Slaughter of the innocents

Slaughter of the innocents November 10, 2013

Here’s another one from Julian Haydon which is of interest as it is something I brought up in my last book, The Nativity: A Critical Examination (available from the sidebar):

O BEAUTIFUL STAR OF BETHLEHEM?

IT CAUSED THE SLAUGHTER OF EVERY MALE BABY UNDER TWO IN BETHLEHEM AND VICINITY

 

Surely both, that the star appeared and the wise men knew to follow it to find the baby Jesus, was a miracle. Can there be any doubt?So why did it lead them to Jerusalem, the wrong town — and much worse — to Herod, who only became aware of His rival after the wise men inquired about the new born King of the Jews? It was then that Herod resolved to kill Jesus.

Herod told the wise men in effect, “Go to Bethlehem, find Jesus, and then return to me so I can go and worship him too.” This time the star took the wise men unerringly, not just to Bethlehem, but to the very house of Mary and Jesus! There, they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod.

Herod, furious that he was not obeyed, then decreed that every boy in Bethlehem and its immediate vicinity, age two and under, be put to death.

Why didn’t the “miracle” of the star lead the wise men to baby Jesus in the first place so there would never have been a slaughter of the innocents?

Was it God’s intention that they be slaughtered? He surely knew they would be. In fact, Christians claim it was so prophesied in scripture:

“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” (Matthew 2:17)

It is not possible that a loving, just and merciful God, who is all-powerful and knows everything that has ever happened or will ever happen, could do such a thing.

It is yet more proof-positive that the whole Christian story is a man-made farrago of impossibilities, contradictions, some good advice, much barbaric advice and the absolute nadir of evil: eternal punishment forever for most of all humanity, by a God who is very definition of justice, love, mercy and forgiveness!


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  • Clare45

    If Herod died in 4 BC, then he would not have been around to order the baby deaths.

  • Gandolf

    “Why didn’t the “miracle” of the star lead the wise men to baby Jesus in the first place so there would never have been a slaughter of the innocents? ”

    “It is not possible that a loving, just and merciful God, who is all-powerful and knows everything that has ever happened or will ever happen, could do such a thing”.

    Yeah .Much written within the bible more closely resembles, certain type attitudes, what could still even be expected today.Of modern day tyrants.

    Even to this day.Tyrant type rulers still wont see anything so wrong with killing every single child . If it suited their plans.

    In the past when i read the bible . It often reminded me so much , of attitudes of these type of people. Tyrant type people that i knew still even exist today, in some places.

    Even as a young kid . I remember feeling pretty uncomfortable, that elders within my own family often spoke of this god , as being a loving just and merciful God.

    And when they said “well we must worship this God because he is all powerful ” . I thought that’s the same type reaction ,that people living under tyrant rule.,will still display today.

  • labreuer

    It is not possible that a loving, just and merciful God, who is all-powerful and knows everything that has ever happened or will ever happen, could do such a thing.

    It is important for man to know what is in the heart of man. So your statement here seems to imply (assuming the standard omni-* God):

         (1) God would never have let the heart of man get so black.

    Or perhaps:

         (2) God would never let black hearts wreak so much havoc.

    This is, of course, reminiscent of How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do? This is a concrete opportunity to develop that idea some more. Let me posit two things I think are important:

         (3) Humans believing things rationally.
         (4) Humans wanting things… properly.

    I tried to explore this on said blog entry, but I think I was being too theoretical. Anyhow, pretty much anyone who will follow a blog like this one will assert (3). We want to have ‘sufficient evidence’ for believing things. We think that a lot of terrible stuff that has happened is due to people ignoring the evidence. But what about (4)? We have a pretty good idea of what constitutes rational belief, but do we know enough to explore (4) in a similar way?

    It is sometimes complained that evolution is a rather inefficient method for producing humans, if that were God’s goal. That’s a tremendous amount of animal agony just to get humans. I would counter: are there other ways of getting to rational beings which would be rationally understandable by said beings? Not clear! Quantum physics allows ‘quantum jumps’ which could ‘short-circuit’ the long evolutionary process, but such jumps would be completely impenetrable to human minds. I consider this distinctly undesirable.

    My use of “… properly” was intentional; I do not know the proper replacement for ‘rationally’ when going (3) → (4). Perhaps I could have used the word ‘morally’? But that would presume something akin to moral objectivity, which is does not necessarily exist. We somehow want to say that there should be some ‘natural’ way that humans come to want things—just like there is a ‘natural’ way that humans come to believe things (that is, rationally), and that humans don’t do this, and that God would never let this happen. Therefore God does not exist.

    Instead of trying to explore further from this point, I think I’m going to solicit questions: do you value (3-4)? If so, what do you think is required for (4)?

    • Gandolf

      Yes. Its a bit like saying its quite normal that a modern tyrant leader may gladly allow his people to continually starve. Because its a great way to also help prove how they are all thief’s at heart, who will decide to steal when getting real hungry. And thus the tyrant can prove how they will obviously all need an overbearing power to continue to rule over them

      People already understand how power hungry tyrants are likely to kill children. Even way back within ancient times , people back then would have already known this very well.Therefore there is no need that all these children within Bethlehem would need to be killed in that manner ,to help prove it.

      Yet reading throughout the bible, all these bloodthirsty instances ,are recorded so often. Suggests to us that the type of people who wrote the bible. Obviously also didn’t seem to even see it as being anything so very abnormal

      Tyrant minded people, in general , will always tend to see human suffering, as if its something that is also needed.

      • labreuer

        People already understand how power hungry tyrants are likely to kill children.

        And yet, time and time again, people don’t consider it ‘worth it’ to intervene. When will the suffering be severe enough to properly motivate moral intervention? It is this lesson which we have yet to learn properly, it seems. So instead of admitting that we suck at this, folks like blaming God (or saying that this is evidence against the existence of an omni-* deity). In my opinion, this is tantamount to abdicating responsibility for not fighting evil and blaming God for not fighting it for us. Where have I erred?

        • Gandolf

          Well i feel plenty of people would really like to intervene more. Problem is ,knowing how to go about it. Without causing the world, more problems, than we can fix. That’s a very big worry that cannot be overlooked.

          Some people talk about moral decline. Yet modern society in many places around the world today. Now has medical care set in place that is available for everyone. Has benefits set up to help the widow feed and clothe their children.Its a crime to burn people at the stake anymore. A child will now be able to receive medical care for cancer and suchlike, even if their parent prefers to rely entirely on prayer. Raping and beating a wife is been made illegal too. We are making moves against bullies existing within society as well. And much more

          Humans are not perfect. They never were. Very likely they never will be either. But we have made plenty of progress.

          I agree . We should be moving faster . But there are underlying issues that are very complicated, and make these matters extremely hard to deal with.

          But in regards to religion within continued existence of these issues . I say , it is debatable with regards to whether religion has been more helpful , or perhaps hindered progress. For starters , we might begin to fix many ongoing faith abuses , if more religious folk decided fixing faith abuses was more worthwhile, than retaining freedom of religion. We might not still have such hatred towards atheists in America today , and elsewhere too , if theists agreed to move a little quicker to bring forward reform.

          Why would other countries elsewhere see reason to clean up their own back yard more. When countries we live in still have our own ongoing problems .

          • labreuer

            Well i feel plenty of people would really like to intervene more. Problem is ,knowing how to go about it.

            And yet, what are they doing about “knowing how to go about it”? Generally, the answer seems to be “very little, if anything”. So this really sounds like an excuse for doing nothing: it would be too hard, it would require too much self-sacrifice, and therefore I will not do anything to prevent the evil from existing and spreading.

            This is really the crux of my criticism: we use our unwillingness to self-sacrifice as justification for why God ought to be preventing more evil from happening than whatever he is preventing—if anything. We project our problems onto God. This, despite God setting the standard for us through Jesus Christ. So when I see people complain about “the slaughter of the innocents”, I think: what they’re really saying is that Jesus’ call to “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me” is too hard. God should have designed reality such that this level of self-sacrifice was not required.

            Have I erred in this analysis?

            Some people talk about moral decline. Yet modern society in many places around the world today.

            I agree that we’ve made a lot of improvements. What happens, though, when the improvements are balanced against all the terrible stuff that’s going on? For example, how ought we think of Westerners who live well because others around the world are in de facto slavery, supporting posh lifestyles of others? Or what about what we’re doing to the environment? In the final analysis, I’m not sure things come out so nicely.

            But in regards to religion within continued existence of these issues . I say , it is debatable with regards to whether religion has been more helpful , or perhaps hindered progress.

            There is definitely a lot of evidence on both sides of the issue.

          • Gandolf

            If life has been continually evolving . And taking into account that science is now also suggesting that humans are not the only conscious beings around . They concede that animals ,particularly mammals and birds are conscious beings too.Then maybe its not so much that humans are immoral beings. But might it be more ? about “living beings” being quite slow to evolve within this particular trait.

            I mean . Turn back time . And people like you and i, might not feel so concerned about someone being burned to death upon being accused of heresy. We might not feel sad about the woman living next door being raped by her husband either. And it wont matter whether we reading whats written within some holy book or not.

            You say Jesus Christ set the standards for us . And yet it was either him or his friends who set the standard for humans in ancient times, to be classing mentally impaired people , as being devil possessed. Which was in itself a great injustice to these people wasnt it. As they were often only mentally impaired due to their genetic make up.

            Now for starters , i don’t believe God even exists . Therefore i have no reason to blame any God. Or any mistakes made by Jesus .

            Humans evolve . And human learn as they go . Yes it would be nice if we learned many things faster.

            In regards to what you said about “it would require too much self-sacrifice” . Well it depends what action we are actually talking about . Like if we were talking about barging our way into North Korea , to try dealing with ongoing problems they have there . That kind of action is a whole different kettle of fish, to what it is , for us to go and offer people relief in the Philippines .

            That’s why i say these issues are very complicated . Even the issue of ongoing faith abuses is a very complicated matter too. It complicated by the fact that religious folk of many different domination’s , will all hold the act of retaining their right of religious freedom , most dearly of all . Thus why right of religious freedom, at this present moment in time , overruns right of people to not fall under ongoing religious abuses.

            Yet if God was the omni creator . Then maybe its still not wrong of people to suggest that God could have created humans with a consciousness that was fully evolved and developed .

            With regards to people living de facto slavery. Lets face it its nothing new. Humans have not always been so caring of others around them, in this manner . Even holy books had its own discussions about the lot of “Masters” and “slaves” . This is not to say that i agree with it being the way it is . Its just that it takes time to change certain things . Take the existence of ongoing faith abuses , for instance .

            Surely its pretty rich ? to expect a caring world to have evolved quickly . That will move promptly to make changes . When the holy folk living within our societies , cant even be seen to be leading the way in displaying a good role model . For wider society to follow suit.

            You seem to expect ? humans to care so much about de facto slavey . Even when religious folk are not even to be seen to care about people still living within their own country , under ongoing faith abuses.

            These things don’t help the human ability to evolve and change quickly .

            You cannot expect change to be quick in one area (people to care about others living in de facto slavey) . But not expect need for change in regard to caring about ongoing faith abuses.

            Not caring about ongoing faith abuses . Also then helps create an uncaring attitude to exist ,toward people living within de facto slavey

          • labreuer

            It is fairly hard to understand some of what you’re saying, so I’m going to pick out the bits I think I did understand.

            You say Jesus Christ set the standards for us . And yet it was either him or his friends who set the standard for humans in ancient times, to be classing mentally impaired people , as being devil possessed. Which was in itself a great injustice to these people wasnt it. As they were often only mentally impaired due to their genetic make up.

            The only thing we know about Jesus’ thoughts on demon possession is that it was another illness that he relentlessly cured. Any norms on how demon-possessed people ought to be treated did not come from Jesus. Furthermore, he is never recorded as doing anything like what is imagined in The Exorcist. So you really can’t nail anything on Jesus in this case; the only thing he taught was people saying “demon, come out of this person in the name of Jesus”—possibly with some prayer added. In the world of vicious treatment of human beings, that hardly qualifies.

            It is interesting that you, as quickly as possible, tried to pick out what seemed negative, or bad.

            Yet if God was the omni creator . Then maybe its still not wrong of people to suggest that God could have created humans with a consciousness that was fully evolved and developed .

            And yet, this would destroy our ability to understand how we came to be. Contra some Christians, having to stop at “God did it”, instead of continual scientific exploration, is anathema to me. And to many atheists. See my (1).

            You seem to expect ? humans to care so much about de facto slavey .

            I am solely working off of the typical, visceral atheist feeling that God should/would have done something to prevent such heinous evil from occurring. This is not my own expectation, this is the expectation of my interlocutors.

          • Gandolf

            Any norms on how demon-possessed people ought to be treated did not come from Jesus.

            That’s the thing . Mentally impaired folk were considered to be demon possessed . Thus why you will not find any scripture referring to people as being mentally impaired .Or even describing how they should be treated. Because it was not understood. And thus mentally impaired folk were often considered as being demon possessed .

            If someone saying “demon, come out of this person in the name of Jesus” . Is not anything like the exorcist . Then what ? is it .Even when casting demons out into pigs , or whatever. The thing is ,over the years many humans (some merely having mental impairment) have been treated as if being demon possessed .

            And yet, this would destroy our ability to understand how we came to be

            I don’t see why . I mean i understand why humans are slow to evolve in moral manner . Its because that is the way we are . We learn by trial and error .We evolve .

            But yet if a omni creator actually existed . What good reason would this omni creator have for creating humans who’s consciousness would then need to be very “slow” to develop.

            I am solely working off

            And i’m saying that you seem to expect humans belief in God , to have also helped their ability to “quickly” evolve morally . You expect that humans can have beliefs in God , be able to dig their heals with regards to retaining right to have freedom of religion . Yet on the other hand , you expect that humans within general society “should” still be likely to care about people living within de facto slavery.

            Im saying

            1 God believers (as role models) dont care about ongoing faith abuses .
            2. Yet then you question why so many other humans couldn’t seem to care about other people within de facto slavery

            The two things are somewhat interconnected . Throughout history , God believing humans have “not cared” about certain types of people . Those who were gay . People who dared to differ in belief (heresy) . People they accused of witchery . And more

            And yet you still wonder why humans have not evolved “quickly to care” about folks living within de facto slavery.

          • labreuer

            The thing is ,over the years many humans (some merely having mental impairment) have been treated as if being demon possessed .

            What does it mean to treat someone “as if being demon possessed”? If anything, Jesus treated them just like other sick people: people in need of healing, not judgment or derision.

            But yet if a omni creator actually existed . What good reason would this omni creator have for creating humans who’s consciousness would then need to be very “slow” to develop.

            My (3) and (4) are candidates. How do we know what constitutes slow vs. fast development of moral motions?

            And i’m saying that you seem to expect humans belief in God , to have also helped their ability to “quickly” evolve morally .

            Christians do hold that those who follow Christ—not merely ‘believe’—will have enhanced ability to grow morally. But this could be a tautology, so I’m not sure what to do with it in discussions like this. Instead, what I would say is that there exist laws to how minds work, and the Bible provides some of them. We can choose to believe them or not; if we don’t, we’re like Adam and Eve who chose to explore what evil was by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, instead of trust revelation.

            Consider: you can learn the hard way, or you can trust those who have gone before you. What makes it impossible to trust a sufficiently advanced being which provides evidence that it wants human thriving? Nothing rational.

            1 God believers (as role models) dont care about ongoing faith abuses .

            This is not true of all ‘God believers’. I would argue it is not true of any believer who actively recognizes what the Bible calls ‘good’ and what it calls ‘bad’, and tests his/her fruit as well as the fruit of others, by these standards (or better ones that are based on them).

            And yet you still wonder why humans have not evolved “quickly to care” about folks living within de facto slavery.

            I don’t ‘wonder’; I think the model I have is sufficiently good such that I can fine-tune it, but I don’t see a need for something radically different.

            What I do wonder about is whether atheists and skeptics are being rational when they talk about what an omni-* deity should/would do.

          • Gandolf

            If anything, Jesus treated them just like other sick people: people in need of healing, not judgment or derision.

            We see nothing written within the bible that describes Jesus pointing out the difference between people being mentally impaired. Or people deemed demon possessed. We do see suggestion of people being subjected to a type of exorcism ,a number of times . The fact that we cannot see Jesus pointing out the difference between people whom were mentally impaired, or demon possessed . Leads us to question whether people being deemed demon possessed in those times ,were in fact those people mentally impaired .

            If Jesus were God . What reason would there be that he couldn’t understand mental impairment. Which is connected to genetic’s .

            Calling someone “demon possessed” is a form of judgement . Specially when it were far more likely they were mentally impaired.

            But such knowledge is needed to be learned, over time . Unless Jesus was actually God.

            My (3) and (4) are candidates.

            Well i suppose what you are getting at here ,revolves around something to do with the other question of yours

            Quote : “How can we mere mortals state what God should do ?”

            My answer is that theist humans already do exactly that . They “state” what they feel God should “be and do”,whenever they write about God within their holy books . In fact its something that so many theists have been doing for thousands of years now. Whether it were Isaiah the Jewish prophet . Or the Prophet Muhammad . Or somebody else.

            All of them were mere human too . And all stated who they thought God was .And what they thought he did or would do.

            Yet suddenly when it comes down to a modern day atheist questioning these matters . Theists question whether any mere mortal can even have any idea about such matters.

            This is a bit of a double standard , do you think ?

            Christians do hold that those who follow Christ—not merely ‘believe’—will have enhanced ability to grow morally.

            How would that happen ? if you base your life on a book written many years ago. Written back when much knowledge had still not even been learned . It might be a bit like basing your life on whats written within Jewish Torah and act of human sacrifice and suchlike. Without having benefit of more modern knowledge to know how morally wrong and highly destructive it was.

            In my opinion .Christian “enhanced ability” to “grow morally , doesn’t seem to backed up by history . I seems their beliefs have often acted as more of a hindrance . Rather than being enhanced

            Yet i would still fully agree that the bible contains much good advice . This doesn’t surprise me any . After all Christians are also part of human evolution .

            Consider: you can learn the hard way, or you can trust those who have gone before you.

            If we always trusted those who went before . We might still follow the Jewish Torah today for instance , and continue with human sacrifice.

            The thing is . You can learn the hard way also, by following so close to the past, and not being willing to change and evolve . Why do you think that religion is finding itself in the position of downward spiral it is in today . Whereby less and less people even have interest in being involved.

            When Jesus was around, theists back then resented change . Resented new ideas .

            Hows can you be sure your for fathers and prophets didn’t set you off down a track following in these same footsteps. For all you know?,maybe Jesus wanted you to follow future education more closely.

            This is not true of all ‘God believers’.

            I didn’t mean to suggest it was. My point is this that a vast majority don’t seem to care . For if they did care, ongoing faith abuses wouldn’t have ability to still exist .

            We never see many church groups marching on government, in regards to having faith abuses stopped . We mostly see them battling matters of abortion or gay marriage.

            Then they still come up with this tried and trusted manta, about which group is acting like a “real Christian ” and which group isn’t. Maybe because its far easier to point fingers at some other group .

            I think the model I have is sufficiently good

            Yes i understand that. You think the reason that humans don’t seem to care much , to move quickly, in regard to fixing de facto slavery . Has more to do with existence of devils and evil and suchlike. Than you feel it can ever have anything much to do with the idea of humans having lived among some bad role models,for far too long.

            But i just don’t share that opinion. I see these things as being interconnected in another way .

          • labreuer

            If Jesus were God . What reason would there be that he couldn’t understand mental impairment. Which is connected to genetic’s .

            We don’t even know what a demon was, according to Jesus. Maybe it’s a collection of bad thought-forms that seems ‘alive’. If you know anything about depression, for example, you know that the depression stays ‘alive’ through a variety of techniques. So I think you’re injecting content into what Jesus calls ‘demons’ which simply does not exist in the NT. Perhaps you’re drawing from Milton or Dante?

            Quote : “How can we mere mortals state what God should do ?”

            My answer is that theist humans already do exactly that . They “state” what they feel God should “be and do”,whenever they write about God within their holy books . In fact its something that so many theists have been doing for thousands of years now. Whether it were Isaiah the Jewish prophet . Or the Prophet Muhammad . Or somebody else.

            All of them were mere human too . And all stated who they thought God was .And what they thought he did or would do.

            Yet suddenly when it comes down to a modern day atheist questioning these matters . Theists question whether any mere mortal can even have any idea about such matters.

            This is a bit of a double standard , do you think ?

            There’s a difference between the theist, who tries to make sense of an omni-* deity given current knowledge, and the atheist, who simply states what an omni-* deity would do—something clearly not consonant with current knowledge—and thus dismisses the omni-* deity without a further thought. In the former situation, the theist is trying to come up with a consistent model which works given what is known about reality. I rarely see the atheist trying this; instead, I see laziness and sloppiness. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places! And perhaps I’m being hypocritical, but at this point I’m not seeing it.

            A pejorative way to describe the above is that the atheist complains that the theist is trying to fit the model to the data in a special-pleading, reasoning from conclusion → data sort of way. I reject the claim that nothing useful can come out of trying to conceive of an omni-* deity which/who is consonant with what we observe. And that really is the gold standard: can something useful come out of a given way of thinking? If so, we should use that way of thinking, unless there exists another way which is better in every regard. I see no such other way.

            How would that happen ? if you base your life on a book written many years ago. Written back when much knowledge had still not even been learned .

            For one, I think quite a few of the empirical claims in the Bible are either untested or don’t have ‘sufficient evidence’ for truth or falsity. For example, Jesus says that lusting after a woman in one’s heart is still really bad, while some dispute that, like this fellow Skeptic Ink blogger. Paul says that focusing one’s thoughts on what is true/honorable/just/pure/… is important, while many would apparently disagree, given their behavior. Richard Hamming would seem to agree, but his evidence is anecdotal. We have articles like Constructive and Unconstructive Repetitive Thought, so some progress is being made. How many people know this stuff? Not clear!

            Now let’s just suppose that the Holy Spirit somehow helps us. What would that look like? I see two general options: either it’s stuff like miraculous healings and such, or small ‘pushes’ toward being better people. I haven’t seen the former, and the latter is hard to distinguish from it just being ‘you’.

            Finally, I suggest you think of the Bible more as a constitution that contains a ‘moral trajectory’, and not a straightjacket. That might explain how I can seriously heed it, and yet not be compelled to e.g. obey all the Torah to the letter.

            In my opinion .Christian “enhanced ability” to “grow morally , doesn’t seem to backed up by history . I seems their beliefs have often acted as more of a hindrance . Rather than being enhanced

            Yep, lots of mixed data. Which is similar when you look at what atheists have done. With or without a belief in a god or gods, humans can do terrible things!

            If we always trusted those who went before . We might still follow the Jewish Torah today for instance , and continue with human sacrifice.

            Very true. And if we didn’t trust those who went before at all, we’d likely all be dead from crossing the street without properly looking. A middle ground is needed, where we can extract the truth from the past without getting tarred with the falsehood.

            I didn’t mean to suggest it was. My point is this that a vast majority don’t seem to care .

            A vast majority of humans “don’t seem to care” if the bad thing isn’t adversely affecting their own comfort.

            We never see many church groups marching on government, in regards to having faith abuses stopped .

            This doesn’t make sense: the government isn’t the entity which would properly stop ‘faith abuses’.

            Then they still come up with this tried and trusted manta, about which group is acting like a “real Christian ” and which group isn’t. Maybe because its far easier to point fingers at some other group .

            Very true and very sad. But let’s not forget that it doesn’t take religion to form ‘us vs. them’.

            You think the reason that humans don’t seem to care much , to move quickly, in regard to fixing de facto slavery . Has more to do with existence of devils and evil and suchlike.

            What? Where have I blamed “devils and evil and suchlike”?

          • Gandolf

            Perhaps you’re drawing from Milton or Dante?

            Well that would suggest many of your Christian friends draw from the same source. Fact is many Christians believed in demons and devils and suchlike. They even got involved in exorcism . Its not my problem that your holy book has obviously incited many people to believe in demons and devils and suchlike .

            We know that Jesus commanded demons to “come out” of people a number of times. We also now know that in the case of many mental impairments its impossible “to come out” , because it is connected to genetics.

            Jesus was wise about many things. But its things like this that may tend to suggest it’s unlikely that Jesus was God.

            There’s a difference between the theist,

            I’m sorry to say this.

            But after reading through all you wrote .I feel. All it comes down to is this, a theist such as yourself deems it quite ok for the theist to do . But deems it not ok for anyone else. You use a whole lot of hand waving in talking about “consistent model” and “reality” and whatever else. Yet i don’t see you use any consistent model . And i don’t see how what you say has anything to do with reality either.

            Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places! And perhaps I’m being hypocritical, but at this point I’m not seeing it.

            I’m not surprised you don’t see it. After all , part of your belief rest upon the idea that theists have a special way to know what God would be likely to do and say and whatever . While an atheist wouldn’t .

            Maybe you usually get away with calling the old “how would a mere mortal human know what god would do” card . But i see right through this slight of hand trick , that’s all . And i understand that theists are mere mortal human as well.

            I suggest you think of the Bible more as a constitution that contains a ‘moral trajectory’, and not a straightjacket.

            Yes well that is already pretty much the way i see it anyway . A book of early ideas . Some good. Some maybe not so good. Some correct. Some possibly wrong. etc

            A vast majority of humans “don’t seem to care” if the bad thing isn’t adversely affecting their own comfort

            Yes that’s very true. But my point is this, if its been the religious folk that have basically been general societies “central role model” for the last thousand or so years (understanding that theists made up the vast majority for so long within society). And if theist haven’t delivered general society with a “role model”, that was full of empathy and caring attitudes . That moved people fast toward making quick changes, in directions that might help bring about relief and less hurt and harm.

            Well we shouldn’t have good reason to expect that modern society today, in general , would have evolved an attitude , that would tend to “quickly care” about the lives of other people around them either. Because much within modern society will somewhat “mirror” what it has been experiencing over time past.

            This doesn’t make sense: the government isn’t the entity which would properly stop ‘faith abuses’.

            If i decide to practice the Aztec religious belief of human sacrifice. The government will get involved ,and will be classing it as murder. Because of it being extremely harmful to human life. If i preferred to rely totally on prayer , and didn’t allow my child to have medicine that would save their life. Courts would get involved. And if law wasn’t already passed to allow courts to get involved, then government may legislate so they could.

            So in that sense governments are already involved in regulating religion to some extent . Freedom of religion already doesn’t exist . Even if people like to believe it does.

            What? Where have I blamed “devils and evil and suchlike”?

            Sorry. I admit you never said as such . But still one cannot help but feel that maybe what you think. Earlier you discussed how it was “important for man to know what is in the heart of man” . As if you were saying humans are “born” with a dark heart , or something like that.

          • labreuer

            I’m going to cut to the chase. Let me know if you’d like me to go back and address what I’ve skipped.

            But after reading through all you wrote .I feel. All it comes down to is this, a theist such as yourself deems it quite ok for the theist to do . But deems it not ok for anyone else. You use a whole lot of hand waving in talking about “consistent model” and “reality” and whatever else. Yet i don’t see you use any consistent model . And i don’t see how what you say has anything to do with reality either.

            What precisely am I saying that only theists can do? As far as I can tell, I’m described one pattern of thinking theists tend to engage in, and another pattern of thinking which atheists tend to engage in. You’re attributing views to me which I do not hold.

            The easy way out for this blog post is to say that clearly an omni-* deity would never allow the situation described to happen, so clearly no omni-* deity exists. But without accounting for issues like (3) and (4), said critic really isn’t saying anything. For, he/she is not taking the concept of ‘omni-* deity’ seriously. This, despite the fact that the critic probably cares more about (3) than the typical theist! (That is, the critic should be careful that his/her model of an omni-* deity does not violate (3).)

            Elsewhere, I argued that serious thinking about what an omni-* deity would do might be a useful activity. It would essentially be asking, “How would a being somewhat more moral than I act in such and such a situation?” It is hubris to think that we can actually think like a morally perfect being; we are likely infected with all sorts of terrible ideas, even if we’re not racist and are fine with LGBT folks.

            If you want less “hand waving”, I would challenge you on your current model of human nature, informed by whatever it’s informed by, as compared to my model, which has strong roots in biblical portrayals of human behavior in various circumstances. We could examine stuff like the Milgram experiment, the Stanford prison experiment, or The Third Wave. I could tie it into stuff like Israel’s refusal to talk to God directly in Deut 5, or its demand for a king, contra God’s warnings.

            If you want a serious model, it’s going to take a while to explain. Simpler ones don’t really have much predictive power.

            Sorry. I admit you never said as such . But still one cannot help but feel that maybe what you think. Earlier you discussed how it was “important for man to know what is in the heart of man” . As if you were saying humans are “born” with a dark heart , or something like that.

            A problem with much of your post is that you seem to have a bad model of me. That’s alright—it’s a way to have faster conversations—but you’ve gotta do the work to correct it, instead of kinda-sorta maintaining the model by saying “one cannot help but feel that maybe what you think”. Deal with the falsification properly; don’t just sweep it under the rug and continue as you were. Otherwise this discussion will get boring and tedious and I’ll just give up.

            What’s in the heart of most men is not darkness so much as unwillingness to pay the price to stand against evil. It doesn’t take very many truly evil people to use the mob toward their evil ends. The rest just need to be sufficiently afraid to go along with it and sufficiently gullible to swallow the propaganda. Have you heard of the saying, “All that is required for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.”? The use of ‘good men’ is tongue-in-cheek. Most men who aren’t outright evil have no backbones and thus can easily be used by the evil folks.

          • Gandolf

            I’m going to cut to the chase .What precisely am I saying that only theists can do?.

            How can mere mortals state what God should do. Is a point you would tend to agree with (whether you said so in such exact words ,or not). Yet if you cut to the chase you’d need to agree its exactly the same thing what theists will do anyway. In holy books,they state what they think God did , or would do.

            If humans were well known to remain generally ignorant of how harsh humans could be. It might seem proper to send the wise men the wrong way so Herod became aware of the new born king of the Jews. And would kill all the children to prove how harsh humans can be.

            Far more likely that the type of people telling the story just didn’t think anything so wrong with it.

            That’s alright—it’s a way to have faster conversations—but you’ve gotta do the work to correct it, instead of kinda-sorta maintaining the model by saying “one cannot help but feel that maybe what you think”.

            But yet the feeling of chasing theists up and down rabbit burrows is a pretty universal feeling. Humans might even put forward a pretty good argument that unicorns may exist . Given use of the right method

            Most men who aren’t outright evil have no backbones and thus can easily be used by the evil folks.

            People are sheeple. And maybe religious practice hasn’t been so helpful either in that regard. And these problems are often extremely complicated. Its easy to say humans simply lack backbone. But there can be a number of underlying reasons why

            Anyway i’m going to be busy involved in other matters.And may not have enough time to continue this discussion. So you have the final word if you like.

          • labreuer

            How can mere mortals state what God should do. Is a point you would tend to agree with (whether you said so in such exact words ,or not). Yet if you cut to the chase you’d need to agree its exactly the same thing what theists will do anyway. In holy books,they state what they think God did , or would do.

            There’s a crucial difference from saying (I) that this is precisely what an omni-* deity would do, and (II) that this is my best current guess as to what an omni-* deity would do. (I) is false certainty. (II) is what people engaged in research say.

            Far more likely that the type of people telling the story just didn’t think anything so wrong with it.

            I’m pretty sure all those mothers knew it was wrong that their children got murdered. The question though, is whether they blamed God, or men. We could blame God and then go on our way, doing nothing to prevent the next tragedy. Or, we could blame ourselves/our ancestors, and take the necessary steps to either prevent the next tragedy, or make it less terrible. I prefer the option that leads to improvement over the option which passes the buck.

            But yet the feeling of chasing theists up and down rabbit burrows is a pretty universal feeling. Humans might even put forward a pretty good argument that unicorns may exist . Given use of the right method

            Ahah, but it is not only theists who operate this way. Consider what happens when an atheist is asked what evidence would convince him/her that God exists. All of a sudden, rabbit holes appear everywhere. Or consider evolutionary psychology. It’s filled with just-so stories, and yet atheists love it. How many of the “origins of religion” stories out there have been subject to ingenious attempts at falsification? I know of none. This behavior that gets projected on theists is common to all humans; self-proclaimed rational atheists are no exception.

            People are sheeple. And maybe religious practice hasn’t been so helpful either in that regard.

            The progress has certainly been slow. I would say that the New Covenant in the OT, and its realization in the NT, is a profound attempt to convince people to have backbones. Perhaps other religions do this too; I haven’t done the requisite research.

            Anyway i’m going to be busy involved in other matters.And may not have enough time to continue this discussion.

            Well, it was fun talking! I should probably, ahem, be spending more time on other things as well.