OMGF: “Person B is a right bastard. Person B cheats people out of money, steals from his employee’s 401k funds and uses it to fund his extravagant lifestyle where he rarely encounters any suffering what-so-ever. He lives a great life and in the end has an epiphany and repents of all that he’s done to god and goes to heaven.

    […]

    Person B gets to live a life of luxury and gets to use the predominant religion of his birthplace as a get out of jail free card (effectively).”

    To me this scenario seems to be extremely unlikely. If someone lives in a place where the Gospel is widely known and where he has been exposed to it from youth I don’t see why he wouldn’t repent until he is old. What would it be that prevented him from repenting earlier? As a matter of fact surveys show that people usually convert when they are young.

    OMGF: “Perfect justice requires equal treatment and equal opportunity – that’s something that simply doesn’t happen when god is involved as evidenced by reality. That’s why the age of accountability creates a system that is not perfectly just. It’s a nice thought to think that unfortunate children who die too early to really live get a free ride to heaven, but it destroys the idea of perfect justice.”

    These children may indeed be in particular fortunate that they are admitted to Heaven without having to do anything about it. Yet at the same time they are deprived of opportunities to improve their state in the afterlife by doing works of righteousness. So one can argue that there is some balancing of advantages and disadvantages here.

  • Patrick

    Scotlyn

    According to Romans 2,14-15 it is to be expected that people know for themselves what is right or wrong, and it really seems to me that the Golden Rule, which according to Jesus “sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7,12, NIV), is an innate moral principle in people.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    So, the religious law says that people should already know that the religious law is right, and if they do not know this, then they will be tortured in hellfire for eternity or rewarded for eternity in heaven. Hmmm. Nothing coercive about that.

    And, the religious law can be summed up as a moral precept that people should already know for themselves, even though the religious law consistently contradicts this moral precept.

    Hmmm. But, then, why did the prophets have to write the laws in the first place? (This is a rhetorical question and does not require a response.)

    Oh, that was silly of me. I forgot. God doesn’t make laws, because it doesn’t exist.

    Suddenly when I remembered that men make human laws, even the religious ones, everything started to make sense again.

    Also, I love Patrick’s use of the word “convert” in his last response to OMGF.

    Is “convert” the new euphemism for indoctrinate and brainwash?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    I just wanted to clarify. I know the typical usage of the word convert.

    But, the way Patrick uses it, it is as if it is an inherent quality that arises spontaneously in an individual, instead of what it is: a process of brainwashing imposed upon someone by a religious cult.

  • monkeymind

    So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter – and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

    Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. Huck Finn.

    I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking – thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and suchlike times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

    It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

    “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” – and tore it up.

    –Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • Jeff

    “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” – and tore it up.

    Thereby demonstrating more courage and integrity than 99% of all the Christians who have ever lived.

  • Scotlyn

    Monkeymind – that’s a lovely quote – and I’ve always thought Mark Twain really finessed a huge number of the complexities of the southern racist and religious culture he grew up in with that deceptively simple and relatively short passage. What talent!

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

    I’m not familiar with this case but as far as I can see this lady was insane.

    Not according to your theodicy she isn’t.

    You haven’t refuted my claim.

    Not up to me to disprove your theodicy BTW, but it really does. That one person may be selfless enough to risk the wrath of god and go to hell for eternal punishment in order to ensure the heavenly rewards for many other people…well that’s sort of heroic isn’t it? And, if that person is wracked with guilt for doing what god doesn’t want in order to have the ends justify the means (another indicator of your faulty theodicy) well then at the end they could definitely be repentant. In fact, they could be repentant the whole time. “Lord, I know that you don’t approve, but I’m doing this for you to have more souls and doing this to keep these children on the straight and narrow and ensure they aren’t lost to you. I’m sorry for the actions that I feel I must take to save the ones I love.” How could you blithely dismiss such heart-felt feelings as not really repentant? And the person doing the acts gains the good feeling of having saved souls for god – which is something to be gained for sure. Looks like all your objections have answers. You’ll probably reply that it’s not likely, but it doesn’t have to be likely, just possible, in order to show that your theodicy is not perfect and has holes.

    And by such acts it may become less likely that they would adopt this belief.

    They were headed for hell anyway, so no loss has actually occurred.

    But being a Christian you would strive to obey God’s commands, which includes “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20,13, NIV).

    LOL.

    According to Luke 11,13 God will give the Holy Spirit to anyone asking Him.

    Demonstrably false. Again, check out some deconversion stories.

    My theodicy is not dependent on the concept of eternal punishment in the afterlife. It is also compatible with Universalim, i.e. the idea that in the end all will be saved.

    Actually that contradicts your contention that people end up with the level of happiness/punishment they deserve for the afterlife.

    According to my theodicy the following factors influence one’s state in the afterlife: One’s moral behaviour (Matthew 16,27, 2 Corinthians 5,10), one’s knowledge of God’s will (Matthew 11,20-24, Luke 12,47-48), one’s amount of suffering in this life (Luke 16,25), and whether or not one has accepted Jesus as one’s Lord and Saviour (Romans 10,8-9).

    OK, so morality is but one factor, but be as moral as you want and if you don’t have the right beliefs, too bad. That’s not a moral system.

    In my view in most cases it’s not God who causes suffering but other people or adverse circumstances. Some role may also be played by demons.

    Way to avoid the point I raised. Care to try again?

    God doesn’t have to select people for Hell, as that’s the place where they go anyway if they don’t repent (John 3,18).

    Because setting up a system where everyone is destined for failure is perfectly just?

    I agree with you that there is no place in the Bible that explicitely states this view. But I don’t think that it is necessarily contrary to the Bible, either.

    Right, because the lake of fire and wailing and gnashing of teeth is supposed to indicate that people are happy?

    I think with God’s help one can reduce one’s amount of sins, but one may never be entirely without sin.

    And there you have it. This is a system where god creates people destined for hell and then puts them there when they inevitably don’t live up the to impossible standards put forth for them. That he decides to save some of them doesn’t make him a hero just as someone who holds people hostage isn’t a hero for only killing half of them.

    Are there really examples of people who lived a rather immoral life when they were Christans and turned into paragons of virtue after having left Christianity?

    Yes, there are people who live more moral and fulfilled lives. There are also people who live more moral and fulfilled lives when they convert to other religions besides Xianity. Go figure.

    We must agree to disagree.

    I don’t agree to disagree. It’s implicit in the definition. If god is making mistakes then he is not perfect. It’s that simple.

    If things have to be revised due to new circumstances, this doesn’t mean that they were not appropriate before.

    It means they weren’t perfect or absolute. You once again jettison absolute morality which is supposed to be a no-no for Xians.

    That the moral commandments of the Mosaic Law are still in effect can be drawn from Matthew 5,17-19, that the ceremonial commandments are no longer valid is written among other places in Colossians 2,16-17 and Hebrews 7,11-10,18.

    You’re making inferences, not reading directly from the text. In the sermon on the mount Jesus makes a deliberate appeal to holding to the law (all of it) to the most conservative interpretation so much that he’s willing to condemn thought crime.

    It would go too far to go into the issue of slavery.

    You’re dodging the issue. The Bible supports slavery. Was it wrong then and not now or is it still not wrong?

    The passage with the camel passing through a needle doesn’t say anything about the number of saved people.

    If it’s harder than a camel passing thru the eye of a needle, then it’s practically impossible. This means that the majority of people will fail the test (otherwise it would be easy). I know you like to think that children get saved (as it gives you a nice feeling that your god isn’t such a monster) but there’s really very little support for it in the Bible. And, it still creates a situation where justice is not perfect.

    I think the analogy is not appropriate.

    I don’t see why not. god creates a bunch of beings who will go to heaven unless they are saved by him. It’s no different (again) from me putting the dog on the couch and then punishing her for being there.

    I made it plain to you why it is not appropriate.

    You did no such thing. You asserted it was inappropriate because most people see it as immoral, but that’s what makes it appropriate. Your god commits genocide and you shrug it off as OK, but do not grant such leniency to any other entity.

    You seem to refer to the Conquest of Canaan. In my view genocide is an inappropriate term here…

    I’m referring to multiple events from the NOachian flood to the Canaanites and even the Amalekites. In the last example everyone was destroyed – men, women, children, and livestock. How is that not genocide? I mean, it’s the very definition.

    Whether or not a punishment is “over the top” is often a subjective matter. Even today people do not always agree whether or not a specific punishment is appropriate.

    You are, once again, dodging the issue. You grant god the ability to do anything, no matter how vile, and claim that it is right and good while not granting that any other entity could do such things. This is a problem as you’re directly rejecting the idea of absolute morality.

    By telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10,25-37) Jesus made it clear what it means to help people.

    I feel like a broken record, but once again this is a dodge. Mother Teresa caused suffering because she thought it brought people closer to god. She gamed your theodicy.

    But if one believes that such an act has such a result he or she obviously has accepted Christianity and consequently is willing to repent.

    If you replace “repent” by “feel sorry about what he has done and strives to change”, which in my view is synonymous with the former, you can see that your sentence doesn’t make sense.

    I’m not setting a timetable when someone can feel repentance, but one cannot decide to feel repentance just as one decides to go to bed. Either one is repentant or one is not.

    See above in this response as I’ve already dealt with this.

    As far as I can see it’s neither philosophically nor theologically inconceivable that there are degress of happiness in Heaven.

    It’s only inconceivable if you want heaven to resemble the Xian concept.

    In my view people in Heaven are simply happy with their states, as they know it’s exactly what they deserve.

    Sorry, but if one person has more than another the potential for envy arises and given enough people it will happen, and the Xian concept of heaven is refuted.

    I’ve never said that God never intervenes to stop people from suffering at the hands of others.

    So, he intervenes for some people but not for others? And, this is supposed to be even-handed and perfectly just? This is ridiculous.

    Looking at this life as well as the afterlife he is either better off or at least not worse off.

    IOW, god visits suffering upon people and then gives them ice cream cones to make it all better. What a softie.

    I agree with you. But if they have to suffer anyway it may be easier for them to endure the suffering if they have the confidence that they will be compensated for it. Another point is that according to my theodicy for unbelievers suffering in this life results in a decrease of suffering in the afterlife.

    Well, no suffering is necessary so you agree with me, full stop. Thus, if you agree with the objection, you agree that there are holes in your theodicy.

    As I pointed out before, it isn’t necessarily God who inflicts the suffering.

    Then god is not perfect, not omni-max, and this still doesn’t touch upon natural evil. Sorry, but your theodicy is dead in the water.

    The question what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel is addressed in the following link

    You already told us that knowing the gospel is a necessary component to attaining heaven and tried to sugar-coat it by claiming that people can get less punishment for suffering obtained in this life. You’ve done nothing to counter my example unless you’re changing your story now? (Full disclosure – I was not able to listen to the video, so if you are changing your story, let me know.)

    To me this scenario seems to be extremely unlikely.

    Again, simply saying, “That probably won’t happen” is no defense of your position.

    These children may indeed be in particular fortunate that they are admitted to Heaven without having to do anything about it. Yet at the same time they are deprived of opportunities to improve their state in the afterlife by doing works of righteousness. So one can argue that there is some balancing of advantages and disadvantages here.

    This is contradictory to the notion of perfect justice as I explained. That you are agreeing with me that there is not a system of equal punishment/reward and equal opportunity means that you are not proposing perfect justice.

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “Not according to your theodicy she isn’t.”

    As far as I can see she was diagnosed with mental illness. This diagnosis would also have been correct had she not killed her children. So, my theodicy is totally irrelevant in this respect.

    OMGF: “You’ll probably reply that it’s not likely, but it doesn’t have to be likely, just possible, in order to show that your theodicy is not perfect and has holes.”

    There have been millions, if not billions of Christians who have believed that (baptized) infants go to Heaven. Nevertheless I personally know of no case in which a sane person has killed an infant in order to ensure his or her dwelling in Heaven. From this one can see how extremely unlikely such a case is. But even if someone out of utilitarian reasons is inclined to act like this, from a Christian point of view such an act may cause more harm than good. The reasons for this I provided in an earlier comment.

    OMGF: “They were headed for hell anyway, so no loss has actually occurred.”

    From Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2 one can draw the conclusion that the good deeds Christians accomplish are very likely to make unbelievers receptive of the Gospel. Atrocities accomplished by Christians certainly have the reverse effect. So, for people concerned about their fellow humans’ view of the Gospel it may be more effective to run Christian institutions for the benefit of children than to kill these children.

    OMGF: “LOL.”

    Could you be more explicit?

    OMGF: “Demonstrably false. Again, check out some deconversion stories.”

    Can you provide me with an example of such a case?

    OMGF: “Actually that contradicts your contention that people end up with the level of happiness/punishment they deserve for the afterlife.”

    An adherent of Universalism could argue that if Universalism is true those in Hell will eventually attain the lowest level of happiness in Heaven.

    OMGF: “OK, so morality is but one factor, but be as moral as you want and if you don’t have the right beliefs, too bad. That’s not a moral system.”

    Nowhere have I argued that the right belief alone is sufficient for salvation. In comment 36 I even argued against this view, when I wrote: “The willingness to repent is a vital precondition for salvation (Romans 2,5-11). An unrepentant sinner cannot expect to go to Heaven, no matter what his beliefs are (Galatians 5,6, James 2,14-26).”.

    OMGF: “Way to avoid the point I raised. Care to try again?”

    I don’t see why one should blame God for immoral deeds accomplished by people who refuse to live according to His commandments.

    OMGF: “Because setting up a system where everyone is destined for failure is perfectly just?”

    One is not destined for failure. With God’s help one can overcome sinful desires and reduce one’s amount of sins to a tolerable degree.

    OMGF: “Right, because the lake of fire and wailing and gnashing of teeth is supposed to indicate that people are happy?”

    One should not forget that Jesus was talking to people who had heard the Gospel time and again and had even seen the miracles He had worked. If people nevertheless refused to follow Him they would have to face a particularly harsh judgement.

    OMGF: “And there you have it. This is a system where god creates people destined for hell and then puts them there when they inevitably don’t live up the to impossible standards put forth for them. That he decides to save some of them doesn’t make him a hero just as someone who holds people hostage isn’t a hero for only killing half of them.”

    Again, God doesn’t expect people to live up to these standards, but to acknowledge that they are not able to do so and to turn toward Him for help (Luke 18,9-14).

    OMGF: “Yes, there are people who live more moral and fulfilled lives. There are also people who live more moral and fulfilled lives when they convert to other religions besides Xianity. Go figure.”

    Whether or not they live fulfilled lives is rather irrelevant here. Even an immoral person can live a fulfilled life (see Luke 16,19). As for the other group of people I’m very eager to learn about such cases.

    OMGF: “I don’t agree to disagree. It’s implicit in the definition. If god is making mistakes then he is not perfect. It’s that simple.”

    What’s at issue here is whether or not God makes mistakes when He lets people have free will and consequently runs the risk of having moral evil in the world. Unlike you I don’t think so.

    OMGF: “It means they weren’t perfect or absolute. You once again jettison absolute morality which is supposed to be a no-no for Xians.”

    Did they have to be absolute to be perfect? If they perfectly served their purpose under certain circumstances, can’t they be regarded as perfect?

    OMGF: “You’re making inferences, not reading directly from the text. In the sermon on the mount Jesus makes a deliberate appeal to holding to the law (all of it) to the most conservative interpretation so much that he’s willing to condemn thought crime.”

    But thought crimes can only be committed in connection with moral matters not ceremonial ones. The examples Jesus gives refer to the former, not to the latter. That Jesus must have meant the former and not the latter becomes also obvious from the fact that according to Mark 7,19 he abolished to commandments concerning food.

    OMGF: “You’re dodging the issue. The Bible supports slavery. Was it wrong then and not now or is it still not wrong?”

    In my view slavery as practiced according to the Mosaic Law (which is not what is usually meant by it nowadays) is morally acceptable. But this doesn’t mean that I suggest that it should be introduced nowadays.

    OMGF: “If it’s harder than a camel passing thru the eye of a needle, then it’s practically impossible. This means that the majority of people will fail the test (otherwise it would be easy).”

    Jesus was talking of rich men, not of men in general.

    OMGF: “I know you like to think that children get saved (as it gives you a nice feeling that your god isn’t such a monster) but there’s really very little support for it in the Bible.”

    In my view Genesis 2,16, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16 provide enough Biblical support for this view.

    OMGF: “I don’t see why not. god creates a bunch of beings who will go to heaven unless they are saved by him. It’s no different (again) from me putting the dog on the couch and then punishing her for being there.”

    A dog doesn’t perceive being on a couch as an immoral act, so the analogy clearly fails.

    OMGF: “You did no such thing. You asserted it was inappropriate because most people see it as immoral, but that’s what makes it appropriate.”

    The question is if there are objective criteria what degree of punishment is appropriate for a specific immoral act. If one cannot identify such criteria I don’t see how one can blame God for punishing people too severely. If in one country a specific crime is punished with five years in prison and in another with 50 years, how can one decide whether or not the respective punishment is too severe or too light, respectively?

    OMGF: “Your god commits genocide and you shrug it off as OK, but do not grant such leniency to any other entity.”

    Again I don’t see on what ground I can judge God’s standard of judgement as inappropriate.

    OMGF: “I’m referring to multiple events from the NOachian flood to the Canaanites and even the Amalekites. In the last example everyone was destroyed – men, women, children, and livestock. How is that not genocide? I mean, it’s the very definition.”

    Technically speaking, you are right. But nevertheless I would not call these acts cases of genocide, as unlike such cases from recent times, these people were not killed simply because they belonged to a certain ethnic group, but because they had acted immorally (Genesis 6,5-7, Deuteronomy 9,5). As I pointed out earlier in connection with the example of Rahab, if these people had repented of their wickedness, they certainly would have been spared.

    OMGF: “You are, once again, dodging the issue. You grant god the ability to do anything, no matter how vile, and claim that it is right and good while not granting that any other entity could do such things. This is a problem as you’re directly rejecting the idea of absolute morality.”

    The idea that some agents are allowed to do things that would be regarded as immoral if done by other agents is also known in modern society. So, a judge is allowed to cause a person to be locked away, an act that, if done by an ordinary citizen, would be regarded as a crime.

    OMGF: “I feel like a broken record, but once again this is a dodge. Mother Teresa caused suffering because she thought it brought people closer to god. She gamed your theodicy.”

    That Mother Theresa actually caused suffering seems rather unlikely to me. She may not have relieved people’s suffering to the highest possible degree. But even then, as long as the people who stayed with her were better off than if they had not been there they certainly were helped. Assuming that Mother Theresa indeed did not help people as well as she could have done, such behaviour is not in accordance with my theodicy. Assuming that good works accomplished by Christians are far more effective as a means to make people receptive of the Gospel (Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, 3,1-2) than any suffering, a failure to help the best way one can may be rather counterproductive. Indeed Mother Theresa’s (supposed) failure to help properly obviously had such an effect with respect to you.

    OMGF: “It’s only inconceivable if you want heaven to resemble the Xian concept.”

    I know of no passage in the Bible that informs us about the degrees of happiness in Heaven or a lack of them.

    OMGF: “Sorry, but if one person has more than another the potential for envy arises and given enough people it will happen, and the Xian concept of heaven is refuted.”

    The question whether or not people in Heaven can sin is at length discussed in the following threads, in which my comments appear under the name “Patrick (Christian)”.

    http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=15624

    http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=15689

    In the following link one can read what the philosopher William Lane Craig (more concisely) wrote about this issue.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6101

    OMGF: “So, he intervenes for some people but not for others? And, this is supposed to be even-handed and perfectly just? This is ridiculous.”

    It’s not an arbitrary matter whether or not God intervenes on a person’s behalf. There are guidelines that must be followed in order to increase the likelihood of such an intervention. They are listed in the section “Appendix: Biblical conditions for effective prayer for healing” in the following link:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~enc11/Enc10.html

    OMGF: “IOW, god visits suffering upon people and then gives them ice cream cones to make it all better. What a softie.”

    Again, often it’s not God causing suffering but other agents or circumstances.

    OMGF: “Well, no suffering is necessary so you agree with me, full stop. Thus, if you agree with the objection, you agree that there are holes in your theodicy.”

    I don’t see any holes in my theodicy. According to it suffering doesn’t have to serve any purpose with respect to this life.

    OMGF: “Then god is not perfect, not omni-max, and this still doesn’t touch upon natural evil. Sorry, but your theodicy is dead in the water.”

    You seem to think that God is only perfect if we are mere puppets without free will.

    OMGF: “You already told us that knowing the gospel is a necessary component to attaining heaven and tried to sugar-coat it by claiming that people can get less punishment for suffering obtained in this life. You’ve done nothing to counter my example unless you’re changing your story now? (Full disclosure – I was not able to listen to the video, so if you are changing your story, let me know.)”

    If someone who doesn’t know the God of the Bible out of desperation about his inability to live a morally good life (Romans 7,15-19) cries out to the “unknown God” (Acts 17,23), looking at Jeremiah 29,13 and Matthew 7,7-8 one can certainly be confident that he will be helped.

    OMGF: “Again, simply saying, “That probably won’t happen” is no defense of your position.”

    If someone repents from his iniquities, no matter how old he is, why shouldn’t God accept him?

    OMGF: “This is contradictory to the notion of perfect justice as I explained. That you are agreeing with me that there is not a system of equal punishment/reward and equal opportunity means that you are not proposing perfect justice.”

    Who is wronged?

  • Scotlyn

    Patrick:

    Scotlyn. According to Romans 2,14-15 it is to be expected that people know for themselves what is right or wrong, and it really seems to me that the Golden Rule, which according to Jesus “sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7,12, NIV), is an innate moral principle in people.

    Patrick, I’m still not sure if you actually know the difference between right and wrong – FOR YOURSELF. Since you keep quoting some ancient rulebook of yours and all.

    Here’s a thought experiment that should be quite simple:
    You are Abraham, and God has just informed you that you must sacrifice your son Isaac. You know exactly what sacrifice means – you’ve often done it with lambs, and you know they never survive the experience.

    Which one of the following scenarios would you, Patrick, be likeliest to follow:

    a) You KNOW, in yourself, that killing children is wrong, no matter who does the asking. So you refuse. You say, “God, killing children is wrong, and I won’t do it, even if it’s you doing the asking.” You figure, no God that would ask you to kill your own son could be a good God worthy of following – in fact, you’ve already got problems with all the other believers of other Gods in the land who sacrifice their children because they also think their Gods commanded them to.

    b) You don’t KNOW, in yourself, that killing children is wrong – you just know that you’ve got to obey whatever rules God makes up and right now he’s given you a new command – “Kill your child.” You say, “Ok God, whatever you say,” and you call your beloved son, Isaac, gather wood and head up the mountain to the killing ground, fully prepared to kill your son (just like all the other believers of other Gods in the land who sacrifice their children because they also think their Gods commanded them to).

    c) You KNOW, in yourself, that killing children is wrong. But you also know that God’s commands must be obeyed. So this one tears you in two, you don’t know which “right” and which “wrong” trumps the other. In the end you decide to doubt your own judgment and abdicate all responsibility for your actions, and you say, “God, you must know better than me, cause I’m only human,” and you call your beloved son, Isaac, gather wood and head up the mountain to the killing ground, fully prepared to kill your son (just like all the other believers of other Gods in the land who sacrifice their children because they also think their Gods commanded them to).

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

    As far as I can see she was diagnosed with mental illness. This diagnosis would also have been correct had she not killed her children. So, my theodicy is totally irrelevant in this respect.

    She was diagnosed that way because we largely don’t accept your theodicy. If we did, we probably would not see her as mentally ill. Either way, she is highly relevant because she did exactly what you claim people wouldn’t do. Stop trying to avoid the issues.

    But even if someone out of utilitarian reasons is inclined to act like this, from a Christian point of view such an act may cause more harm than good.

    2-D Man pointed out the big issue with this, but I also pointed out some issues with this as well. You’ve largely ignored and avoided those. Why should we take you seriously if your theodicy depends on ignoring all criticism?

    From Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2 one can draw the conclusion that the good deeds Christians accomplish are very likely to make unbelievers receptive of the Gospel.

    Fatal flaw: you don’t have to worry about their bona fides as Xians if you kill them before the age of accountability.

    Could you be more explicit?

    Because soooooo many Xians have followed the precept that one should not murder. Ha.

    Can you provide me with an example of such a case?

    There are numerous examples of people who fervently prayed for god to show himself and finally became atheists or didn’t ever see god. Look at Mother Teresa for one example. For others, you can find them here.

    An adherent of Universalism could argue that if Universalism is true those in Hell will eventually attain the lowest level of happiness in Heaven.

    How so? Does one suffer in hell to the point where they gain happiness? Why is suffering so important to gain happiness? Is there some sort of cosmic balance out there that has to be weighed? How does one justify eternal happiness if this is the case?

    Nowhere have I argued that the right belief alone is sufficient for salvation.

    But it is a necessary condition, so my point stands.

    I don’t see why one should blame God for immoral deeds accomplished by people who refuse to live according to His commandments.

    A, people are not responsible for natural evil. B, god does bear responsibility for putting people on the earth knowing full well that they will not measure up to his perfect standards. You can continue to dance around this, but it pretty clearly shows that you don’t have a theodicy that is serious or works.

    One is not destined for failure. With God’s help one can overcome sinful desires and reduce one’s amount of sins to a tolerable degree.

    Um, yeah we are. You yourself claimed that no one can avoid sin, therefore all people will go to hell without god’s intervention. This makes my babies in cages analogy spot on. We would not say that a person that keeps babies in cages was a moral person simply because they let a few of the babies out and made them happy. Your theodicy fails.

    One should not forget that Jesus was talking to people who had heard the Gospel time and again and had even seen the miracles He had worked. If people nevertheless refused to follow Him they would have to face a particularly harsh judgement.

    Ah, the old ‘when the Bible says something I don’t like, it means that Jesus wasn’t talking to me so therefore it’s not applicable.’ Of course, this has moral relativity written all over it and now you may as well toss out all of the Bible, since Jesus didn’t say any of it directly to you.

    Again, God doesn’t expect people to live up to these standards, but to acknowledge that they are not able to do so and to turn toward Him for help (Luke 18,9-14).

    IOW, god sets impossible standards and punishes people for not living up to them unless he decides to help them out. This is monstrous.

    As for the other group of people I’m very eager to learn about such cases.

    Already provided, but google is really your friend here.

    What’s at issue here is whether or not God makes mistakes when He lets people have free will and consequently runs the risk of having moral evil in the world. Unlike you I don’t think so.

    Sigh. First off, free will is impossible with an omni-max god. Second of all, if god is not getting what he wants (as a perfect being) then he’s making mistakes and is therefore not perfect. It’s definitional. You can continue to put your head in the sand and try to redefine words, but it’s not going to work.

    Did they have to be absolute to be perfect? If they perfectly served their purpose under certain circumstances, can’t they be regarded as perfect?

    IOW, you reject absolute morality, which is a no-no for Xians. Secondly, if the standards are changing based on non-moral factors such as group A vs. group B based on heritage, then no, they can’t be regarded as perfect. You’re making an argument that the ends justify the means.

    But thought crimes can only be committed in connection with moral matters not ceremonial ones.

    A, this is incorrect. Thinking about eating pork is just like biting into one (although I don’t see eating pork as a symbolic rule, but you used it as an example). B, you don’t see the problem with this argument? You’re not even trying to argue that thought crime is bad.

    In my view slavery as practiced according to the Mosaic Law (which is not what is usually meant by it nowadays) is morally acceptable. But this doesn’t mean that I suggest that it should be introduced nowadays.

    OK, not only is this inconsistent in the space of 2 sentences, but you’re really arguing that owning a fellow human being is not morally wrong? I think that’s all we need to know about your theodicy.

    Jesus was talking of rich men, not of men in general.

    Ah, but small is the gate and narrow is the road, and only a few find it. Or, did you forget about that passage?

    In my view Genesis 2,16, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16 provide enough Biblical support for this view.

    Genesis = eat from any tree – no support there
    Deut = children entering the land of Canaan, where Moses isn’t allowed to go – no support there (in this passage, god is saying that he won’t take out his anger on Moses’s children, which he was known to do).
    Isaiah = propechy of the second coming – no support there.

    A dog doesn’t perceive being on a couch as an immoral act, so the analogy clearly fails.

    Avoidance once again. It doesn’t matter what the dog perceives. The dog is put into a situation through no fault of her own and is punished for being there.

    The question is if there are objective criteria what degree of punishment is appropriate for a specific immoral act. If one cannot identify such criteria I don’t see how one can blame God for punishing people too severely.

    No finite crime is worth infinite punishment. Theodicy fail. Still, it seems your criteria is god = right no matter what. Genocide = no problem if god does it. This is moral relativity.

    Again I don’t see on what ground I can judge God’s standard of judgement as inappropriate.

    Then you similarly can’t judge/assume that it is appropriate and your whole theodicy falls apart because you are relying on making that judgement. Your theodicy is in tatters and has more holes than swiss cheese.

    Technically speaking, you are right.

    Definitionally speaking I’m right, and you know it. You also know that it’s wrong to commit genocide, even when your god does it.

    But nevertheless I would not call these acts cases of genocide, as unlike such cases from recent times, these people were not killed simply because they belonged to a certain ethnic group, but because they had acted immorally (Genesis 6,5-7, Deuteronomy 9,5).

    BS. You’re trying to tell me that all the ethnic group of Amalekites (for example) were immoral and therefore deserved to die? I’m sure that includes the children younger than the age of accountability that the group had? Oh wait, did I just point out a glaring and obvious contradiction in your theodicy once again? Yes, I did. Defending the wholesale slaughter of an ethnic group of peoples is genocide apologetics and you should basically lose the argument right there for trying to defend such actions.

    The idea that some agents are allowed to do things that would be regarded as immoral if done by other agents is also known in modern society.

    A, that’s not what we are taling about, and you know it. B, again you use moral relativity instead of absolute morality to defend your position?

    That Mother Theresa actually caused suffering seems rather unlikely to me.

    It seems unlikely? Have you even read about her? FFS. Stop making arguments about what seems unlikely to you.

    I know of no passage in the Bible that informs us about the degrees of happiness in Heaven or a lack of them.

    Heaven is supposed to be a place where all are happy, there is no strife, no unhappiness, no envy, etc. If people are happy to different degrees, then envy will occur and heaven is not a place where these things don’t happen.

    The question whether or not people in Heaven can sin…

    It can’t happen. Heaven is supposed to be free of sin. If people have different levels of happiness, then sin occurs.

    It’s not an arbitrary matter whether or not God intervenes on a person’s behalf. There are guidelines that must be followed in order to increase the likelihood of such an intervention.

    Because devout people being raped never call out for help from god. From god’s standpoint it would be arbitrary. god has the ability to help anyone and everyone without any cost to himself and does not do so. god also would have written the rules as to when and how he would help, meaning that he could have written different, less restrictive rules that would allow him to help in more cases. So, he’s written his own rules that allow him to ignore suffering and claim that he’s doing so according to the rules. How is this moral or just again?

    Again, often it’s not God causing suffering but other agents or circumstances.

    Again, stop repeating the same BS that didn’t fly the first time.

    I don’t see any holes in my theodicy. According to it suffering doesn’t have to serve any purpose with respect to this life.

    This is just simply funny.

    You seem to think that God is only perfect if we are mere puppets without free will.

    There is no way to reconcile free will with an omni-max god.

    If someone who doesn’t know the God of the Bible out of desperation about his inability to live a morally good life (Romans 7,15-19) cries out to the “unknown God” (Acts 17,23), looking at Jeremiah 29,13 and Matthew 7,7-8 one can certainly be confident that he will be helped.

    Seriously? This is one of the most ridiculous things you’ve written yet. IOW, if someone who doesn’t know about god calls out to this god that he doesn’t know about then he can be saved. This is inane.

    If someone repents from his iniquities, no matter how old he is, why shouldn’t God accept him?

    Thank you for backing up my previous argument. I doubt you’ll see the problem or understand why it hurts your argument though.

    Who is wronged?

    Everyone who doesn’t receive treatment as good as the next person.

  • Patrick

    Scotlyn

    With respect to the question what motivated Abraham to to be ready to sacrifice his son Hebrews 11,17-19 gives the following answer:

    “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” (NIV)

    Abraham had received Isaac miraculously as a result of God’s prediction that he and his wife would have a son, although they both were very old. In addition to this God promised them than they would have offspring through Isaac. But this could only happen if Isaac would have children, and when Abraham received God’s command to sacrifice Isaac this wasn’t yet the case. So he may have gathered that God somehow nevertheless would make this promise true by miraculously preventing Isaac’s death or bringing him back to life. In my view under these very special circumstances it was legitimate for Abraham to follow such a command.

    As for child sacrifice in general God clearly condemned such an act, as can be seen from Jeremiah 32,35:

    “They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.” (NIV)

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Excellent point, Patrick. God never commands the Israelites to sacrifice children. He just commands them, on multiple occasions, to kill children with no intention of treating their deaths as a religious offering! Totally different!

  • monkeymind

    What about Jephthah’s daughter? She doesn’t count because she’s only a girl?

  • Scotlyn

    Patrick, patrick, patrick…
    And yet again, you go with quoting the ancient rulebook, instead of answering the question, as it was so very clearly phrased, with your own personal heart’s and mind’s insights and judgments. Not even a hint of a teeny, weeny moral wrestle within your own self.

    From this I can only conclude that you’ve somehow had your own conscience surgically removed and replaced with a robotic ancient rulebook random quotation machine. Very, very creepy. (Anyone ever make that movie?)

    I had thought 2-D Man was exaggerating slightly, but it’s pretty evident from the consistency of your replies – you, Patrick, really, actually, truly, do not KNOW the difference between right and wrong, do you?

  • 2-D Man

    3 things:
    1) Patrick has gotten boring, given the number of times he has explicitly stated that his theodicy is self-contradictory in nature.

    2)

    (or in 2-D Man’s terms, harming)

    I felt like I was tossing around the word “torture” too much. It’s not a word to be taken lightly.

    3) Scotlyn, I don’t think it’s so much that he doesn’t know. It seems to be more that Patrick doesn’t know why anyone should bother to try (even in situations where the task is trivial). It strikes me as sort of like the defeatist attitude of the Teabaggers.

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “How so? Does one suffer in hell to the point where they gain happiness?”

    The idea behind Universalism is that there is proportionality between the amount of one’s sins and the time one spends in Hell. So if one has so to speak served one’s sentence one is admitted to Heaven.

    OMGF: “Why is suffering so important to gain happiness? Is there some sort of cosmic balance out there that has to be weighed?”

    There may be something like a “law of conservation of justice” (by analogy with the law of conservation of energy in Physics), according to which the overall amount of injustice must be equal with the overall amount of punishment of injustice.

    OMGF: “How does one justify eternal happiness if this is the case?”

    Eternal happiness was made possible by Christ’s substitutionary suffering on the cross on behalf of sinners.

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

    The idea behind Universalism is that there is proportionality between the amount of one’s sins and the time one spends in Hell. So if one has so to speak served one’s sentence one is admitted to Heaven.

    This is better than most Xian schemes, but hardly supported in the Bible. There are issues with it as well. I’ll get into those later.

    There may be something like a “law of conservation of justice” (by analogy with the law of conservation of energy in Physics), according to which the overall amount of injustice must be equal with the overall amount of punishment of injustice.

    If this is so, then god is the one that has created this law, meaning god is the one responsible for deciding that suffering is a good thing to visit on people in order to reward them later.

    Eternal happiness was made possible by Christ’s substitutionary suffering on the cross on behalf of sinners.

    Which destroys the idea of perfect justice.

    Here’s another problem with your theodicy:
    There’s no impetus to help other people. By easing suffering you’re depriving people of rewards in heaven. You’re actually harming their afterlife prospects if you help them. If you see someone getting raped, the best response would be to allow it to happen as stopping it would only keep that person from attaining greater rewards in heaven.

    And, if you counter that god demands that we help others, then you’re just admitting that god doesn’t want us to be as happy as possible in heaven, as god is demanding that we take away people’s rewards by relieving their suffering.

  • monkeymind
  • Patrick

    OMGF: “She was diagnosed that way because we largely don’t accept your theodicy. If we did, we probably would not see her as mentally ill. Either way, she is highly relevant because she did exactly what you claim people wouldn’t do. Stop trying to avoid the issues.”

    Andrea Yates had already received antipsychotic medication before she killed her children. So, the diagnosis had nothing to do with this act.

    OMGF: “2-D Man pointed out the big issue with this, but I also pointed out some issues with this as well. You’ve largely ignored and avoided those. Why should we take you seriously if your theodicy depends on ignoring all criticism?”

    If Christians in an area are in the majority there would be no need to act like this, as there would be a high probability that the infants would later become Christians. But if the Christians are in the minority, it would be rather unwise to act like this, as such an act would certainly turn the majority of the population against them, which in turn would certainly make it harder to evangelize non-Christians.

    OMGF: “Fatal flaw: you don’t have to worry about their bona fides as Xians if you kill them before the age of accountability.”

    But we are talking about persons who have already reached the age of accountability.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    There may be something like a “law of conservation of justice” (by analogy with the law of conservation of energy in Physics), according to which the overall amount of injustice must be equal with the overall amount of punishment of injustice.

    I just love that – “the overall amount of punishment of injustice” – even if the person punished isn’t actually responsible for the injustice in question. This reminds me of a quote from Discworld:

    In this he was echoing the Patrician’s view of crime and punishment. If there was crime, there should be punishment. If the specific criminal should be involved in the punishment process then this was a happy accident, but if not then any criminal would do, and since everyone was undoubtedly guilty of something, the net result was that, in general terms, justice was done.

    As great a character as Lord Vetinari is, however, I don’t think I would want him to be a deity in the real world.

  • 2-D Man

    There may be something like a “law of conservation of justice” (by analogy with the law of conservation of energy in Physics), according to which the overall amount of injustice must be equal with the overall amount of punishment of injustice.

    Aaaand we’ll add physics to the list of things Patrick doesn’t care to understand.

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

    Patrick,
    Andrea Yates is just one example and still holds true. According to you theodicy she was not crazy, just overly concerned for the well-being of her children.

    I’m convinced that you either can’t follow the arguments made against you or won’t. So, I’m not going to repeat myself because you’re simply not dealing with them.

    I will ask you this: before the time where people had this un-Biblical idea of the age of accountability, Xians thought that original sin damned all people to hell unless they were baptized (then all of our other sins damned us to hell, but that’s not the point here). Some Xians took it upon themselves to steal children from non-Xians to have them baptized. Yes, they kidnapped children in order to baptize them. They did something that is a no-no in order to help the children. When you continually claim that people wouldn’t “game” your system, you’re arguing against historical precedent.

    (Of course, the ability to game what is supposedly a perfect system means that it’s not really perfect.)

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “Because soooooo many Xians have followed the precept that one should not murder. Ha.”

    That fact that there have been Christians who acted against this command doesn’t invalidate it.

    OMGF: ”But it is a necessary condition, so my point stands.”

    In my view there is also a moral dimension to belief or disbelief. If someone refused to believe you whatever you would say, you would certainly regard this as an offence. It would mean that the person either regards you as a liar or as insane. If he or she would do it without having any evidence for such views it would equal slander.

    OMGF: ”A, people are not responsible for natural evil.”

    I was thinking about God’s direct intervention aiming at punishing someone, not God having created natural laws, which in turn cause harm for people. Such harm could only indirectly put down to God.

    OMGF: “B, god does bear responsibility for putting people on the earth knowing full well that they will not measure up to his perfect standards. You can continue to dance around this, but it pretty clearly shows that you don’t have a theodicy that is serious or works.

    […]

    Um, yeah we are. You yourself claimed that no one can avoid sin, therefore all people will go to hell without god’s intervention. This makes my babies in cages analogy spot on. We would not say that a person that keeps babies in cages was a moral person simply because they let a few of the babies out and made them happy. Your theodicy fails.”

    We are not able to live a morally perfect life, but we are able TO WISH to live such a life and consequently to suffer from the fact that we lack such a state, as expressed in Romans 7,15-19. But if this is the case we are already in the process of repentance and that’s what God wants from us. So He doesn’t expect from us more than we can accomplish.

    OMGF: “Ah, the old ‘when the Bible says something I don’t like, it means that Jesus wasn’t talking to me so therefore it’s not applicable.’ Of course, this has moral relativity written all over it and now you may as well toss out all of the Bible, since Jesus didn’t say any of it directly to you.”

    The idea that there are degrees of punishment in Hell, which is an important element in my theodicy, is not affected by your comment.

    OMGF: “IOW, god sets impossible standards and punishes people for not living up to them unless he decides to help them out. This is monstrous.”

    We don’t have to wait until He helps us out. We can take the initiative and call on Him.

    OMGF: “First off, free will is impossible with an omni-max god.

    […]

    There is no way to reconcile free will with an omni-max god.”

    I don’t see why free will is not supposed to be compatible with omniscience, omnibenevolence, perfect justice and omnipotence (so far as it is compatible with the other attributes of God).

    OMGF: “You’re not even trying to argue that thought crime is bad.”

    I don’t see what you mean. I’ve never argued against the view that thought crime is bad.

    OMGF: “OK, not only is this inconsistent in the space of 2 sentences, but you’re really arguing that owning a fellow human being is not morally wrong?”

    Just because something is morally acceptable (not morally imperative) doesn’t mean that one has to introduce it. Furthermore, reading the link I provided with respect to this matter you would see that slavery in the Bible is not “owning a fellow human being”.

    OMGF: “IOW, you reject absolute morality, which is a no-no for Xians. Secondly, if the standards are changing based on non-moral factors such as group A vs. group B based on heritage, then no, they can’t be regarded as perfect. You’re making an argument that the ends justify the means.”

    In my view absolute morality is compatible with the idea that a specific act can be moral or immoral depending on the circumstances.

    OMGF: “Ah, but small is the gate and narrow is the road, and only a few find it. Or, did you forget about that passage?”

    This passage needn’t contradict my view. Of those who have reached the age of accountability it may well be that only a few find the small gate. Those under this age don’t have to find this gate.

    OMGF: “Genesis = eat from any tree – no support there
    Deut = children entering the land of Canaan, where Moses isn’t allowed to go – no support there (in this passage, god is saying that he won’t take out his anger on Moses’s children, which he was known to do).
    Isaiah = propechy of the second coming – no support there.”

    The first passage should be Genesis 2,17. It speaks about the fact that once man would be able to distinguish good and evil he would (spiritually) die. In Deuteronomy we read about the “children who do not yet know good from bad” (NIV) and consequently are in a state that can be interpreted as the one described before Genesis 2,17. In Isaiah 7,16 the expression “before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right” (NIV) certainly refers to the same idea.

    OMGF: “Avoidance once again. It doesn’t matter what the dog perceives. The dog is put into a situation through no fault of her own and is punished for being there.”

    Unlike animals we can reflect about our acts, and so we are not just the victims of circumstances.

    OMGF: “No finite crime is worth infinite punishment. Theodicy fail.”

    As mentioned earlier my theodicy does not depend on the idea of eternal punishment, so it cannot fail because of it.

    OMGF: “Then you similarly can’t judge/assume that it is appropriate and your whole theodicy falls apart because you are relying on making that judgement.”

    My theodicy doesn’t rely on my ability to know exactly what amount of punishment a specific act produces in the afterlife. It just postulates that the suffering in this life is subtracted from the suffering in the afterlife, no matter what the exact amounts of the respective sufferings are.

    OMGF: “Definitionally speaking I’m right, and you know it. You also know that it’s wrong to commit genocide, even when your god does it.”

    What you fail to understand is that whether or not a specific act is immoral often depends on the circumstances and the motives. As for genocide, if God does it in order to punish people for their wickedness it is moral, if men do it out of racist motives it is immoral.

    OMGF: “You’re trying to tell me that all the ethnic group of Amalekites (for example) were immoral and therefore deserved to die?”

    In Joshua 2,8-13 Rahab, a Canaanite woman, says: “I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts sank and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and so on earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.” (NIV)

    From this one can see that the Canaanites were not unsuspecting victims, but that they were aware of God’s power and in addition to this they felt a supernatural fear. Wouldn’t it have been reasonable for them to follow Rahab’s example and acknowledge the God and to follow His commands? Can’t one regard the failure to do so as being immoral?

    Actually, from a Biblical point of view as sinners we all deserve death (Romans 6,23). According to Numbers 14,11-12 Israel itself only narrowly escaped its destruction by God.

    OMGF: “I’m sure that includes the children younger than the age of accountability that the group had? Oh wait, did I just point out a glaring and obvious contradiction in your theodicy once again? Yes, I did. Defending the wholesale slaughter of an ethnic group of peoples is genocide apologetics and you should basically lose the argument right there for trying to defend such actions.”

    From the point of view of my theodicy these children were better off than if they had not been killed.

    OMGF: “A, that’s not what we are taling about, and you know it. B, again you use moral relativity instead of absolute morality to defend your position?”

    Again, the fact that a specific act can be regarded as moral or immoral depending on the circumstances does not amount to rejecting absolute morality.

    OMGF: “It seems unlikely? Have you even read about her? FFS. Stop making arguments about what seems unlikely to you.”

    According to my theodicy good works done by Christians make Christianity attractive to people. In the link you provided Mother Teresa is accused of having failed to do the good works that are usually attributed to her. One thing she is accused of, namely denying her patients the best possible medical care while availing herself of the best medical care, clearly goes against the Golden Rule, commanded by Jesus. If Christians fail to live according to the commands Jesus gave this obviously has the effect of enticing people away from Christianity.

    OMGF: “Heaven is supposed to be a place where all are happy, there is no strife, no unhappiness, no envy, etc. If people are happy to different degrees, then envy will occur and heaven is not a place where these things don’t happen.

    […]

    It can’t happen. Heaven is supposed to be free of sin. If people have different levels of happiness, then sin occurs.”

    I again suggest to you to read what was written in the links I provided.

    OMGF: “god has the ability to help anyone and everyone without any cost to himself and does not do so. god also would have written the rules as to when and how he would help, meaning that he could have written different, less restrictive rules that would allow him to help in more cases. So, he’s written his own rules that allow him to ignore suffering and claim that he’s doing so according to the rules. How is this moral or just again?”

    One point of my theodicy states that the greater God’s beneficial power due to His love the greater is His destructive power due to His justice. As an illustration of this principle I mentioned what happened to a crippled beggar on the one hand and a cheating couple on the other hand in connection with the description of the church in Jerusalem described in the first chapters of the Book of Acts.

    An analogy may help to show what I mean. Thinking about the power of electricity we can use it to accomplish amazing things. One of these accomplishments is the running of railway trains at a high speed over long distances. But in order to accomplish this the electric tension must be very high, indeed so high that it is exceedingly dangerous for humans, so that they must be protected from it. With only a low electric tension you cannot achieve that much, maybe make a pocket lamp shine, but dealing with it isn’t a dangerous matter. My claim is that the more righteous a person is the more protected he or she is against God’s destructive power and the more confident he or she can be to experience God’s beneficial power. As according to 2 Timothy 2,13 God “cannot disown himself” (NIV) He may not have been able to write less restrictive rules.

    OMGF: “This is just simply funny.”

    Even if the suffering offers no benefit for the sufferer in this life, it will in the afterlife.

    OMGF: “Seriously? This is one of the most ridiculous things you’ve written yet. IOW, if someone who doesn’t know about god calls out to this god that he doesn’t know about then he can be saved. This is inane.”

    The idea that also people outside the Judeo-Christian culture were aware of a divine being with the characteristics of God in the Bible may not be far-fetched, as the following book (which I haven’t read) seems to show:

    Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World, Ventura 1981.

    OMGF: “Everyone who doesn’t receive treatment as good as the next person.”

    I think you set the bar for justice unreasonably high. One cannot expect that everyone has the same life span, the same personality, the same experiences, the same circumstances, in fact that all people have virtually identical lives.

  • Patrick

    Scotlyn

    Of course, I have a moral intuition that shows me what is right or wrong. In my view the reason why God apart from providing us with a conscience in additon to it provided us with written commands is that we have a tendency to suppress our conscience when it goes against our interests.

    Mentioning again the Euthrypho Dilemma there is another very informative link concerning it:

    http://thegospeloferik.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/st-john-and-the-euthyphro-dilemma/

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “Here’s another problem with your theodicy:
    There’s no impetus to help other people. By easing suffering you’re depriving people of rewards in heaven. You’re actually harming their afterlife prospects if you help them. If you see someone getting raped, the best response would be to allow it to happen as stopping it would only keep that person from attaining greater rewards in heaven.”

    By helping the sufferer the Christian can gain a reward for himself. If the sufferer is a non-Christian the Christian may make him receptive of the Gospel, which decreases his amount of suffering in the afterlife more than any suffering in this life.

    OMGF: “I will ask you this: before the time where people had this un-Biblical idea of the age of accountability, Xians thought that original sin damned all people to hell unless they were baptized (then all of our other sins damned us to hell, but that’s not the point here).”

    That all Christians had this view is not correct, which is shown in the following link:

    http://www.mandm.org.nz/2010/12/william-lane-craig-original-sin-and-original-guilt.html

    OMGF: “Some Xians took it upon themselves to steal children from non-Xians to have them baptized. Yes, they kidnapped children in order to baptize them. They did something that is a no-no in order to help the children.”

    Whatever one may think about such a practice, baptizing infants certainly doesn’t do any harm to them. As for kidnapping people, this is an act that the Bible condemns, as can be seen from Exodus 21,16.

  • Patrick

    monkeymind: “What about Jephthah’s daughter? She doesn’t count because she’s only a girl?”

    As for this sacrifice, it was not God commanding it.

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

    In my view there is also a moral dimension to belief or disbelief. If someone refused to believe you whatever you would say, you would certainly regard this as an offence. It would mean that the person either regards you as a liar or as insane. If he or she would do it without having any evidence for such views it would equal slander.

    There is no moral dimension to belief. People either believe based on what they perceive the evidence to be or they disbelieve, or they believe based on faith. It is not moral, however, as it is based on discernment of factual/evidentiary claims. No matter how much I disbelieve your bad theology, it doesn’t even come close to slander either.

    I was thinking about God’s direct intervention aiming at punishing someone, not God having created natural laws, which in turn cause harm for people. Such harm could only indirectly put down to God.

    When god creates a tornado that rips through a town and kills people, with the foreknowledge that this would happen, that’s only indirectly attributed to god? That’s BS and I think you know it. Besides, even if it’s only indirect, it’s still god’s responsibility and destroys the concept of the perfect, omni-max god. You can’t have it partway and still claim perfection.

    We are not able to live a morally perfect life, but we are able TO WISH to live such a life and consequently to suffer from the fact that we lack such a state, as expressed in Romans 7,15-19. But if this is the case we are already in the process of repentance and that’s what God wants from us. So He doesn’t expect from us more than we can accomplish.

    Yes, he does. That’s the very definition of it. He expects from us perfection, which we can not deliver. He arbitrarily decides to forgive some people for not measuring up to his impossible standards. This is heinous and monstrous.

    The idea that there are degrees of punishment in Hell, which is an important element in my theodicy, is not affected by your comment.

    Your whole theodicy and religion is affected by it.

    We don’t have to wait until He helps us out. We can take the initiative and call on Him.

    Which we know is not effective.

    I don’t see why free will is not supposed to be compatible with omniscience, omnibenevolence, perfect justice and omnipotence (so far as it is compatible with the other attributes of God).

    Do you agree that god, with perfect foreknowledge, could write a book that details every single jot and tittle of the rest of your life right at this moment? If god gives you that book and you read it, can you deviate from anything that is written in that book? Suppose it says that you’re going to die at work next week on Monday, don’t you think you would call in sick? Do you have that choice? Once you figure out why this scenario is intractable, then you’ll understand why free will and omni-max gods simply can’t co-exist. Either free will exists and we can show god to be wrong and therefore not perfect, or we can’t and we have no will.

    I don’t see what you mean. I’ve never argued against the view that thought crime is bad.

    Sorry, let me restate. You don’t think prosecuting people for thought crime is bad.

    Just because something is morally acceptable (not morally imperative) doesn’t mean that one has to introduce it. Furthermore, reading the link I provided with respect to this matter you would see that slavery in the Bible is not “owning a fellow human being”.

    Um, yes, that’s exactly what slavery is (you do realize that people could beat their slaves to death so long as they didn’t die right away from the beating, right?) Glad to see another Xian who thinks slavery is A-OK because it’s in the Bible. At least you are honest, but it shows just how bankrupt your morality and your theodicy is.

    In my view absolute morality is compatible with the idea that a specific act can be moral or immoral depending on the circumstances.

    Then you don’t understand the terms of the arguments you are using.

    This passage needn’t contradict my view. Of those who have reached the age of accountability it may well be that only a few find the small gate. Those under this age don’t have to find this gate.

    The question was how many people make it to heaven. You claimed that the camel was only for rich men. This quote shows that it’s not just rich men.

    The first passage should be Genesis 2,17.

    It still doesn’t support you because their “original sin” was passed on to all their bloodline, regardless of age.

    In Deuteronomy…

    Already dealt with – it’s about whether they will get into Canaan or not as god had already gone all hissy fit and said that Moses would not make it.

    In Isaiah…

    Again, it’s a prophecy about the second coming. Do you simply scour the books to find partial phrases that you think help your case and then assume that they do?

    Unlike animals we can reflect about our acts, and so we are not just the victims of circumstances.

    You said that we can not avoid sin, therefore we are like the dog in this example. The dog is put in a position that she can not avoid angering us and receiving punishment, just as we are put in a position where we can not avoid sin, thus angering god and receiving supposedly just punishment for it.

    As mentioned earlier my theodicy does not depend on the idea of eternal punishment, so it cannot fail because of it.

    And there’s no support for that. It’s an ad hoc thing you added on because it makes you feel good.

    My theodicy doesn’t rely on my ability to know exactly what amount of punishment a specific act produces in the afterlife.

    You said that you can’t judge that god’s doling out of punishment is inappropriate. Why? Because you have insufficient evidence to make the assessment. But, if you have insufficient evidence then you similarly can’t judge that it is appropriate. Your theodicy relies upon the appropriateness of this doling out of punishment. If you can’t say that it’s inappropriate, you similarly can’t say it’s appropriate, and therefore you can’t say that your theodicy is true because you have no idea if god is doling out appropriate punishment or not. You can’t have it both ways.

    What you fail to understand is that whether or not a specific act is immoral often depends on the circumstances and the motives. As for genocide, if God does it in order to punish people for their wickedness it is moral, if men do it out of racist motives it is immoral.

    Anyone who defends genocide should simply walk away in shame. Shame on you.

    From this one can see that the Canaanites were not unsuspecting victims…

    It shows that they knew the marauding Jews were coming and were afraid for their lives.

    Wouldn’t it have been reasonable for them to follow Rahab’s example and acknowledge the God and to follow His commands? Can’t one regard the failure to do so as being immoral?

    No.

    Actually, from a Biblical point of view as sinners we all deserve death (Romans 6,23).

    Again, shame on you.

    From the point of view of my theodicy these children were better off than if they had not been killed.

    Wow. You contradict yourself here. We were arguing that your theodicy means it’s better for children to be killed before the age of accountability and you kept resisting. Now, when you’re trying to defend god’s genocide you agree with us? Sorry, but your theodicy is rubbish.

    I again suggest to you to read what was written in the links I provided.

    Defend your theodicy. You’re arguing for a heaven that is not self-consistent.

    One point of my theodicy states that the greater God’s beneficial power due to His love the greater is His destructive power due to His justice.

    As someone else pointed out, it’s equivalent to the “Hulk smash” idea. IOW, god wants to help, but he can’t because he’s so powerful but unable to control his power and therefore ends up hurting people he’s trying to help. Some “perfect” god you got there. He sounds more like one of the Keystone Cops.

    The idea that also people outside the Judeo-Christian culture were aware of a divine being with the characteristics of God in the Bible may not be far-fetched…

    Have you ever called out to the god of the planet XR-5543? Why not?

    I think you set the bar for justice unreasonably high.

    You’re the one claiming it is “perfect.” If you don’t know the meaning of a word, don’t use it.

    By helping the sufferer the Christian can gain a reward for himself.

    At the expense of others, which would reduce their rewards and therefore is actually a bad thing, meaning no reward since it’s bad.

    That all Christians had this view is not correct, which is shown in the following link…

    This link does no such thing.

    Whatever one may think about such a practice, baptizing infants certainly doesn’t do any harm to them. As for kidnapping people, this is an act that the Bible condemns, as can be seen from Exodus 21,16.

    FFS, are you incapable of following simple arguments or are you intentionally obtuse?

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Patrick]: I don’t see why free will is not supposed to be compatible with omniscience, omnibenevolence, perfect justice and omnipotence (so far as it is compatible with the other attributes of God).

    [OMGF]: Do you agree that god, with perfect foreknowledge, could write a book that details every single jot and tittle of the rest of your life right at this moment? If god gives you that book and you read it, can you deviate from anything that is written in that book? Suppose it says that you’re going to die at work next week on Monday, don’t you think you would call in sick? Do you have that choice? Once you figure out why this scenario is intractable, then you’ll understand why free will and omni-max gods simply can’t co-exist. Either free will exists and we can show god to be wrong and therefore not perfect, or we can’t and we have no will.

    I had a philosophy professor in college who couldn’t understand the logical contradiction, either. He raised a false analogy about George Washington, that roughly went like this:

    (p1) We know how Washington acted today, at least roughly.
    (p2) Our current knowledge didn’t influence Washington’s actions.
    (p3) Washington appears to have made his own decisions.
    (c) People can have free will even if their actions are known by some actor.

    Of course, there’s a huge issue with this. It doesn’t show the conclusion that it was supposed to precisely because the analogy was inaccurate. God is not the equivalent of future people. God is immortal and omnipresent; he exists in all times. He is always omniscient throughout every one of those times.

    The correct analogy is that there is a person living in the same time as Washington who can accurately predict his every move in painful detail, even with no direct observation of the man and even for events which should by all accounts be almost entirely random chance. If such a person actually existed and was verifiably correct all of the time, we would very soon start to wonder whether Washington had the freedom to conduct independent decisions.

    This logical contradiction between independence and omniscience is irreconcilable; there’s nothing you can do to get around it short of eliminating one or more of your premises. It’s similar to the self-contradiction of omnipotence. It’s not possible for any entity to literally do anything because some actions would by their very structure contradict others.

    Any time you introduce the concept of infinity into reality you’re going to end up with paradoxes.

  • Scotlyn

    Of course, I have a moral intuition that shows me what is right or wrong.

    Patrick, I am still withholding judgment on this one – your words do not, as yet, support your claim that you possess a well-developed moral faculty, or the ability to distinguish for yourself between right and wrong.

    In my view the reason why God apart from providing us with a conscience

    God (because there is no God) did not provide MY conscience. And it seems my conscience is perfectly well able to judge the words and actions of the fictional character known as God in your ancient rulebook, and find them wanting in moral scruples, as well.

    in additon to it provided us with written commands is that we have a tendency to suppress our conscience when it goes against our interests.

    Actually, humans are fairly notable in the frequency with which we suppress our own interests to follow our consciences – strange, but true!

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “god created us as imperfect and then punishes us for it unless we do something to appease him.”

    According to Christian theology God did create a world which may satisfy your concept of perfect justice. It is the world inhabited by the angels, beings who are able to be without sin and are fully aware of God’s existence. Now from 2 Peter 2,4 one can draw the conclusion that if beings capable of being sinless and fully aware of God’s existence nevertheless sin, their fate is sealed. It may be because of this that God created us as imperfect and with very limited knowledge of Him, as it may only be in such a state we are able to sin and nevertheless to have the chance to repent and come back to God.

    OMGF: “There is no way to reconcile free will with an omni-max god.”

    If you think that a world with free-willed moral agents is better than a world without such beings, their existence is indeed compatible with a perfect God, as one might think that when having to choose which world to create such a God would opt for the creation of a better world.

    OMGF: “And, if you counter that god demands that we help others, then you’re just admitting that god doesn’t want us to be as happy as possible in heaven, as god is demanding that we take away people’s rewards by relieving their suffering.”

    Here you are pointing to a possible reason why God doesn’t relieve sinners from their sufferings, even if He could. He may not do them a favour.

    OMGF: “There is no moral dimension to belief. People either believe based on what they perceive the evidence to be or they disbelieve, or they believe based on faith. It is not moral, however, as it is based on discernment of factual/evidentiary claims. No matter how much I disbelieve your bad theology, it doesn’t even come close to slander either.”

    I think if one refuses to believe something despite good evidence this can be seen as a being immoral. Such sinful lack of belief is referred to in Numbers 14,11.

    OMGF: “When god creates a tornado that rips through a town and kills people, with the foreknowledge that this would happen, that’s only indirectly attributed to god? That’s BS and I think you know it. Besides, even if it’s only indirect, it’s still god’s responsibility and destroys the concept of the perfect, omni-max god. You can’t have it partway and still claim perfection.”

    Assuming that we have free will it is beyond God’s control whether or not a specific person is in a place which is affected by a natural disaster. Moreover, my theodicy tries to give an answer why God allows the occurrence of natural evil. Comments of mine concerning this issue, sent under the name “Patrick (Christian)”, can be found in the following link:

    http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=15584

    OMGF: “Do you agree that god, with perfect foreknowledge, could write a book that details every single jot and tittle of the rest of your life right at this moment? If god gives you that book and you read it, can you deviate from anything that is written in that book? Suppose it says that you’re going to die at work next week on Monday, don’t you think you would call in sick? Do you have that choice? Once you figure out why this scenario is intractable, then you’ll understand why free will and omni-max gods simply can’t co-exist. Either free will exists and we can show god to be wrong and therefore not perfect, or we can’t and we have no will.”

    As God created space and time He is beyond space and time. But if this is true it is misleading to think that God predicts future events. It may rather be the case that from God’s perspective all our future acts have already happened. So, He is in the same situation as we are with respect to acts that have already happened. But clearly, the fact that I know how a certain person acted in the past doesn’t mean that this person’s free will is in any way violated.

    OMGF: “Sorry, let me restate. You don’t think prosecuting people for thought crime is bad.”

    Indeed I think it’s right for God to judge people for thought crime. After all, every evil act starts in the mind. Whether or not people put their evil thoughts into practice often depends on the circumstances. Wouldn’t it be unjust if of two people who both had a specific evil thought but only one could put it into practice only this person would be punished but not the other one?

    OMGF: “No finite crime is worth infinite punishment.

    […]

    And there’s no support for that. It’s an ad hoc thing you added on because it makes you feel good.”

    I didn’t bring up Universalism because I believe in it, but to show that my theodicy is not dependent on the idea of eternal punishment. As for the latter, unlike what you wrote, I don’t think that infinite punishment is inappropriate. For a punishment to be just it only has to be proportional to the offence. This proportionality can be expressed either by the duration of the punishment or by its severity.

    OMGF: “You said that you can’t judge that god’s doling out of punishment is inappropriate. Why? Because you have insufficient evidence to make the assessment. But, if you have insufficient evidence then you similarly can’t judge that it is appropriate. Your theodicy relies upon the appropriateness of this doling out of punishment. If you can’t say that it’s inappropriate, you similarly can’t say it’s appropriate, and therefore you can’t say that your theodicy is true because you have no idea if god is doling out appropriate punishment or not. You can’t have it both ways.”

    For a theodicy to be successful it needn’t been proven true, it just needs to be shown to be logically possible or not improbable. So, I don’t have to prove that God’s punishment is appropriate.

    OMGF: “Wow. You contradict yourself here. We were arguing that your theodicy means it’s better for children to be killed before the age of accountability and you kept resisting. Now, when you’re trying to defend god’s genocide you agree with us? Sorry, but your theodicy is rubbish.”

    I’m not saying that it cannot be better for a child to be killed before the age of accountability. It’s just that usually we are not in a position to know if this is the case. But if God commands such an act we can be certain that it is the case.

    OMGF: “Have you ever called out to the god of the planet XR-5543? Why not?”

    God is not some being who happens to exist but could also fail to exist. God necessarily exists. It is because of this idea that it is even possible to formulate philosophical arguments in favour of the view that such a being must exist. So, even without a divine revelation one can arrive at the conclusion that a perfect being having caused everything exists. As for these arguments, the following links are very informative:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6155

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7841

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8139

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8715

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5911

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8533

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html

    OMGF: “At the expense of others, which would reduce their rewards and therefore is actually a bad thing, meaning no reward since it’s bad.”

    If Christians help each other and care for each other non-Christians may be impressed by this and consequently become interested in the Gospel message. Moreover, by failing to help a fellow Christian a Christian may cause his or her premature death and consequently deprive him or her of further opportunities to gain heavenly rewards by good deeds.

    OMGF: “This link does no such thing.”

    From the link: “Swinburne analysed what he calls “the full doctrine of original sin” and identified it as having three distinguishable components.
    1) Humans are prone to sin, there is a kind of “original sinfulness” in human beings.
    2) This proneness is the result of Adam’s fall.
    3) The third is the doctrine of “original guilt,” Adam’s descendants are guilty of Adam’s sin and can be held accountable for this sin.
    Swinburne notes these three components are logically distinct. It is possible to accept some of them and not others. In fact, the Eastern Orthodox tradition has an understanding of original sin, which rejects the notion of original guilt.”

    What you referred to is the third point, and this point obviously has not been universally acknowledged in Christian theology.

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “Anyone who defends genocide should simply walk away in shame.”

    What arguments can be put forward for the view that genocide is immoral? It can be argued that it’s the sheer number of people who are killed in such an act. But this argument is flawed, as it is not possible to draw the borderline between the number of killings which is morally acceptable and the one that isn’t. Instead one can argue that it is the motivation behind it that makes it immoral. But if this is correct, there can be in principle cases when genocide is not immoral.

  • Scotlyn

    What arguments can be put forward for the view that genocide is immoral? It can be argued that it’s the sheer number of people who are killed in such an act. But this argument is flawed, as it is not possible to draw the borderline between the number of killings which is morally acceptable and the one that isn’t. Instead one can argue that it is the motivation behind it that makes it immoral. But if this is correct, there can be in principle cases when genocide is not immoral.

    Patick, I think this statement beautifully illustrates my suspicion that you are unable to distinguish between right and wrong for yourself. If that’s what religion does for you, then I’m glad to be well out of it. Thanks to godless-goodness!

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    …there can be in principle cases when genocide is not immoral.

    Patrick, I don’t say this lightly or often, but you are a profoundly evil person.

  • Goyo

    Patrick: Please explain to me the following quote:

    If Christians help each other and care for each other non-Christians may be impressed by this and consequently become interested in the Gospel message. Moreover, by failing to help a fellow Christian a Christian may cause his or her premature death and consequently deprive him or her of further opportunities to gain heavenly rewards by good deeds.

    How can a christian cause his or her premature death? Does god kill them, or does he remove some protective covering allowing them to die from something?

    In my view in most cases it’s not God who causes suffering but other people or adverse circumstances. Some role may also be played by demons.

    According to Christian theology God did create a world which may satisfy your concept of perfect justice. It is the world inhabited by the angels, beings who are able to be without sin and are fully aware of God’s existence.

    Angels, demons…what a fantasy world you inhabit, Patrick.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    Scotlyn, Ebonmuse,

    It’s at this point, it seems to me, that you stop thinking about morality and just act based on your reactions. I don’t see how you can get to “unable to distinguish right and wrong” and “profoundly evil” from a comment that there may be cases where genocide is not immoral.

    I know, Ebonmuse, that you’re sympathetic, at least, to Utilitarianism. But it isn’t all that hard to see that there may be cases where what would be called a genocide might actually decrease suffering and increase happiness. These cases wouldn’t be common, but they could certainly occur. And that’s really all he said.

    Look at the full statement again. He comments that what makes genocide wrong — ie always wrong — cannot be simply the number of deaths because you couldn’t properly decide where that line is. So it seems, according to him, that motivation — ie intention — is what makes genocide morally wrong. And from there, you can at least ask if there could be motivations that would make genocide morally permissable and possibly even demanded. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there clearly are such cases, but the question is worth asking … and asking that question is fodder for moral debates in a number of fictional dramas [grin].

    To put it another way, if we can imagine cases where killing one person might be morally demanded, then it doesn’t seem unreasonable that there might be cases where killing 100 or 1000 or 10000 might also be demanded. We’d expect the latter cases to be quite rare and require really strong justifications, but it’s far too simple to simply claim that no such cases are possible.

    So, at best you can get to “But, look, the cases in the Bible are not such cases!”, but to me that would be progress in the debate, because you’d stop simply claiming that genocide is just inherently morally wrong and start with specific claims about what makes genocide morally wrong.

    (Note that for me, this isn’t as much of a problem because the Stoic view really can get away with saying that genocide just is morally wrong. However, that would potentially cause problems for my theism and is a moral view that I can’t prove anyway.)

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Verbose Stoic]: He comments that what makes genocide wrong — ie always wrong — cannot be simply the number of deaths because you couldn’t properly decide where that line is. So it seems, according to him, that motivation — ie intention — is what makes genocide morally wrong. And from there, you can at least ask if there could be motivations that would make genocide morally permissable and possibly even demanded. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there clearly are such cases, but the question is worth asking …

    No, actually, the numbers do make a practical moral difference. Firstly, and most obviously, each life has equal moral value such that killing more people is more wrong. Secondly, the greater the number of people killed the less you can know about any particular person you killed. The idea that you can commit genocide because it’s possible to find some cases where an individual killing or two was justified is ridiculous on its face.

    I won’t call Patrick profoundly evil because I have no strong evidence to think he properly believes any of this nonsense, let alone would act on it. I’m pretty damn sure this is all just an exercise in theatrics to recruit the naive to his religion.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    kagerato,

    “No, actually, the numbers do make a practical moral difference.”

    Hence the translation to “cannot be SIMPLY …”. There has to be more to it than that since we have no idea what number of deaths would make something a genocide or not. Generally, wiping out a small tribe of 100 natives is as much a genocide as trying to wipe out the entire Jewish race.

    “Firstly, and most obviously, each life has equal moral value such that killing more people is more wrong. ”

    This depends on your moral code. Stoics, for example, can’t get away with this since any immorality is just as bad as any other. Utiltarians can, but then it’s not hard to come up with — again — odd cases where the utility comes down on the side of the genocide.

    “Secondly, the greater the number of people killed the less you can know about any particular person you killed. The idea that you can commit genocide because it’s possible to find some cases where an individual killing or two was justified is ridiculous on its face.”

    Fortunately, neither he nor I argued that. The closest is mine from a section that you did not deign to quote, and all my argument was aimed at was showing that it might be reasonable to ask the question if there could be such a case knowing that we can find reasons that justify killing individual people.

    Here’s the quote:

    “To put it another way, if we can imagine cases where killing one person might be morally demanded, then it doesn’t seem unreasonable that there might be cases where killing 100 or 1000 or 10000 might also be demanded. We’d expect the latter cases to be quite rare and require really strong justifications, but it’s far too simple to simply claim that no such cases are possible.”

    I, personally, concede the impact but argue that it’s reasonable to ask the question.

    Boiling it down to motivation — which is what was actually said in the section you quoted — means asking if it’s possible to find a motivation for a genocide that would be morally acceptable or perhaps even demanded. And it’s not all that hard to find candidates where it’s at least a good question.

  • Patrick

    Maybe if we replace “genocide” by “killing a large number of civilians” it becomes clearer what I mean. If one thinks that the bombings of German cities during World War II by the allied forces with hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties were morally justified, he or she may not be far away from my point of view.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

    Patrick,

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be better examples, in that case. And their morality is debatable; it isn’t clear whether they were morally justified or not.

  • Patrick

    kagerato: “Secondly, the greater the number of people killed the less you can know about any particular person you killed. The idea that you can commit genocide because it’s possible to find some cases where an individual killing or two was justified is ridiculous on its face.”

    That’s exactly the reason why in general I reject genocide. But with respect to the Conquest of Canaan the situation is in my view different. If the God of the Bible really exists, and this God regards death as an appropriate punishment for acts which virtually all adult members of a specific ethnic group practice, I don’t see on what ground one can judge the command of the extermination of this ethnic group as immoral. It might be that one doesn’t see the acts that are punished as immoral, but I don’t see how we can know that our moral intuition is objectively correct.

  • Nathan

    That’s exactly the reason why in general I reject genocide. But with respect to the Conquest of Canaan the situation is in my view different. If the God of the Bible really exists, and this God regards death as an appropriate punishment for acts which virtually all adult members of a specific ethnic group practice, I don’t see on what ground one can judge the command of the extermination of this ethnic group as immoral.

    The bible (a superset of scriptures accepted by religious faiths self-identifying as ‘Jewish’ and ‘Christian’) certainly exists. However, I fail to see how this is any more relevant than the existence of ferrets, dark matter, or the square root of negative one. As to the ‘God of the Bible’, I am forced to ask ‘which God’ and ‘which Bible’, but let us suppose, for the moment, that question can be and has been answered. I’ll even grant the existence of this vague Diety (whichever one it is you mean), and that this Thing even demands a death penalty for some unspecified but offensive behavior.

    And even with all of these things …

    Genocide remains immoral. Perhaps morality demands some kind of intervention to stop this ‘behavior’ (dubious! Scriptural references within the bible corpus call for death for all sorts of non-immoral things), but a command to kill every person who shares some trait that cannot be inherently linked to morality (such as, ‘Canaanite’) is immoral. A religion that glorifies, justifies, or even defends such a thing is immoral. A god that demands such a thing is immoral.

    A person that defends such a thing is deeply deluded, and ripe for exploitation by persons with an immoral agenda, of whom there are many.

  • Patrick

    As for the question whether or not unbelief is morally culpable, I suggest the following principle: If not believing a certain claim is the result of demanding a higher standard of proof than is applied in other cases, this unbelief is immoral.

    How this applies to claims about the supernatural can be seen in the following two links:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/victor_reppert/miracles.html

    http://www.johndepoe.com/Resurrection.pdf

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    ” … but a command to kill every person who shares some trait that cannot be inherently linked to morality (such as, ‘Canaanite’) is immoral. ”

    Unless you’re a Utiitarian, at which point you can indeed justify that as long as perserving the people who have that trait would cause more suffering than killing them all, even if there is no way to call those people themselves immoral for having that trait.

  • Patrick

    Goyo: “How can a christian cause his or her premature death?”

    I was thinking of cases when failing to help a person would cause his or her death. As for the objection in general that the idea that suffering in this life produces rewards in the afterlife might keep Christians from helping their fellow Christians, one can reply to it that good deeds produce much more heavenly rewards than suffering.

    Goyo: “Angels, demons…what a fantasy world you inhabit, Patrick.”

    As I pointed out before, a successful theodicy must be logically possible or not improbable. The existence of angels and demons is logically possible and not improbable given Christian theism.

    Nathan: “[A] command to kill every person who shares some trait that cannot be inherently linked to morality (such as, ‘Canaanite’) is immoral.”

    As one can see from Rahab (Joshua 2) or the Gibeonites (Joshua 9) it was possible for Canaanites to avoid being killed by the Israelites. What the wickedness of the Canaanites of which the Bible speaks looked like can be seen from the following link:

    http://www.clayjones.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/We-Dont-Hate-Sin-PC-article.pdf

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

    Patrick,

    According to Christian theology God did create a world which may satisfy your concept of perfect justice. It is the world inhabited by the angels…

    And, as I recall, that one failed too. Not really perfect now, is it?

    If you think that a world with free-willed moral agents is better than a world without such beings, their existence is indeed compatible with a perfect God, as one might think that when having to choose which world to create such a God would opt for the creation of a better world.

    So, your response to me pointing out that free will is inherently contradictory to the idea of an omni-max god is to say, “No it’s not, because it’s good and god is good and therefore it can’t contradict.” This is faulty reasoning.

    Here you are pointing to a possible reason why God doesn’t relieve sinners from their sufferings, even if He could. He may not do them a favour.

    This is laughable. It’s god who does the rewarding/punishing in heaven, so you’re telling me that god can’t help people in this life because he’ll be forced to give them less rewards in the afterlife…forced by himself, of course.

    I think if one refuses to believe something despite good evidence this can be seen as a being immoral.

    Nope, sorry, not in the case of belief of a deity’s existence. If Xians had any evidence for their god (they don’t) and I refused to believe it, it would not make me immoral.

    Assuming that we have free will it is beyond God’s control whether or not a specific person is in a place which is affected by a natural disaster.

    I just shot the gun, it was his fault that he walked in front of where I was shooting. This is one of the lamest attempts at defending natural evil I think I’ve ever seen.

    But clearly, the fact that I know how a certain person acted in the past doesn’t mean that this person’s free will is in any way violated.

    Kagerato already dealt with this, so I’ll just point out that you’re avoiding my book example because there is no way out, and I think you know that.

    Wouldn’t it be unjust if of two people who both had a specific evil thought but only one could put it into practice only this person would be punished but not the other one?

    No, it wouldn’t be unjust, because thought crime is not actual crime. Thought crime has no victim.

    I didn’t bring up Universalism because I believe in it, but to show that my theodicy is not dependent on the idea of eternal punishment.

    But, you do believe in it, or were you bringing up things that you don’t believe in order to buttress up your argument? That would be intellectually dishonest.

    As for the latter, unlike what you wrote, I don’t think that infinite punishment is inappropriate. For a punishment to be just it only has to be proportional to the offence. This proportionality can be expressed either by the duration of the punishment or by its severity.

    No offense that is finite in duration can merit an infinite punishment and be just, because the infinite punishment will exceed the proportionality of the original crime. That’s the problem with infinites and omnis.

    For a theodicy to be successful it needn’t been proven true, it just needs to be shown to be logically possible or not improbable. So, I don’t have to prove that God’s punishment is appropriate.

    It needs to be logically consistent, and yours is not as has been pointed out numerous times. This last one was just one more example why it is not logically consistent. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that you have insufficient grounds to judge god’s actions as inappropriate and then turn around and assume or judge that it is appropriate.

    I’m not saying that it cannot be better for a child to be killed before the age of accountability.

    IOW, killing children is only wrong if it turns people away from your cult. So, would it be good to kill children if one could do it and frame Muslims for it?

    But if God commands such an act we can be certain that it is the case.

    This would be begging the question. You’re assuming that which you are supposed to be showing.

    God is not some being who happens to exist but could also fail to exist. God necessarily exists.

    Sorry, you don’t get to simply assume that.

    So, even without a divine revelation one can arrive at the conclusion that a perfect being having caused everything exists.

    Not rationally, but even if one could, that god would not be the same as your god. Hence, your assertion is properly ridiculous, as I said.

    If Christians help each other and care for each other non-Christians may be impressed by this and consequently become interested in the Gospel message.

    Anything is permissible as long as it might lead to more Xians.

    Moreover, by failing to help a fellow Christian a Christian may cause his or her premature death and consequently deprive him or her of further opportunities to gain heavenly rewards by good deeds.

    Or, and more likely, they may do something bad that leads to less good or more punishment.

    What you referred to is the third point, and this point obviously has not been universally acknowledged in Christian theology.

    They still believed in original sin and you’re still avoiding the point I brought up.

    But if this is correct, there can be in principle cases when genocide is not immoral.

    I’d love to see you put forth an actual, plausible case.

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

    VS,

    And it’s not all that hard to find candidates where it’s at least a good question.

    If it’s not that hard, then please supply some for us all. Thanks.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    OMGF,

    Will you accept thought experiments? If not, then we have nothing to talk about and I doubt that we could have any meaningful discussion about morality.

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

    IOW, you want to come up with a situation that couldn’t actually happen, except theoretically and then claim that it could happen and therefore claim victory. How this helps Patrick’s theodicy…well it doesn’t – nor any other theodicy or claim to genocide. And, the examples were supposedly not that hard to find. What you meant was it’s not that hard if you get to make them up out of whole cloth.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    OMGF,

    And this is precisely why I asked, as you have no idea how thought experiments work or how moral philosophy works and proceeds. Thus, it would be pointless for me to give examples for you to simply dismiss them. If anyone wants to have a real discussion about morality and doesn’t have your restriction, they can ask and then I’ll provide examples.

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

    And this is precisely why I asked, as you have no idea how thought experiments work or how moral philosophy works and proceeds.

    No, I have a good idea, and I have a good idea how you operate as well.

    Thus, it would be pointless for me to give examples for you to simply dismiss them.

    IOW, I have all these great examples, that are easy to find, but I can’t present them to you because they’re aren’t worth a damn.

    If anyone wants to have a real discussion about morality and doesn’t have your restriction, they can ask and then I’ll provide examples.

    That they be restricted to situations that are actually plausible? How draconian of me. I mean, why shouldn’t we talk about some mythical peoples who are part of a tribe that have all killed other people indiscriminately and raped others indiscriminately and have made known their intention to wipe out all human life (every member of the tribe has knowingly singed on of course) and all vow to to fight us all to the death no matter what. I mean, how could I reject such completely, not-even-close, to real world examples in favor of saying that genocide is wrong? I must be a completely irrational and unreasonable person to not grant you the right to make sh*t up and present it as a good argument for your position. Stop trolling.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    OMGF,

    Let me remind you of my point:

    “To put it another way, if we can imagine cases where killing one person might be morally demanded, then it doesn’t seem unreasonable that there might be cases where killing 100 or 1000 or 10000 might also be demanded. We’d expect the latter cases to be quite rare and require really strong justifications, but it’s far too simple to simply claim that no such cases are possible.

    So, at best you can get to “But, look, the cases in the Bible are not such cases!”, but to me that would be progress in the debate, because you’d stop simply claiming that genocide is just inherently morally wrong and start with specific claims about what makes genocide morally wrong.”

    If you’re willing to concede that all genocide anywhere in all circumstances is not just inherently wrong and want instead to argue that the cases in the Bible are not acceptable cases of genocide, that would be progress. I have seen no indication that you are willing to do so, but if you are then you’re already past the point that others are at and can wait for them to catch-up.

  • monkeymind

    Verbose Stoic – genocide isn’t just killing a lot of people.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

    monkeymind,

    Not that I was claiming that it was — and, in fact, recognized that in my reply that started that chain — but if that’s the case we can:

    a) Define what makes something a genocide that isn’t just about it killing a lot of people (should be easy enough, and I did mention it earlier when denying that numbers mattered that much).

    b) Explain how that thing would make it inherently worse — and therefore totally and completely and always immoral — than killing very large numbers of people.

  • monkeymind

    Um, what? Genocide makes ethnicity, an accident of birth over which individuals have no control, a crime punishable by death. And you’re asking me why it is always immoral?

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

    So, is that your definition of genocide, then: exterminating people based solely on their ethnicity? So, exterminating an entire ethnic group for other motivations would not be considered genocide to you?

  • ildi

    I don’t know why this is so hard for you to grasp, VS, but genocide by definition is the attempt to exterminate a group of people based on their affiliation (whether ethnic, religious or political) and not based on any deeds everyone in the targeted group committed. The idea that any ethnic group is evil to the core, including infants, and must be eliminated is an immoral idea. The concept of inheriting sin is an immoral concept.

  • monkeymind

    VS, you mean like wiping out the last 100 speakers of some language as collateral damage in a war, or by flooding their valley, or something like that? Yes, I think it would be another tick to add in the moral reasons against the action you are contemplating, beyond just the usual objections to killing 100 people.

    But obviously, that does not apply to the Canaanite slaughter, because it was a deliberate massacre of non-combatants after the military victory had been achieved – based solely on their affiliation.

  • monkeymind

    VS – I don’t even know why we’re talking about this. If history shows us anything it is that it is frighteningly easy for people to come up with justifications for killing large numbers of people and even wiping out entire ethnic groups.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Verbose Stoic]: Unless you’re a Utiitarian, at which point you can indeed justify that as long as perserving the people who have that trait would cause more suffering than killing them all, even if there is no way to call those people themselves immoral for having that trait.

    Find me some of these Utilitarians who think you can justify genocide, preferably with references to their writing.

    Shall I go ahead and Godwin the thread by declaring the answer will surely be Hitler and/or Stalin ?

    So, is that your definition of genocide, then: exterminating people based solely on their ethnicity? So, exterminating an entire ethnic group for other motivations would not be considered genocide to you?

    You live in a profoundly ridiculous shadow world where it is possible to accidentally eliminate an ethnicity merely by — I don’t know — sneezing, I guess.

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

    If you’re willing to concede that all genocide anywhere in all circumstances is not just inherently wrong…

    If you can come up with some actual, plausible examples, maybe. Go ahead, knock yourself out. You claimed they exist, but won’t pony them up.

    …that would be progress.

    Ah, I see. It’s “progress” when I agree with you…

    I have seen no indication that you are willing to do so, but if you are then you’re already past the point that others are at and can wait for them to catch-up.

    I think I speak for everyone here when I say that your condescension is annoying and unwarranted, especially given that you have no reason to condescend and certainly don’t have the bona fides.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    ildi,

    I don’t know why this is so hard for you to grasp, VS, but genocide by definition is the attempt to exterminate a group of people based on their affiliation (whether ethnic, religious or political) and not based on any deeds everyone in the targeted group committed. The idea that any ethnic group is evil to the core, including infants, and must be eliminated is an immoral idea. The concept of inheriting sin is an immoral concept.

    Well, I’m not sure that that is the general definition. I think that in general we’d consider it a genocide if you set out to exterminate an entire ethnic group even if you had reasons to do so or to, in fact, consider that group “evil” or that they all shared some trait that required their extermination. However, my reply there was not to challenge that definition, but to confirm that that was what monkeymind meant so that we could move on.

    So, on that …

    VS, you mean like wiping out the last 100 speakers of some language as collateral damage in a war, or by flooding their valley, or something like that? Yes, I think it would be another tick to add in the moral reasons against the action you are contemplating, beyond just the usual objections to killing 100 people.

    But the question is: is it genocide, or not? For my part, I was actually going further and talking about cases where you deliberately attempt to wipe out an entire ethnic group, but it is because they do, in fact, share some sort of ethnic — say, genetic — trait that you consider it morally important to eliminate, and wiping them out is the only — or at least far best — way of doing that. I’d consider that a genocide, but the definition I ascribed to you didn’t seem to call that a genocide.

    VS – I don’t even know why we’re talking about this. If history shows us anything it is that it is frighteningly easy for people to come up with justifications for killing large numbers of people and even wiping out entire ethnic groups.

    Yes, but the question is whether any of those justifications are good — read moral — ones.

    kagerato,

    Find me some of these Utilitarians who think you can justify genocide, preferably with references to their writing.

    Shall I go ahead and Godwin the thread by declaring the answer will surely be Hitler and/or Stalin ?

    I don’t need to name specific Utiltarians or their writings. I merely need to point out that Utilitarianism — as a moral theory — will justify genocide if that genocide will ever increase utility. Now, part of this depends on the definition of genocide, since if genocide is defined as cases where there is no utility increase from eliminating an ethnic group then, obviously, the objection goes away … but then what count as cases of genocide narrow considerably.

    You live in a profoundly ridiculous shadow world where it is possible to accidentally eliminate an ethnicity merely by — I don’t know — sneezing, I guess.

    I’m not sure how people got “accidentally” out of my comment, since it doesn’t imply by accident at all. I was referring to cases where your motivation is to, say, eliminate a specific trait and it just so happens that that trait is associated with and only with that group, and where the only way to eliminate that trait is to kill that group. Under Utilitarianism, there are cases where that will be moral because there will be cases — extreme, one hopes — where the suffering caused by the trait outweighs the killings you’d have to do.

  • ildi

    I was actually going further and talking about cases where you deliberately attempt to wipe out an entire ethnic group, but it is because they do, in fact, share some sort of ethnic — say, genetic — trait that you consider it morally important to eliminate, and wiping them out is the only — or at least far best — way of doing that. I’d consider that a genocide, but the definition I ascribed to you didn’t seem to call that a genocide.

    What you don’t seem to get is that you’re not going further, you’re providing the same type of monstrous rationalization that is always used to justify genocide. The group being eliminated is always ascribed a subhuman quality to justify elimination. Why you think you’re making some subtle point is beyond me.

    I was referring to cases where your motivation is to, say, eliminate a specific trait and it just so happens that that trait is associated with and only with that group, and where the only way to eliminate that trait is to kill that group.

    The fact that you seem to really believe this makes my skin crawl. You do realize that race is a social and not a biological construct, don’t you?

    Under Utilitarianism, there are cases where that will be moral because there will be cases — extreme, one hopes — where the suffering caused by the trait outweighs the killings you’d have to do.

    Don’t hide behind faux utilitarianism, you moral coward; claim this for your sociopathic tyrant of a deity you’re determined to worship.

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

    Patrick,
    I wanted to expand on one point:

    OMGF: “When god creates a tornado that rips through a town and kills people, with the foreknowledge that this would happen, that’s only indirectly attributed to god? That’s BS and I think you know it. Besides, even if it’s only indirect, it’s still god’s responsibility and destroys the concept of the perfect, omni-max god. You can’t have it partway and still claim perfection.”

    Assuming that we have free will it is beyond God’s control whether or not a specific person is in a place which is affected by a natural disaster.

    I’ve already pointed out the problem with god recklessly shooting bullets in different directions and then blaming people for being in the way (which, BTW, would be considered immoral if a person did it or any other entity). But, there’s another problem with your victim blaming. Did the person choose of their own free will to be killed by a tornado? People don’t have the foresight to know perfectly when and where tornados will strike, so they don’t actually choose to be in the path of a tornado and be killed. Yet, god does know this information beforehand. He knows when he sends a tornado exactly how much damage it will cause, who it will kill, etc. Having this knowledge places the blame squarely on god for knowing the outcome of his actions and continuing to take them knowing that those actions will result in death and destruction. People can not be blamed for being the path of the tornado.

    So, either it’s reckless disregard for people or it’s calculated murder by god, or more accurately, both. Why do you worship such an evil god?

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

    Well, I’m not sure that that is the general definition.

    There’s these things called “dictionaries”….just sayin’.

    Oh, and still waiting for some examples. You keep telling us they exist, but refuse to present them. Curious….no, not really.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    ildi,

    What you don’t seem to get is that you’re not going further, you’re providing the same type of monstrous rationalization that is always used to justify genocide. The group being eliminated is always ascribed a subhuman quality to justify elimination. Why you think you’re making some subtle point is beyond me.

    Okay, stop and think for a second: IF such a justification COULD be made — ie a correct and valid argument could be made for it — would that be genocide and would it be morally wrong? Your whole counter-argument is “But … but … but … those sorts of justifications are just WRONG!” We almost certainly agree on that for most instances of genocide that we’ve seen. That’s not the contention. The contention is over whether or not if such a case occurred it would still be genocide and whether or not such a case would be morally wrong. It really sounds like you agree that such justified cases would either not be genocide or wouldn’t be morally wrong, but you keep leaping to another argument based on that … an argument that I’m not making.

    The fact that you seem to really believe this makes my skin crawl. You do realize that race is a social and not a biological construct, don’t you?

    So, race isn’t defined in some way by physical or biological traits? This, simply understood, would imply that if I went and integrated into a black community, my race would become black, which is absurd. I suspect that you’re after the far more reasonable idea that making that distinction is merely a social classification, not a scientific one. Fair enough. But this doesn’t help you, since then “genocide” is based on the same distinction, and so either we can attach some potential significance to the physical traits that society has decided define and delineate race — at which point my potential argument stands — or else we can’t and genocide in and of itself as being the elimination of a particular ethnic group doesn’t exist since ethnic groups cannot be so defined in any meaningful way. Which is it?

    Don’t hide behind faux utilitarianism, you moral coward; claim this for your sociopathic tyrant of a deity you’re determined to worship.

    Well, first, as I have said I’m NOT a Utilitarian, and so wouldn’t be hiding behind it. I’m Stoic-leaning, and as I said earlier Stoic views have an easier time declaring genocide just morally wrong because they don’t base their determinations on well-being in any way, and so the argument wouldn’t work. Also, I haven’t argued anything for whether or not God would be moral or immoral for the Caananite situation, as I have also said by arguing that once we settle a) what genocide is and b) whether or not, by that definition, it is always morally wrong THEN we can get to the really good and useful work of examining if the Caananite situation counts or not. It may well count, but it does no good to argue that on the basis of unclear definitions and universal stipulations that may not hold universally.

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

    We almost certainly agree on that for most instances of genocide that we’ve seen.

    Which ones do you think were justified?

    The contention is over whether or not if such a case occurred it would still be genocide and whether or not such a case would be morally wrong.

    The contention is over whether one could morally justify the wholesale slaughter of a group simply for identification with that group. You seem to think that it can be morally permissible. We don’t.

    Also, I haven’t argued anything for whether or not God would be moral or immoral for the Caananite situation…

    Good news for you, because arguing that it was permissible just makes you into an immoral monster, just like your god would be. I do like how you and Patrick avoid all the other genocides that god partakes in the Bible, like the Amalekites who were completely and utterly destroyed because their ancestors had attacked the Jews hundreds of years before. Or, take the flood account where god gets his own hands dirty to kill off everyone except Noah and fam. Or, maybe Soddom and Gomorrah where Abraham has to convince god not to simply kill everyone but at least check to see if there’s anyone there that is moral (and I note that no kids were saved from their fate, meaning that we are supposed to believe that newborns were just as immoral as their parents). No, but let’s gloss over all that to talk about the Canaanites, simply because apologists think they can make the best case from that episode, seeing as how there’s a story about how one person was allowed to repent and be spared. This is seriously pathetic.

  • monkeymind

    So, race isn’t defined in some way by physical or biological traits? This, simply understood, would imply that if I went and integrated into a black community, my race would become black, which is absurd. I suspect that you’re after the far more reasonable idea that making that distinction is merely a social classification, not a scientific one. Fair enough. But this doesn’t help you, since then “genocide” is based on the same distinction, and so either we can attach some potential significance to the physical traits that society has decided define and delineate race — at which point my potential argument stands — or else we can’t and genocide in and of itself as being the elimination of a particular ethnic group doesn’t exist since ethnic groups cannot be so defined in any meaningful way. Which is it?

    Is this conversation serving any purpose other than displaying the vastness of your ignorance? This is a legal definition of genocide according to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention of Genocide:

    “Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;

    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    There is nothing in there that says the victim group has to be a phenotypically or genotypically distinct population for it to be genocide.

    Killing people based on their genotype or phenotype = wrong

    Killing people based on their cultural identity or affiliation = wrong

    Both of these qualify as genocide under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

    Murder of 6 million Jews – genocide and wrong. Murder of Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs, 2 populations that are genotypically indistinguishable = also wrong, also genocide. Murdering anyone who can’t pronounce “Shibboleth” the right way – also wrong, also genocide.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    monkeymind,

    Your claims of my ignorance are because you’ve wandered off my original discussion. Since race is — or at least can be — delineated by genotype or phenotype, some things that count as genocide will be based on those traits. And thus the comment that idli was replying to which refers to potential cases where there is something about that genotype or phenotype that produces a specific trait that you’re trying to eliminate. Note that it could, in fact, occur in the other cases as well, it’s just harder (it really has to be a coincidental one). And so my question to you — that you never answered — is if it happens to be the case where your motivation is to eliminate a specific trait that HAPPENS to correlate to and only to a specific race, say, does that count as genocide?

    Please either answer yes or no or explain in some detail why you can’t answer that question.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    Let me highlight why the definition doesn’t settle the question. It’s this part:

    genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy

    My argument is that the intent part is a bit vague. In the cases I’m talking about — for which I only have thought experiments — it’s quite possible that the intent is NOT, in fact, to destroy that group. The actors may well greatly desire to preserve them. The intent, however, is to eliminate certain traits or behaviours that are, in fact, inherently part of the group itself (again, as I said, it works best with racial genocide). Does this still fall into “intent to destroy” or not?

  • monkeymind

    It’s wrong to kill people based on their genotype, phenotype, language, or cultural affiliation, whether or not your intent is to to “destroy, in whole or in part”, the targeted group.

    I’m as sure of that as I’m sure of anything. If you feel you have an instructive thought experiment that would make me reconsider this conviction, please feel free to share.

  • ildi

    either we can attach some potential significance to the physical traits that society has decided define and delineate race

    No, we cannot, because the physical traits we pick are social constructs and differ from culture to culture. The boundaries of these traits are fuzzy; how dark are you before you are black? In the deep South, pretty fair; in Africa, pretty black. The categories of ethnic groups can be difficult to determine unless you are socialized to see them; e.g., the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Korean or between Jewish and Arabic or Irish, Scots and English if you don’t live among them.

    or else we can’t and genocide in and of itself as being the elimination of a particular ethnic group doesn’t exist since ethnic groups cannot be so defined in any meaningful way

    Really? You’re going to stand by this disingenuous statement?

  • monkeymind

    Really? You’re going to stand by this disingenuous statement?

    No, he’s going to pretend that refuting it by providing the legal definition of genocide is “wandering from the initial discussion.”

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

    …for which I only have thought experiments…

    Which you won’t present because you know they are not indicative of anything that could actually be true.

  • Patrick

    If the Israelites acted like the Canaanites, they would be treated the same way as the latter (Leviticus 18,24-30, 20,22-23). In fact, there are accounts about large numbers of Israelites dying because of their sins: at one time around 3’000 (Exodus 32,25-29), at another time even 24’000 (Numbers 25,1-9). Had it not been for Moses’ intercession, the whole nation of Israel would have been exterminated (Numbers 14,11-23). On the other hand, as can be seen from the example of Rahab, if Canaanites repented and turned towards God they would be spared. From this one can see how misleading it is to equate the events in connection with the Conquest of Canaan with genocide: whether or not one had to die depended on one’s behaviour, not on one’s affiliation to a specific nation.

  • monkeymind

    “From this one can see how misleading it is to equate the events in connection with the Conquest of Canaan with genocide: whether or not one had to die depended on one’s behaviour, not on one’s affiliation to a specific nation.”

    OK, I can never keep the Biblical massacres straight, despite 18 years of Sunday School. The Midianite massacre is a better example of genocide.

    And Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Numbers 31:17-18

    So, why did the baby boys need to be exterminated?

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “Not rationally, but even if one could, that god would not be the same as your god. Hence, your assertion is properly ridiculous, as I said.”

    As one can see from the link below the ontological argument is supposed to prove the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent and morally perfect being, which is exactly what the God of the Bible is like.

    http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/02-03/01w/readings/plantinga.html

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

    If the Israelites acted like the Canaanites, they would be treated the same way as the latter (Leviticus 18,24-30, 20,22-23).

    Yeah, those Canaanite infants always going around and murdering people.

    In fact, there are accounts about large numbers of Israelites dying because of their sins: at one time around 3’000 (Exodus 32,25-29), at another time even 24’000 (Numbers 25,1-9).

    Yeah, our god is a just and loving one. You sin, you die.

    Had it not been for Moses’ intercession, the whole nation of Israel would have been exterminated (Numbers 14,11-23).

    A human showing more compassion than god, and you claim that god is omni-benevolent?

    On the other hand, as can be seen from the example of Rahab, if Canaanites repented and turned towards God they would be spared.

    And god was walking amongst them like he was with the Israelites? Oh wait, he wasn’t. Rahab “repented and turned towards god” out of fear of destruction, which apparently is OK since the ends justify the means, right?

    From this one can see how misleading it is to equate the events in connection with the Conquest of Canaan with genocide: whether or not one had to die depended on one’s behaviour, not on one’s affiliation to a specific nation.

    Nope, still genocide, just like all the other examples in your little book that you are trying oh so hard to ignore.

    As one can see from the link below the ontological argument is supposed to prove the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent and morally perfect being, which is exactly what the God of the Bible is like.

    It’s supposed to do that, but it fails. It makes logical errors and does not pass muster, especially when one considers the evidence we do have for the world around us. So, I repeat, one can get to the idea of a god without divine revelation, but not through rational/logical means.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    monkeymind,

    Well, you didn’t actually answer if it was genocide or not, which is important for discussions with other people, but it seems you want to jump ahead to discussions of morality in general, so I’ll do so. There will be problems here in mapping this to the Canaanite case (or any other) since my thought experiments won’t map to them well, but here they are. One caveat, though: suggesting third options is a dodge. If you can think of another way out, presume that it is impractical.

    In an episode of Star Trek (the original series) we are introduced to a specides that survives/reproduces by stinging intelligent creatures, hooking into their pain centres, and using that to drive them to do the things they can’t, including find ways off the planet. Alter this slightly so that these creatures are, in fact, sentient and due to some accident of chemistry now must survive by attaching themselves to sentient, intelligent beings — so, no animals like, say, cattle — and causing them great pain. They are isolated on a planet and you have the ability to kill all of them at this time. Do you commit genocide on them?

    In an episode of the new Battlestar Galactica series, the humans — who have been attacked and had genocide waged on them by the Cylons — come across a virus that will kill all the Cylons but will leave humans unharmed. They plan to kill infected Cylons in range of the Cylon resurrection ship and spread it to all the Cylons, wiping them out. The alternative is to not use the virus, which risks the Cylons completing their genocide on the human race. In this case, is it morally right for them to do so? (Note that in the series this doesn’t happen due to the actions of one human, but it is debatable at that point whether he was right or just overly moralistic).

    The Cylon genocide itself in that series is interesting. Cylons were essentially enslaved by the humans and fought to free themselves. However, there was a belief that, if they could, the humans would do so again. Additionally, it could be argued that the humans were in the process of building new AIs that they would also enslave. If it could be legitimately argued that humanity would always enslave, would wiping them out to prevent slavery be justified?

    And, finally, a case not based on science fiction series itself: imagine that you have a subset of people that have a particular trait that has spread through their population: if they ever encounter the common cold, their immune systems will mutate it into a virus that would cause massive suffering and even disabilities in those who do not share their genotype and immune system peculiarity. They have now been exposed to the common cold. For a time, they are contained and will not spread this new virus; however, those quarantine measures will not last and if even one of them gets out, the virus will spread like wildfire. There is no reason to think that a cure will be found before the quarantine gets broken. Is it moral, then, to simply wipe them out to eliminate the risk of this virus spreading?

    I’m not actually trying to say that in these cases the genocide is moral. I’m not sure it is. I do think that these are interesting moral questions, which is why choices like this appear so often in various dramas (especially sci-fi, since they’re easier to set up in sci-fi). I think that Utilitarians are likely to approve of most of these cases if they are really taking the “reduce suffering” angle seriously (the Cylon genocide is probably the one that they’d find easy to reject, but the others not so much). Other moral codes may not find the utility arguments as convincing. But this is why we need to ask these questions.

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

    Wow, actually examples, and none of them are representative of the real world. Color me unsurprised.

  • monkeymind

    So, let’s say some space aliens became so annoyed at reading Verbose Stoic’s posts that they parked their spaceship in earth orbit and threatened to destroy the planet unless they received iron-clad assurances from the relevant governments and corporate entities that Verbose Stoic would never again be allowed to access the internet. Most people who are normally against the government shutting off an individual’s access to the internet would say it was justified in this case. I think this interesting thought experiment really calls into question the ethical reasoning behind the consensus in the entire civilized world that freedom of expression is a human right.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    monkeymind,

    The problem is that your example would work and would be a decent thought experiment if people were arguing that freedom of expression was an unlimited and absolute right that should never be restricted. However, most people accept that it is, and we can use simpler examples to tease that out, such as the ever-present “Do you have the right to tell ‘Fire’ in a crowded room?”.

    Thus, once it was established that simply saying “Freedom of expression is a human right!” does NOT mean that any instance where freedom of expression is limited is morally wrong, we could move on to the important task of seeing if in the case that we, presumably, are using the thought experiment as a reference for the limitations on freedom of expression actually apply.

    Note, though, that I did explicitly answer your question, which was:

    “It’s wrong to kill people based on their genotype, phenotype, language, or cultural affiliation, whether or not your intent is to to “destroy, in whole or in part”, the targeted group.

    I’m as sure of that as I’m sure of anything. If you feel you have an instructive thought experiment that would make me reconsider this conviction, please feel free to share.”

    So, are you still sure of this, considering that those are indeed cases where you are indeed killing people on that basis, only with a different intent? The only possible rational reason for your reply here is that you DO think that those cases are cases where it would be moral — or, at least, where you DON’T have that strong conviction that it’s immoral — and are now trying to claim that it doesn’t align to the cases you have to consider in this thread or in real life. But if you concede that these cases are cases where the morality is at least in question, how can you be so confident that there won’t be more realistic cases that would challenge you as well? And if you don’t concede that the morality is in question here, why not simply argue for that instead of introducing the run-around?

    And, BTW, you were the one who said that you’d accept thought experiments, and your run-around is basically you saying that you won’t accept thought experiments. That’s disappointing, to say the least.

  • Goyo

    Wow, this is a new one. From the apologetic, “it doesn’t mean what it says”, to science fiction thought experiments to explain away the difficult parts of your holy book. I’ve heard it all now.

  • Patrick

    OMGF: “Or, maybe Soddom and Gomorrah where Abraham has to convince god not to simply kill everyone but at least check to see if there’s anyone there that is moral (and I note that no kids were saved from their fate, meaning that we are supposed to believe that newborns were just as immoral as their parents).”

    monkeymind: “So, why did the baby boys need to be exterminated?”

    There may also be practical matters to be considered. Who would look after all these infants, who would feed them with mother’s milk?

  • monkeymind

    VS -no, I’m saying that thought experiments != science fiction scenarios. This is just not a good approach to moral reasoning. You really haven’t said anything beyond “Yes, but sometimes life forces us to choose between values that seem equally compelling.” This is not really a surprise to anyone who doesn’t think they have a magic rule book or a magic decoder ring that lets them decipher instructions from an all-knowing, all-seeing, perfectly just magic sky fairy.
    There are good thought experiments, like the trolley problem, that expose quirks and glitches in our moral intuitions, like why does it seem worse to push the fat man than to flip the switch? And there are not-so good thought experiments, like the ticking time bomb scenario Sam Harris used to question prohibitions against torture. The second actually play into fears, fantasies, and myths and actually work against moral clarity. The myth that the Sam Harris torture scenario played into was that the most effective way to gain control in a frightening, out-of-control situation is to dial up the violence. Like most myths, it has an element of truth but the element of fantasy involved has a dangerous momentum that risks taking the whole thing too far.

    Your epidemic situation plays both to the fantasy of dialing up the violence, and to the fantasy that it’s possible to do just one thing in a complex system. It’s also way too much like public health scenarios where we’ve already decided that mass killing isn’t the answer.

  • monkeymind

    “Who would look after all these infants, who would feed them with mother’s milk?”

    Please, won’t someone think of the children!

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

    There may also be practical matters to be considered. Who would look after all these infants, who would feed them with mother’s milk?

    LOL. After going on multiple murderous rampages, one must also kill the children because you’ve already wiped out the infrastructure that would take care of them and you can’t do it, so you just kinda have to slaughter all of them too…except for the young women who haven’t known a man, which you can take for yourself, right? This gets more ridiculous all the time. Every time I think it can’t any more ridiculous, it does.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    monkeymind,

    Sorry, but scenarios like the ones I pulled out from the science fiction shows are, in fact, considered valid thought experiments. That you don’t like them doesn’t make them wrong, and your big rant against the experiments doesn’t in any way invalidate using fictional scenarios. So you can’t just dodge them on that basis. So I’m going to move on to your substantive points:

    “You really haven’t said anything beyond “Yes, but sometimes life forces us to choose between values that seem equally compelling.” ”

    Which, you’ll recall, was my entire point, driven by this statement of yours:

    “It’s wrong to kill people based on their genotype, phenotype, language, or cultural affiliation, whether or not your intent is to to “destroy, in whole or in part”, the targeted group.”

    That’s an absolute statement, whether you’re getting it from a magic decoder ring interpretation of God or following on from any sort of moral code you want to name. If you didn’t mean it as an absolute, then we can move on to asking if the specific conditions of the “genocides” you’re talking about are exception cases just like my examples, it seems, are to you. Mostly.

    “The myth that the Sam Harris torture scenario played into was that the most effective way to gain control in a frightening, out-of-control situation is to dial up the violence. Like most myths, it has an element of truth but the element of fantasy involved has a dangerous momentum that risks taking the whole thing too far.”

    But if we were really doing moral reasoning, we wouldn’t stop there and take it too far. We’d have to acknowledge why — with solid arguments — that situation changes the outcome, if it even does. The problem with Sam Harris’ experiments in general is that he uses them to PROVE his point, but builds them in such a way that only if you already agree with his point will you see it the same way. For example, even in the ticking bomb cases the Stoic or other moral codes could easily argue AGAINST the conclusion that you should use torture EVEN IN such cases (the Stoics, for example, could argue that you are not allowed to act immorally — viciously, to them — even to save lives). Utilitarians might be pushed to his view, but no one else is.

    The goal of my thought experiments were different. I just wanted to argue that it is not OBVIOUS that any case where you target based on phenotype or genotype or any other trait associated with genocide is necessarily immoral. So you can’t just say “Genocide!” and win a debate over morality. We have to move lower and examine the specific details of the specific case. So if you think that there’s a question to be asked in those cases, we need to ask it about the specific cases in the Bible as well.

    “Your epidemic situation plays both to the fantasy of dialing up the violence, and to the fantasy that it’s possible to do just one thing in a complex system. It’s also way too much like public health scenarios where we’ve already decided that mass killing isn’t the answer.”

    I disagree with the fantasy part, but point out that all they do is make it sufficiently strong to comport with the strength of killing people. To demand a weaker example so that you can easily dismiss the alternative as not warranting the action is completely off-base; the two sides of the dilemma must be balanced in terms of how they violate our moral intuitions or else you aren’t making a fair comparison at all. Reducing the complexity simply yanks out irrelevant factors, just like scientific experiments do. You can argue that we need to put some back in if you think we need to, but you can’t simply say “It’s not complex enough” as an actual argument, because the point is to simplify it so that we can do a proper comparison.

    As for the last being too similar to public health cases, we need to ask:

    Why are they rejected in those cases (likely because there is a third option, not available here)?

    Are they right to do so? This cannot simply be presumed, you know.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    Patrick,

    I think you need to stop trying to defend these things until you get a decent and coherent story. Your replies are getting weaker and weaker. The baby example, for example, would not explain why the infant girls were to be spared, and is also undermined by the fact that those boys would only be in that situation because of the situation that God placed them in.

    As atheists so often say, it’s not a crime to say “I don’t know”.

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

    “I don’t know,” is not a sufficient answer to this dilemma.

    Why did god order the mass slaughter of all these people?

    ‘I don’t know….But I do know that it was just and good.’

    Hopefully, even you, VS, can see the issue with that.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    OMGF,

    How about: “I don’t know; I’ll have to go away and think about it some more and maybe talk to some people”?

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

    That would be fine if it were accompanied by:

    “You’re right, there are some issues with my theodicy that need to be worked out.”

  • monkeymind

    VS, your examples ask, but what if it’s really true that Group X are dangerous vermin that need to be destroyed? That’s what every advocate for genocide claims. It’s like introducing the trolley problem in a society with a history of solving transportation infrastructure problems by shoving fat people in front of vehicles.

    You say:

    “The goal of my thought experiments were different. I just wanted to argue that it is not OBVIOUS that any case where you target based on phenotype or genotype or any other trait associated with genocide is necessarily immoral. So you can’t just say “Genocide!” and win a debate over morality. ”

    I’m not even sure what you are trying to say or prove. We are saying the slaughter of Midianites, Canaanites, etc is genocide because it fits the legal definition of genocide. We don’t have to have a debate involving Cylons and Star Trek episodes before we can say X action is genocide.

    Let’s say we could try Yahweh’s chosen people into court for their actions against the Midianites, Canaanites et. al. – The possibilities are:

    1. Genocide is not a crime* , therefore, no one should be tried for it. Because space aliens.

    2. Genocide is usually a crime, but is sometimes justified. (Military necessity is the most common defense). The defense will attempt to prove it was justified in this case. Hypothetical space alien genocide not allowed in defense arguments.

    3. The OT stories do not fit the definition of genocide.

    Which option are you arguing?

    * I can see the bumper sticker now

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Good grief. We’re now down to the point of defending the Old Testament’s genocide by saying the Canaanites were murderous alien cyborgs?

    I’m closing this thread in a few hours, just so you have fair warning. Get in your last licks now.

  • Goyo

    Patrick:

    There may also be practical matters to be considered. Who would look after all these infants, who would feed them with mother’s milk?

    So I guess the ultimate thought experiment would be to ask, would you kill infants, if your religious leader told you that god told him to tell you to?

    With a sword, not a gun. Up close and personal. You know; you really have to get in there and gut them. Then pile up their little bodies and leave them there for the buzzards to eat.

    Could you do that?

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

    Ebonmuse,

    Good grief. We’re now down to the point of defending the Old Testament’s genocide by saying the Canaanites were murderous alien cyborgs?

    Congratulations. You, like pretty much everyone else, have completely missed the point of what I was trying to do and what I was using the thought experiments for despite my stating it multiple times. Hint: I wasn’t even at the point of defending it.

    monkeymind,

    VS, your examples ask, but what if it’s really true that Group X are dangerous vermin that need to be destroyed? That’s what every advocate for genocide claims.

    And I already addressed that, in the replies to ildi. That point only gets brought up because we think they were WRONG about that. The thought experiments are meant to ask “What if they’re right?”. The Cylon case is indeed a “due to their own immorality case”, but the Star Trek one is not; they’re just trying to survive.

    I’m not even sure what you are trying to say or prove. We are saying the slaughter of Midianites, Canaanites, etc is genocide because it fits the legal definition of genocide.

    And you’ve conveniently forgotten where I said that the legal definition is ambiguous because it isn’t clear what “intent to destroy” means. The thought experiments were meant to tease that out, to see if intent to destroy includes cases where you’re trying to, say, eliminate suffering or death and it just happens to be the case that the traits causing it happen to correlate to a particular genotype or phenotype. Instead of addressing this, you harped on about completely different topics and then plead confusion about my actual point.

    We don’t have to have a debate involving Cylons and Star Trek episodes before we can say X action is genocide.

    Well, we don’t have to, but you’d actually have to try to clarify the definition of genocide for us to avoid it, which you consistently refused to do, despite my asking for clarification a number of times.

    Let’s say we could try Yahweh’s chosen people into court for their actions against the Midianites, Canaanites et. al. – The possibilities are:

    1. Genocide is not a crime* , therefore, no one should be tried for it. Because space aliens.

    2. Genocide is usually a crime, but is sometimes justified. (Military necessity is the most common defense). The defense will attempt to prove it was justified in this case. Hypothetical space alien genocide not allowed in defense arguments.

    3. The OT stories do not fit the definition of genocide.

    Which option are you arguing?

    None of the above.

    First, you’ve changed the debate from “moral” to “crime”. I don’t care if it’s a crime, just whether or not IT CAN EVER BE MORAL. You’ve danced around ever addressing whether genocide could ever be moral, and did it by also dancing around the definition of genocide and never actually clearly defining it. So the issues we’re addressing are:

    1) Is a genocide still a genocide if your intent is not to eliminate that group, but to eliminate something else that just happens to adhere in that group?

    2) After settling 1), is it then the case that anything properly defined as a genocide is always morally wrong?

    If you say “No” to 1), then I’d argue that it’s actually reasonable to claim that anything properly defined as a genocide is morally wrong, but then we have to get into discussions of the intent of those actions to determine if the Canaanite and Midian cases are actually genocides. If you say “Yes” to 1), then I’d argue that you cannot argue that a genocide is always morally wrong and invite you to prove to me how the cases I cited are actually clearly morally wrong.

    The thought experiments were a push for you to, you know, do exactly that. You could:

    a) Declare that there was a moral question there but that those examples were not examples of genocide (due to the intent).

    b) Declare that those were examples of genocide but were not morally wrong, or at least not clearly so.

    c) Declare that those were examples of genocide and were clearly wrong, preserving the idea that anything called a genocide is morally wrong and that the Biblical examples were examples of genocide.

    Instead, you got distracted by the examples and ignored the content and focus of what they were trying to get at. That’s really poor moral reasoning.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    And recall where this all started: my calling out Scotlyn and Ebonmuse for calling Patrick evil and claiming that he had no idea about right and wrong because he dared suggest that if genocide’s immorality is determined by motivation it might be the case that some genocides have a motivation that was not immoral. If you’re going to make strong pronouncements about terms that you don’t even seem to know the meaning of, expect to be called out on it, and you really ought to buck up and do the work of figuring all that out.

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

    And you’ve conveniently forgotten where I said that the legal definition is ambiguous because it isn’t clear what “intent to destroy” means.

    In quite a few cases in the Bible, it spells out that the intent was to systematically wipe the other culture off the face of the planet. Indefensible.

    The thought experiments were meant to tease that out, to see if intent to destroy includes cases where you’re trying to, say, eliminate suffering or death and it just happens to be the case that the traits causing it happen to correlate to a particular genotype or phenotype.

    And your “thought experiments” failed, because not only do they not demonstrate this, they are nowhere near the bounds of what could actually happen. Secondly, there is no genotype or phenotype that automatically merits death to whole groups of seemingly homogenous peoples.

    Well, we don’t have to, but you’d actually have to try to clarify the definition of genocide for us to avoid it, which you consistently refused to do, despite my asking for clarification a number of times.

    Your refusal to accept the clear definition that everyone else uses is obstinance on your part.

    You’ve danced around ever addressing whether genocide could ever be moral…

    No case has yet come up where it would be moral or was moral. You claimed you had cases to present – instead you presented sci-fi stories.

    1) Is a genocide still a genocide if your intent is not to eliminate that group, but to eliminate something else that just happens to adhere in that group?

    You’re splitting hairs here and also not actually speaking to any real-world example. Sure, in sci-fi land it might be possible…so might people coming back from the dead and then disappearing after they reach Earth in order to become Luddites. Sheesh.

    Instead, you got distracted by the examples and ignored the content and focus of what they were trying to get at.

    IOW – “We can’t discuss actual examples of genocide and if they are morally wrong unless you play my little what-if game.” Puh-leeze.

    And recall where this all started: my calling out Scotlyn and Ebonmuse for calling Patrick evil and claiming that he had no idea about right and wrong because he dared suggest that if genocide’s immorality is determined by motivation it might be the case that some genocides have a motivation that was not immoral.

    Anyone who presents the theodicy that Patrick did and then defends genocide on the grounds that he did has a very undeveloped moral sense. The fact that he only sees killing children as wrong, for instance, because he’s not supposed to do that and it may turn people away from Xianity is a pretty clear sign that he’s morally undeveloped and does not know right from wrong.

    If you’re going to make strong pronouncements about terms that you don’t even seem to know the meaning of…

    Nice projection, but we can all read a dictionary…apparently you can not. Yes, that’s right. You seem to be the only one who doesn’t seem to be able to grasp the meaning of the word.

  • monkeymind

    “2) After settling 1), is it then the case that anything properly defined as a genocide is always morally wrong?”

    Yes, of course, for fuck’s sake. I’m referencing the legal definition of genocide because it’s clear. The first tottering step toward moral progress was the recognition that genocide is wrong. Then came the attempt to define it as a crime. People who are accused of it can argue it was self defense or military necessity.

    I got distracted by your “intent to destroy” by thinking about cases where you might just inadvertently wipe out the last remnant of some tribal group with some careless action. Is that just as immoral as destroying with intent? But it’s totally off-topic since none of the Biblical cases are like that. They are clearly with intent to destroy, they are clearly war crimes. In the case of the Midianites, the massacre of civilians, including all males, came after the military victory.

    The real issue here is collective guilt. The audience for these stories of the Canaanite, Midianite, and other genocides, the idea of collective guilt was just part of their mental furniture that they don’t even have to reference it or defend it – it was just assumed. The idea of collective guilt is so NOT acceptable today that even the defenders of Biblical genocide don’t recognize the absence and are floundering with defenses like “But how would they feed the baybeeez?”

    Your examples either play with the idea of collective guilt by introducing science fiction examples where everyone in a group is actually guilty and dangerous. In the case of the one you created yourself, you get group identity and genetics wrong in exactly the same way that genocidal racists get it wrong. So they aren’t introducing anything new to the conversation about the morality of genocide.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    monkeymind,

    “I’m referencing the legal definition of genocide because it’s clear. ”

    Except you never addressed the actual reason I said it was UNCLEAR, in that what “intent to destroy” means isn’t clear. That’s why I gave the examples I did, where essentially the end, at least, is not to eliminate the group. The means end up being so, but the overall intent is not to destroy the group but is instead to either a) defend yourself or b) eliminate suffering. That’s what’s not clear, and that’s what you still fail to address.

    “Your examples either play with the idea of collective guilt by introducing science fiction examples where everyone in a group is actually guilty and dangerous.”

    Dangerous, yes, but not always guilty of anything. The Star Trek case is of beings who simply need to do that to survive; there’s no direct moral guilt at all. The human nBSG case is, except that it need not be collective; there simply may be no way to control it and there’s no other option. The Cylon nBSG case might be, but it’s a far weaker case for the collective guilt of the humans. And that was the point, to argue that if there was an actual reason that was true to eliminate that group and you did it for that intent, then the “intent to destroy” might not be satisfied. If you argue it is, then those cases are all genocide, but then those cases might not be immoral, and Utilitarianism — at least — might be willing to side with the morality of the genocide. If you argue it isn’t, then there might be cases where the “genocides” in the Bible are not such, as a command to “Wipe them out” might not carry an implication of the proper intent.

    “In the case of the one you created yourself, you get group identity and genetics wrong in exactly the same way that genocidal racists get it wrong.”

    So, it isn’t possible to define any race as having one specific genetic trait that they might all share, that might have a secondary cause that might turn out the way I posited? You never actually argued that that example was impossible, nor gave any evidence of it, and the point of it was to introduce a case — even if it wasn’t in existence right now — where the argument that the genocidal racists were making was actually correct, so that you can’t just dismiss it by saying “But they’re wrong!”. If they’re right, would it be a) genocide and b) immoral to wipe that group out? Once we settle this and why, then we can examine the Biblical cases to see if such a motivation can be found. Or not.

    You can’t make any moral judgement unless you have the proven and clear moral code to appeal to, and that’s what’s sorely missing here.

  • monkeymind

    No, the definition is pretty clear. What you are unclear on is that we called the biblical genocides genocide because they meet this definition. There was intent to destroy, and there was no military necessity or other excuse. Not that there never ever could be a military necessity or excuse. I’m saying you won’t find it in the text (I’ve read it) because the implicit justification, collective guilt, was sufficient for the writers and the audience. We have made a few tentative steps toward moral progress by eliminating the idea of collective guilt and declaring massacres motivated by this atavistic idea to be genocidal crimes.

  • monkeymind

    “You can’t make any moral judgement unless you have the proven and clear moral code to appeal to, and that’s what’s sorely missing here.”

    No, my moral code is clear. Mass slaughter of non-combatants, including infants, after the military objective has been achieved, as in the Midianite massacre, is clearly a genocidal war crime. If you want to defend it, take your place in the dock beside Ratko Mladić and try to prove it was somehow necessary. The burden of proof is on you.
    Your thought experiments, in which you close off considering third options and interrogating the premises of the thought experiment, do not work as philosophical thought experiments because the only MORAL thing to do when someone says “This massacre is necessary” is to consider all the options and interrogate the premises.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X