Irresponsible Use of the Awesome Power of Prayer

Irresponsible Use of the Awesome Power of Prayer November 9, 2016

Christian parents teach their children to pray. It’s part of growing up Christian—going to Sunday school, seeing the world through Christian glasses, and praying.

The claims made for prayer in the Bible are hard to overestimate. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Jesus said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). Jesus said, “He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do” (John 14:12).

Having the all-powerful creator of the universe just a prayer away is a lot of power. It’s an inconceivable amount of power. And we’re going to trust that to children??

Christians will say that there’s no cause for concern because God will make sure to only grant safe wishes, but that’s not what the Bible says. The verses above, in context, don’t have such a limitation. Little Tommy could pray for his rival on the football team to get sick so he can start in the next game. He could pray that Susie returns his affections. He could pray that his science teacher dies so he doesn’t have to take that test on Friday.

One Christian response is to say that prayer can come with caveats. For example, in James 4:3, we are cautioned that we won’t receive when we “ask with wrong motives,” and little Tommy’s motives are pretty selfish.

There are a couple of skeptic responses. First: What part of, “The gospel of Matthew says, ‘Ask and it will be given to you’” do you not understand? Second: at best this admits that the Bible is contradictory. Ordinary, fallible Christians are left putting the pieces together, trying to make sense out of the contradiction (or discarding it as manmade mythology).

Another Christian response is to say that prayer has lots of purposes—confessing sins, thanking God for the good things in life, reassuring God that he’s fantastic, and so on. But this is a smokescreen, and the prayer of petition remains the primary kind of prayer in the Bible.

Let’s admit that prayer can be beneficial in the same way that meditation can, but when you’re praying for someone else, meditation is not the point. The idea behind person A praying for person B isn’t for person A to feel better, it’s for a specific good thing to happen to person B.

Christian parents are in a bind. Does prayer work the way Jesus said it does? Prayer as described by Jesus is powerful medicine, though there are different kinds of medicine. A bottle of sleeping pills left in the kitchen where small children could find it is reckless … unless it’s homeopathic medicine, which is just pretend medicine. Is prayer like homeopathic medicine—powerful in name only?

Prayer can be given to children with the confidence that it can’t be used for bad requests because it can’t be used for good requests, either.

We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world—
its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness;
see the world as it is, and be not afraid of it.
Conquer the world by intelligence,
and not merely by being slavishly subdued
by the terror that comes from it.
— Bertrand Russell

Image credit: Nancy Big Crow, flickr, CC

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  • JBSchmidt

    Does the prayer to keep Hillary out of the White House and to begin to turn our country away from the progressive agenda/culture of the left, count?

    “Prayer can be given to children with the confidence that it can’t be used for bad requests”

    That is a statement based on pure Biblical ignorance.

    • adam

      “Does the prayer to keep Hillary out of the White House and to begin to
      turn our country away from the progressive agenda/culture of the left,
      count?”

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eb7675c19966c7fe78c2b9c8bec85a2be95f364b583eff0c47cd644e04a962af.jpg

    • Does the prayer to keep Hillary out of the White House and to begin to turn our country away from the progressive agenda/culture of the left, count?

      Pray for whatever you want. Just realize that there’s no supernatural genie on the other end of the line.

      • JBSchmidt

        Do you have proof of that? Some sort of empirical evidence by which you can make that claim?

        • Sure: an uncountable number of prayers that deliver no better than coincidence would explain.

        • JBSchmidt

          Is that science? I thought you only believed that which is scientifically verifiable. Do you have the scientific evidence to support your claim that God doesn’t answer prayers or just anecdotal evidence?

        • Greg G.

          Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) has links to the following articles:

          The Chronicle of Higher Education
          April 14, 2006
          Study of Prayer’s Healing Power on Surgery Patients Finds No Effect by Lila Guterman

          The New York Times
          April 11, 2006
          Faith-Based Medicine by Raymond J. Lawrence

          The Baltimore Sun
          March 31, 2006
          Distant prayer doesn’t help heal, finds largest study yet by Jonathan Bor

          The Chicago Tribune
          March 31, 2006
          In this study, prayers aren’t the answer by Jeremy Manier

          The Houston Chronicle
          March 31, 2006
          Study: Praying Won’t Affect Heart Patients by Malcolm Ritter

          The Los Angeles Times
          March 31, 2006
          Largest Study of Prayer to Date Finds It Has No Power to Heal by Denise Gellene and Thomas H. Maugh II

          The New York Times
          March 31, 2006
          Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer by Benedict Carey

          Reuters
          March 31, 2006
          Study fails to show healing power of prayer by Michael Conlon

          Time Magazine
          March 30, 2006
          Do Heartfelt Prayers Help the Heart? by Sora Song

          USA Today
          March 31, 2006
          Study shrugs off prayer’s power to heal by Liz Szabo

          The Washington Post
          March 31, 2006
          Prayer Doesn’t Aid Recovery, Study Finds by Rob Stein

          Patients were divided into three groups. One group received no prayer, one group received prayer but were not told that they were, and the third group received prayer and were told they were receiving prayer.

          The study was double-blinded so that the patients were assigned randomly to groups and the doctors who evaluated the patients did not know which group the patient had been assigned to eliminate bias.

          The group that received prayer and knew about it fared the worst of the three groups, not by a significant margin but very close to it. It was thought that perhaps being told they were being prayed for caused the patient to not keep up with the doctor’s orders.

        • Herald Newman

          This study pretty much sealed the deal on just how useless prayer is, to me. It also pretty much falsifies Christianity.

        • adam

          “Do you have the scientific evidence to support your claim that God doesn’t answer prayers or just anecdotal evidence?”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6597272c55aa1dd14b2602406d98ba576903e53dce5800dd7f26a6fb2ca9728c.jpg

        • MNb

          Yes, that’s science. Problems with comprehensive reading? Or do you not only reject Evolution Theory but also Statistics? The Double Blind Test perhaps?

          https://explorable.com/double-blind-experiment

          Can be applied to prayer as well. Result: invariably no significant difference.
          Or perhaps creacrap has affected your brain so much that you don’t understand the difference between anecdotal evidence and a scientific procedure anymore?

        • (1) Don’t need science. You’re making the claim (that prayers work). I impatiently await your evidence.

          (2) Templeton study.

        • JBSchmidt

          1) “Don’t need science.”
          So this is a faith based article.

          “You’re making the claim”
          You wrote the blog, not I. You made the claim it doesn’t work.

          2) One year later Arizona State produced a study showing a net effect of prayer. Confirmation Bias?

          Either way, those studies self acknowledge the inability to isolate prayer and address it effects. Which returns us to this being a faith based article.

          As for the danger to kids, which I guess was the theme, I refer back to my previous statement on your ignorant stance on Biblical prayer.

        • adam

          “So this is a faith based article.”

          Ok, all you have to do is demonstrate that faith works scientifically….

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b4daa8eb8f6cdde7dc6cef1fd33a8d0acc554ea42510fdbeea6ee4c3b3b5a9c2.jpg

        • JB thinks faith is fantastic, so I can only assume that his “so this is a faith based article” was high praise.

        • MNb

          Nonononono.
          No.
          Only when faith produces results that please JBS the word means high praise. When JBS is displeased faith is the worst thing on Earth.

        • Dang! This faith thing is complicated.

        • adam

          ” Which returns us to this being a faith based article.”

          Of course ‘faith’ is ‘faith’ based, otherwise it would be science.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/637bfeb32fe76da958e611fbfd841246baeabb7b96c48f9a41144e316ea0e22d.jpg

        • Greg G.

          From what I can find about Hodge’s Arizona State study, it was a meta-analysis of all the studies on prayer he could find and he settled on 17 of them. Eleven of the 17 showed no effect of prayer. Six showed a small benefit. That is about what we should expect from a study of the Placebo Effect.

          The Templeton study was done to eliminate the issues of prior prayer studies, such as allowing bias in the selection of which patients were placed in the prayer group or not, the evaluators knew which patients were in which group. or the sample size was too small.

        • adam

          “Show me where God says that in The Bible”

        • Greg G.

          The Hodge study says there were six studies showing a positive outcome for prayer. Arizona Professor Analyzes Research on Whether Prayer “Works” counts The Aviles study as one of the positive studies:

          J. M. Aviles and colleagues conducted one of the studies that had results that exhibited possibly positive trends even though they were not statistically significant. In their study, five Christian prayer groups who prayed at least once a week for twenty-six weeks for each of four hundred men “wrestling with heart disease” appeared to have some positive effect. These results were published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

          From the abstract of the Aviles study Intercessory Prayer and Cardiovascular Disease Progression in a Coronary Care Unit Population: A Randomized Controlled Trial:

          As delivered in this study, intercessory prayer had no significant effect on medical outcomes after hospitalization in a coronary care unit.
          [My bolding]

          That was the first study I checked. I don’t think I want to bother running down any others. Perhaps you would like to defend Hodge’s study.

        • “You’re making the claim”
          You wrote the blog, not I.

          Everyone here knows about the Templeton study. I’m sure you’re no exception. Why go down that tangent in the post when everyone already knows?

          But who isn’t forgetful now and again? I was happy to remind you of the study.

          You made the claim it doesn’t work.

          And you’re going to contradict that? I’m all ears.

          2) One year later Arizona State produced a study showing a net effect of prayer.

          That’s exciting news. When there is some new consensus among scientists, let me know. Until that point, I’ll remain at the default position, assuming that this incredible claim is bullshit.

          Either way, those studies self acknowledge the inability to isolate prayer and address it effects.

          Huh? Are you saying that the claims for prayer’s efficacy can’t be tested? I marvel then that anyone makes any claims at all about it.

          I refer back to my previous statement on your ignorant stance on Biblical prayer.

          Clarify your point. Where am I ignorant? I’m pretty sure I’ve read every Bible passage about prayer, but perhaps you have a verse or an interpretation that’s new to me. Fill me in.

        • RichardSRussell

          (A) Many people prayed for Donald Trump to win. He did.
          (B) Many people prayed for Hillary Clinton to win. She didn’t.
          (C) Conclusion: If people pray for contradictory outcomes, some of those prayers will fail.

          Not only scientifically verifiable, logically necessary!

          If you think otherwise, show us how.

        • Oh yeah?! Next you’ll say that praying for your football team doesn’t work!

        • Greg G.

          It certainly doesn’t work for Browns fans. God must have liked “Johnny Football” Manziel. Their last win was with him at quarterback.

        • Susan

          It certainly doesn’t work for Browns fans.

          It certainly worked for Cubs fans. It took a long time but it was a test of their faith and their faith was rewarded.

        • Donalbain

          I pray for my local sports team and that is why we beat our local rivals almost half the times we play!

        • Kevin K

          Actually, there are scientific studies about the power of prayer specifically in the health care setting. And, as anyone with half a brain might expect, prayers have been proven worthless.

          In fact, it’s worse than that. Because if you tell someone who is sick and in the hospital you are praying for them, they fare worse than either those who you pray for without telling them or those who get no prayers at all. — Source: Benson H, Dusek JA, Sherwood JB, et al. (April 2006). “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: a multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer”. American Heart Journal. 151 (4): 934–42. doi:10.1016/j.ahj.2005.05.028. PMID 16569567. Lay summary (PDF) – John Templeton Foundation (April 5, 2006).

          Science. You ask.

        • Do you have the scientific evidence to support your claim that God doesn’t answer prayers or just anecdotal evidence?

          If God answers prayer in a way which can be identified by a scientific study, then how does God avoid being reduced to a new, interesting kind of law of nature? You might also consider whether the best thing for humans right now is even more power over reality. Maybe what they need more urgently is a reorientation of their wills.

          By the way, here’s an exchange I had with @BobSeidensticker:disqus a year ago:

          BS: Another way to see it: my car delivers in that it always starts when I turn the key, ever since I got it, 13 years ago. One exception was a dead battery. So let’s call that 99.99% perfect. Prayer, by contrast, doesn’t work that way.

          LB: You mean prayer isn’t magic technology? Man, I’ve been doing it so wrongly all these years. I thought God was a vending machine: put worship in, get giftie out. See, this is why I talk to atheists on the internet; they tell me these things!

          BS: You read the Good Book honestly, my brother. Good for you. Too many Christians give me the, “OK, now I realize it looks like it says that, but obviously it doesn’t mean that.” I’m sure that kind of Doublethink frustrates you as much as it does me.

          Anyone who treats prayer as an opportunity to merely get more of what [s]he wants, without any reorientation of will, wants to use God instead of be in relationship with God. We know that people generally refuse to exercise their human agency when they encounter such people; why do we think that God somehow wouldn’t also exercise personal agency?

          (Yes, there will be some bleeding hearts which say that surely God would at least want to restore some amputated limbs. There are responses to such appeals.)

        • Anyone who treats prayer as an opportunity to merely get more of what [s]he wants

          … has read the Bible correctly.

          Yes, there will be some bleeding hearts which say that surely God would at least want to restore some amputated limbs.

          I know, right?! That drives me crazy! You lost your leg, pal–get over it.

          What a bunch of pussies.

        • LB: Anyone who treats prayer as an opportunity to merely get more of what [s]he wants […]

          BS: … has read the Bible correctly.

          So when some passages add “in my name”—e.g. “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14)—you don’t see that as an obvious qualification that was omitted from other similar passages (e.g. Mt 17:19–20, 21:18–22) because it was clearly implied to the original audiences? It’s not like people in that time didn’t understand how delegated power works, and how if you abuse the delegated power, it tends to get revoked.

          You lost your leg, pal–get over it.

          Let me get this straight. America sends its soldiers into Iraq based on a lie that plenty of people in power knew was a lie. A number of [probably atheist] intellectuals pile on the invasion bandwagon. America engages in tactics which set Sunnis against Shiites, which may well have created the instability conditions which allowed ISIS to arise. Now, one of those Americans got his leg blown off from an IED. You think that God ought to restore that limb?

          By the way, I’m not blaming the soldier with my question. I’m asking whether there should be any sort of collective responsibility, with both collective benefits but also collective punishments. The way our world works, people in power can order others around, force others to die for them, and stay nicely isolated from the fray, often until death. The author of Psalm 73 was probably irked about this sort of phenomenon. I wonder if you’re suggesting that God simply shouldn’t have let reality allow such possibilities.

        • you don’t see that as an obvious qualification that was omitted from other similar passages

          It must suck being God. You’re insanely smart and yet you just can’t quite get your message out clearly. Does God has some sort of speech impediment maybe?

          A number of [probably atheist] intellectuals pile on the invasion bandwagon.

          Yeah, probably. Who could imagine a Christian in any position of power in the US government? Even more of a stretch: a Christian who would advocate war.

          Now, one of those Americans got his leg blown off from an IED. You think that God ought to restore that limb?

          Uh, yes? Or is this a trick question?

          I’m asking whether there should be any sort of collective responsibility, with both collective benefits but also collective punishments.

          The soldier is forced to do a dangerous job and gets hurt and then you think it’s justice for him to shoulder all the punishment?

          The way our world works, people in power can order others around, force others to die for them, and stay nicely isolated from the fray, often until death.

          Sounds like a godless world, doesn’t it?

          I wonder if you’re suggesting that God simply shouldn’t have let reality allow such possibilities.

          I think God should get off his fat ass and do something, just once in a while, just to shake things up a bit. That there’s no good evidence for God means that no one has a warrant for believing in him. And he’s had plenty of chances for intervening and setting things right—you know, like you would if you had the power.

        • MNb

          “I think God should get off his fat ass and do something, just once in a while, just to shake things up a bit.”
          Like in the good old days as described in the OT and NT, you mean? That’s always the funny part when apologists try to explain why their god can’t do anything these days.

        • Like in the good old days as described in the OT and NT, you mean?

          Yeah! Like when God did a lot of smiting. There’s not enough godly smiting today. If God exists, I want him to be a badass, kind of a cruel-but-fair celestial Dirty Harry.

        • epeeist

          Even more of a stretch: a Christian who would advocate war

          Especially a Catholic, you can’t imagine a Catholic advocating war.

          Oh, wait…

        • It must suck being God. You’re insanely smart and yet you just can’t quite get your message out clearly. Does God has some sort of speech impediment maybe?

          It seems like you think understanding people shouldn’t take any effort on your part. Furthermore, you seem quite happy to fit the most stupid of interpretations on someone. There’s not a whole lot that can be done with someone who treats others this way. Maybe stop thinking yourself as a baby whom God is obligated to spoon-feed? Now, I am increasingly seeing why atheists like to call God “Sky Daddy”.

          The soldier is forced to do a dangerous job and gets hurt and then you think it’s justice for him to shoulder all the punishment?

          No, I don’t think that’s justice. But the entire Bible makes it clear that God allows humans to carry out quite a lot of injustice towards each other before stepping in. It is as if God wants us to learn how to be just to each other, instead of babying us. But when you look at the Bible, you don’t seem to be expecting a resource which could help us increase in responsibility. Instead, you seem to want baby food. I’m sorry, but that’s just not what the Bible is.

          Sounds like a godless world, doesn’t it?

          I think you meant “nanny-free world”. I would agree with that. But I suspect that behind your quip is a belief that mostly the thing we need is more knowledge, something God could ostensibly communicate quite easily. Were the thing we most needed something like a fundamental reorientation of character, a fundamental reform of our idea of the good life and good society, maybe words from God aren’t what we need right now.

          I think God should get off his fat ass and do something […]

          So you (and other humans who call themselves ‘Enlightened’) don’t have to, or in order to act as God’s coworker? And what obligation does God have to enact things you can see, given that you spend so little effort trying to interpret the Bible in anything other than the most caricatured of ways? In my experience, when folks treat a person like you treat God (and to a less extent, me), the recommendation for that person is to stay away.

          And he’s had plenty of chances for intervening and setting things right—you know, like you would if you had the power.

          You mean, because humans won’t repent? Or because humans are really doing the best they can, and just need extra help?

          Oh, and don’t think you know how I would have God act. You have so repeatedly misinterpreted my words that I have zero expectation that you’ll do anything other than come up with the most cartoonish of representations of what I’ve said. Sometimes you do better, but generally, you do precisely the thing that is cratering the US as a democracy. Vilify the other, make the other seem dumb, refuse to charitably understand the other.

        • Kodie

          You imagine, you speculate the lack of intervention and restored limbs is because god “wants” something, is trying to provide learning opportunities to get along. Well fuck. You are on the drug of Jesus, high and oblivious to reality. You will say anything to prop up your fictional character. You, on one hand, accept humans acting human in a wide range of ways, and having to solve problems by ourselves, but the part about god wanting to help but tying his own hands so we learn – there is your stupid. That is you stupid. That is religion stupid. Denial of reality doesn’t help any of us. You assume there is a god and then take what is real to determine what you imagine are god’s motives. You have a superstition. A stupidstition.

        • Myna

          refuse to charitably understand the other.

          It is clearly understood you are a Christian apologist and your arguments bubble up from that particular cauldron. Other than this, what does charitable understanding mean?

        • TheNuszAbides

          i think he hopes that his interminable semantic wranglings will be seen as being offered in good faith.

        • It seems like you think understanding people shouldn’t take any effort on your part.

          No, I think that the message of a perfect being would be perfectly and unambiguously understandable on the first reading.

          you seem quite happy to fit the most stupid of interpretations on someone.

          People understand the Bible in many ways. The two options that I’m wrestling with are that God is oddly inept at communicating his perfect truth or that the Bible is just a thousand years of the blog of a primitive desert tribe who didn’t know where the sun went at night.

          Maybe stop thinking yourself as a baby whom God is obligated to spoon-feed?

          Let’s remember that it’s me who’s letting the Bible speak for itself. You’re the one who’s second guessing the Bible, adding your own interpretation because the face value shows God to be an asshole.

          the entire Bible makes it clear that God allows humans to carry out quite a lot of injustice towards each other before stepping in.

          Right, that or maybe God just doesn’t exist and it’s all just a fairy tale.

          It is as if God wants us to learn how to be just to each other, instead of babying us.

          Yeah, I get it. Life’s a bitch. Stand on your own two feet. Life’s hardships make you a stronger person. And so on and so on. That’s what atheists say because (1) that’s where the evidence points and (2) there is no option.

          But now you’ve discarded the supernatural option. Welcome to the club.

          “Sounds like a godless world, doesn’t it?”
          I think you meant “nanny-free world”.

          Yeah, I see your point. A child born with deformities dying a slow and lingering death is just what a good god would want. Let’s not coddle babies! A little pain’ll make ’em tough.

          I wonder that both you and I would help that child if we were doctors or pharmacists who had the cure. But I guess that’s why we’re pussies and coddlers and nannies. Nope, to be God you’ve got to break a few eggs. (Or maybe that’s how omelets are made. Or something.)

          Were the thing we most needed something like a fundamental reorientation of character, a fundamental reform of our idea of the good life and good society, maybe words from God aren’t what we need right now.

          What is this reorientation? Explain it without presuming God.

          So you (and other humans who call themselves ‘Enlightened’) don’t have to, or in order to act as God’s coworker?

          Quite the opposite. Look at any improvement in society—elimination of slavery and genocide, elimination of smallpox, feeding the starving—and you see humans. Yet another example of God watching TV rather than doing anything.

          Humans make improvements. God is just pretend.

          when folks treat a person like you treat God (and to a less extent, me), the recommendation for that person is to stay away.

          Must be tough being the creator of the universe and having such a thin skin. Most sages in our reality lose their ego as they increase their wisdom.

          Oh, and don’t think you know how I would have God act.

          Oh, and don’t bother explaining it to me. If I misunderstand, turn your back and find more fertile fields for your message.

          Sometimes you do better, but generally, you do precisely the thing that is cratering the US as a democracy. Vilify the other, make the other seem dumb, refuse to charitably understand the other.

          When people are radically adapting their lives to please a god that doesn’t exist, what should I do? I agree with you that it’s not especially effective. Give me something better.

        • No, I think that the message of a perfect being would be perfectly and unambiguously understandable on the first reading.

          What empirical evidence convinced you of this? Or do you actually reason dogmatically along with the best of those you daily douse with scorn? We have touched on this dogmatic belief of yours before, and I don’t recall you ever expressing the slightest willingness to question it. Perhaps you would be punished for deviating from some orthodoxy on this point?

          The two options that I’m wrestling with are that God is oddly inept at communicating his perfect truth or that the Bible is just a thousand years of the blog of a primitive desert tribe who didn’t know where the sun went at night.

          Yes, it fascinates me that your imagination simply won’t allow for any alternative. It is as if you think in the same extreme, binary, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist categories as those you routinely excoriate.

          Let’s remember that it’s me who’s letting the Bible speak for itself. You’re the one who’s second guessing the Bible, adding your own interpretation because the face value shows God to be an asshole.

          Yep, more evidence of unreflective, fundamentalist literalism. The idea that you can just “let the Bible speak for itself” is known to be false by just about any scholar who understands the process of interpreting something someone said/​wrote. This is even true in science and is known as “theory-ladenness of observation”. The only way that your strategy would work is if everyone looked at and described the world just as you do. Then, and only then, could you unreflectively look at a text and have the first thing that popped in your mind be the best understanding of that text.

          By the way, I certainly understand there is a boundary between charitably interpreting a text and going all death-of-the-author on it.

          Right, that or maybe God just doesn’t exist and it’s all just a fairy tale.

          Yup. Now, you sound absolutely, dogmatically certain of which way it is.

          LB: It is as if God wants us to learn how to be just to each other, instead of babying us.

          BS: Yeah, I get it. Life’s a bitch. Stand on your own two feet. Life’s hardships make you a stronger person. And so on and so on. That’s what atheists say because (1) that’s where the evidence points and (2) there is no option.

          Wow, is this a frank admission that you are 100% certain if God existed, he’d perpetually baby us? I would never want to live in a world you’d dream up.

          I wonder that both you and I would help that child if we were doctors or pharmacists who had the cure.

          Per The Charitable–Industrial Complex, you and I would do enough nice things to salve our consciences, but not actually solve the root problem. Hmmm, I wonder why God is distant from the West when it does such things. It’s as if he hates such behavior and thinking and self-righteous justification.

          What is this reorientation? Explain it without presuming God.

          An example: repentance, on the part of the international elite, of the right to rule and dominate the masses, with little creative input to reality on the part of the masses. Want evidence of this felt right? From a member of the Troika: “Elections cannot be allowed to change the economic policies of any country.” (Yanis Varoufakis and Noam Chomsky @ NYPL, 1:20:05) Oh, and if you say they’re respecting science and not public opinion, then explain the scientific case for imposing austerity on Greece.

          Look at any improvement in society—elimination of slavery and genocide, elimination of smallpox, feeding the starving—and you see humans. Yet another example of God watching TV rather than doing anything.

          Well, we could talk about what it would look like for God to cooperate with humans, especially if God’s goal is for us to arbitrarily mature in knowledge, wisdom, and pursuit of the good. But I don’t think you’ve ever really wanted to have such a conversation, at least not one where you are doing anything other than strawmanning me left, right, and center. If you ever do wish to talk about that like an adult, I’m game. I think it’s a very interesting topic, and I think there are good ways to establish tests for whether God is actually contributing anything in a strictly causal sense. But I will have to ask you to break out of your fundamentalist love of extreme binary oppositions.

          If I misunderstand, turn your back and find more fertile fields for your message.

          You think I’m trying to evangelize? Hah! My primary mission here is to understand how people who are quite different from me think and reason. See, I actually have theological reasons to believe that without talking to you, I am less than I otherwise could be. I have theological reasons for believing that you, and everyone else on this board, has a unique perspective on reality (overlapping with other unique perspectives), such that if we were to combine all those perspectives, the result would be better than silencing one or more of them. Apparently though, you don’t believe this.

          When people are radically adapting their lives to please a god that doesn’t exist, what should I do? I agree with you that it’s not especially effective. Give me something better.

          Read The Lost Art of Listening. And if there’s some theist who seems impossible to reason with, why not ask me to try talking to him/her? If I can make progress in a direction you also believe is progress, maybe that would be evidence that you have things to learn if you wish to productively talk to such people. Or maybe I won’t make any progress, and we can consider whether progress is impossible or whether our skills combined are still insufficient. And ultimately, one may have to leave some citizens behind after trying and failing enough times and ways. Dismiss too many of them, however, and you’ll get a Trump. Is that what you want? If not, consider that your strategy of engagement might be part of the problem and not the solution. Try out humility for once.

        • What empirical evidence convinced you of this?

          I used no evidence. Rather, I used my startlingly good knowledge of the definition of the word “perfect.”

          We have touched on this dogmatic belief of yours before, and I don’t recall you ever expressing the slightest willingness to question it.

          I’ve forgotten any evidence of my dogmatism in the past. You’ll have to remind me.

          it fascinates me that your imagination simply won’t allow for any alternative.

          I was waiting for you to fill in this exciting alternative. I wait in vain.

          It is as if you think in the same extreme, binary, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist categories as those you routinely excoriate.

          You get an A for vitriol. Not so good for actually expanding on the conversation, however.

          The idea that you can just “let the Bible speak for itself” is known to be false by just about any scholar who understands the process of interpreting something someone said/wrote.

          And what does that tell us? Let me offer an (obvious) interpretation: you must analyze the Bible with great dexterity because it is in fact not the inspired word of a perfect god but just the uneducated ramblings of primitive people.

          Everyone else but you got it, so let me back up a bit: “Let the Bible speak for itself” would be appropriate if it were written by a perfect god. Are we all on the same page now?

          Yup. Now, you sound absolutely, dogmaticaly certain of which way it is.

          Dang. Another opportunity for expanding the conversation turned into snark.

          If that’s all you’ve got, this thread isn’t destined to be live much longer.

          Wow, is this a frank admission that you are 100% certain if God existed, he’d perpetually baby us?

          Nope.

          Per The Charitable–Industrial Complex, you and I would do enough nice things to salve our consciences, but not actually solve the root problem.

          If I could, I would. I guess that’s the difference between me and you. And God.

          Well, we could talk about what it would look like for God to cooperate with humans, especially if God’s goal is for us to arbitrarily mature in knowledge, wisdom, and pursuit of the good.

          In the face of evidence that God doesn’t exist, I would think that the answer is showing that God exists. But you weren’t born yesterday. You realize that such evidence—like God coming down here to chat with us right now—doesn’t exist. And here you are, in the ridiculous position of apologizing yet again that God can’t make it right now.

          Next time you’re chatting, tell God to get his ass down here himself. People like you handwaving excuses simply making him look all the more nonexistent.

          But I don’t think you’ve ever really wanted to have such a conversation, at least not one where you are doing anything other than strawmanning me left, right, and center.

          Strawmanning how?

          Oops—my bad. I forgot that you only like to level charges. Evidence is not how you roll. Forget I said anything.

          If you ever do wish to talk about that like an adult, I’m game.

          No you’re not. You’ve had your chance.

          I have theological reasons for believing that you, and everyone else on this board, has a unique perspective on reality (overlapping with other unique perspectives), such that if we were to combine all those perspectives, the result would be better than silencing one or more of them. Apparently though, you don’t believe this.

          No, I don’t. Anyone who likes to provide evidence (I know—not you) would be welcome to do so.

          Off the top of my head, beliefs in things that don’t exist do not add to the overall value of our united perspectives.

          Read The Lost Art of Listening.

          Oh, it’s my fault. Got it. Things are falling into place now.

          maybe that would be evidence that you have things to learn if you wish to productively talk to such people.

          I already know that I have much to learn from other people. Strangely, though, you apparently refuse to be one of them.

          Try out humility for once.

          That would be much easier to take if your comment weren’t laced with bile. Perhaps that’s food for thought.

        • Michael Neville

          That would be much easier to take if your comment weren’t laced with bile. Perhaps that’s food for thought.

          I see Ol’ Luke hasn’t changed since the last time he infested this blog.

        • Good thing. Ya gotta have some constants in your life.

        • epeeist

          Dang. Another opportunity for expanding the conversation turned into snark.

          Snark you say. That’s the kind of thing that can get you banned at Strange Notions. Odd that Luke is still allowed to post there…

        • What a coincidence. I got banned just yesterday from Dave Armstrong’s “Biblical Evidence for Catholicism” blog here on Patheos.

          He looked into my heart and realized that he knew exactly what kind of smart-ass atheist I was and that his people had nothing positive to learn from me.

          I loved his sign off: “Bye and God bless.”

        • epeeist

          The one difference being that Brandon just banned us and never said anything about it.

          It used to be amusing over there. Brandon would put up an article, the atheists would descend and shred it leaving the Catholics to make weak attempts at salvage. Lather, rinse, repeat.

          This was the reason that got us banned, not our supposedly snarky attitudes.

        • Now admit it–isn’t it nice that the Catholics got their echo chamber? I mean, can’t they have just one place where they can go and be in peace? Heaven knows they are mercilessly persecuted every other place on the internet and in reality.

        • I used no evidence. Rather, I used my startlingly good knowledge of the definition of the word “perfect.”

          But why expect God to match up to that definition? And is it even coherent? See, for example, [atheist] Jonathan MS Pearce’s God Cannot Be Perfect Because Intrinsic Perfect Does Not Make Sense (it was also posted on Debunking Christianity). Pearce’s thesis statement: “perfection, as a stand-alone conceptual characteristic to ascribe to anything, is nonsensical.” Are you open to considering that maybe Pearce is correct? I present him to you as an atheist who has written books such as The Little Book of Unholy Questions—he’s not one of “my people”, as it were.

          BS: The two options that I’m wrestling with are that God is oddly inept at communicating his perfect truth or that the Bible is just a thousand years of the blog of a primitive desert tribe who didn’t know where the sun went at night.

          LB: Yes, it fascinates me that your imagination simply won’t allow for any alternative.

          BS: I was waiting for you to fill in this exciting alternative. I wait in vain.

          Let me give it a shot. Since I don’t have a lot of experience discussing this matter, I’m afraid it will be rather long. If you’d rather wait until I’ve pared it down in discussion with others, feel free to say so.

          I believe there to be an important kind of freedom involved in the fact that your words to me cannot force my thoughts into a certain configuration. I think this may be the very essence of free will: the choice of interpretation. Robert Kane called it “dual rationality”, and Richard Double found that idea compelling (but not ultimately convincing) in his The Non-Reality of Free Will (16). When there are two plausible interpretations of what you say to me, one will often push further in a positive direction (e.g. something better because two minds are/​can be better than one), while another can push in a very different direction (such as press-fitting your words into some stupid-ass view of reality). I can choose whether to contribute from myself to trying to build something good with you, or I can choose to try and kill whatever you’re trying to build.

          Your model of divine communication doesn’t allow the above flexibility. It has God stamping himself on us. I may have called it “mind rape” in the past. I don’t believe that it’s right for God to mind-control me any more than I believe it’s right for other humans to mind-control me. (Let’s not tangent to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, or I’ll have to get more detailed in a way I hope we can avoid for simplicity’s sake.) I think it’s very important that God give me the freedom to interpret his words. Stated differently, I don’t think God has, or ought to have, a backdoor into my mind. I think much damage has been done to Christianity and the world by thinking that it’s right for God to impose himself on us, but not right for any human to impose himself on another human. (Most obviously because humans can’t actually maintain this dichotomy.)

          Now, an added complexity is that continuous choosing of interpretations, added up over the lifetime of a person and then over multiple generations, can result in very distorted interpretations. You might grant me some of the above, but refuse to allow for this much distortion. So for example, we have in Jeremiah 7:1–15 that “the temple of the LORD” had been re-interpreted to mean “a place you can go after you rob, beat, and murder, to be absolved so you can go do it again tomorrow”. Instead of being a place where God would be present and teach people to e.g. obey the ten commandments because it’s good for them (again, please don’t quibble here unless you really think my argument necessarily dies on this point), the temple becomes a place where one’s sins are automagically erased. (Yes, many Christians in America propound this model of forgiveness. It is blasphemous and is one reason I invoke Romans 2:24 against modern-day Christians so often.)

          But I say that Adam and Eve actually performed that flip of interpretation in a moment. They redefined ‘life’ as ‘death’ and ‘death’ as ‘life’. Fuck God and his words—we can reinterpret them however the hell we want. And of course, we do this to other humans, too. So it really doesn’t take generations. Now, do you want to somehow prevent Adam and Eve from using their wills to reinterpret God’s very clear words? You don’t need to accept anything in the Bible as historical to answer this question. Your answer will help me better articulate the “alternative” you wanted. Whether or not you subjectively consider it “exciting” is another matter.

          By the way, if you really believe that reality would be better if no statements by humans could be misinterpreted, surely you have tried to foster an environment around yourself of freedom-from-ambiguity? If so, I’d be interested in hearing whether things actually became better along all dimensions as a result. This is one empirical way to test the idea that unambiguous interpretation would actually be better.

        • But why expect God to match up to that definition?

          Christians tell me that God is perfect. I’m taking them at their word.

          My first mistake, I’m guessing?

          And is it even coherent?

          Get the Christians to stop calling God perfect and I’ll stop using that as a yardstick to measure his (shitty) actions by.

          Your model of divine communication doesn’t allow the above flexibility. It has God stamping himself on us. I may have called it “mind rape” in the past.

          Seriously? God clearly and unambiguously making his single plan clear to all who have five minutes to read it is mind rape?

          Your position is so bizarre that I’ll simply have to say, “No, it’s not” and leave it at that.

          I don’t believe that it’s right for God to mind-control me any more than I believe it’s right for other humans to mind-control me.

          I went to a Reasons to Believe thing this morning and someone used what might be what you’re saying here: God can’t impose himself on us. “God can’t ravish; he can only woo” as Lewis clumsily stated it.

          And this came from a guy who was sitting right there. I knew that he existed as much as I knew any fact. All I’m asking for is that God make his existence that clear. And somehow that’s an unreasonable request?

          I think it’s very important that God give me the freedom to interpret his words.

          Said exactly as if his imaginary god spoke gobbledygook but he was left trying to apologize for him.

          If God has a message, he can present it clearly.

          complexity is that continuous choosing of interpretations, added up over the lifetime of a person and then over multiple generations, can result in very distorted interpretations.

          Who’s talking about multiple generations? I’m talking about going to the copies in the original language, reading it once, and coming to the exact same understanding as the person behind you in line to read the same thing.

          do you want to somehow prevent Adam and Eve from using their wills to reinterpret God’s very clear words?

          No, I want to avoid charging A&E with a moral crime when they didn’t understand morality yet.

          if you really believe that reality would be better if no statements by humans could be misinterpreted

          Not the point. I’m simply making the reasonable request that a perfect being communicate his thoughts perfectly. Too much to ask?

        • Kodie

          God’s existence, if he existed, should not be up for question. A perfect god would, at first, exist, and then, leave it our choice whether to like him or not. And if we like him, or at least kiss his ass (and if I were him, I would see into your soul – if souls existed – and know if you were sincere). Then, if there were an afterlife, understandably, if you do honestly love and respect god, he’d invite you to his party, and if you don’t honestly love god, you go on your merry way elsewhere. Like, another place like earth where you solve your own problems, there’s lots of fun stuff to do, but consequences and pain and random shit happening, like a flat tire the day of your important job interview.

          Life seems to be good enough for most people to continue living, so an afterlife like that should not be so hell… except that life isn’t really good enough, people seem to think life is pretty much hell so much that they can’t cope in it without knowing there is a god and a heaven to get to after living. A perfect god wouldn’t be a tyrannical asshole who won’t show up unless you delude yourself into thinking he did, and then begging him to forgive you for being yourself, when you’re not even shitty.

          If you simply can’t believe the mountains of bullshit created by humans about god, and god doesn’t correct anyone himself, why would he hold that against you? His not existing has caused a lot of problems, not only wars between the religious over who is better, but it leaves a giant vacancy of information that people fill with their imaginations of who god really is and what he really wants. Why should I believe Luke? Or Karl or JBSchmidt? Who the fuck are they to think they have any more valid information about god than god would? Why would a perfect god let so many idiots define him and argue about this, leaving it impossible to decide which one is correct, or recognize what’s obviously a compelling myth to gullible people? If there were a god, his existence at all would not be up for discussion. There is no reason for silence, there is no really good reason to play games about it. Luke’s entire idea of god is that maybe god’s silence is trying to effect a certain behavior in order to be able to appear to a select chosen few who “get it”, and leaves it up to humans to try to convince one another to change this behavior in any lasting popular and meaningful way so it starts a trend that suddenly pleases god so that he will give us the candy.

          I will not dispute that the bible teaches certain behaviors that are certainly more mentally healthy than others, for all the wrong reasons. Patience and generosity and all that good stuff is way better than bitterness and jealousy and all that poisonous stuff on our psyches. That doesn’t mean god gives the favors out when people behave accordingly. It just means other people (generally) respond more favorably when we behave in a socially beneficial way. Yes, if we could create a movement of generating the good behaviors, as a society, we would probably be better off. Luke is not totally fucking high. But it’s a big if. Religion attempts to create small social movements, when it’s at its best, to make a better more healthy society, and Luke recognizes religious movements that don’t give a shit, but the wrong reasons is important here. Believing in god will always get in the way, will always create superstitious behaviors, and people pretending to be good just to get the advantages. Human nature doesn’t seem to allow a total alignment of behaviors that bring out the best in all of us, but religion has ways of encouraging better behaviors for better relationships, and then they fuck it up with stodgy old rules. For example:

          Not that I want to bring up abortion again in the wrong thread, but they have to get a grip. Yes, it is true that abstinence would be a fantastic solution if people weren’t overtaken by their hormones, especially younger people who just got introduced to them. Talking about sex while they’re younger would get them prepared in a way that never talking about it or they might “get ideas” only helps them feel shame and lust. Not being disturbed when they follow through would also help a lot. We don’t live in a world anymore where pregnancy has to be the eventuality of sexual relationships. As I’ve said before, marriage is a form of birth control, and traditionally, women were treated as chattel, married off shortly after puberty kicked in, and bore as many children as she had to before one of them killed her.

          Religious people oppose sex before marriage for one single reason at base – paternity. If you are a man, and you’re not married to a woman you have sex with, you can deny that child because she’s not your wife, and you can’t depend on her to not have had serial affairs with dozens of men in the same time frame, because she was not married to you either and she willingly had sex with you. If you’re a woman, no man will want to buy you from your father if you’re not pure. All men want to know if they marry someone, that all her children are theirs. That’s also going to allow boys to be boys and men can have extramarital affairs, and women cannot. Christians don’t seem too upset about controlling men’s behaviors as they do women’s. What is she going to do about it, leave? Scandal of divorce? She has no independent means. Of course this is “best for society” because it has a lot of order to it. Abusive, authoritative, and orderly, just the way god seems to like it.

          But we did work around it and it’s not terrible. Treating women like people, coming up with birth control options, sexual freedom, marrying later when you really want to and not because your dad says you have to, paternity tests. This upsets the Christian (and other theists) order, but it is not sin and damage to society. It damages Christian expectations of a rigid society according to what they think will please god. If everyone does the same way, it works like a machine, but are the people fulfilled. No, they suffer! They wait for heaven which has to be worth all this fuss.

          So in the enforcement, or resentment, I would call it, accepting different methods of getting along and doing what we do as humans, expanding our tolerance of personal preferences of things that don’t ultimately matter to anyone, should be the ideal. If you like a turkey sandwich and someone else like tuna, do you get mad? If you are a man married to a woman who were all virgins when you married, what about a marriage between two gay men delegitimizes it? God doesn’t bless your marriage or any marriage. God doesn’t bless married heterosexual sex over any other kind of consensual sex, god doesn’t punish people with “consequences” of pregnancy they are forced to carry through, or communicable diseases. Sex is an animal urge, yet humans are rational beings, and the balance is that mostly we don’t want babies, because we have foresight. We have access to information about how much that costs in time and money. Apparently not enough, but we should work on that. I mean this has to be one reason people stop at 2 or 3 more often than keep going until they have 19.

          I guess that is far away from the original topic, but as much as I think religion could be a way to simply organize people by an ideal way to live for personal and social prosperity and happiness, religion also lives in fear of being outmoded (which is fine by me). If there are other ways to do the same things we do, it becomes somewhat difficult to sell people on your favorite way, other than vilifying other ways and calling that devil, saying that’s how the devil gets control of your soul and imperils your status with god.

        • Christians tell me that God is perfect. I’m taking them at their word.

          But are you taking them at their word, or are you putting your own meaning of ‘perfect’ into their sentences when you interpret them? Word do refer to things, and you don’t get to just randomly reassign the reference. That’s called “memory corruption” in software.

          Get the Christians to stop calling God perfect and I’ll stop using that as a yardstick to measure his (shitty) actions by.

          Why should how other Christians describe God matter overmuch in our own conversations, when I differ my position from theirs? Also, apply Sturgeon’s law more impartially.

          Seriously? God clearly and unambiguously making his single plan clear to all who have five minutes to read it is mind rape?

          I thought the matter was unambiguous communication from God at all times, not just some single five-minute period. I’m pretty sure when Adam and Eve first heard God say that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil meant death, they understood him clearly. But they then decided to say: “Fuck what God said, we can interpret him however we’d like so that we can get what we want, when we want, how we want.” Are you saying that at that point, God should use his backdoor to reprogram the malfunctioning devices?

          Suppose however, that instead you just mean a point-in-time unambiguous communiqué. Well, we can say that was tried with Noah and his family, after the flood. God had wiped out all the evil people who misinterpreted him, and restarted with Noah and family. What happened? No appreciable change after humanity reached equilibrium again. I don’t get a rat’s ass about historicity for this paragraph: instead, the claim about human nature here is that a point-in-time unambiguous communiqué wouldn’t work. Agree, or disagree?

          I’m also curious about what benefit would be achieved by God somehow forcing the slaveowners of the American South to believe that “slavery is wrong”. You don’t really believe that they would have automagically released their slaves, do you? Surely you don’t believe that the human will is purely a function of what propositions [s]he believes?

          Your position is so bizarre that I’ll simply have to say, “No, it’s not” and leave it at that.

          I’m pretty sure most people I ask would highly object to God having a backdoor into their minds where he can just fuck with them however he pleases. This is an empirical matter; shall we run an experiment? You can still use whatever label you want (e.g. “bizarre”), but there could be increasing reason to subject that label is a purely subjective affair, perhaps unique to your current social milieu.

          All I’m asking for is that God make his existence that clear. And somehow that’s an unreasonable request?

          I am highly skeptical of the idea that God physically appearing to you that way would make you a better person. (Same goes for me.) Remember: isought. The mere fact of God appearing—if you’d even acknowledge him as God instead of hallucination of some sort—wouldn’t lead to any necessary changes in your character, in your will, in your desires.

          If God has a message, he can present it clearly.

          Nice dogmatic belief. You’re basically saying that there is no reason for God to let you be so disoriented in the knowledge/​wisdom domains that you cannot understand him clearly. (I also think I am extremely disoriented in these domains; indeed I think pretty much all of the West is thusly disoriented.) I just have no reason to think that is true. You seem to believe more things based on zero evidence than I.

          I’m talking about going to the copies in the original language, reading it once, and coming to the exact same understanding as the person behind you in line to read the same thing.

          The only place I know that actually happens is with formal languages, including but not restricted to Turing machines. There are significant reasons to think that a great deal of human cognition is not symbolic in a way suitable to formal systems.

          Once you have to deal with natural languages instead of formal languages, you’re left with plenty of agreement on “middle-sized dry goods”, but increasing disagreement outside of that. If your text is “Howard street is closed from 8pm – 6am”, then yes, people can unambiguously interpret that. But the kind of moral and ethical things you find God desperately try to teach people about in the Bible are very, very far from this category. And so your “line” metaphor seems utterly misplaced. Or do you think that everyone would unambiguously understand “Be nice to other people.”?

          No, I want to avoid charging A&E with a moral crime when they didn’t understand morality yet.

          I don’t believe they had to eat of the tree in order to understand that it’s a dick move to pretend someone meant something other than what they obviously did.

          LB: if you really believe that reality would be better if no statements by humans could be misinterpreted

          BS: Not the point. I’m simply making the reasonable request that a perfect being communicate his thoughts perfectly. Too much to ask?

          I don’t care if it’s not your point. You said “I was waiting for you to fill in this exciting alternative.”, and I took you at your word. Was I mistaken?

          I maintain that unless you have a way of empirically testing your dogmatic beliefs, you have absolutely no way of knowing whether they are true or not. I’ve presented a way to test your dogmatic belief that God unambiguously communicating to us would be, on average, a good thing. See if it’s on average a good thing when you try it with humans. If you are unable or unwilling to explore empirical matters like this, then I’ll have to drop the subject, as I don’t want to merely play around in your lala land.

        • Kodie

          God’s perfection is assumed without comparison to any definition by circular reasoning, and then excused for not being perfect by shitty arguments like you persist in making. Why should anyone believe in god, that’s the question? Surely if you are willing to compromise any reasonable definition of perfect for whatever weak substitute you’re given, you’ll accept any condition of heaven that god defines as eternal perfection for his finest saved humans. You’re trapped in a cycle of abuse with an imaginary person.

        • Michael Neville

          I’m pretty sure most people I ask would highly object to God having a backdoor into their minds where he can just fuck with them however he pleases.

          According to the propaganda your god has no trouble fucking with peoples’ minds. In Ex 9:12 Yahweh bragged to Moses that he “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” so Yahweh could go on a killing rampage. That’s the other thing Yahweh likes to do besides fucking with people, he likes to kill people just because he can. Your sadistic bully of a god is not a nice guy so why should a little mind-fucking bother him?

          But I forgot, you have your own personal idiosyncratic Christianity where your god doesn’t match the mainstream god most Christians believe in. I’m sure you’ll give me a link to quotes from Haile Selassie or Wild Bill Hickok which have nothing to do with anything under discussion here in a vain attempt to “prove” your meaningless point.

        • No–Luke said that you couldn’t talk about those now because counterexamples would muddy the water and injure his argument.

          Aside: one of my favorite Bible passages (I’m thinking of needlepointing it and then framing it for my wall) is when he laughs about how he gave the Israelites deliberately shitty laws (like demands that they sacrifice their firstborn) just to mess with them (Ezekiel 20:25–6).

        • Michael Neville

          Of course, we can’t have an adult discussion when the designated adult makes the rules to ensure he wins the argument.

        • MNb

          Yeah, Lukieboy wants you to “charitably understand the other” without doing it himself. I suppose that’s what you get when you rely too much on logic and too little on pesky evidence. The importance of evidence only began to dawn in the 16th Century with Tycho Brahe; christian apologetics is much, much older and has originally taken over the Greek rational approach. It’s my hypothesis that apologetics never got rid of that typical Greek mistake: thinking you can arrive at reliable conclusions by means of logic alone. Just like Greek philosophers they take a very few observations and construct a huge building on it – a piramide upside down (thanks, Bertrand Russell).
          Lukieboy is a fine example – and immediately starts whining (about charitable understanding and such) when we don’t immediately faint in awe for his impressive constructs.

        • typical Greek mistake: thinking you can arrive at reliable conclusions by means of logic alone.

          I’ve heard that they debated how many teeth a horse has … instead of walking over to the paddock to see.

        • No–Luke said that you couldn’t talk about those now because counterexamples would muddy the water and injure his argument.

          False. I didn’t want to deal with those in the current of that argument, and you kindly obliged. It’s just too hard to talk about things if you object to everything you can at every possible point. I was happy to address @michaelneville:disqus’s comment. C’mon Bob, why the continued hostility?

          Aside: one of my favorite Bible passages (I’m thinking of needlepointing it and then framing it for my wall) is when God laughs about how he gave the Israelites deliberately shitty laws (like demands that they sacrifice their firstborn) just to mess with them (Ezekiel 20:25–6).

          Yeah, I was wondering why you didn’t bring up Ezek 20:18–26 in your response. I guess you weren’t trying to be thorough. A thorough blog post on the matter could be interesting, though. There is also the deceptive spirit God sends and whether it was Ha-Satan or YHWH who told David to take his census.

        • Yes, I anticipated the Pharaoh objection. Two things to note:

          (1) The number of instances where God does this kind of thing is remarkably low. Can you think of a single other? The point is that this is in no way a dominant mode of operating, even with an incredibly stubborn Israel.

          (2) Here, God is not introducing propositional content into Pharaoh’s mind. At best, Pharaoh is that frog in a pot of water with temperature slowly being increased, and God jacks it up quickly. Perhapst he hope was that Pharaoh would ultimately hop out. That even looks to be the case after the tenth plague (which eerily mirrors Pharaoh’s command to slaughter Jewish male children). Pharaoh has the option, there, of recognizing YHWH as the true God. But he says “fuck it”, reverses his oath to Israel (with no YHWH-induced hardening), and chases them to his own doom.

          It just makes no sense to think that God regularly manipulated people’s minds to get what he wanted. Why? Because the Bible read with this strategy in mind would show YHWH to be absolutely incompetent at it. Why would God plead with Israel to turn from their evil ways again and again and again, instead of just rewriting their brains appropriately? The only rational interpretation which doesn’t just make a mockery of the OT is that God was trying to rationally discourse with the Israelites, letting reality itself provide evidence when they were not willing to trust him.

          But I forgot, you have your own personal idiosyncratic Christianity where your god doesn’t match the mainstream god most Christians believe in.

          You’re welcome to find me an example Christian who believes in that “mainstream god” who is up for conversing with me. We can see whether my own understanding of Christianity is really all that different, other than being more articulate because I spend so much time thinking about it and talking to atheists who force me to avoid unnecessary, silly explanations.

          I’m sure you’ll give me a link to quotes from Haile Selassie or Wild Bill Hickok which have nothing to do with anything under discussion here in a vain attempt to “prove” your meaningless point.

          I’m sorry, did I disappoint?

        • Can you think of a single other?

          We’ve got to do your homework for you? A single instance is enough to show that God stoops to dirty tricks to get his ways. But here are some fragments of a few of my posts that have more examples:

          God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to prevent him from doing the right thing (Exodus 9:12). We see the same in the New Testament. 2 Thessalonians predicts that “the lawless one” will deceive during the end times. To people caught by the lie, “God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:11–12).
          We see something similar when Paul describes God’s frustration at the people who don’t get it. “God [gives] them over in the sinful desires of their hearts” (Romans 1:24).

          The Jewish opponents of Jesus saw his miracles. They didn’t believe, not because the evidence was poor or because they didn’t get it or because they were stubborn. No, they didn’t believe because God deliberately hardened their hearts (John 12:37–40).

          John says, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts.”

          Joshua 11:20: “For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
          “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18).

        • We’ve got to do your homework for you?

          I reject the premise that it is my homework. Without the other person doing what you just did, I see it as imposing way too much effort on yours truly, and I’m just not up for that kind of imbalanced discussion. If that means you have to do a bit of work you think I ought to do in order to talk to me and you don’t want to do it—then we can just not have those particular discussions.

          A single instance is enough to show that God stoops to dirty tricks to get his ways.

          I reject the premise that it’s automatically a “dirty trick”. I think my frog metaphor possibly has validity. It just seems to be a fact of human nature that some people will only admit an error is an error when the magnitude of the consequences is large enough. You can always complain that God oughtn’t have made people that way, but I am skeptical that you can robustly defend such a claim.

          The above, by the way, has direct bearing on the current political situation in the US. You can disenfranchise some segment of the population for some period of time, but they will ultimately rebel and it won’t necessarily be pretty. All this hand-wringing about how Trump managed to get elected is, from my Bible-influenced modeling of humans and society, pathetic. Of course something like this was going to happen! People with their eyes actually somewhat open, such as Chris Hedges or Noam Chomsky, saw this coming from a mile away. But if you have stupid-ass conceptions of human nature or of how humans in society work, then you may well get caught with your pants down, and then cry like a baby when things don’t go your way. (I have no idea if you, personally, saw Trump coming.)

          2 Thessalonians predicts that “the lawless one” will deceive during the end times. To people caught by the lie, “God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will beeslieve the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:11–12).

          This seems to be pretty much the same paradigm as hardening Pharaoh’s heart, except with more cognitive content. Now, there seem to be three general options here:

               (a) God could send people a correcting truth.
               (b) God could do nothing.
               (c) God could send people an intensifying lie.

          Do you believe that in this reality, doing (a) or (b) would always yield a superior result to (c)? My guess is that you believe that in a better reality than ours, (a) would always be superior.

          The Jewish opponents of Jesus saw his miracles. They didn’t believe, not because the evidence was poor or because they didn’t get it or because they were stubborn. No, they didn’t believe because God deliberately hardened their hearts (John 12:37–40).

          Here especially, we need to explore whether the way of speaking in Isaiah’s time and Jesus’ time is different from our own. That can be asked very simply: did Isaiah have (b) as an option? Were there human actions where the gods were not involved, either for or against? My understanding, which could be firmed up, is that the answer is a very strong “no”. The gods were never neutral; deism just wasn’t a live option, except perhaps for a few such as Lucretius. (Lucretius also came well after Isaiah, even with late estimates of the compilation of the MT and assuming that the oral tradition contributing to the MT is very new.) If you were doing good things the gods were powering that; if you were doing bad things the gods were no less engaged.

          If the above is the case, then we have to ask something like the following question: how would YHWH have worked within the above conceptual scheme? Well, first it would be important to not admit some counter-deity with exactly as much power as YHWH. That’s Manichaeism, and means that the foundation of reality is the contest of two forces. That’s probably not very good for science. It is in this light that Isaiah 45:7 can be read: an explicit repudiation of the dualist Zoroastrianism.

          But you will surely object to this reasoning, and say that God should just directly download The Truth™ (or The Plan™) into our brains, not limited in any way by the current conceptual schemes of society. All I can say is: I don’t think your alternative is realistic, and I’m not convinced that the alternate reality (with alternate human nature) required for your alternative to work would be better than our reality. You will undoubtedly dismiss this as ‘rationalizing’ and characterize what I’m doing as ‘Christian apologetics’, meaning that in about the most derogatory sense possible. This is my response:

          LB: I have zero interest in discussions which do not, however indirectly, bear on reality, on either the is or ought aspect of reality. If my understanding of God and the Bible does not help me better understand reality, or help me make reality appreciably better, then I have zero trust in its being knowably true or false.

        • Michael Neville

          The number of instances where God does this kind of thing is remarkably low. Can you think of a single other?

          One is sufficient when apologists like you claim your god never does it. I’d give a quote from Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore but likely the allusion would go right over your head, assuming you’ve even heard of Gilbert and Sullivan.

          The point is that this is in no way a dominant mode of operating, even with an incredibly stubborn Israel.

          According to the propaganda Yahweh likes Israel to be ground into the dirt, thousands of people killed (Yahweh always did like a bit of genocide now and again) and couldn’t be bothered to act subtly. “Kill ’em all, I’ll sort ’em out” is his motto.

          BTW, I did like how you gave a link which did nothing to support your argument. Keep up the mediocre work, Luke.

        • One is sufficient when apologists like you claim your god never does it.

          Where did I claim or necessarily imply “god never does it”? Indeed, what I actually said was “(Let’s not tangent to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, or I’ll have to get more detailed in a way I hope we can avoid for simplicity’s sake.)” Do you commit the very intellectual sin you accuse me of—ignoring data points which don’t fit with your interpretation?

          BTW, for a positive example, the Bible has God talking to Moses “like one man to another”. That’s not a backdoor, that’s a front door. It’s precisely the clarity @BobSeidensticker:disqus thinks should always be possible. The question, at least in my mind, is whether it would be better for that clarity to always be possible. I think that lack of clarity isn’t actually the problem we face as humans. I also think that one’s beliefs in this matter are quite important, if one wishes to have a good impact on reality. Do you disagree?

          LB: The point is that this is in no way a dominant mode of operating, even with an incredibly stubborn Israel.

          MN: According to the propaganda Yahweh likes Israel to be ground into the dirt, thousands of people killed (Yahweh always did like a bit of genocide now and again) and couldn’t be bothered to act subtly. “Kill ’em all, I’ll sort ’em out” is his motto.

          That appears to be a non sequitur, given the topic under discussion.

          BTW, I did like how you gave a link which did nothing to support your argument. Keep up the mediocre work, Luke.

          If you’re talking about the link to qasheh, I think that does support the fact that Israel was repeatedly described as stubborn in the OT. The word isn’t always translated “stubborn”, so it was more effective to link to the Hebrew. I think it is quite important that while the Israelites were repeatedly stubborn, God’s dominant mode of response was neither backdoor nor hardening of heart. If one attempts to find a unity to the OT instead of seeing it as a random assortment of writings, the question is raised: why use that strategy sometimes (it seems to me: quite rarely) instead of more often?

          P.S. I’m always ready for you to demonstrate non-mediocrity via personal example.

        • Michael Neville

          I’m always ready for you to demonstrate non-mediocrity via personal example.

          Just so you know, you motherfucking asshole, I haven’t forgotten how you called me a liar and then tried to make it my fault that you’d done so. So take your feeble attempt at an insult and shove it up your rosy-red rectum.

        • […] I haven’t forgotten how you called me a liar

          Sure, you are unable to forgive. Although I apologized for using the word “deceptive” when I did not mean to imply you are a liar, that wasn’t enough for you. Apparently, you think I deeply intended to call you a liar—despite my claims to the contrary.

          and then tried to make it my fault that you’d done so.

          You’ve made this claim a number of times; every single time I have challenged you to produce evidence for it, you have failed to do so. Indeed, I think you’ve never even tried. Perhaps this time will be different?

          LB: I’m always ready for you to demonstrate non-mediocrity via personal example.

          MN: So take your feeble attempt at an insult and shove it up your rosy-red rectum.

          You seem to forget what I just told you:

          LB: Sorry, I’m just not that practiced in tearing people down. And you know what? I don’t want to become better at it. I rather think the world has too many people who are too good at it, already.

          When I asked for non-mediocrity (or before, for good examples of “articulate writer), I was being serious, not insulting.

        • Myna

          What is the impulse behind your coming here time and time again with the same antiquated apologist argument? Please explain its relevancy to the 21st century? What did Jesus say that Krishna didn’t? What did the parables say that the Aesopica didn’t?

          Jesus didn’t develop the first polio vaccine, Jonas Salk did. Jesus didn’t develop rifampicin, dapsone, and clofazimine to cure leprosy, but he could have, right? Just wasn’t the time, eh? Not part of the plan, perhaps?

          Women fought for equal rights. African Americans fought for civil rights. A mass number of people have just voted in a man who has never read the Constitution and trolls the internet as president of the United States. What has any of this to do with Pharaohs and Caesars and tales of sons of gods?

          Tell us why you don’t live like it was 2,000 years ago, but cling to the lore of 2,000 years ago? Tell us why you want your cake and eat it, too.

        • Please explain its relevancy to the 21st century?

          Two examples: Relational sin is extremely relevent to maintaining a healthy marrage; Deut 5:22–33 and 1 Sam 8 is quite relevant to Milgram experiment § Results.

          What did Jesus say that Krishna didn’t?

          Jesus was the final unveiling of the scapegoat mechanism. See WP: René Girard § Judeo-Christian scriptures. Yes, he said stuff along these lines too (a personal favorite is Mt 20:20–28), but words are meaningless unless they are linked to action. As Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”

          Jesus didn’t develop the first polio vaccine, Jonas Salk did.

          Sure. There was no international protest to the 1999 NATO bombing of a Serbian news station, while there was endless wailing about the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting. The difference? Rationalization of violence when we are just and they are immoral/​irrational/​evil. What did Jesus do? He showed those rationalizations for what they are: facades for the will to power. But if you think the polio vaccine is more important than such things, have at it! I’m sure more power over reality is the main thing humans need right now to solve their problems. More domination of nature and man is just the ticket!

          Women fought for equal rights. African Americans fought for civil rights. A mass number of people have just voted in a man who has never read the Constitution and trolls the internet as president of the United States. What has any of this to do with Pharaohs and Caesars and tales of sons of gods?

          There’s a lot that is quite constant about human nature and humans in society. And yet, people tend to get quite deluded in how they characterize their own time. It is helpful to learn on examples which are distant.

          By the way, did your science somehow fail to predict that we were in danger of a demagogue arising to power? Did it fail to help us avoid it? Or does science just suck that badly when it comes to such important matters of day-to-day life?

          Tell us why you don’t live like it was 2,000 years ago, but cling to the lore of 2,000 years ago?

          I try not to be arrogant, I think humans actually learned a lot 2000+ years ago we continue to deny, and I believe that particular actions in spacetime (viz. Jesus’ death and resurrection) have normative import for today.

        • Myna

          It is helpful to learn on examples which are distant.

          History repeats itself, I’ll grant you that. Stories recycle. The human ego is the one constant.

          By the way, did your science somehow fail to predict that we were in danger of a demagogue arising to power?

          Have any background in political or social science? Somehow, I don’t think you do.

          I try not to be arrogant

          At first you don’t succeed. Try, try again.

          I think humans actually learned a lot 2000+ years ago we continue to deny, and I believe that particular actions in spacetime (viz. Jesus’ death and resurrection) have normative import for today.

          Humans learn a lot. 200, 000 years ago. 2, 000 years ago. 2,000 days ago. 2,000 minutes ago. And no, the tale of Jesus’ death and resurrection has no normative import for today. It never did. It’s a tale spun by antiquity. It’s no greater, no lesser than all the storied gods who ever were or ever will be. We are creatures of story, after all.

        • Have any background in political or social science? Somehow, I don’t think you do. Human arrogance failed to predict this outcome…on both sides of the fence.

          Wait a second, help me out here. Was the outcome really not predicted? Or was it just that nobody wanted to listen? I’m terribly interested in this matter. I’m not talking about the kind of fine-grained predictions one finds at WP: Philip E. Tetlock § The Good Judgment Project. I’m talking about much slower currents which take more of the form of a slowly inflating balloon such that you don’t really know when it will burst, but you can know it’s getting closer and closer to bursting.

          For the moment, I’m really not all that interested in predictions by the Right; they’re more associated with anti-intellectualism and vastly under-represented in academia (there is evidence of discrimination against the Right; see various articles at Heterodox Academy). I’m interested in how the Left got this so wrong. How did they not know there was incredible discontent among working-class whites? Don’t they claim to support the working-class?

          The thing which really interests me is whether we believed pretty little lies which made us feel better about ourselves, and whether this is why we failed so miserably in the current situation. You see, that’s a very common property of humans, a property the Bible explores in quite some detail. We just love to see ourselves as self-righteous and smart. And it’s not clear that “more science” is helping in this domain. It is as if there is another dimension to existence, one which the Bible focuses on quite a bit more than polio vaccines.

          And no, the tale of Jesus’ death and resurrection has no normative import for today.

          Yes, I could have predicted that response. I find it fascinating that you are so sure of this. I’m curious about understanding just what allows you to be so confident that reality couldn’t possibly be built that way.

          We are creatures of story, after all.

          If there are no “true myths”, then how is this not a false story, itself?

        • Myna

          I’m curious about understanding just what allows you to be so confident that reality couldn’t possibly be built that way.

          Because reality affects everyone and everything. If your chosen deity affected reality, the evidence would be clear. One could argue that pantheism holds more evidence than all the decaying texts of all man’s religions combined. One could argue, but where to find a pantheist who would? Like Buddhists, they’re disinclined to concern themselves with god arguments.

          As for your middle section commentary, the answer, again, is arrogance. Arrogance to the right. Arrogance to the left. The weasel sneaked in. Out of chaos rises…well, something.

          What political and social scientists do is predict the conditions that makes any given society ripe for prosperity or for the picking. Perhaps you’ve read Noam Chomsky? But then you have the voice of the man who lives among the people directly affected by those conditions. Michael Moore predicted the moment and tried to give warning of the imminent danger. Michael Moore, it appears, is a very observant man.

          But this is my own prediction: To engage in a discussion with you is an exercise in futility ad finem. I, myself, have some observational powers. We don’t have the same worldview and that’s where we’ll have to find common ground.

        • If your chosen deity affected reality, the evidence would be clear.

          How? Suppose, for example, that there are teleological laws of reality in addition to the scientific ones. Suppose that Jesus altered those laws. How would we know? For all we know, the laws have always been as we observe them to be. How would we be able to see that they changed? It’s not like he altered F = GmM/r^2 with his death and resurrection.

          There’s also the possibility that Jesus allowed humans to activate a different set of teleological laws if they so wish to. Or, that the old teleological laws were broken (Col 2:15), and there are either no teleological laws, or the teleological laws which disciples of Jesus enact with his cooperation. One distinct possibility, in my judgment, is that social constructionism has a deep relationship to theosis—to humans meaningfully cooperating with God (as “God’s co-workers”). But this presents a problem: how do we distinguish between humans acting alone, and humans acting in concert with God?

          Without some sort of big difference between laws of nature and laws related to psychological ordering and sociological ordering, I don’t think humans could have something meaningfully described as ‘creativity’, and I don’t think humans could meaningfully be imago Dei. But if you want to discard any robust notion of human freedom and go with e.g. Bruce Waller’s Against Moral Responsibility, be my guest. I won’t follow; I will insist on a robust conception of human agency. Yeah, I know that’s not popular in sociology (notable exception being Christian Smith, but he’s a filthy Christian—a Roman Catholic, in fact).

          As for your middle section commentary, the answer, again, is arrogance. Arrogance to the right. Arrogance to the left.

          So… maybe we need something more than just science, if we want to solve our problems?

          But this is my own prediction: To engage in a discussion with you is an exercise in futility ad finem. I, myself, have some observational powers. We don’t have the same worldview and that’s where we’ll have to find common ground.

          This certainly seems to match up with the despair one finds in Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue. What then, is the hope for democracy? Steven D. Smith suggests in The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse that the Rawlsian overlapping consensus is shrinking, and that his “fact of oppression” may start really rearing its head. Arguably, we’re well on the way, if the extra-judicial assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki and the decision on Hedges v. Obama are indicative. Are we entering a realm of increased force, where one uses power instead of rationality to maintain the social politic? When Ronald Dworkin asks Is Democracy Possible Here?, is the answer no?

          (As you read the above paragraph, remember: “Have any background in political or social science? Somehow, I don’t think you do.” I’m just faking it, so that I appear 313373.)

        • Myna

          I’m just faking it, so that I appear 313373

          Of that, I have no doubt.

        • I see. I’m gonna go with this:

          For one way of framing my contention that morality is not what it once was is just to say that to a large degree people now think, talk, and act as if emotivism were true, no matter what their avowed theoretical standpoint might be. Emotivism has become embodied in our culture. (After Virtue, 22)

              What is the key to the social content of emotivism? It is the fact that emotivism entails the obliteration of any genuine distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. (After Virtue, 23)

          I doubt you have a place for anything other than manipulative social relations. And then there is this:

          No one expects that anything called “reason” will dispel such pluralism by leading people to converge on a unified truth—certainly not about ultimate or cosmic matters such as “the nature of the universe” or “the end and the object of life.” Indeed, unity on such matters could be achieved only by state coercion: Rawls calls this the “fact of oppression.”[36] So a central function of “public reason” today is precisely to keep such matters out of public deliberation (subject to various qualifications and exceptions that Rawls conceded as his thinking developed). And citizens practice Rawlsian public reason when they refrain from invoking or acting on their “comprehensive doctrines”—that is, their deepest convictions about what is really true—and consent to work only with a scaled-down set of beliefs or methods that claim the support of an ostensible “overlapping consensus“.[Political Liberalism, 133-172, 223-227] (The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, 14–15)

          Running with the emotivist theme, logic and ‘reason’ would be tools to power, not tools for the pursuit of truth. I really hope this doesn’t describe you, but all the evidence supports the above characterizations, and I see no counterexamples.

        • Myna

          Those who say, seldom do, Mr. Breuer. And I really hope it doesn’t describe you that you have a reading comprehension problem and thus do not comprehend what I have written. We disagree and there’s an end to it. Is that not clear enough for you?

        • […] you have a reading comprehension problem and thus do not comprehend what I have written.

          Actually, I’m pretty sure that Steven D. Smith excerpt captures the following quite nicely:

          M: We don’t have the same worldview and that’s where we’ll have to find common ground.

          I could add the following:

              But that shrillness may have an additional source. For it is not only in arguments with others that we are reduced so quickly to assertion and counter-assertion; it is also in the arguments that we have within ourselves. For whenever an agent enters the forum of public debate he has already presumably, explicitly or implicitly, settled the matter in question in his own mind. Yet if we possess no unassailable criteria, no set of compelling reasons by means of which we may convince our opponents, it follows that in the process of making up our own minds we can have made no appeal to such criteria or such reasons. If I lack any good reasons to invoke against you, it must seem that I lack any good reasons. Hence it seems that underlying my own position there must be some non-rational decision to adopt that position. Corresponding to the interminability of public argument there is at least the appearance of a disquieting private arbitrariness. It is small wonder if we become defensive and therefore shrill. (After Virtue, 8)

          Or do you think both excerpts somehow have no bearing whatsoever on what you’ve said?

        • Susan

          How?

          Well, you tell us.

          Suppose, for example, that there are teleological laws of reality

          Why would anyone suppose that? Show it or you’re just asking people to play along with an “If Spiderman and Dracula squared off…” scenario.

          If there are teleological laws of reality, what are they?

          Be specific.

        • MNb

          Superfluous question. They can’t be compared with empirical evidence so the only other method remaining is faith, or if you prefer, sucking stuff out of your big fat thumb.

        • adam

          “If there are teleological laws of reality, what are they?”

          They are SECRET!

          And reserved for the delusional only…

        • Susan, I simply have zero interest in talking to you about such things as long as you refuse to either justify the following underlined bit with sufficient evidence (feel free to demonstrate what you believe is ‘sufficient’)—

          S: He is no longer a creationist but the tactics are the same.

          Demand absolute certainty from everyone else. Undermine it with cherry-picked points and never take responsibility for your own position.

          —or retract it and tell me what steps you are going to take to not end up saying the same kind of falsehood again.

        • MNb

          Claiming that you have zero interest in talking to someone about such things unless some unrelated condition is fulfilled is a typical creationist tactic. It’s also an example of not taking responsibility for your own position (regarding teleological laws).
          So that’s one piece of evidence.

        • Susan

          Susan, I simply have zero interest in talking to you about such things

          Luke, I don’t care.

          What’s important is that you are unable to address your burden.

          Also, that you can’t address limbs lost in ways other than through military aggression.

          You are an apologist and will lead people down rabbit holes forever.

          I’ve wasted enough time trying to interact with you but it’s a public discussion and I’ll pipe up when I feel like it.

        • Luke, I don’t care.

          What’s important is that you are unable to address your burden.

          Then you are a hypocrite. I will not “address my burden” to someone who refuses to “address her burden”. If you wish to construe “will not” as “unable to”, you’re welcome to do so. You seem quite willing to believe in fairy tales about people you don’t like; far be it from me to stop you.

        • Susan

          (shrug)

        • Fascinating. You really do expect me to abide by rules you have no intention of following, yourself. I guess you think you’re better than me, somehow?

        • MNb

          Fascinating – Lukieboy the mindreader is capable of psychologically analyzing someone based on one single five letter word.

        • MNb

          When someone like you calls someone else a hypocrite it’s a compliment.

        • Susan

          If you wish to construe “will not” as “unable to”, you’re welcome to do so.

          Almost 21,000 comments Luke and so far you seem unable to. If you’re just being coy and are planning to spring it on us as a Christmas surprise, then I apologize.

          Until you show you’re able to (after almost 21,000 comments), I am quite comfortable with construing “unable to”.

          If you’re able to, go ahead.

        • Find someone, who isn’t a flagrant hypocrite like you, to ask me your question. If all your friends are like you in that regard (or something sufficiently similar), too bad I guess.

        • Susan

          It wouldn’t matter who asked you, Luke and you know that.

          You are unable to do it.

          If you were able to do it, you would have done it long ago.

          Which is why you spend your energy leading people down countless rabbit holes, insisting that they play along with your fantasy instead of demonstrating that it has any bearing on reality.

          If there are “teleologucal laws”, you would have demonstrated them by now.

          You can’t. It is apparent that you can’t.

        • […] insisting that they play along with your fantasy […]

          Insisting? Folks are welcome to exit the conversation whenever they so-desire. What I think you rather mean is that folks like you want to exert complete control over the narrative, and when I refuse to participate under such terms, I get reactions such as this:

          William Davis[deleted comment]: His obsessive need to respond to every comment and control the narrative about himself were a horrible mix with this place.

          That is, the instant I push back against others controlling the narrative, all of a sudden I am the bad guy, attempting to exercise 100% of the control. I reject that narrative; I’m happy to engage in some discussion at the other’s behest, as long as the other is willing to reciprocate. @BobSeidensticker:disqus, for example, is quite willing to partake in such an exchange. You obviously are not. Sorry, I refuse to dance to your hypocritical tune.

          […] instead of demonstrating that it has any bearing on reality.

          I’m really glad you brought this up, for I recently had an interesting exchange which bears on this issue:

          LB: If your text is “Howard street is closed from 8pm – 6am”, then yes, people can unambiguously interpret that. But the kind of moral and ethical things you find God desperately try to teach people about in the Bible are very, very far from this category. And so your “line” metaphor seems utterly misplaced.

          BS: Wow—you’re really having a hard time with this thought experiment, aren’t you? You keep trying to pull us back into reality.

          It’s actually not I who have a problem with talking about reality. But you wouldn’t let a bit of empirical evidence—or lack thereof—get in the way of telling a good story, would you? You can just spew nonsense such as that I “Demand absolute certainty from everyone else.”, and when I request that you (to use your own words:) “address your burden”, you reply this way: “I don’t care.”

          If there are “teleologucal laws”, you would have demonstrated them by now.

          Had someone with at least a bit of moral and intellectual character asked for clarification, I would have provided it. That offer is still on the table. 🙂

        • Kodie

          If it would add to our understanding and help you wind down to some kind of point, why wouldn’t you, if you could? You have no right to keep bashing away at this silly nonsense if you had something better and move the discussion along. If everyone else would pardon, you are like the guy who brags about how large his shit is, and come, everyone, look! It’s so big shit that it won’t fucking flush. Ya know, standing on principle here just isn’t helpful. If you are able to answer a question, and it would help, your stubbornness about who asked you so you can spite the rest of us from learning something indicates you don’t have the capacity, you are unable to, you can’t. If any Christians had any better answers than they have, why do you all resort to the stupidest, lamest, weakest types of arguments? If any of you had it, that wouldn’t be the last argument you used, it wouldn’t be the secret hidden evidence that is just too powerful to share with just, for example, Susan, who irritated you once because she gets right to the point, unlike you. What about the rest of us hanging on while you meander and think out loud and speculate til the cows come home? Why would you, a good Christian (I rolled my eyes), keep this from us if you could share and you could win and we would finally settle the damn debate? You CANNOT.

        • Susan

          You CANNOT.

          Exactly.

        • Paul B. Lot

          Then you are a hypocrite.

          I disagree. Even if your self-image is more correct than my image of you, even if you are, in fact, willing and able to discuss difficult things in good faith: you’ve done a horrible job of executing on that potential.

          Even in this absolute-best-case-scenario-interpretation (which, for the record, I think is false), the fact remains that you are simply not an effective communicator with a large proportion of people who disagree with you.

          It wouldn’t be their fault for failing to engage with you – on this view. You seem like a troll to many, so your charge of hypocrisy-because-they-don’t-want-to-engage-with-you, fails.

        • Even in this absolute-best-case-scenario-interpretation (which, for the record, I think is false), the fact remains that you are simply not an effective communicator with a large proportion of people who disagree with you.

          Show me a more effective communicator, who shares views sufficiently similar to mine. I’m always happy to learn. But too often, when someone says “there is a better way”, that person fails to actually produce it. And so, “in this absolute-best-case-scenario-interpretation (which, for the record, I think is false)”

          Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (Matthew 23:1–4)

          —I’m left doing a lot of arduous work. Points for anyone who can figure out this adaptation without googling phrases:

          You who boast in rationality dishonor Reason by acting hypocritically. Thus it is transparently clear, “The name of Reason is blasphemed among the religious because of you.”

        • Paul B. Lot

          Show me a more effective communicator, who shares views sufficiently similar to mine.

          No. The appropriate response to having your flaws pointed out to you is not to immediately shift the burden.

          You have poisoned your own well here. You do your own clean-up, or live with the consequences. I don’t care which you choose, but getting others to do your work for you is not an option. Thanks for playing.

          I’m always happy to learn.

          Lol.

          But too often, when someone says “there is a better way”, that person fails to actually produce it…. I’m left doing a lot of arduous work.

          You’ve had the situation explained to you. You are owed nothing more.

          The fact of the matter is that you seem so very much like a bad-faith-actor that, even if you were not, we would be justified in treating you as-such.

          Given that fact, your calling people hypocrites comes loaded with very little weight indeed.

        • LB: Show me a more effective communicator, who shares views sufficiently similar to mine. I’m always happy to learn. But too often, when someone says “there is a better way”, that person fails to actually produce it.

          PBL: No. The appropriate response to having your flaws pointed out to you is not to immediately shift the burden.

          If you’re going to claim that something isn’t 12″ long, I have a right to know what 12″ long is. If you cannot actually show me what 12″ long is, it is quite rational to doubt that you have any idea of what you’re talking about, aside from some vague “I don’t like it”.

        • adam

          “If you’re going to claim that something isn’t 12″ long,”

          And if you are going to claim “God”
          Demonstrate that “God” is not IMAGINARY

          it is quite rational to doubt that you have any idea of what you’re talking about,

        • 12″ long? This conversation hasn’t degraded that much, has it?

        • adam

          Hey, you should see the size of my hands…

        • MR

          Sigh. I see the Luke Breuer Show is back. Didn’t he get banned?

        • Michael Neville

          I believe that last time Luke brought his dog and pony show to Cross Examined he left voluntarily.

        • MR

          Seems like it was under threat of banning. Started his dance with Bob, iirc. No substance, game playing and drama queen. Even Bob has limits.

        • I do not ever recall @BobSeidensticker:disqus threatening to ban me. Recall that he has a policy of letting “a thousand flowers bloom”—including you!

        • MR

          Even Bob’s patience can wear thin with the likes of you. I’ve seen him do it.

        • I’d be curious about actual examples (with links so I could examine the context). You seem to think I’m quite like other folks whom Bob has banned; I’d be interested in making the comparison myself. You wouldn’t happen to have a ban-list handy replete with links to offending comments?

        • MR
        • Did you mean to link to http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/—that is, to no particular comment or blog post?

        • MR

          That would be correct. I’m sure if you’re truly interested, you can find what you need by reviewing the site.

        • Well, I have been meaning to write some scripts to scrape Disqus comments so I can more easily search them. It would also be nice to be able to instantly pull previous things folks have said. I wonder how often “ban”, “banned”, etc. are used. My guess is that without technological aid, finding enough examples of bans could take hours of work. But you probably knew that.

        • Ignorant Amos

          This is priceless stuff.

        • Kodie

          The words ‘ban’ or ‘banned’ almost never come up in the context of Bob banning someone. If you search on those terms, you will get a mountain of results of your good buddies talking about when you were banned or why you were banned from some other blog, because you are obsessed; secondly from their sudden bannings from SN. But anyway, if it occupies you for a time when you’re not posting your tedious nonsense for a few weeks, go for it.

        • MNb

          “Suppose, for example, that there are teleological laws of reality in addition to the scientific ones.”
          Excellent idea, presupposing what you want to argue for. That saves everybody the effort to read your comment any further.
          The problem of course is that you just admitted there can’t be evidence for such supposed teleological laws with

          “How would the evidence with clear”
          and refuse to point out what other way there is to research them. Hence, since we understand since Descartes and should have understood since Euclides we just can dismiss your presupposition as “made up”, also called “Lukieboy sucked them out of this thumb”.

          “There’s also the possibility ….”
          that unobservable fairies tend the flowers in my backyard with the specific intention – following unspecified and unresearchable teleological laws – to make the flowers in my backyard blossom more beautifully. One makes as much sense as the other.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And if yer arse hole was square instead of round, ya could shite coal bricks and it would close with a bang.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

          Written by a geezer prone self proclaimed to hallucinations and who witnessed non of it, nor claimed to either.

          In other news, Harry Potter rallies to overcome the dark lord Voldemort, Sherlock Holmes is resurrected after dying in a plunge at Reichenbach Falls, Mohammad rides a flying horse around the Levant and Joseph Smith gets divine golden tablets off an angel….oh, and don’t forget the Space Ponies.

        • Paul B. Lot

          I’m interested in how the Left got this so wrong. How did they not know there was incredible discontent among working-class whites? Don’t they claim to support the working-class?

          In talking about “the Left” as a monolithic block that “got this so wrong” you reveal yourself to be unserious.

          Many on the left did know and talk about these things. Many on the left took the threat of a Trump election very seriously indeed.

          Swing and a miss.

        • adam
        • adam
        • adam
        • Ignorant Amos

          Do you commit the very intellectual sin you accuse me of—ignoring data points which don’t fit with your interpretation?

          Or rely on just a single data point that does fit with one’s interpretation….hmmmm?

        • Paul B. Lot

          The question, at least in my mind, is whether it would be better for that clarity to always be possible. I think that lack of clarity isn’t actually the problem we face as humans.

          And here is the heart of the masochistic, submissive, anti-intellectual mind – the mind that loves the “law and order” of fascism.

          No, I’ll take the Enlightenment idea that the seed of nobility is intrinsic in all humans, that we can come together to find the good life through reason and discussion, rather than having moral prescriptions handed down to us from on on high.

          If god has things to say to me, let him descend from heaven and talk to me “like one man to another”. If it was good enough for Moses, it’s good enough for me.

          I don’t bite. (Unless asked.)

        • Paul B. Lot

          The number of instances where God does this kind of thing is remarkably low.

          I would say that anything above zero was “remarkably high”, as far as “mind-rapes” from a “perfect all knowing and loving deity” go.

          (2) Here, God is not introducing propositional content into Pharaoh’s mind. At best, Pharaoh is that frog in a pot of water with temperature slowly being increased, and God jacks it up quickly. Perhaps the hope was that Pharaoh would ultimately hop out.

          a) There is no “hope” for a deity who exists outside of time.
          b) The bible explicitly states that “god” influenced pharaoh’s mind. End of story. You have to make your moral sense out of that fictional story as best you can, going back and trying to alter the story to suit your own take on morality is not an option.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It just makes no sense to think that God regularly manipulated people’s minds to get what he wanted.

          Why would YahwehJesus even need to do it irregularly?

          Why would God plead with Israel to turn from their evil ways again and again and again, instead of just rewriting their brains appropriately?

          Or visiting some catastrophe on them that almost wipes them all out? Even the most expert to inept designer or tradesman quite often redo’s until they get it right. One would think a perfection would’ve got it sorted by now. It’s almost like the book is a high brow book of fables.

          The only rational interpretation which doesn’t just make a mockery of the OT is that God was trying to rationally discourse with the Israelites, letting reality itself provide evidence when they were not willing to trust him.

          To you it might be. And back at the time of writing I could believe it to be a rational interpretation and written as such for the purpose of explaining all the unexplainable everything that was going on around that group. But it doesn’t fly in this day and age, so all that’s left is the interpretation that makes a mockery of the OT and the vile central character who is a major clusterfuck given its alleged attributes and abilities.

        • But are you taking them at their word, or are you putting your own meaning of ‘perfect’ into their sentences when you interpret them?

          An interesting point. After all, “perfect” is just so darn ambiguous.

          Why should how other Christians describe God matter overmuch in our own conversations, when I differ my position from theirs?

          I’m doing my best to respond to Christians’ position rather than making a straw man. That’s just how I roll.

          If you have different definitions, make the difference clear and I’ll do my best to adapt.

          I thought the matter was unambiguous communication from God at all times, not just some single five-minute period.

          How much more time does God need to explain the plan?

          I’m pretty sure when Adam and Eve first heard God say that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil meant death, they understood him clearly.

          Let me try again: Adam and Eve had no moral knowledge. You can’t charge them with a violating a moral law.

          Suppose however, that instead you just mean a point-in-time unambiguous communiqué. Well, we can say that was tried with Noah and his family, after the flood.

          Who’s talking about Noah? I’m talking about me. There is no unambiguous holy book, but there should be if God exists.

          the claim about human nature here is that a point-in-time unambiguous communiqué wouldn’t work. Agree, or disagree?

          No idea what you’re trying to say. God can’t get his message out clearly to Noah and family? That’s nice. That’s also not what I’m talking about.

          I’m also curious about what benefit would be achieved by God somehow forcing the slaveowners of the American South to believe that “slavery is wrong”.

          A god for whom morality is super important having the option of clearly communicating his hatred of an institution—should he do it or not?

          Yeah, I see your point. A perfectly moral God could clearly go either way on that one.

          You don’t really believe that they would have automagically released their slaves, do you?

          Call me old fashioned, but I’d think that getting your message out clearly would be step 1. As it is, the Bible clearly says that slavery is okay. If that’s wrong, (1) God’s an idiot for not communicating that in the OT in the first place, and (2) God in 1820 would be beside himself to get the clear message out. (Spoiler: didn’t happen. It’s almost like the guy doesn’t exist.)

          I’m pretty sure most people I ask would highly object to God having a backdoor into their minds where he can just fuck with them however he pleases.

          OK, then stop bringing it up. You’re the only one who seems fascinated by this option.

          I am highly skeptical of the idea that God physically appearing to you that way would make you a better person.

          New on this planet? I’ll explain how the Christians here think. They think that you must (1) believe God exists and (2) believe Jesus/God is your savior for getting into heaven. Being a better person is nice, but that’s tangential.

          You’re basically saying that there is no reason for God to let you be so disoriented in the knowledge/wisdom domains that you cannot understand him clearly.

          Correct. If you’re saying that I might have reasoned wrongly, that’s also correct. The best I can do is evaluate the facts that I see with my God-given brain. And that’s what I’m doing.

          The only place I know that actually happens is with formal languages

          That’s nice. I’m talking about a new domain, the utterances of a perfect being. If you’re still confused about what perfect means (or what things a perfect being like God would/wouldn’t do), let me know.

          And as an aside, why is it always the atheist who has to educate the theist about the attributes of God? You’d almost think it would be the other way around.

          But the kind of moral and ethical things you find God desperately try to teach people about in the Bible are very, very far from this category.

          Wow—you’re really having a hard time with this thought experiment, aren’t you? You keep trying to pull us back into reality.

          Let me admit that I can see why this can be confusing. After all, we have no perfect God to use as an example, but we’re imagining a perfect God, like Christians are always telling us exists. This perfect God (again, just a thought experiment, so don’t fret that we see no evidence of this in real life) could do things that make our jaws drop.

          Suggestion: don’t think of God as perfect, just think of him as being a billion times smarter and more capable. I can certainly wrap my mind around that better; maybe you, too.

          Or do you think that everyone would unambiguously understand “Be nice to other people.”?

          A billion times, remember? Think of the most eloquent poet or the author most gifted with metaphor. Now multiply by 1,000,000,000.

          I don’t believe they had to eat of the tree in order to understand that it’s a dick move to pretend someone meant something other than what they obviously did.

          Are dick moves on the table now? Explain then how God punishes everyone in the world for these week-old children with no moral sense making a single moral error—you know, the kind of error that gets you a scolding in the real world (and that’s for kids who do understand right and wrong).

        • Is it really the case that the only reason you think unambiguous communication from God should be possible (that is, self-willed errors and uncorrected errors passed down from parents & inculcated by culture should somehow be prevented, bypassed, or neutralized) is because some Christians said “God is perfect” and you spun up an idea of perfection in your head which entails said unambiguous communication? Or do you think, 100% independently of what any Christian has ever told you, that the world would be better off if God would unambiguously communicate various things? Yes, maybe Christians inspired you to think in the direction of moral perfection + omniscience + omnipotence, but it rather seems like you believe these things entirely of your own accord. Are you saying this appearance is false?

          If I’m actually right in my suspicions—even partially—I would like to know if you can empirically defend the following thesis:

          (BuaS) If the Bible had been unambiguously against Slavery, the world would be a better place than it currently is.

          It’s hard to see why you would think that it is so important that God unambiguously communicate to us, unless you think that would be a necessary and sufficient condition to make reality better than the shit-hole it can often seem to be. But if (BuaS) is actually false—and I think that empirically, it could easily be false—then your whole stance on God unambiguously communicating would seem to falter. Yes, some Christians may say this or that, but your own, personal ideas of how the world could be better are what I’m targeting, here.

          Yes, I realize you cannot directly defend (BuaS); we don’t yet have a high-fidelity way to run simulations of our history (although we may live in one). But surely there are ways it can be tested: for example, try and reduce ambiguity between human–human interactions and see if it is always unambiguously a good thing to do so. For example, is there evidence that the more clearly a person understands what the rules are, the less likely [s]he is to break them? Or is this only true to an extent?

          Wow—you’re really having a hard time with this thought experiment, aren’t you? You keep trying to pull us back into reality.

          I have zero interest in discussions which do not, however indirectly, bear on reality, on either the is or ought aspect of reality. If my understanding of God and the Bible does not help me better understand reality, or help me make reality appreciably better, then I have zero trust in its being knowably true or false.

        • Is it really the case that the only reason you think unambiguous communication from God should be possible (that is, self-willed errors and uncorrected errors passed down from parents & inculcated by culture should somehow be prevented, bypassed, or neutralized)

          Let me stop you there. I’m talking about God having a perfect, simple message that can be unambiguously communicated from God to any individual. Since this is a tough concept for you (which, if I might go off on a tangent, paints this as all human created, with you having to make the best of poor evidence), let’s simplify. If God is perfect, the autographs of the books of the New Testament should have his clear and unambiguous message in it.

          We can worry later about the very difficult time an omnipotent god would have preventing errors in copies.

          do you think, 100% independently of what any Christian has ever told you, that the world would be better off if God would unambiguously communicate various things?

          Who said that? Besides you, I mean.

          maybe Christians inspired you to think in the direction of moral perfection + omniscience + omnipotence, but it rather seems like you believe these things entirely of your own accord.

          Stop complexifying. The standard Christian claim is that God is perfect. I know it’s stupid, but don’t blame me.

          (BuaS) If the Bible had been unambiguously against Slavery, the world would be a better place than it currently is.

          Interesting tangent, but you’re still baffled by the consequences of God being perfect. One obstacle at a time.

          It’s hard to see why you would think that it is so important that God unambiguously communicate to us

          It’s not that it would be important but that it would be inevitable. Holy shit—why is this a hard concept?

          is there evidence that the more clearly a person understands what the rules are, the less likely [s]he is to break them?

          You’re kidding, right?

          As an aside, don’t you get tired being God’s bitch? You’re down here doing the hard work of polishing his image, while he’s up in heaven watching “I Love Lucy.” Or eating ice cream out of the box to salve his guilt that he’s fat. Or sobbing while watching old videos when he used to be with Asherah.

          Tell him you’re tired of cleaning up his mess. Tell him to get his ass down here and demonstrate his existence himself. Tell him to convey his message himself.

        • Michael Neville

          A perfect, omniscient, omnipotent god would know that 1 Kings 7:23 (echoed in 2 Chr 4:2) can reasonably be interpreted as pi equal to 3. This error could have been easily corrected by giving the circumference of the bowl as “about 31 and a half cubits” or something similar. That would have saved the Bible literalists much hand waving, tap dancing and “gee, lookka that, SHINY!” attempts to explain away an obvious error in their perfect Word o’ God™.

          This and many other problems with the perfect Christian god leaves me with three choices:

          1. God isn’t perfect.
          b. God doesn’t care.
          iii. God doesn’t exist.

          Personally I go with iii but I’m willing to listen to arguments for the other two choices.

        • Let me stop you there. I’m talking about God having a perfect, simple message that can be unambiguously communicated from God to any individual.

          Sure. And unless you can plausibly support that such communication would make things better than they are now, I don’t think I’m interested in discussing the matter with you. Recall this:

          LB: I have zero interest in discussions which do not, however indirectly, bear on reality, on either the is or ought aspect of reality. If my understanding of God and the Bible does not help me better understand reality, or help me make reality appreciably better, then I have zero trust in its being knowably true or false.

          See, the option [I’m willing to engage] other than the ought-dimension is the is-dimension, but you’ve complained when I tried that: “You keep trying to pull us back into reality.” I just don’t see any useful purpose being served by your current approach. Maybe I would be interested if we were talking about what is logically required for free beings to be meaningfully free when it comes to interpreting language, but you appear much more interested in showing Christianity to be dumb.

          If God is perfect, the autographs of the books of the New Testament should have his clear and unambiguous message in it.

          When you say such things, I try to imagine how the world would have to be in order for this to actually happen. Likewise, when someone says “I’d like software to do X”, I try to imagine what would be required to do X. Sometimes I find a logical contradiction in X, or the system is woefully underspecified and thus could never work without clarification and articulation. I’m sure you’ve had precisely this experience, too. But for some reason, you don’t seem to want to apply this kind of reasoning to matters of how God might design reality. Why?

          LB: Is it really the case that the only reason you think unambiguous communication from God should be possible (that is, self-willed errors and uncorrected errors passed down from parents & inculcated by culture should somehow be prevented, bypassed, or neutralized) is because some Christians said “God is perfect” and you spun up an idea of perfection in your head which entails said unambiguous communication?

          BS: We can worry later about the very difficult time an omnipotent god would have preventing errors in copies.

          I don’t think you fully understood what I was saying. Let me be more explicit. Your parents and your culture provide you with the very conditions of interpreting a text. You weren’t born with that ability. Fundamentalist Christians raise their children to read the Bible in one way; liberal Christians raise their children to read the Bible in another way. What you seem to want or expect is that God could somehow neutralize this cultural and developmental formation and conditioning. Is this correct?

          LB: do you think, 100% independently of what any Christian has ever told you, that the world would be better off if God would unambiguously communicate various things?

          BS: Who said that? Besides you, I mean.

          It seemed to be an obvious implication of your stance. Or rather, if it weren’t an obvious implication of your stance, it would mean I’ve quite misunderstood your stance. Why would you so adamantly defend your position if you didn’t not believe what you put in bold?

          Stop complexifying. The standard Christian claim is that God is perfect. I know it’s stupid, but don’t blame me.

          I have zero confidence that your notion of ‘perfect’ is anything but an absurd caricature. Kind of like creationists who simplify evolution so much that it is stupid. Einstein: “Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

          Holy shit—why is this a hard concept?

          I don’t know. Perhaps you are more willing to work at the purely symbolic level, where things are nice and pristine and simple. I, on the other hand, have a terribly hard time not bringing reality into the mix. Reality has a way of… “complexifying”.

          You’re kidding, right?

          No. I’m trying the experiment whereby I include zero snark or attempts at humor, to see if you are actually capable of what you claimed: “You want to keep it highbrow? I’m game.” Per your request, I’m trying to “be decent for a few posts”.

          As an aside, don’t you get tired being God’s bitch?

          Were I to see it that way, I clearly wouldn’t do it. My general observation is that there are a great number of simplifications about God, the Bible, and Christianity, bent to serve two purposes:

          (1) Ease the requirements on Christians, such as pretend that forgiveness doesn’t require repentance, reconciliation, and restitution. Were I to go around smashing pastors’ car windshields in just when the congregations got out, and then ask for forgiveness and try walking away, I doubt I’d get very far from very many congregations. Likewise for breaking pastors’ arms.

          (2) Simplify, distort, and caricature Christianity so it is easier to make Christians appear dumb and/or evil. This is of course aided by (1). One atheist with whom I used to frequently converse was quite straightforward on this account: “I particularly love debating theists into a corner so that the absurdity of their beliefs becomes apparent.”

          But I was not raised to do (1). And I find that the more seriously I take the Bible, the more excellence I find. An example would be relational sin, which has eliminated whole swaths of possible conflict in my marriage. Another example would be Deut 5:22–33 and 1 Sam 8, which paints a very different picture of human nature than you see held by those asked to give predictions at Milgram experiment § Results. The more and more I explore, the more I find better descriptions of how reality is, and how reality ought to be. And yet you want me to just walk away from this? That would be irrational and possibly evil.

          Tell him you’re tired of cleaning up his mess. Tell him to get his ass down here and demonstrate his existence himself. Tell him to convey his message himself.

          Sorry, but I think God wants us to grow up, not stay babies in need of a nanny. I’m reminded of this conversation:

          BS: I wonder that both you and I would help that child if we were doctors or pharmacists who had the cure.

          LB: Per The Charitable–Industrial Complex, you and I would do enough nice things to salve our consciences, but not actually solve the root problem.

          BS: If I could, I would. I guess that’s the difference between me and you. And God.

          Unlike you, I believe we humans could do fantastically more than we currently are doing. I believe that a mixture of arrogance, self-righteousness, apathy, and refusal to sacrifice one’s own comfort are the reason we are in such dire straits. I see humanity as composed of too many snivelling infants who want to be served instead of serve. (This includes plenty of the Religious Right in the US, with their “Fuck you; I’ve got mine!” attitude.)

          Perhaps unlike you, I don’t think more knowledge or clearer communication of propositional statements from God would help the situation. I just don’t think that’s our problem. We have plenty of power over reality—we can nuke it to oblivion and we can drastically change the climate. We Already Grow Enough Food For 10 Billion People — and Still Can’t End Hunger. What we lack is humility and character.

        • when someone says “I’d like software to do X”, I try to imagine what would be required to do X. Sometimes I find a logical contradiction in X, or the system is woefully underspecified and thus could never work without clarification and articulation. I’m sure you’ve had precisely this experience, too.

          When someone says, “God has X property,” I will compare it against the other constraints on God—other properties he’s supposed to have, the shit he’s said or done in the OT, and so on—to see if it makes sense. If it doesn’t, I’m judge, jury, and executioner, and the God concept fails. The buck stops here.

          If you’re saying that God could have his good reasons, sure, but that’s obviously not where the evidence points in this situation. And that’s all I have to work with. God’s hidden agenda is hidden.

          Your parents and your culture provide you with the very conditions of interpreting a text. You weren’t born with that ability.

          Why make it complicated? The mix of facts simply fail. No, there is insufficient evidence to claim that the God of the Bible exists. A simple read of the OT is enough to see that that conflicts with his claimed properties.

          It seemed to be an obvious implication of your stance.

          I’m not talking about the world being better.

          Why would you so adamantly defend your position if you didn’t not believe what you put in bold?

          Why would I be adamant if I didn’t believe that buttercups are pretty? Or that chocolate is tasty? I do indeed believe these things, but they’re simply not what we’re talking about.

          Sorry, but I think God wants us to grow up, not stay babies in need of a nanny.

          And yet your actions are identical to what they’d be if God didn’t exist. Wouldn’t the grown-up embrace this reality?

          I believe we humans could do fantastically more than we currently are doing.

          Is that true for God as well? Cuz I see him doing nothing.

          This includes plenty of the Religious Right in the US, with their “Fuck you; I’ve got mine!” attitude.

          Yes, it would be nice if everyone were more generous and considerate.

          Perhaps un like you, I don’t think more knowledge or clearer communication of propositional statements from God would help the situation. I just don’t think that’s our problem.

          No, it’s not our problem because God is invented. But forget that for now. If God did exist, his communicating his plan very simply and clearly would be very, very important to his plan. How could it not be?

        • BS: If God is perfect, the autographs of the books of the New Testament should have his clear and unambiguous message in it.

          LB: When you say such things, I try to imagine how the world would have to be in order for this to actually happen. Likewise, when someone says “I’d like software to do X”, I try to imagine what would be required to do X. Sometimes I find a logical contradiction in X, or the system is woefully underspecified and thus could never work without clarification and articulation. I’m sure you’ve had precisely this experience, too. But for some reason, you don’t seem to want to apply this kind of reasoning to matters of how God might design reality. Why?

          BS: When someone says, “God has X property,” I will compare it against the other constraints on God—other properties he’s supposed to have, the shit he’s said or done in the OT, and so on—to see if it makes sense. If it doesn’t, I’m judge, jury, and executioner, and the God concept fails. The buck stops here.

          Might I be able to get confirmation that you have experienced that phenomenon in your experience designing hardware and writing software? It’d be helpful to establish some common ground, instead of being almost purely combative all the time.

          As to ‘X property’, again I have to ask whether the concept of ‘X property’ is the same inside your head as inside the head of the theist making the claim. Surely you know that it is quite easy, in general, to take ‘X property’—whether it’s with reference to God or someone/​something else—and find a caricatured version of it to make fun of. Surely you also know that the average person doesn’t have a very good, detailed grasp of anything outside his/her immediate purview, meaning you’ll be able to easily poke holes in what [s]he presents—even if there’s actually a respectable, nearby, articulated position. I have to believe that you’ve been around the block on both these matters, but perhaps you can confirm?

          If you’re saying that God could have his good reasons, sure, but that’s obviously not where the evidence points in this situation. And that’s all I have to work with. God’s hidden agenda is hidden.

          I would agree that too much hiddenness is deeply damaging to the theist’s position. But is our blindness to it because it isn’t there to be known, or are we idol-worshipers, similar to how Francis Bacon characterized his contemporaries? I claim there is a crucial element of will to knowledge, and if we wish to deceive ourselves—as indicated by e.g. The Charitable–Industrial Complex—then that will result in blindness to some, perhaps many, aspects of reality. So, how do we tell which is which?

          LB: Is it really the case that the only reason you think unambiguous communication from God should be possible (that is, self-willed errors and uncorrected errors passed down from parents & inculcated by culture should somehow be prevented, bypassed, or neutralized) is because some Christians said “God is perfect” and you spun up an idea of perfection in your head which entails said unambiguous communication?

          BS: We can worry later about the very difficult time an omnipotent god would have preventing errors in copies.

          LB: I don’t think you fully understood what I was saying. Let me be more explicit. Your parents and your culture provide you with the very conditions of interpreting a text. You weren’t born with that ability. Fundamentalist Christians raise their children to read the Bible in one way; liberal Christians raise their children to read the Bible in another way. What you seem to want or expect is that God could somehow neutralize this cultural and developmental formation and conditioning. Is this correct?

          BS: Why make it complicated? The mix of facts simply fail. No, there is insufficient evidence to claim that the God of the Bible exists. A simple read of the OT is enough to see that that conflicts with his claimed properties.

          The ‘complication’ I’ve added (see underlining) seems to be a fundamental fact about reality. Do you disagree? If you want to say that reality could be constructed differently, I want to see reasoning for how you know that (see my bit about “I’d like software to do X”, quoted above), or at the very least, reasoning for how you know that your alternate reality would be better. For example, you could argue that I shouldn’t be able to provide a good or a bad foundation upon which the next generation can build—perhaps you think the phenomenon of “standing on the shoulders of giants” is a liability to humanity instead of an asset. (N.B. I don’t know how you’d get the ability to provide a good foundation without the possibility of providing a bad one, without voiding the meaningfulness of said providing.)

          I’m not talking about the world being better.

          Wait, haven’t your arguments necessarily entailed that if God did things differently, the result would be better? It would be quite interesting if you think that isn’t entailed. As I said:

          LB: Or rather, if it weren’t an obvious implication of your stance, it would mean I’ve quite misunderstood your stance.

          Indeed, it really does seem that you believe that the world would be better if God had communicated his plan as you think he ought to have. I find it really hard to believe that you only think that perfect communication would be better because of what [some] Christians say God is like. But if you really claim this, then we can further explore the matters in the first quote–response block of this comment.

          Why would I be adamant if I didn’t believe that buttercups are pretty? Or that chocolate is tasty? I do indeed believe these things, but they’re simply not what we’re talking about.

          Those seem like red herring. I find it very hard to believe that your idea of ‘perfection’, as it relates to God, lacks any “the world would be better if ___” dependencies/​aspects.

          And yet your actions are identical to what they’d be if God didn’t exist. Wouldn’t the grown-up embrace this reality?

          Au contraire, my actions are not identical. Because of my belief in God, I believe it will benefit me to try my best to understand your position. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of humans do not hold this belief; see for example the polarization of Americans during the recent presidential election. If I believed in gratuitous evil (as does any atheist I’ve encountered), I could easily believe that your attempts to understand reality are mostly a waste, useless to mankind, and not worth my time to sympathetically engage. It might be worth it for me to understand them just well enough to caricature them and undermine you rhetorically (not rationally).

          Is that true for God as well? Cuz I see him doing nothing.

          If you were truly open to science, you would take to heart Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness (partial tutorial), which presents us with the following scenario: if we have patterns in our perceptual neurons which do not well-match any pattern in our non-perceptual neurons, we may never become aware of said pattern in the perceptual neurons. Or to state it differently: “more evidence” is not always the answer; sometimes the instrument you use to explore reality needs adjustment or even radical rehabilitation/​enhancement. If the eyepiece to a telescope is excessively smudged, “more evidence” will accomplish nothing, and in fact will be a red herring until the smudges are removed.

          LB: Perhaps unlike you, I don’t think more knowledge or clearer communication of propositional statements from God would help the situation. I just don’t think that’s our problem. We have plenty of power over reality—we can nuke it to oblivion and we can drastically change the climate. We Already Grow Enough Food For 10 Billion People — and Still Can’t End Hunger. What we lack is humility and character.

          BS: No, it’s not our problem because God is invented. But forget that for now. If God did exist, his communicating his plan very simply and clearly would be very, very important to his plan. How could it not be?

          Clear communication being “very, very important” to God is not logically incompatible with God existing and our current situation. All one requires is something else to also be “very, very important”. For example, a critical aspect of true freedom would seem to be the ability to construct plans counter to God’s. To claim that it would always be better for someone who exercises this ability to have, as read-only firmware, knowledge of God’s plan, is the kind of claim I would want to see supported with reasoning and perhaps evidence, instead of uttered as a bare assertion.

          I’ve also presented empirical evidence that knowledge is insufficient to solve our problems: we can feed 10 billion people and yet hundreds of millions of our 7–8 billion people are malnourished. That God wishes the poor and oppressed to be treated justly is quite clearly communicated in the Bible; see for example Isaiah 58. You can parade forth as many conquest texts as you’d like, as many sexist texts as you like, and as many slavery texts as you’d like; YHWH’s interest in justice to the poor, widows, orphans, oppressed, and foreigners will still shine through like a beacon. How effective has that message been in producing righteousness and justice?

          The best way I can currently understand your stance is that you think it would be better for us to never misinterpret or misunderstand God. Such perfect communication would necessarily entail less badness in reality than we observe, now. I see this as an eminently empirical claim, and I see that claim as falsified by proxy (more perfection in knowledge does not automagically lead to better treatment of fellow humans or animals or nature). If you say that Christians necessarily state or entail this empirical claim, I’ll ask to look at the sources. If you want to advance some small sect of KJV-only folks who push such a position, find one for me to talk to or find a more orthodox position.

        • Clear communication being “very, very important” to God is not logically incompatible with God existing and our current situation. All one requires is something else to also be “very, very important”.

          If you’re saying that God could have his good reasons for being unclear, I agree. And that’s irrelevant to someone like me who’s trying to evaluate the God claim.

        • There was a lot else in that comment which gets at possible “good reasons”. Did you find it all irrelevant, or is another response coming?

        • Michael Neville

          Likewise, when someone says “I’d like software to do X”, I try to imagine what would be required to do X. Sometimes I find a logical contradiction in X, or the system is woefully underspecified and thus could never work without clarification and articulation. I’m sure you’ve had precisely this experience, too. But for some reason, you don’t seem to want to apply this kind of reasoning to matters of how God might design reality. Why?

          So you’re saying an omniscient, omnipotent god can’t provide a clear, unambiguous message to humanity because it’s too hard. That sounds like an excuse, not an explanation.

        • Nope, that’s not what I’m saying. Instead, I have two general kinds of response:

          (A) Perfect communication may be in tension with other goods, such as the very possibility of the “standing on the shoulders of giants” phenomenon I sketched.

          (B) Perfect communication, in isolation from other matters (such as goodness of will), may just not be all that good. Indeed, the limiting reagent isn’t necessarily lack of perfect communication. On top of logical argument, there is the empirical argument that lack of knowledge doesn’t seem to be a problem for humanity when it comes to matters such as The Charitable–Industrial Complex or We Already Grow Enough Food For 10 Billion People — and Still Can’t End Hunger.

          If you really believe that perfect communication, divorced from any other change, would make the world a better place, surely you have empirical evidence to demonstrate it, and can find a way to dismiss the kind of empirical evidence I have advanced?

        • Michael Neville

          Sorry* but your pompous bleating does not explain why an omniscient, omnipotent god can’t be bothered to communicate clearly and unambiguously. Reading the Bible is almost like reading the thoughts of Iron Age Middle Eastern priests more interested in power and control of others than in giving guidance to people seeking to worship a deity.

          *Okay, I’m not sorry in the least but I can make polite noises, especially when I’m dealing with someone I have little regard for.

        • Until you can generate the intellectual honesty to address the following—

          LB: If you really believe that perfect communication, divorced from any other change, would make the world a better place, surely you have empirical evidence to demonstrate it, and can find a way to dismiss the kind of empirical evidence I have advanced?

          —I don’t think I have anything else to say to you on this matter.

        • would make the world a better place,

          I’ve repeatedly told you that this isn’t what I’m talking about. Perhaps Michael N will find it more interesting. But, just a friendly tip, if he also redirects you to what he’d been talking about, don’t imagine that he’s the one changing the topic.

        • I just don’t understand how you can ponder what it would mean for God to be ‘perfect’, without that having any connection whatsoever to what would make the world a better place. Would you like to finally enlighten me on this matter?

          It is a bit humorous that each of us thinks the other holds a view which entails something he apparently doesn’t want to accept. It gets obnoxious when you get to insist that my view must entail X (without dealing with my rebuttals), while it is wrong with me to insist that your view must entail Y (pending a refutation).

        • I’ve explained it to you over and over. The enlightenment is on your side, Grasshopper. If you refuse to consider it, I can’t do much more.

          It gets obnoxious when you get to insist that my view must entail X (without dealing with my rebuttals), while it is wrong with me to insist that your view must entail Y (pending a refutation).

          No idea how this relates to our actual conversation. I’m saying that my best guess is that God would have properties X, Y, and Z. And then you say, “Yeah, but how would that make the world better?” And then GOTO 10 and start over. Pretty tedious.

        • The enlightenment is on your side, Grasshopper.

          It is? I would say that the subjectivization of aesthetics, ethics, and morality make it extremely hard to talk about God being ‘perfectly good’ or ‘perfectly moral’. After all, if those terms are 100% subjective, how on earth do I know that what you mean by the terms is what I think you mean by the terms?

          No idea how this relates to our actual conversation.

          God being ‘perfectly good’ or ‘perfectly moral’ draws on our conceptions of goodness and morality, respectively. You’re welcome to find me a Christian who, when [s]he says “God is perfect”, does not mean one of those two things.

          And then GOTO 10 and start over. Pretty tedious.

          Agreed, it is tedious when you seem to be doing that. What a surprise, each of us sees the other as doing that. Never has such a symmetry happened in the history of humankind!

        • Paul B. Lot

          It is? I would say that the subjectivization of aesthetics, ethics, and morality make it extremely hard to talk about God being ‘perfectly good’ or ‘perfectly moral’. After all, if those terms are 100% subjective, how on earth do I know that what you mean by the terms is what I think you mean by the terms?

          “Relative” != “subjective”

          Agreed, it is tedious when you seem to be doing that. What a surprise, each of us sees the other as doing that. Never has such a symmetry happened in the history of humankind!

          Ah, that special vintage of Lukean coyness, complacency, and intellectual sloth.

          A lazy, smug, asshole.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I remember the days, before he was banhammered at EN, when Luke was over there bumming and blowing about how he was far better received here and the problem was those nasty banned SN atheists at EN that were the problem, not Luke.

          Has the worm turned do ya think?

        • Paul B. Lot

          The bad apples from EN were over here too; we spoiled the CE barrel, no doubt.

        • adam

          ” I would say that the subjectivization of aesthetics, ethics, and
          morality make it extremely hard to talk about God being ‘perfectly good’
          or ‘perfectly moral’.”

          Well of course, because we already understand YOUR “God’s” morality https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/60865103a336b5d68f96eb3254e706491af8f8a5dbd80dafef9edf2beab0319d.jpg

        • God being ‘perfectly good’ or ‘perfectly moral’ draws on our conceptions of goodness and morality, respectively. You’re welcome to find me a Christian who, when [s]he says “God is perfect”, does not mean one of those two things.

          Uh huh. Not what I’ve been talking about.

          Or are you just saying, “Yeah, well fuck what you’re talking about. I want to talk about what I want to talk about.”? If so, then I’ve misunderstood. I thought you were trying to stay on topic.

          Agreed, it is tedious when you seem to be doing that.

          Correct. I’m trying to bring you back to the conversation instead of whatever shiny thing has grasped your eye at the moment. But, like I said above, if you have no desire to stay on the conversation, then that’s my bad for misunderstanding you.

          I applaud your search for symmetry, but I don’t see much here.

        • Uh huh. Not what I’ve been talking about.

          Or are you just saying, “Yeah, well fuck what you’re talking about. I want to talk about what I want to talk about.”? If so, then I’ve misunderstood. I thought you were trying to stay on topic.

          Actually, I said this:

          LB: As to ‘X property’, again I have to ask whether the concept of ‘X property’ is the same inside your head as inside the head of the theist making the claim.

          You flatly ignored it. Let’s recall that you wrote this, two weeks ago:

          BS: Christians tell me that God is perfect. I’m taking them at their word.

          I just searched for God is perfect; here’s a kid-level answer from the first ten results:

          Is God perfect?

          Here’s the answer:

          God is the only one who is perfect, without any sin or weakness.

          God is Perfectly Good
          You will never catch God doing anything wrong. Even though we often make mistakes and do wrong things (sin), God never makes mistakes. He never sins. He is holy, which means He is perfectly good and above us.

          God is Perfectly Powerful
          If you could race against God, He would always beat you. If you could give God a really hard test, He would always answer every question correctly. If you tried to trick God, you’d fail because He knows your thoughts. He is omnipotent, which means all-powerful. God is not like us. He knows everything, can do anything, and is everywhere at once. (GQKidz.org)

          Just for fun, since you said “Rather, I used my startlingly good knowledge of the definition of the word “perfect.””, let me pull up the OED definition:

          OED: perfect
          1 Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be

          So, in both the kid-level answer and the first OED dictionary definition, the concept of goodness shows up.

        • Uh, OK. You want to talk about goodness. You say that it’s my burden to show that God would be better if he spoke more clearly. And you want to spend much, much time showing that your stance is quite reasonable.

          And I’m talking about something else. Ah, well, we’re just two ships that pass in the night.

        • And I’m talking about something else.

          Clearly. But you made two claims I have shown to be problematic:

               (1) Christians use ‘perfect’ in the way you do.
               (2) The dictionary defines ‘perfect’ in the way you do.

          We could probably add a third:

               (3) The word ‘perfect’ isn’t ambiguous.

          At the very least, (3) is utterly false. (N.B. I don’t know how to make sense of the text at (3) without interpreting it as pure sarcasm.) This means we need to shift to major and minor definitions with (1)–(2). You’ve provided zero evidence that (1) is a major definition. Nor have you provided any reason to think that (2) is a major definition.

          I don’t really know what you’ve meant by ‘perfect’ all this time. It certainly doesn’t match up with any Christianese I’ve encountered. It can’t just be omnipotent and omniscient, can it? What you seem to be arguing is that God would do things differently than we see them done. I don’t know how to understand that other than you having in mind some sort of optimality condition, whereby God could better achieve his goals with unambiguous communication.

          What’s your definition of ‘perfect’ which makes no reference to goodness or morality? And what’s your evidence that a dominant way a significant number of Christians think can be captured with this definition?

        • My claim is that God as defined by Christians would’ve given us an unambiguous message. I’m not sure whether you reject that or simply demand that I prove it, but we’re not making much progress.

        • I am not confident you have well-represented the position of “Christians” in what you say. I don’t so much want you to “prove” what you say, as give me material written by said “Christians” to see if I understand them as claiming/​entailing what you do. I’ve been making this point for some time, now.

          I’d also like an accounting for the following:

          BS: Rather, I used my startlingly good knowledge of the definition of the word “perfect.”

          OED: perfect
          1 Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be

          +

          LB: God being ‘perfectly good’ or ‘perfectly moral’ draws on our conceptions of goodness and morality, respectively. You’re welcome to find me a Christian who, when [s]he says “God is perfect”, does not mean one of those two things.

          BS: Uh huh. Not what I’ve been talking about.

          Do you perhaps use a dictionary which is at significant variance with the Oxford English Dictionary?

        • adam

          ” I would say that the subjectivization of aesthetics, ethics, and
          morality make it extremely hard to talk about God being ‘perfectly good’
          or ‘perfectly moral’. ”

          No, it is having an IMAGINARY “God” that makes it impossible to talk about ‘God’ having morals at all… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/86effa5e2bc761ae95f687bf44f1632c13ebd40a54b07502d779f242a887cc3e.jpg

        • Paul B. Lot

          1) The hypothetical entity “God” is described as being conscious.
          2) Relationships between conscious entities are improved by better communication, worsened by worse communication. In the absence of any communication at all, there is no relationship.
          3) The contemporary and unambiguous evidence for this entity’s existence at all, let alone communication, is exactly nill.
          4) This entity fails to interact, as recorded in “the Bible” and/or the traditions of the various major religious sects, in a way distinguishable from the ramblings of madmen or fabulists or fiction or propaganda writers.

          Therefore, the logical conclusions are either:

          a) That the hypothetical entity “God” does not (or no longer) wish for better conscious-entity-to-conscious-entity communication, and therefore does not wish for a relationship with modern humans

          or

          b) That the hypothetical entity “God” is improperly described in #1, and is not conscious.

          or

          c) That the hypothetical entity “God” does not exist.

          I can’t for the life of me imagine a logical “d)”.

          I don’t think I have anything else to say to you on this matter.

          @michaelneville:disqus – my Xmas gift to you came early this year!

        • Michael Neville

          my Xmas gift to you came early this year!

          Thank you. I’ll have it stuffed and mounted over the fireplace so I can cherish it forever.

        • Michael Neville

          The guy who called me a liar and then claimed it was a misinterpretation on my part is hardly a source for communications perfection or intellectual honesty as far as I’m concerned.

          —I don’t think I have anything else to say to you on this matter.

          I don’t think you have anything worthwhile to say on any matter. But that’s because I think you express your confused, incoherent thoughts in a poor manner. And no, it’s not my fault you’re a lousy writer or intellectually dishonest.

        • adam

          “If you really believe that perfect communication”

          What perfect communication?
          You’ve not even demonstrated your ‘perfect’ God, who has all this problem communicating

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c4e3bbea2d1e4d81dbd3798980be2ee8b39f893fee5d1d2b81b76b5e7ba184e1.jpg

        • No further response. Conversation with you grows like cancer. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but I’m trying to focus (and don’t have the time for more).

        • Bummer. Two weeks ago, I went on a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with my Bible study group and en route, struck up a conversation on why God isn’t more clear to us Christians. It was inspired by your line of questioning, although I have discussed the matter with several atheists in years past. Here’s what a friend in a different vehicle had to say when she heard of our conversation:

          That’s a question I’ve always had.

          I’d certainly be interested in investigating the question further, if and when you’re up for it. I’m not convinced that you’re wrong, but I’m not going to roll over without you taking my objections seriously.

        • Bummer. I was hoping that you’d have something interesting to respond to in my comment above.

        • You’ll have to work on that reading comprehension. Ask Santa for a how-to book.

          (Which I fear will lead to long paragraphs where you parse the various interpretations of my last dozen comments to prove my inconsistency. Oh dear.)

        • Long paragraphs? Nah. I can simply pick out a falsified prediction:

          BS: If you don’t like me being a dick, be decent for a few posts and I should match your demeanor.

          Plus two contradictory statements:

          BS: Not so good for actually expanding on the conversation, however.

          BS: Conversation with you grows like cancer.

          Apparently whatever I do isn’t good enough for you.

        • You’re far more high maintenance than you’re worth.

          You can reply to my previous comment. If I’ve offended you by not replying to all of your very long comment so that I don’t deserve a reply, that’s fine, too.

        • I provided a summary to @michaelneville:disqus; perhaps you could go off that.

        • adam

          “There was a lot else in that comment which gets at possible “good reasons””

          All meaningless, until you demonstrate that YOUR “God” is anything but IMAGINARY

        • Michael Neville

          You can parade forth as many conquest texts as you’d like, as many sexist texts as you like, and as many slavery texts as you’d like; YHWH’s interest in justice to the poor, widows, orphans, oppressed, and foreigners will still shine through like a beacon. How effective has that message been in producing righteousness and justice?

          It hasn’t been because Christians either downplay or ignore the message. I’m sure when Creflo Dollar was demanding his $65 million airplane he wasn’t thinking about how much famine relief that money could provide. So instead of whining to atheists, why aren’t you on the evangelical blogs telling your fellow Christians to start paying attention to Yahweh/Jesus’s message?

        • I believe my skills and experience are better put to use in trying to sympathetically understand the positions of atheists such as Bob and you. I have spent thousands of hours talking to atheists, and have received some very high compliments from them due to this effort, both online and in real life. In contrast, I know virtually nothing about the prosperity gospel†, especially when it comes to the social context which sustains its legitimacy. It would take an enormous effort to sympathetically get inside the minds of people who find the prosperity gospel compelling.

          † One exception is the claim that it nucleated around Russell Conwell‘s “Acres of Diamonds” speech, given over 6152 times. From Wikipedia: “The central idea of the work is that one need not look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement, or fortune—the resources to achieve all good things are present in one’s own community.” What’s insidious is that that is partly true, and truth mixed with lies can be quite potent.

        • Michael Neville

          I have spent thousands of hours talking to atheists, and have received some very high compliments from them due to this effort, both online and in real life.

          You’ve also received jeers, insults and abuse for your efforts, which are often tedious, pompous, poorly articulated and bombastic.

        • Sturgeon’s law applies, as always.

        • Michael Neville

          Yep, 90% of what you write is crap. Most of the rest of it isn’t that good.

        • Myna

          I have spent thousands of hours talking to atheists…

          This I believe.

          and have received some very high compliments from them due to this effort, both online and in real life.

          Unless others are simply in awe of your energizer battery, I’d say prove the compliments beyond that of astonishment.

          It would take an enormous effort to sympathetically get inside the minds of people who find the prosperity gospel compelling.

          The prosperity gospel is easily understandable. People want what they see others already having, and they want an equal life. The problem is, that those who believe in the heavenly bellboy see only the results of the prosperity they envy and not the human effort that went behind it. If they have a little bit of random luck, it reinforces their belief. If they run into ill-luck, they pray harder. They’re like lottery players who budget their winnings up until the moment they lose, and then they start all over again on a new sheet of paper with the hope that springs eternal.

          Aside from this, you, yourself, offer no compelling arguments for your position as is evidenced by no one here finding any sympathetic response to them. When others who have had interactions with you on other sites refer to your essays as “Breuerisms,” one would think that would tell you something…but it’s like a rubber ball bouncing against a cement wall.

        • Greg G.

          They’re like lottery players who budget their winnings up until the moment they lose, and then they start all over again on a new sheet of paper with the hope that springs eternal.

          Yeah, somebody in Tennessee stole my jackpot.

        • Myna

          Well, it just goes to show you didn’t believe it fully enough, else god would have rolled the ball in your favor. Let this be a lesson for the next round of Lottery! May the best prayer prevail!

        • Andy_Schueler

          I have spent thousands of hours talking to atheists, and have received some very high compliments from them due to this effort, both online…

          Like for example….? And, what is roughly the proportion of those very high compliments in comparison to comments that say that you are exceptionally bad at talking to atheists?

        • MR

          Script that, Luke!

        • Paul B. Lot

          you are exceptionally bad at talking to atheists

          Uniquely?

          I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone both as sure of himself AND as inept.

          D-K personified, reified….deified?

        • Kodie

          I have seen him link to a single comments section of some other blog of a person thanking Luke for his contribution and efforts. I find him tedious and hypocritical, but you have to factor in people who might not get a lot of traffic to their blog being happy for any activity, as well as people who are not really picky for their own intellectual reasons.

          My main problem with the guy is that he refuses to respond to pertinent questions and blocks posters who ask them, so that he may concentrate on softballs he already has the sassy Christian attitude against.

        • A few atheists:

          (1) A former colleague, who used to do research at an MIT-level institution and designed hardware now flying in spacecraft, explicitly appreciated being able to discuss more about religion with me than just about any other theist he had encountered.

          (2) A tenured faculty member at an MIT-level research institution enjoyed talking to me so much, about religion and other topics, that we became best friends and he was my best man at my wedding.

          (3) A former Googler, who got in early and exited with a huge chunk of cash, with AI software running on spacecraft (when he was a PI at JPL), recently invited me to a talk he gave at the monthly meeting of an atheist group. He was much too nice when he described me as one of the smartest people he knew.

          (4) A Disqus user, who had formerly been very harsh on my rejection of (CFW ∨ DW) as the only options, later found that my stance had freed him from an oppressive determinism that had caused him to feel helpless to overcome aspects of himself.

          As to comparing quantity of (1)–(4)-type folks to those who would describe me as “exceptionally bad at talking to atheists”, that depends on a number of factors:

          (A) Do I get to apply Sturgeon’s law?

          (B) Am I being measured more by competence than style? One atheist, @disqus_koOpV6O16K:disqus, said the following over at EN: “I don’t think the clash between you and others here has much to do with who is right and who is wrong.” I’m quite happy to admit that I’m not good at giving others warm fuzzies over the internet.

          (C) Do I get to exclude the groupthink/​tribal phenomenon which is prevalent at US middle schools, whereby uncool kids who say sensible things can be characterized as stupid and ridiculed by the cool kids? For example, when I advanced an idea from (2) to a predominantly atheist site some years ago, I got ridiculed. When I advanced it at Secular Outpost, @jlowder:disqus said “Fascinating comment”.

          (D) Do I get to exclude people who fail to show me a better way to interact?

          If you disallow discrimination based on (A)–(C), clearly more atheists on the internet describe me as “exceptionally bad at talking to atheists” as compared to those who express appreciation. If you allow me to discriminate based on (A)–(C), it may be a toss-up. If you allow me to add (D), then the answer is probably “fewer”.

        • Andy_Schueler

          Is the quantity of those who gave you “very high compliments [] due to this effort” online larger than one?

        • Yep. But I didn’t realize that I might have to start keeping track of such things until recently. I mean, how sad is it that instead of just showing me examples of how to better talk to atheists, we have to have a conversation like you and I are having, now?

        • Ignorant Amos
        • adam

          “I believe my skills and experience are better put to use in trying to
          sympathetically understand the positions of atheists such as Bob and
          you. ”

          Actually your ‘skills’ are better put to use making mud pies in your back yard.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/46bdac61c5745ebc4082c344822e63894e85f90de0a86f686b47d20cba19d774.gif

        • Kodie

          You seem to intend some kind of agenda with your “skills and experience”, fed by a single positive comment on another blog. Your bullshit is not put to any good use. You should actually cool this shit out and write it to yourself in your diary. No one here finds your observations and opinions worth shit.

        • adam

          “I believe my skills and experience are better put to use in trying to
          sympathetically understand the positions of atheists such as Bob and
          you.”

          So just WHEN are you going to start to do this?
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d6bca93ae7c80d595c91fdafdb2bf026527bd663a5a400261e534679da52b2ef.jpg

        • I found that bit hilarious, too. “YHWH’s interest in justice to the poor, widows, orphans, oppressed, and foreigners will still shine through like a beacon.”

          Uh, yeah. Just like a beacon. Forget all that genocide and slavery stuff.

          That reminds me of a wise observation by commenter Greg G.: “You can make a soufflé with the finest truffles, but if it has just one cockroach in it, it is a cockroach soufflé. Similarly, if just one verse in the Bible supports slavery, then the Bible supports slavery.”

        • Michael Neville

          A teaspoon of wine in a barrel of sewage gives sewage. A teaspoon of sewage in a barrel of wine gives sewage. –Anon

        • Paul B. Lot

          Uh, yeah. Just like a beacon. Forget all that genocide and slavery stuff.

          TBF, his loving message DOES shine through like a beacon….to the brainwashed cultitsts.

          If you just open your heart and choose to believe, @BobSeidensticker:disqus , then the Lord will show you the Way.

        • Yep, my bad. It’s not lack of evidence but my own dark heart. Which God made.

        • Greg G.

          Did you ever wonder what they do with the worms when they make applesauce? Some Christians question whether slavery is a bad thing. To them, the Bible is just like protein-enriched applesauce.

        • Paul B. Lot

          And yet your actions are identical to what they’d be if God didn’t exist.

          Au contraire, my actions are not identical. Because of my belief in God

          Your actions are identical to what they’d be if both a) God didn’t exist AND b) you were brainwashed to think that a) were false.

          If you were truly open to science, you would

          You display an acute lack of self-awareness. 🙂

          Uttering nonsense like this, while be so often and so deeply mistaken, so utterly devoid of credibility….sigh.

          And you seem to wonder why no one here takes you as seriously as you desperately want to be taken. A shame.

        • You get an A for vitriol. Not so good for actually expanding on the conversation, however.

          Dang. Another opportunity for expanding the conversation turned into snark.

          Oh, it’s my fault. Got it. Things are falling into place now.

          That would be much easier to take if your comment weren’t laced with bile. Perhaps that’s food for thought.

          So, I thought the general style here was quite a lot of snark and vitriol. Is that privilege only actually permitted to the atheists, here? I think you would find that most Christians who visit your site would see, on average, much worse than my comment, by you and other atheists. Do you disagree?

          As to expanding the conversation, hopefully my previous reply suffices. But the idea that I’ve not attempted to expand the conversation numerous times in the past—which seems to be implied by this comment—is quite false. It rather seems that I haven’t expanded the conversation in precisely the way you personally desired. But surely any voluntary conversation between us needs to be in a way we both desire?

          As to the idea that I’m blaming it all on you: that’s just false. I know I have problems aplenty. I’ve been told that my whole life. Simultaneously, those criticizing me have come off approximately 100% [self-]righteous. What is so often missing is the idea that both parties could perhaps change so that they could more charitably interpret each other. But it’s just not clear to me that you have any solid desire to more charitably interpret what I write. For example:

          LB: Sometimes you do better, but generally, you do precisely the thing that is cratering the US as a democracy. Vilify the other, make the other seem dumb, refuse to charitably understand the other.

          BS: When people are radically adapting their lives to please a god that doesn’t exist, what should I do? I agree with you that it’s not especially effective. Give me something better.

          LB: Read The Lost Art of Listening.

          BS: Oh, it’s my fault. Got it. Things are falling into place now.

          An alternative interpretation to yours is that it’s our fault, and we need to improve in civic virtue if our democracy is to survive. Are you willing to switch from the false binary of:

               (1) they need to change
               (2) I need to change

          to:

               (3) we need to change

          ?

        • Michael Neville

          So, I thought the general style here was quite a lot of snark and vitriol. Is that privilege only actually permitted to the atheists, here?

          As is usual with you, there’s a bit of confusion on your part. Snark and vitriol are acceptable if they’re done competently. Unfortunately, you’re just not good at them. As Mark Twain described his wife’s swearing: “You got the words right, Livy, but you don’t know the tune.”

          But the idea that I’ve not attempted to expand the conversation numerous times in the past—which seems to be implied by this comment—is quite false. It rather seems that I haven’t expanded the conversation in precisely the way you personally desired. But surely any voluntary conversation between us needs to be in a way we both desire?

          The problem here is that you don’t expand the conversation. You drop little turds here and there and, when asked to expound on them, you continue to drop turds which may but often don’t have any connection with your previous turdlets.

          Luke, as I’ve told you before, you’re nowhere near as intelligent and knowledgeable as you think you are. Nor are you a particularly articulate writer. Being prolix and leaving links which don’t support your attempts at argument are not the signs of a good debater. Rather the contrary, in fact.

        • Snark and vitriol are acceptable if they’re done competently.

          Sorry, I’m just not that practiced in tearing people down. And you know what? I don’t want to become better at it. I rather think the world has too many people who are too good at it, already.

          The problem here is that you don’t expand the conversation.

          Then I have no idea what you mean by “expand the conversation”. Can you perhaps point me to 2–4 instances of you exemplifying “expand the conversation”? I’m not sure I want to learn from you, given my past experience, but I’m curious enough on this matter to see what you mean by “expand the conversation”—by your personal example.

          Luke, as I’ve told you before, you’re nowhere near as intelligent and knowledgeable as you think you are.

          I don’t generally view myself as particularly intelligent or knowledgeable. Why would I participate on a website like this if I thought I were all that smart? Surely I would see it as beneath me?

          Nor are you a particularly articulate writer.

          I plead guilty. Sadly, I don’t see many good examples to emulate. So, I do the best I can. If it isn’t good enough for you, I suggest you use Disqus’ “block” feature. Haven’t you used it twice before to block me? I don’t see why you keep coming back for, as you put it, “little turds here and there”. Surely you have more enjoyable and valuable things to do in life than interacting with losers like me?

        • MNb

          “I don’t want to become better at it.”
          Ah. Hence the vitriol you threw at BobS just above. Like

          “It is as if you think in the same extreme, binary, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist categories as those you routinely excoriate.”
          It’s stuff like this you ignore me for and very understably so. Rather hypocrite to do it yourself, don’t you think? Especially if you don’t want to become better at it. If you’re serious about it maybe it’s an idea to take that vitriol back. You don’t even have to react to me for it; only to BobS.

        • So, I thought the general style here was quite a lot of snark and vitriol.

          You misunderstand. In the first place, everyone has their own personality. Long conversations will go on between people that I don’t have time to do anything more than skim. Maybe they’re polite and maybe they’re not.

          In the second place, talking with me is like looking in a mirror. You want to get nasty? I can follow you there. You want to keep it highbrow? I’m game. A long, hateful conversation is draining, so I avoid those, but I’ll probably follow you with whatever kind of conversation persona you adopt.

          I think you would find that most Christians who visit your site would see, on average, much worse than my comment, by you and other atheists. Do you disagree?

          Nope. I marvel sometimes at some of the generous comments by the atheists who hang out here. They seem happy (as I try to be) to leave off one hateful conversation with a hateful Christian and respond to a new commenter with generosity and kindness. That’s a good reminder to me to not let one asshole bring me down so that I pollute the next conversation.

          As to expanding the conversation, hopefully my previous reply suffices.

          Yes, I appreciated that, though I wonder why you didn’t just do that the first time.

          But the idea that I’ve not attempted to expand the conversation numerous times in the past—which seems to be implied by this comment—is quite false.

          That’s nice. You stonewall or snark in this conversation, and I’ll respond in kind. Ditto acting generously.

          What is so often missing is the idea that both parties could perhaps change so that they could more charitably interpret each other.

          My response is (roughly) tit for tat.

        • My response is (roughly) tit for tat.

          I’m glad you added the “(roughly)”, as my [probably not so exciting] alternative had no snark, while your immediate response had two very prominent bits of snark.

          Add in a bit of bias from a chip on your shoulder and the above can be true and simultaneously irrelevant. If the majority in a society are biased to be just a bit more of a dick than the other person is to them, and there are no extremely generous people to offset, that society will fare poorly. I suggest a different strategy, if your desire is to make the world a better place.

          Seriously, the United States has enough tit-for-tatters. Surely you can see that dragging down discussion by being “(roughly) tit for tat” is kind of the opposite thing our country needs right now?

        • You’ve got way more energy for this sideshow than I do.

          I’ve given you the answer you need. If you don’t like me being a dick, be decent for a few posts and I should match your demeanor.

        • Paul B. Lot

          The influkenza has returned. This time, however, more of the population has been inoculated.

          We won’t be 1918-1919’d again.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Never say never. People can get complacent, as recent events have demonstrated.

          I hope you are right of course, but 5% of the worlds population is a lot more today than it was in 1918 and with global movement such that it is, coupled with the lack of access to the flu jab for many, including me, things could get messy if the cards fall the wrong way.

          Seems to be a worry for doctors anyway.

          While there are anti-virals to combat influenza…

          “We have a vaccine and an antiviral medication for influenza, and it still causes deaths,” she said [Jackson]. “We have Americans afraid of ebola, but fewer than 50 percent of Americans take advantage of the flu vaccine, and it’s something that’s going to be here. It’s coming.”

          I think a big worry is that an influenza strain will pitch up that will be difficult to combat. Getting a jab produced and out in time to work may be a logistical impossibility.

          Complications as a side effect seem to be a big issue too.

          Influenza and pneumonia go hand-in-hand, and are more likely to kill you than any infectious disease. Flu ranks number seven on the CDC’s list of 10 top killers. More than 53,000 people died from influenza and pneumonia in 2010 according to the CDC — and that’s just in the United States.

          “The common cold is miserable, but this is beyond miserable. It’s a high fever, severe muscle aches…people remember the minute it hits them,” Jackson said. “It runs its course over seven days, and an antiviral can ratchet it down, but (the flu) is still a very severe illness with whole list of complications” — ranging from ear infections to pneumonia.

          And while the flu virus itself can be deadly, more lethal is the pneumonia that sometimes follows, she said. Most healthy people, about one-third of the population, carry the bacteria that causes pneumonia in their noses. But when an infection like the flu takes over the body, the bacteria migrates into the bloodstream and ends up in the lungs.

          http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/six-diseases-actually-worry/

        • Paul B. Lot

          I hope you are right of course, but 5% of the worlds population is a lot more today than it was in 1918

          The infLUKEenza has returned.

          :-/

          As to the serious nature and subject of your response – I agree. A massive, urbanized, globally connected population rife with poor hygiene, religiously and anti-intellectually motivated resistance to proper care and vaccination….these factors make for a dangerous mix indeed.

          (FWIW, I’m hoping that a return to basics – to examining things like copper alloys for medical devices/surfaces could be helpful. We’ll have to beat these bugs down at the microscopic level.)

        • Ignorant Amos

          Aye, I realised it wasn’t just a typo…hence my upvote and opening sentence.

          I was hinting to how inoculation not being all that it is supposed to be…I’ve found myself responding to Luke again, so even with my experience of his jazz I have succumbed to the virus again.

          Then I got all serious with the reference to the Spanish flu epidemic… sorry.

          (FWIW, I’m hoping that a return to basics – to examining things like copper alloys for medical devices/surfaces could be helpful. We’ll have to beat these bugs down at the microscopic level.)

          For sure. Anything that can be demonstrated to be effective should not be off the books imo. The biological options appear to be finite.

        • Paul B. Lot

          Aye, I realised it wasn’t just a typo…hence my upvote and opening sentence.

          Ah, shoot: I hate to ruin a good tongue-in-cheek dialogue by resorting to explicitness.

          FWIW, the viral/dangerous nature of interacting with Luke arises, it seems to me, not so much from merely trading words with him – but more from doing so [with expectations of good faith].

          If one avoids placing the burden on Luke of expecting him to be a decent, honest human being – if one simply accepts the fact that Luke cannot help himself – then I would dub that person “inoculated”.

          Then I got all serious with the reference to the Spanish flu epidemic… sorry.

          Not at all – it’s a wildly interesting subject.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimicrobial_copper-alloy_touch_surfaces

          My hope boils down to the fact that we’re starting to get a handle on the underlying information – on the software that runs microbes.

          Yes, bacteria and virus can mutate at terrifying speed and can find ways to get past some of the best defenses that nature prepared our DNA strands with over the last millions of years. They can beat single-variable defenses more quickly than I would have thought possible before watching this:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plVk4NVIUh8

          But we don’t have to rely on nature’s slow education any longer. We don’t have to change a single-variable at a time. We can read the books ourselves – the bugs cannot.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Thanks for the link and YouTube vid. Eleven days is no time at all for such adaptation to antibiotics and it has answered a personal issue.

          I’m near the end of a second 3 month course of Lymecycline capsules and while the effect 6 months ago was impressive, they are worse than useless today.

          The one good thing on the Luke front is that I’m persona non grata and he likely has me blocked so he doesn’t respond. I don’t address his comments for response, I do it for those others reading and lurking.

          We can read the books ourselves – the bugs cannot.

          But what about the Andromeda strain? }8O)~

        • Paul B. Lot

          A good book, Critchton was a great novelist, but my memory fails me: is that one where the microbes are sentient?

          Or am I thinking of Prey?

        • Ignorant Amos
        • PBL: The influkenza has returned.

          PBL:

          The infLUKEenza has returned.

          Wait, which is it:

               (a) influkenza
               (b) influkeenza

          ? This is important!

        • Ignorant Amos

          I have theological reasons for believing that you, and everyone else on this board, has a unique perspective on reality (overlapping with other unique perspectives), such that if we were to combine all those perspectives, the result would be better than silencing one or more of them. Apparently though, you don’t believe this.

          How restricted are you on this issue of unique perspectives of reality? Are all perspectives on the table? What method will you use to cull what YOU perceive as nonsense and will the rest of us be free to employ that same method? Will it be evidence or wishful thinking based?

        • MNb

          “But the entire Bible makes it clear that God allows humans to carry out quite a lot of injustice towards each other before stepping in.”
          When was the last time your god stepped in like he did in the Bible? Which method do you use to decide that it was your god stepping in indeed and not coincidence, if it’s no with the scientific method?

          “refuse to charitably understand the other.”
          Well, you refuse to even try to understand me and when you did never charitably. Perhaps it’s time to take your own advise and act accordingly?

        • Greg G.

          It’s not like people in that time didn’t understand how delegated power works, and how if you abuse the delegated power, it tends to get revoked.

          People of many religions believe in the power of prayer but recognize that it does not always work. They have rationalizations to explain the failures. It was no different at any other point in time. You did it with the excuse for why God doesn’t heal amputees.

          There is the old “you have to pray according to God’s will” excuse. If you pray what would have happened even if you didn’t pray, then your prayers will always be answered. If you pray against God’s will, your prayer is not answered. But that is exactly what would happen if there is no god.

          One doesn’t have to be a Christian to believe in prayer or pray in Jesus’ name. Christians who pray without Jesus’ name still believe their prayers are effective. Non-Christians do, too. If a prayer is not answered, it is just “not answered yet” until it is forgotten but if anything close to the prayer happens, it is “proof” that makes the believer forget about the hundreds of prayer failures. That is the power of confirmation bias. It happens to everybody for many things. It is what creates superstitions.

          A friend bought a house several years ago. She said her prayers were answered that she got the house with a great deal. Three years later, the principle payments kicked in and her roommate moved out, so she struggled with the payments and blamed the devil for getting her into that mess.

          Prayer believers do no better than their neighbors in a given society, whether their neighbor pray the same way, differently, or not at all. That shows that there is no benefit to prayer, even if the person falls for it.

        • You’ve got to be joking. I make an entirely reasonable point—

          LB: It’s not like people in that time didn’t understand how delegated power works, and how if you abuse the delegated power, it tends to get revoked.

          —and you don’t have the decency to grant it any legitimacy whatsoever? Look, I understand the general pattern of your argument—that these are all just rationalizations. I even approve of the process whereby one carefully attempts to show that all the various hedges the theist produces gradually closes the gaps through which divine power could flow. I happen to believe in something like Christian Naturalism, whereby the way God builds into reality is rational, not irrational. This provokes deep questioning into how creativity works, how bad situations can be reformed not by revolution which condemns some aspect of reality (including some humans) for destruction in the fires of hell, so that utopia may be born. But I realize that if I cannot show any place where God’s power actually shows up, my case is doomed. And yet, if you cannot even express the basic respect of granting a valid point, how can we have a productive conversation? Surely you didn’t enter this discussion assuming that you are absolutely correct?

          There is the old “you have to pray according to God’s will” excuse. If you pray what would have happened even if you didn’t pray, then your prayers will always be answered. If you pray against God’s will, your prayer is not answered. But that is exactly what would happen if there is no god.

          It’s a good thing I didn’t make that argument. I realize what I said has, in the past, been marshaled in such a direction. But have you considered the possibility that I’m not just a clone of those Christians with whom you have interacted in the past? Or do you stereotype with the best of prejudiced bigots when it suits your purposes, when it would be too uncomfortable to expand your understanding? I hope the answer is “no”, and that you had to vent some frustration at a great number of noisy Christians who do seem to espouse pretty ridiculous things. Consider it vented.

          One doesn’t have to be a Christian to believe in prayer or pray in Jesus’ name. Christians who pray without Jesus’ name still believe their prayers are effective.

          When an ambassador speaks “in the name” of her nation, does she always need to utter the name? You seem to be practicing the worst kind of unreflective, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist literalism.

          If a prayer is not answered, it is just “not answered yet” until it is forgotten but if anything close to the prayer happens, it is “proof” that makes the believer forget about the hundreds of prayer failures. That is the power of confirmation bias. It happens to everybody for many things. It is what creates superstitions.

          I object to this understanding of prayer as well. I simply don’t agree with you [apparent] implicit argument that if there is no prayer which acts like a vending machine, this is the only alternative. Now, will you stop the straw men and stereotypes for enough time to give me space to sketch out an alternative? I’m not going to try if I have a low enough estimation of your ability and willingness to listen.

        • Kodie

          You’re just making shit up. No need to go on talking about all the things you propose may be god’s intentions. It all boils down to you defending a fictional character by making shit up. Yes, you do sound like a clone of any given Christian. You sound like you are coming from the same petty and delusional and desperate place. [Anything you want to pretend may be true] is the full story you’re defending. You are trying to get an atheist to admit your story is plausible enough, to validate your delusion. Sorry, that’s never going to happen, and it’s not because of spite, but you just don’t make any valid arguments. You make wordy arguments, but they are shallow and begging the question like ALL other Christians. That’s the only way any of you can argue for the existence of god – by making shit up.

          1. Believe in god.
          2. Observe the world as it appears.
          3. Make shit up to explain god’s intentions.

          That’s all you’re doing, and all any Christian or theist does.

        • epeeist

          3. Make shit up to explain god’s intentions.

          Wasn’t this characteristic of the American elections? It certainly was of the Brexit referendum here in the UK.

          If things aren’t going your way then just make shit up. After all nobody gives a flying fuck about facts or truth. It is only nerds who care about evidence.

        • Greg G.

          What kind of power of prayer are you willing to defend? You know that people believe in prayer in ways that you know is wrong. You probably recognize that their belief is due to confirmation bias.

          How do you differentiate your belief in prayer from a product of confirmation bias?

        • The three kinds of power the US most needs right now, in my judgment are:

               (1) forgiveness
               (2) repentance
               (3) wisdom

          And no, I don’t mean the mockeries of these which the Religious Right has exemplified. I mean the deep forgiveness and repentance required for division to turn to unity. I mean the kind of wisdom which leads to goodness, beauty, and justice for all, instead of only for some.

          But how do we distinguish between human-powered (1)–(3) vs. God-enhanced (1)–(3)? One way to distinguish is to tell God to take a hike (as I think the US has done, Religious Right included) and then see how far you can get. How much must we suffer before we admit that our own resources are insufficient? Israel had to be carried off into Babylon and kept there for 70 years; maybe the US will need to have its power shattered and become subordinate, as it has subordinated so many nations.

          The other way would seem to be an understanding of just how theosis might occur: what does it mean for a limited being to be made less-limited by God building into him/her/it? We have some sense of what it means for sense-data to impinge on our sensory neurons, leading to an increase in empirical knowledge, but what on earth would it mean to increase in wisdom? The dominant mode of thinking there, today, is “getting more of what I want”—self-interest, arbitrarily enlightened. If we can get away from pretending that the source of wisdom is actually one’s desires + instrumental rationality, we might be able to see ‘wisdom’ as a complex of knowledge which needs input from outside of the human, and possibly, outside humans as a collective. Knowledge does not arise ex nihilo.

          So, suppose we made massive improvements in (1)–(3). Suppose that God still wanted us to become less and less limited, but that we were more open to admitting the precise nature of our current limitations and the precise nature of our current sinfulness. Ostensibly, we’d be much more willing to hear what God has to say. And God would also have more reasons to both teach us new things (technological, social, and moral/​ethical) and cheat during the process. By that, I mean supernaturally heal some amputees while we learn how to naturally regrow them. That is, the goal would be for us to do the task ourselves (recall: theosis), but while we’re learning, God could pick up some of the slack.

          But for now? I’m not at all sure I can give you something convincing to distinguish between God acting and human acting, when it comes to the results of prayers. I think we Westerners are in such deep denial of the revelation God has already provided us that we have to work our way out of our own arrogance, stupidity, and extraordinary sinfulness. One of the first steps away from that is to shift from the attitude of dominating others and coercing them to serve us, to seeing how we can use our gifts, talents, and resources to bless others. (No, ‘homosexuality’ is not the cause of all evil in the world. It is not, to use John MacArthur’s words, the “worst physical sin”. He and his ilk need to read and absorb Romans 2:1–24, especially the climax of vv23–24.) Isaiah 58 is quite instructive, here. I’m happy for atheists such as you to stand by the sidelines or participate secularly in this project. But if you actually believe that it’s right for the powerful to dominate the weak—I hope you don’t believe this, but if you do—I will work against you with all my might. This goes even more strongly for all ‘Christians’ with a lust for power, a lust to rule over others.

        • Kodie

          But how do we distinguish between human-powered (1)–(3) vs. God-enhanced (1)–(3)?

          You’re on crack.

        • Kodie

          You are a warped individual:

          You are putting responsibility for recruitment and engagement in war upon humans and responsibility toward the soldier recruited and engaged and damaged in war upon humans, but invoke god as an answerer of prayers who just so happens to NEVER EVER answer the prayer of restoration of amputated limbs, because that’s all our fault and all our problems, and ought god honor that one single prayer? The lie of these wars is that they’re going to fight for an ideal of a Jesus Christ America, not United States of a secular America. If god can answer a prayer, for fucks sake, why not restore an amputated limb once in a while?

          The way the world works is prayers aren’t answered by magic. There is no god. We take care of ourselves together. Anything we do to each other that can be repaired, that doesn’t get repaired is because of resources and selfishness lack of complete commitment. Anything that can’t be repaired is not, but that doesn’t mean solutions aren’t coming. Again, research, resources, etc. Humans have made restored limbs possible, albeit mechanical, but functional and pretty awesome. Restoring a limb with flesh, like these animals, would be easy for god as curing a cold, by which I mean rest and time. Why the fuck god care about flatworms and not his favorite humans?

          You keep defending an imaginary character in your thousand-years-old comic book, it’s just desperate the excuses you make, the diagrams you draw, to keep your shield of delusion from being penetrated by the obvious. Prayer doesn’t do anything because there isn’t a god. If he can do anything, he would restore limbs, and if you’re counting, “he” does restore limbs – if you’re a starfish or a lizard. Or he doesn’t do it because he doesn’t exist, and isn’t evolution amazing? Isn’t technology amazing? Let’s stop hiding from reality so we can actually aid our fellow humans with solutions instead of meaningless prayers.

        • Susan

          Let me get this straight. America sends it soldiers into Iraq…

          So, what about limbs lost from leprosy? Diabetic complications? Gangrene resulting from frostbite? Charred by lightning? Strepp? Venomous bites?

          For starters.

        • MR

          My God, the twisted justifications! Theist thinking sometimes really makes me sick.

        • MNb

          “If God answers prayer in a way which can be identified by a scientific study, then how does God avoid being reduced to a new, interesting kind of law of nature?”
          Excellent question.
          Now me.
          If your god cannot be identified by any any scientific study, what other reliable method do you have to distinguish between the product of your overheated imagination and something actually existing?

        • Greg G.

          (Yes, there will be some bleeding hearts which say that surely God would at least want to restore some amputated limbs. There are responses to such appeals.)

          Right. If it was God’s will that a given person would have two legs, they would have been born with two legs.

        • adam

          What about all the people who prayed to put Hillary IN the White House?

          And these:
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3b95d2177afcc3cae0b3fae728884e906d4bbf837fde098a544eb74a10e7594b.jpg

        • MNb

          “Do you have proof of that?”
          Is incoherence good enough proof for you? An immaterial entity receiving messages coming from material sources is an incoherent idea.

        • Kodie

          You sound like a delusional wacko. Way to represent Christianity in a way that appeals to skeptics!

        • Jack Baynes

          Obviously Donald Trump won because I left the toilet seat up after peeing on Tuesday morning.
          I’m really sorry, everyone, I don’t know how I could have forgotten something so simple.

          Or does JBSchmidt have some evidence that my toilet seat wasn’t the cause?

    • epeeist

      Does the prayer to keep Hillary out of the White House and to begin to turn our country away from the progressive agenda/culture of the left, count?

      You have evidence of a causal relationship?

    • Jack Baynes

      Does the prayer to keep Hillary out of the White House and to begin to turn our country away from the progressive agenda/culture of the left, count?

      Or the prayers that some of her supporters made to get her in to the white house. Did God grant Trump supporter’s prayers and deny Clinton’s supporters’ prayers? Or did god decide the election was below his notice? How could we know?

      “Prayer can be given to children with the confidence that it can’t be used for bad requests”

      That is a statement based on pure Biblical ignorance.

      Yes, but that doesn’t stop Christians from using that logic to defend what would otherwise be irresponsible, giving the supposed power of prayer to children.

    • Donalbain

      How would such a prayer be answered in a way that doesn’t completely destroy the notion of free will?

  • busterggi

    Without the awesome power of prayer how would believers find parking places?

    • Kodie

      They watch for someone else waiting for a parking space and then come around the other end of the row to steal it.

    • epicurus

      Or score NFL touchdowns

      • Paul D.

        Or pass tests they haven’t studied enough for.

        • The nondenominational prayer acceptable to children of all faiths is “Lord, please don’t let her call on me…”

  • Herald Newman

    One Catholic Bishop went so far as to tell me that “No one in the Church claims that prayer is automatic. If a prayer is
    unanswered, that means that what was asked for was not in accord with
    the will of God.”

    If prayers are only answered if they are the “will of God”, then prayer as absolutely useless. If God is omnipotent, he gets whatever he wants.

    • adam
      • Zeta

        … and to add insult to injury, ignore your prayers, so that you shall know that I am the Lord your God.

    • Zeta

      If a prayer is unanswered, that means that what was asked for was not in accord with the will of God.

      I am pretty sure that a lot of Jews prayed to god to protect and rescue them before they were murdered in the Holocaust, so their suffering and murders were the will of god.

      • Greg G.

        But you must pray in Jesus’ name, as in identity theft.

        • Zeta

          Maybe you are right! The Jews should have prayed to the usurper (or is he the other part of a schizophrenic deity?)

        • katiehippie

          heh

    • Jack Baynes

      I suppose it’s possible that God has his plan, but he’s left some openings where he can make changes without affecting the important parts of the plan.

      Though you still have to deal with the certainty that He would get conflicting requests. Both Amy and Jenn pray to make Mike love him. But Mike’s praying for Jake’s love….

  • Sophia Sadek

    There was a time when fundies prayed for the destruction of the Babylon of the Big Apple. After 9/11, they only prayed for mercy.

  • RichardSRussell

    “(1) Kush answers all prayers.

    (2) The most common answers are ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’, ‘it depends’, and ‘not for you, Saddam’.”

    The Sacred Book of Kush, Chapter 6

  • dluch

    i use chickens, fire & virgins in my prayer rituals – are you saying that if i’m not on my knees with hands clasped talking to Jesus, it doesn’t count?!

  • Sheila Warner

    It was actually prayer that caused me to suddenly & unexpectedly drop all my beliefs about the existence of God. I left not only Christianity, but theism. I prayed according to all the rules set out in the Gospels, for a reconciliation with a family member, which is surely what Jesus taught. When that prayer went unanswered, I remember saying “Christianity is all fake!” It was like a light finally shined on what I had been wondering about for some years. And, it was such a relief! I was finally free to chart my own destiny, free from fears surrounding a myth.

    • Otto

      It is funny what triggers us. I remember suddenly realizing “I am not a Christian” and it all melted away. Took less than a minute.

    • It takes a while sometimes, but Christianity’s nutty arguments sometimes simply stop holding up the beliefs. Good for you.

    • E.A. Blair

      That reminds me of a joke from my Catholic grade school days:

      Little Jimmy desperately wanted a new bicycle. He asked for one for Christmas, but his parents told him that they couldn’t afford one but maybe he could pray for it. So Jimmy prayed, and prayed, and prayed, but there was no bike under the tree that year. A few months later, his birthday was coming up, so he prayed as hard as he could. When his birthday arrived, no bike. So he took the family statue of the Blessed Virgin, wrapped it up in a plastic bag, stuffed it in a shoebox, sealed the box with duct tape, and shoved it as far under his bed. Then he knelt doen to pray: “Okay, Jesus, this is Jimmy. If you ever want to see your mother again, let’s talk about that bike…”

      Of course he could have taken Emo Phillips’ advice: instead of praying for a bicycle, steal one and pray for forgiveness.

  • Martin Zeichner

    Nice point. I suspect, though, that you will find that it will, mostly, erither a. be preaching to the choir or b. fall on deaf ears (to mix metaphors).

    After all, once you know the Truth(tm) there is no need to look any further. All that remains is to rationalize away the questions of skeptics. Christianity has had about fifteen hundred years to practice rationalization so they’ve gotten pretty good at it.