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Secular Sunday: This I Believe(d)

March 28, 2009

With this being my birthday weekend, my gift to myself is once again not having to read CFAC. I thought instead I would go back to a pre-blog journal that I wrote when I was still a devout believer, and post a few segments of what I used to believe and express. 

I have to say, I kind of wish I’d read CFAC instead. I find some of the things I said to be truly alarming, drawing comfort only from the knowledge that I eventually pulled my head out of my ass. 

But let’s not be coy, let’s dive in. 

Here’s part of one of the earliest entries, from May 2003, in which I explained that I had just survived a head-on collision that I believed I was lucky to have survived (and still do believe that part):

If I never had solid, concrete proof that God loves me and is watching out for me, I have it now. 

Now you all say, sure, but where was God when the guy cut you off? Why didn’t God stop the guy from doing it in the first place? Well, the answer is simple. God doesn’t get in the way of people making their own choices. I dunno if the guy was drunk, or just stupid, but he did what he wanted to do and God let him, because that’s the great (and terrible) thing about how he lets us live our lives. But He was there with me, and stepped in to take control when I could not, and spared my life… 

I’m sorry, I can’t resist commenting. I know that talking to Dorkman ’03 is kind of a moot point, but I know there are other people out there who believe the same things, or nearly so, and so I’m talking to them from the other end of this.

So of course, the standard chestnut. Free will, free will, free will. There’s a lot of problems with the notion of free will — prayer for intercession is a request for God’s interference in how people live their life, and Christians (among others) like to uphold answered prayer as proof of God’s existence as though this wasn’t contradictory. There’s also the fact that Biblically, the notion that God doesn’t force his will on people is also contradicted. See, for example, when he hardens Pharoah’s heart in Exodus to prevent Pharoah from releasing the Hebrews from bondage — something that, supposedly, God wanted him to do. And I’ll save the topic of free will’s conflict with omniscience for its own Sunday.

But elsewhere in the entry, I say this:

If there was any doubt before of His presence in my life, it is gone. If there was any question that my life belongs to Him, it too is gone. 

Along those lines, a portion of an entry I made in December 2003, as part of a longer rant about the commercialization of Christmas:

Let’s say you don’t believe in God. We’re walking skin-sacks of meat and fluid. What gives us the gall to believe we deserve money, or possessions, or fame, or credit, or friendship, or love? Each of us is the result of an astoundingly against-the-odds series of coincidences and it’s the pure luck of the draw that we even exist at all. We’re born, we exist, we die, and what the hell right to [sic] we have to believe we are owed ANYTHING by the unfeeling cosmos?  

It is true that we are not “owed” anything from the cosmos, but the “cosmos” are not the source of money, possessions, fame, credit, friendship, or love.[1] Other people are. And I’ll agree with my former self on this: we do not inherently deserve any of those things from anyone. They must be earned. 

Actually, I was fairly accurate in this paragraph from a factual standpoint — it’s the tone of it with which I now have to take issue. The standard degrading of the human form as “sacks of meat and fluid,” and the lack of awareness that the sheer odds against our very existence are a perfectly good reason to stand in awe, wonder, and gratitude for being alive — moreso, in fact, than being the playthings of a deity who created us on purpose. 

But let’s get real. God created us, and if He was a mad tyrant who liked to set us on fire and watch us fry like so many ants, who are we to believe we deserve better. He created us, He can do whatever the fuck He feels like with us, and we have no rights at all to our existence or the circumstances thereof, frankly. We’re just lucky we have a loving God.

This is what I mean when I say that I find some of these writings alarming. First of all, the God of Christianity is a mad tyrant who likes to set us on fire, according to the mythology. I know that I believed in the existence of Hell, so I am actually rather baffled by the fact that I essentially described Hell and then asserted without irony that the Christian God did not torture people with fire.

I seem to have meant that he didn’t do it while we were alive, and therefore did not kill us at a whim, but I’m not sure why this comforted me compared to the idea of torturing people for all of eternity — also, essentially, at a whim. 

But look at the overall gist of the paragraph, an all-encompassing dismissal of the dignity of human life. This is what riles me up the most about religion now — the idea that there are people out there like me, who believed that people were worth nothing, that life was worth nothing, and that everything was worthless without a deity to patronize us by pretending to care.

Even if a God exists, and even if he created me, I flatly reject the assertion that he owns me, or any person, as a result. He threw us into a game in which he makes the rules for no good reason and didn’t even ask us if we wanted to play. I’m supposed to jerk him off and tell him he’s wonderful because he’s got a gun to my head? No, it doesn’t work that way, and saying that I love a God like that — or accepting the notion that he loves me — completely devalues the concept of “love.”

What I have written here is “My man beats me because I deserve it” and, even knowing that I finally came to know better, that horrifies me. 

I can’t find quite as many concrete examples as I would have expected, other than the occasional “Praise God” or “Thank you Jesus” interjected after a happy story here and there. And the occasional post about confronting evangelists on campus who insisted on preaching about all the people the Biblical God hates. I was quite sure at the time that they must be wrong but, having actually done some reading of the Bible, it’s quite clear that they knew it better than I did in this regard. 

The next time I see a serious entry about faith, it is from May 2006 — when I lost mine. That perhaps also deserves its own post, but I just want to note one brief excerpt from it. After going on a bit about how I no longer believed in Christianity, as I had realized there was nothing that made it more or less true than any other professed religion:

I’m not an atheist, in case it’s unclear. I don’t think I can ever be — although my sabbatical from Christianity was rather unforseen as well, I admit, so who knows where my spiritual development will take me. 

Goes to show you never can tell. 

 


    

     

  1. I find it interesting to notice that I did not include “respect” in this list, though I’m not sure I can accurately psychoanalyze why.
49 Comments
  1. Well, happy belated birthday to you.

    I was curious about two things, though.

    1. I can tell that you believe that divine omniscience and free will are incompatible. So do open theists. I was wondering, as an atheist, do you believe in free will?

    2. Is there such a thing as objective morality, or is it up to each of us to determine what is right and wrong? I am curious because if the actions of the Christian God are evil, then what moral standard is being broken and what is the basis of that moral standard?

    3. If I asked the 2003 Dorkman “What must I do to be saved?” how do you think he would answer?

  2. Please ignore that I apparently cannot count today.

  3. Hey! One to grow on! What’s the mileage now?

    Re: Footnote.
    Let us not be coy now. You are psychoanalyzing by pointing it out. 🙂

    Re: Free will…
    Does it matter?

    If there is no free will and we act as if there is, then such actions are the result of this Grand Script we are all performing. No harm. No foul.

    If there is free will but we make our laws with the understanding that there is no free will, we have released all accountability from the individual. Think of the things you thought you might do if you “could get away with it”. Escalate that. Escalate that again. Keep going.

    It can be very dangerous if we do not err to the side of caution and hold everyone accountable is if they make their own choices.

    We can go ’round and ’round how free will is something from nothing with paradoxes and contradictions abound to support or contest that. In the discussions I have seen, it has always locked up at time and infinity. When you bring those two to the party, it is like adding a strong hallucinogenic stimulant to the punch bowl. (It can be entertaining to watch, but it is probably scary if you are in attendance.)

    Re: Drew’s 2nd Question.
    By the Christian God’s perspective (based on the texts attributed to His authorship) that many claim is the only objective morality, some of His own actions fall under what He has quantified as evil for people to do. Michael already stated that he feels the universe puts no morality on anything. People do that.

    Re: Head-on Collision
    I find it interesting that Michael was affirmed in his belief back then when my head-on further affirmed my Atheism in 1996.

    @Michael:
    You come across as bitter about your past self and his beliefs from the way I read this post. Are you? If so, why?

  4. dorkmanscott permalink

    @Drew:

    1. A definition of terms is in order before I can properly answer this question. “Free will” in a religious context means the ability to act outside of the coercion of a god. In that sense, since I do not believe a god exists, I would have to say that certainly I believe in free will by definition.

    If we’re talking about acting outside of the sum of our experiences and chemical impulses, then the question is not a simple yes or no. On the one hand, it seems rather clear that human behavior tends to fall into predictable patterns. Factor A, B and C will often produce behavior D. Psychological profiling of criminal activity is built on this cornerstone.

    There are people who defy their experiences by actively refusing to fall into behavior D even given factors A, B, and C, but typically that’s because there’s an X factor that motivates them.

    So on the one hand, I think it’s likely that human behavior is little more than the collection of life experiences interacting with chemical impulses, and based on that one could make the claim that there is no free will — but I think that’s a mistake. The human brain is so complicated, human experience so rich and nuanced and the connections made sometimes so obscure that, even though “free will” might be an illusion, to the end-user the illusion is so complete as to render the distinction moot.

    Shorter: Do we have free will? If not, it’s close enough.

    2. As TheGamut has already mentioned, I don’t think that there is a cosmological morality. If a rock on Venus falls off a cliff and crushes another rock, the rock that fell has not done a “bad” thing. Morality is a human construct defined by humans.

    That being said, there is a moral standard of basic empathy — what various philosophical traditions have expressed as variations on the Golden Rule. We’re a cooperative species and have evolved the capacity to understand that if I wouldn’t want somebody to do something to me, I shouldn’t do it to them.

    It’s actually interesting that you bring it up, because I often ask a similar question of believers. I ask them if they agree with human slavery, human sacrifice, genocide, or any number of the ugly things that the Biblical God has either committed or commanded. Or I ask them what they’d do if God asked them to kill a child. Usually they will hem and haw or flat-out refuse to answer, because they recognize that what they claim to be the source of their morality is in fact nothing of the sort.

    3. To the best of my recollection, I would have said that all you have to do is accept Christ into your heart as your savior (with the unspoken expectation that this implied a certain lifestyle). I do know that, at the time, I believed that any former Christian had never been a “true” Christian at all, because if you’d truly felt the love of God you’d never fall away. As with so much else, I’ve come to know better.

    @TheGamut:

    I don’t know if “bitter” is the right word, but I am certainly not pleased to reflect that I spent what is still the majority of my life believing something that wasn’t true, and being encouraged to believe it unquestioningly. If there’s an emotion attached, it’s probably embarrassment. I prize reason, rationality, and human dignity highly, and the things I once believed exhibit none of those traits. And it bothers me deeply to know that so many other people still believe what I once did. They still believe in a God who does horrible things and tell themselves it’s love.

    I can’t necessarily blame any one person for this culture — it’s been in place for a long time — but I can blame the people who leverage it to prolong human suffering in the name of the sick things they call “mercy” and “love.” People like my past self provide cover for people like them, and that simply isn’t acceptable.

  5. (I know much of this may sound condescending to Theists, but I am specifically addressing an Atheist here in the scope of Atheism.)

    Heh. When I used to ask Theists what they would do if their god(s) commanded that they do something against what I believe to be their morality, they would tell me that they would never get such an edict from their god(s). When I would give examples of other Theists claiming to be of the same Faith doing things against that same morality, I would receive a response similar to the other people making mistakes or not being true to the Faith.

    Even the 9-y/o rape-pregnancy has not swayed the Catholics I know in how they feel their God would react. Then again, they pick and choose how they feel towards the Church overall versus their local religious community. The media and the Pope seem to want us to believe the RCC is a unified entity. I think it is not unified, and I think many Catholics adults know this and accept it.

    I do not believe we should try to place blame. I think it is a wasted thought. I would daresay most people do not promote Theism with dishonest reasons. We really should not blame people for mistakes they do not yet understand when we are very likely going to make many more of our own. You know: do unto others and lead by example and all that rot. 🙂

    (There are some higher in the hierarchy that I suspect may have malicious motives and have the ability to cause a greater impact. Yet similar to what I mentioned, I have not seen a global religion to be as unified as the media tells us they are.)

    And dude. Don’t be embarrassed about being Theistic in the past. Did you learn anything from your Theism that you still practice as an Atheist but now with a better understanding? Was it all that bad?

    My only embarrassment is what I might have done as a child if I thought I “could get away with it”. I learned to act responsibly as much as scattered brain would allow even when my parents could not be there. I did not learn what I believe to be the real reason why until later, but I do not believe I would put as much importance on it if I had not practiced its importance already.

    There were some things that might have been damaging to me now if I still believed them, but luckily, they were not a factor in my life back then. I have grown up some since then (but I am not grown up except in age), and I have replaced the Unicorn and Beer Club with things that consistently make sense to my obsessive traits, but many of the social practices I learned are still there.

    Speaking of age, what’s the mileage? I know we’re like 9 to 11 years apart or something like that, but I can’t remember. 26?

    (Does anyone else find the tiny smiley at the bottom of the page to be a little creepy? And apologies in advance for the lack of spell-check and grammer. :()

  6. Thanks for the response.

    I was just curious about the first two questions, it was the third that concerned me.

    1. Personally, I cannot see how human behavior is more free under an atheistic worldview rather than a theistic one. If the mind is a function of the brain, which is a function of chemistry and physics, then on what grounds is our “choice” anything more than a reflex?

    2. Imagine if you were sucked back to Germany in 1900, and have somehow gained the ability to speak the local language fluently. One day on the streets of a city you notice an 11 year old boy named Adolf Schicklgruber. You grab him, pull out a knife, and slit his throat. The crowd gasps in horror and you are then arrested. What would your legacy be? What if at the trial you told them that this boy would have become Adolf Hitler? Would anyone believe you? Would anyone see you as a hero, or would they think of you as a deranged psychopathic killer who just murdered an innocent little boy?

    3. After listening to some Christian-turned-atheist scholars, such as Dan Barker and John W Loftus (got to have my picture taken with Loftus http://is.gd/pRie) there was a common thread among them: they all “accepted Jesus into their heart” when they first turned to Christianity. I used to believe that this is what saved you, until I read a book by two Jewish (not Christian) authors: The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism. In it, they state that their central complaint regarding Christianity is not the messiahship of Jesus, but the doctrine of atonement. They stated that Christians believe that you must accept Jesus into your heart in order to be saved, which is not consistent with the Jewish view of atonement.

    While a Jew should not engage in a life of sin, if a Jew does violate the moral law, “Jewish law enables him or her to return to God and right action through repentence — in Hebrew, teshuvah, from the word for ‘return.’ Teshuvah consists of three steps: the sinner must recognize his sin, feel sincere remorse at having sinned, and resolve to return to fulfilling the law.”

    You could not imagine the utter shock and bewilderment on my face when I read that. No wonder God felt so distant to me when I was a teenager. I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was young, but did not really repent until late in 2006. I looked through the New Testament, and nowhere in there does it say that you become saved by asking Jesus into your heart. The message is always “repent and be baptized.”

    To me, this explains the false conversion of Barker and Loftus. They asked Jesus into their hearts, but never in either conversion story did they repent!

    • dorkmanscott permalink

      1. I already answered this. Our system of “reflexes” is so complex and variable that it is essentially the same has having free will, therefore it may as well be called free will.

      2. We’re talking about an 11-year-old Hitler, and the best solution you can think of is to kill him in cold blood? Really? Considering he’s still young and impressionable, I would try to help steer him away from whatever eventually drove him to feel that his Final Solution was the only solution. What’s the point you’re trying to make here?

      3. What explains the “false conversion” of Barker and Loftus (and, ultimately, myself) is that Christianity is a false religion, with no God to repent to, no sin to repent for, and therefore no true conversion possible.

  7. Master Zap permalink

    I wonder if you could dig out some nice “This I Believe(d)” from our discussion over the years. I seem to remember something about some statement you made about being in a locker room, and Jesus being so “full of infinite love” so he would go around bleeding on your locker nametags…. for my sins…. somehow….. yeah…. sounded Zombie-creepy-stalky to me too at the time 😉

    I wonder if Google could find that somewhere….

    /Z

    • dorkmanscott permalink

      You must be thinking of someone else, because I would never have made any statement remotely like the one you vaguely remember. Not being involved in team sports, I never spent any time in locker rooms and would not have found them useful as anecdote or analogy. And I was never one of the folks who obsessed over the idea of Jesus getting his blood all over everything.

      I don’t doubt that you did meet a Christian who said something like that, but it wasn’t me.

  8. I have to totally echo Mr. Scott on 2. 😯

    I do not understand how going back in time has anything to do with morality (or why the proposed solution is murder). In fact, going back in time would remove all liabilities when someone is able to undo any mistake to the point that the mistake was never made in the first place. One could rape someone and go back in time and stop themselves afterward. (It works both ways if one ignores the inexplicable paradox.) I thought morality relied on accountability.

  9. Oops. Forgot to explain my thought experiment, and I may have poorly worded my other two points. You can see why I am not a writer.

    Personally, I believe time travel is absurd. I was just trying to use it in a thought experiment to illustrate an idea.

    1. It appears that your stance on free will is the following: Human behavior is fully deterministic and a product of chance and necessity. However, since it is so complex, the illusion of free will is close enough.

    Fair enough. Is this any better or even different than being bound by divine foreknowledge? It seems to me that being determined by physical and chemical laws offers no more or less freedom than being bound by divine foreknowledge, as it too, can offer the same illusion of free will.

    2. Here’s where things get sticky. I gave such a graphic situation because otherwise, it wouldn’t be much of an ethical dilemma. Maybe it was a poorly constructed thought experiment. My bad.

    A dynamical system is a deterministic system whose states evolve over time, yet its outcome is highly sensitive to its initial conditions. This is also known as the butterfly effect. One system that is subject to this effect is conception. 10 million sperm cells fighting for one egg cell. How easily would the course of history changed, had Winston Churchill’s father been hit in the groin a few hours before Winston was to be conceived? Or had a different diet on that day? Or been early, or late to meet his wife?

    If you knew the full consequences of every action you took, wouldn’t you behave very differently? I know I would. Would you tear out the even-numbered pages of a popular magazine while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, if you knew that it would ultimately prevent the outbreak of a disease? Would you rearrange the coats on the hangers at a bar if you knew that it would ultimately cause the future parents of a great medical researcher to meet one another?

    What would the other people think when they saw your odd behavior? Would they think you insane? Would the others really understand even if you fully explained your actions, or would explaining your actions lead to all sorts of other bizarre consequences?

    Now imagine an omniscient being. Same deal?

    • 1. What is divine foreknowledge?

      I, personally, see no difference in free will (assuming its existence) whether one is a Theist or not because of my Atheistic view. If Theism is incorrect as I believe, then all actions are from the free will choice to conclude the existence of a god or gods. The only difference is where the person places the blame. Either, they are the one making the choice, or they try to say someone else told them to do it and say that is why they do it. Yet, that is just my view in my Atheism.

      The issue I have with discounting free will is that there is no point in trying to change someone’s mind since it was simply the result of an equation. Then again, it becomes recursive with trying to convince someone of the futility being just as futile and so on.

      2. I still do not see how foreknowledge has anything to do with morality. It is the same as time-travel, IMHO. We have all the foreknowledge we are going to get, and we have to be okay with it.

      (Besides in the case of knowing how actions will result, one would know how to go about fixing a future issue without… well… having present issues or with the same knowledge how to deal with any issues arising in the present.)

      Can we really discuss morality by changing the rules? I thought morality is reliant on the rules as they stand: making choices with only past knowledge of the effects and living with the consequences whether good or bad.

      • Yes, yes. I can tell the gears are turning. Think about that last paragraph you just wrote addressing point 2.

        Would someone with that kind of foreknowledge really be subject to the same rules as us?

    • dorkmanscott permalink

      A deterministic but unconscious source of the illusion of free will is absolutely better than divine foreknowledge in the area in which free will matters, which is explaining the issue of bad things happening to good people. An unconscious universe has nothing to answer for. A consciousness does.

      Do me a favor and make a declarative statement instead of asking endless questions. What is the point that you are trying to make?

      And Gamut: you got it, I’m 26 now.

      • If I understood what Drew just commented, the point would be that God doesn’t follow the rules.

        That seems fair. Yes? (No.)

        If we can change the rules to prove God exists, then there is no point in arguing because I can prove that TFSM exists, too, using the same logic[sic].

        • Very close. You seemed to imply that someone with foreknowledge would be subject to a different set of rules. I am trying to show you how an entity with foreknowledge, as well as overwhelmingly superior knowledge of the present, of the mental states of everyone alive, of the laws of chemistry and physics, as well as our behavioral patterns (like the God of the Bible) would likely behave in ways that would seem outlandish. How could your or I, with only a few decades experience, knowledge of less than a handful of languages, no access to the private thoughts of others, no foreknowledge, and a woefully incomplete understanding of human behavior possibly be in a position to judge a being like that?

          • dorkmanscott permalink

            Setting aside the fact that the God of the Bible seems to lack even a rudimentary understanding of chemistry, physics, or human behavioral patterns, much less a superior one…

            Is it your argument that our morality comes from a source other than God? Because if morality came from God, then no action he took — regardless of our understanding of the circumstance — would ever or COULD ever strike us as being immoral or even questionably moral.

          • natecow permalink

            “Setting aside the fact that the God of the Bible seems to lack even a rudimentary understanding of chemistry, physics, or human behavioral patterns, much less a superior one…”

            Uh…what? Obviously the Bible is not a science book. It wasn’t written to teach us science, but in fact basically says “go look for yourself.” Have you ever looked at what the Bible states that no one ever knew of back then?

            Take the fact that Genesis says God took one of Adam’s ribs to create Eve. Now do some quick medical research and you’ll find that the lower ribs are the only bones that actually grow back. Another interesting bit in that chapter is how God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep; nothing huge but it sounds like a deep anesthesia.

            I encourage you to take a look at CARM.org’s small list of scientific accuracies within the Bible: http://www.carm.org/christianity/bible/scientific-accuracies-bible

            One very interesting bit I find is the various descriptions of ocean springs or fountains of the deep (Job 38:16, Genesis 7:11) in the OLD TESTAMENT, while such springs weren’t really discovered until the 60s and 70s, and only theorized 30 or 40 years prior.

            Just because there’s no periodic table of the elements in the back of the Bible doesn’t mean scientific discoveries contradict the Word. I don’t expect a book of theology to explain chemistry and physics to me anymore than I expect a biologist to write a book on philosophy. Oh, wait…

          • My argument is that under your view of morality, I can see no basis for faulting God with His actions. If morality is an evolved capacity to understand reciprocity, then I cannot see how it would apply to a noncorporeal entity. If morality is merely a set of intuitions that have appeared in us as a result of evolution, then how would they apply to a being who never evolved? Why would our feelings be a standard by which we could judge such a being?

            While an unconscious universe has nothing to answer for, an omniscient God has no one to answer to.

            I have not changed the rules or held a double standard to prove that God exists, as I have presented no positive case for God’s existence in this thread.

            For a positive case for the existence of God, I have posted two arguments so far:

            1. The Kalam Cosmological Argument http://is.gd/j6rg
            2. The Teleological Argument http://is.gd/nsF9

            Neither of which can be undercut by the problem of evil, as neither one requires that the creator of the cosmos is omnibenevolent.

  10. dorkmanscott permalink

    Uh…what? Obviously the Bible is not a science book. It wasn’t written to teach us science, but in fact basically says “go look for yourself.” Have you ever looked at what the Bible states that no one ever knew of back then?

    Like the part where bats are birds, insects have four legs, or photosynthetic plants were created before the sun?

    No, I haven’t looked at anything the Bible states that no one knew of because there IS nothing in the Bible that people then didn’t know of, just laughable attempts of apologists today to find correlations where none exist. Case in point, the link you gave.

    Take the fact that Genesis says God took one of Adam’s ribs to create Eve. Now do some quick medical research and you’ll find that the lower ribs are the only bones that actually grow back.

    Actually, ALL of the ribs can grow back if you leave the periosteum. Rib shortening, aka rib thoracoplasty, is a common treatment in scoliosis.

    And by the way, where in the Bible does it say anything about the rib growing back?

    Another interesting bit in that chapter is how God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep; nothing huge but it sounds like a deep anesthesia.

    By this logic (and I use the word loosely), Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rip Van Winkle also contain hitherto-unknown scientific knowledge.

    Magical sleep is a common feature of folktales — often, I should point out, perpetrated by the villain.

    I encourage you to take a look at CARM.org’s small list of scientific accuracies within the Bible: http://www.carm.org/christianity/bible/scientific-accuracies-bible

    Just looking at the first three:

    1. As the article itself points out, the horizon from the perspective of a human being obviously looks like a circle. So this is not “information” that people at the time couldn’t have known.

    Also, a “circle,” or disc, is not a “sphere,” or ball. The passage clearly implies a flat earth with a curved edge — which is what it would look like to a person living at that time — not a three-dimensional round one.

    2. Sure, Job 26:7 has the earth suspended on nothing — but CARM conveniently fails to mention that 1 Samuel 2:8 and Job 9:6 both have it set on pillars, just like “other cultures of that time.” If you say multiple contradictory things, you increase your odds that one if them is right; and if you ignore the hits and record the misses…well, we’ve already talked about confirmation bias, haven’t we?

    3. Again, anyone with eyes can see that the number of stars in the sky is incalculable, especially in a region without nighttime light pollution. This is nothing that people of the time couldn’t have known.

    Et cetera.

    One very interesting bit I find is the various descriptions of ocean springs or fountains of the deep (Job 38:16, Genesis 7:11) in the OLD TESTAMENT, while such springs weren’t really discovered until the 60s and 70s, and only theorized 30 or 40 years prior.

    If by “descriptions” you mean “passing, brief and non-descriptive mentions.”

    Even if we grant that this is accurate foreknowledge, what kind of stupid god puts in references to underwater springs and valleys and not, say, information about bacteria, or viruses, or basic genetics. You know, something useful that could actually help improve the quality of life of his chosen people? Why go on about the whole “unclean” thing — which would be what ignorant nomadic tribes would come up with after noticing that certain behaviors caused illness — instead of actually imparting valuable knowledge?

    When the best you’ve got to prove the case is relatively pointless topographical knowledge (which could reasonably be guessed), and observations clearly visible to the naked human eye, I can’t see cause to call such a god “superior” in its knowledge of anything.

    Just because there’s no periodic table of the elements in the back of the Bible doesn’t mean scientific discoveries contradict the Word. I don’t expect a book of theology to explain chemistry and physics to me anymore than I expect a biologist to write a book on philosophy. Oh, wait…

    But if you’re talking about a god with “superior” knowledge in those fields, then you SHOULD expect a book of theology to explain chemistry and physics, and that it should do so better than any that did not have that particular religion as its origin. But you can’t, and you know that you can’t, because the knowledge just isn’t in there.

    • natecow permalink

      Why SHOULD God explain chemistry and physics to us if we already have the capacity to figure it out on our own? The Word was given to us so that we may know God and who he is, know his perfect law, and know how to be saved from our sinful nature. On chemistry and physics, we’re already sitting in the midst of creation, and obviously we were designed to be quite intelligent and curious. Take Romans 1, especially verses 18-20:

      “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

      I mean c’mon, God’s simply saying “LOOK!” Look around at the complexity and order of nature, look at life itself. Look at the cell, see the complexity and spectacular order on an unimaginably small level. Dive down to a molecular level and try to figure out what holds the nucleus of a cell together. What I find fascinating is the smaller you get, the deeper you dive, the more things seem to point to God.

      About Adam’s rib, sure, the Bible doesn’t mention it growing back, but it’s the fact that it mentions a bone being removed that DOES grow back (i.e. something we could eventually learn ourselves and assume about that particular account in Genesis). How would men roughly 3,500 years ago get something like that right unless it was divinely inspired?

      Regarding bacteria, viruses and general health…one could fill a book on those matters, and I own such a book (A More Excellent Way by Henry W. Wright); one could hardly do such a discussion justice in the comments of a WordPress blog.

      Oh, here’s another interesting verse with regards to the earth being round:

      “The wind blows to the south
      and turns to the north;
      round and round it goes,
      ever returning on its course.”
      -Ecclesiastes 1:6

      Now I know you’re simply going to reject everything I bring up, because that’s simply your nature as someone rejecting God. I personally can’t do much other than defend my own faith and try to plant a seed of reason in hopes that you’ll see the truth again. But I know that will be even more difficult given your previous false conversion (If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. -2 Peter 2:20-21).

      • natecow permalink

        Woops, correction: Dive down to a molecular level and try to figure out what holds the nucleus of a ATOM together.

  11. dorkmanscott permalink

    Okay, first off, you’re taking that Bible verse absurdly out of context. It’s talking about “God’s power” being “divinely revealed,” not the chemical processes of photosynthesis or the existence or function of mitochondria or the gravitational constant.

    God should have revealed these things so that people would not have to suffer and die needlessly for millennia from diseases that could have been easily cured (aside from the fact that they didn’t need to exist in the first place, but that’s God’s “love” for you). Sure we have the capacity, but you know what was holding us back from making those scientific discoveries? One guess what I’m going to say.

    “His” law is not perfect; it’s self-contradictory, barbaric and immoral. I’m more moral than your god and, incidentally, so are you. I can say that with conviction because I don’t think either of us would advocate genocide, slavery, or human sacrifice — but Yahweh does.

    What holds the nucleus of an atom together is called the “strong force,” and is no more mystical than the force of gravity. Look it up.

    Nothing points to God unless you already assume that a God exists, which is completely circular, nonsensical reasoning.

    I’m rejecting what you say not because it’s my nature as “someone rejecting God” — it’s my nature as someone who rejects absurd claims that lack evidence of ALL stripes, shades and flavors. The beliefs of your particular death cult happen to fall into that category, but they’re not the only ones. After all, I reject the assertion that Allah exists, too (and so do you).

    I would be perfectly willing to acknowledge the existence of your god if you could demonstrate the slightest shred of evidence to support your position. And (this is important) it should be evidence that could not be used to justify the belief in every god in every culture (e.g. look at the trees).

    Whether I would worship him is another issue — he’d have some serious explaining to do — but admit he exists? Sure.

    You’re not trying to plant a seed of reason, you’re talking about pure, unthinking unreason. “Trust this because.” Because why? “BECAUSE, duh!”

    For example, quoting the Bible as though it has some kind of accepted authority. As I’ve indicated before, the Bible is no more reliable as a source of truth than Harry Potter. You must first prove that the Bible is worth listening to as an historically accurate collection of documents before you start throwing passages out like they have value.

    But hey, as this post was meant to highlight, I was the same way when I was your age. I got better, and so can you.

    • natecow permalink

      Okay, first off, you’re taking that Bible verse absurdly out of context. It’s talking about “God’s power” being “divinely revealed,” not the chemical processes of photosynthesis or the existence or function of mitochondria or the gravitational constant.

      Whoa whoa whoa, I’M the one taking it out of context? You’re the one who just rearranged the words and ignored half the verse. It says God’s “eternal power and divine nature” being “made plain”* and “clearly seen,” not “divinely revealed.”

      And what do you want from scripture that is written to bring us to God and have a relationship with him? Do you want to find the word “photosynthesis” or a chapter giving you a lesson on cell biology? Seriously, this is the most ridiculous claim I’ve heard you make.

      God should have revealed these things so that people would not have to suffer and die needlessly from diseases that could have been easily cured (aside from the fact that they didn’t need to exist in the first place, but that’s God’s “love” for you).

      Really? Why should he? Who are we to make such demands from our friggin’ creator? You need to look at you know, the entire context of the Bible to understand why there is disease and suffering in the world. It traces back to the fall of man and sin entering the world, and again is a hell of a discussion in itself. Besides, there is a view amongst many scholars that such diseases did NOT exist in the first place, and that it is brought about by sin and part of our inherent curse since Adam and Eve fell. That’s not to say we aren’t designed to be perfectly balanced if we’re not poisoning our body with unhealthy foods and drugs all the time.

      “His” law is not perfect; it’s self-contradictory, barbaric and immoral. I’m more moral than your god and, incidentally, so are you. I can say that with conviction because I don’t think either of us would advocate genocide, slavery, or human sacrifice — but Yahweh does.

      Okay, how exactly is his law imperfect, self-contradictory, barbaric and immoral? You know that “God’s law” simply refers to the Ten Commandments, right? And what genocide did God supposedly advocate? On slavery, I think you’re ignoring other kinds of slavery that existed in the Bible, where the master provided the slaves with everything they needed; a place to live, food, clothing, etc. Obviously there are very horrible forms of slavery, a lot of which took place in our own country, but master/slave relationships in the Bible are many times comparable to modern-day employer/employee relationships.

      Human sacrifice? I don’t think so. The only human sacrifice I seem to recall was Jesus Christ, who was also God in flesh, and therefore perfect and pure. Other human sacrifice was—to my knowledge—forbidden due to our sinful nature; unclean blood essentially. I’m sure many people point to God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, but also note that God stopped him at the last minute; it was a test of faith. It also foreshadowed Christ’s crucifixion in many ways.

      What holds the nucleus of an atom together is called the “strong force,” and is no more mystical than the force of gravity. Look it up.

      I know it’s called that because I did look it up. The thing is, our other knowledge of magnetism and electricity tell us that nucleus should fly apart. A force that is 1038 times that of gravity can’t be evidence for God’s power? Why not? I think this is exactly the sort of thing Paul was talking about when he wrote the book of Romans.

      1. God creates freakin’ everything.
      2. God reveals himself to us and tells us that creation will point to him, if we don’t first rule him out.
      3. We observe the nucleus of an atom. Other scientific knowledge tells us it should not stay together, yet it does by another overpowering force.
      4. Refer back to #2 in awe.

      …in a perfect world anyway 😛

      You’re not trying to plant a seed of reason, you’re talking about pure, unthinking unreason. “Trust this because.” Because why? “BECAUSE, duh!”

      No, that is exactly what I am NOT saying. Some of my friends and I left our protestant churches because they did just that. We grew up not allowed to really ask questions, especially—God forbid—anything related to science. You’re hinting at blind faith I’m sure, which I think we both agree is not good. Yes, I take certain things on faith, I simply must. But I also have a butt-load of evidence and personal experiences in my life to back up that faith. And you cannot for one second say otherwise, because you sir, have not lived my life.

      For example, quoting the Bible as though it has some kind of accepted authority. As I’ve indicated before, the Bible is no more reliable as a source of truth than Harry Potter. You must first prove that the Bible is worth listening to as an historically accurate collection of documents before you start throwing passages out like they have value.

      Fair enough. That—once again—is a hefty discussion of it’s own, and I’m sure we can’t cover it commenting back and forth here, but I suppose you could start with the 24,000+ manuscripts of the New Testament dated within less than 100 years (some as little as 25 years) of the described events, all correlating with each other.

      But you know, that’s just a start 🙂

      *In other translations, “manifest” and “evident” are used instead of NIV’s “made plain”, so there’s clearly no confusion on what the passage is saying. I wish I knew Greek and Hebrew so I could even go into the words used in the original writing.

      • natecow permalink

        Bah! The number on the strong force didn’t copy and paste properly. Should have been 10^38 times the force of gravity. I wish WordPress allowed edits on comments 😛

      • dorkmanscott permalink

        And what do you want from scripture that is written to bring us to God and have a relationship with him? Do you want to find the word “photosynthesis” or a chapter giving you a lesson on cell biology? Seriously, this is the most ridiculous claim I’ve heard you make.

        The word for photosynthesis would be relatively useless, but a chapter on cell biology would not go amiss.

        You’re claiming that the Bible demonstrates knowledge that people of the time could not have had and that is patently, demonstrably untrue. If it were actually true, if there were things of tangible value in there, then the intangible things might deserve more weight.

        Really? Why should he? Who are we to make such demands from our friggin’ creator?

        He wants me to believe he’s a god of love and compassion and to worship him as such, then he’s got to do something to make me believe him.

        Heck, if he wants me to believe he’s the creator, he’s got to do something to make me believe him. Who’s to say another god didn’t actually make all this and the one you worship didn’t just step in to claim the credit and adoration?

        The rest of what you said makes no sense. All of creation, including innocent animals and unborn children, should suffer because one pair of people did something wrong once? You’re right, the doctrine of original sin (a doctrine not supported by the scriptures, BTW) is a whoooole other topic. Short version: that’s not moral, that’s not just, and it’s positively insane that you’ve been convinced that it is.

        Okay, how exactly is his law imperfect, self-contradictory, barbaric and immoral? You know that “God’s law” simply refers to the Ten Commandments, right?

        Wrong. It refers to the entirety of the Mosaic Law — Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The idea that it’s just the Ten Commandments is a Christian retcon to excuse you from having to follow the law while still claiming with a straight face that you are doing so, and it is not scripturally supported.

        And what genocide did God supposedly advocate?

        Leviticus 26:7: “And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.”

        Yahweh led the Israelites in wars/genocides against the Canaanites, Amorites, Midianites, the people of Heshbon, the people of Jericho, the people of Ai, and the Hazorites. And that’s just the first five books.

        master/slave relationships in the Bible are many times comparable to modern-day employer/employee relationships.

        There are rules for how much to pay for a slave, how much to sell one for, how to brand them like cattle, and how badly you are permitted to beat them (to death, as long as it takes them more than three days to die).

        Human sacrifice? I don’t think so.

        You don’t have to think so, it’s still true. Look up the story of Jephtha and his daughter.

        A force that is 1038 times that of gravity can’t be evidence for God’s power? Why not?

        It can, after we’ve established that “God’s power” is something that exists. Otherwise it could equally be evidence for Allah’s power or Zeus’ power or the power of atom-condensing pixies.

        “Dunno how” =/= “Christian God.”

        I’m not ruling it out, but it doesn’t get to be the automatic first or even second answer without some non-tautological verification.

        1. God creates freakin’ everything.

        This is exactly the problem. This cannot be the first principle, because using this assertion as the first step in proving itself is a circle.

        This needs to be the LAST principle on your list. It’s the conclusion, not the premise. And you need to show your work in getting there.

        I also have a butt-load of evidence and personal experiences in my life to back up that faith. And you cannot for one second say otherwise, because you sir, have not lived my life.

        Actually, I can say otherwise, because genuine evidence is not contingent on me living your life. It’s objective and something you could easily present. If you don’t or can’t present it, I can declare it unpresented and possibly nonexistent. And I can say so not only for ONE second, but EVERY second of EVERY day, and it would not become less true. I have other things to do with my seconds, though.

        As for your personal experience, you’re right, I can’t say what did or didn’t happen to you. But I think it once again shows a tacit arrogance in the idea that you’re special enough to have your god reveal himself to you in a way you accept, and yet I’m supposed to just have faith, not having any such experiences myself. You say that I can’t speak to your experience, and yet your experience is somehow supposed to convince me?

        If your god can’t be bothered to do his part, why should I?

        No, that is exactly what I am NOT saying.

        Yes, you are though. Because you can’t mentally get past the question “How do we know God exists?” You’re not really asking that question, you’re telling yourself, and trying to tell me, that it isn’t necessary, that the answer is obvious, and you’re wrong. And the claims you try to make about Christianity’s uniqueness and reliability are either factually wrong or logically fallacious.

        Case in point:

        I suppose you could start with the 24,000+ manuscripts of the New Testament dated within less than 100 years (some as little as 25 years) of the described events, all correlating with each other.

        We could also start with the 400 million manuscripts of Harry Potter dated within less than 20 years (some as little as 6 years!) of the described events, all correlating with each other.

        According to you, that’s what makes the story true? Because in that case we should start looking for Hogwarts.

        The fact that we can prove that the duplicate manuscripts are accurate representations of what the authors wrote is not the same as proving that what the authors wrote is an accurate representation of true events.

        And by the way, the earliest known fragment — not even full manuscript, fragment — of the New Testament dates back only to 68 A.D., and that’s if you accept the fragment 7Q5 as being a representative fragment. If you don’t, and not all historians do, the earliest known fragment (P52) dates back to 125 A.D., nearly a full century later than you claim. Intact manuscripts don’t start showing up until about a century after that.

        Are you being dishonest with me, or did you just not bother to discover someone was being dishonest with you?

        Come on, actually do the research instead of accepting the word of apologists at face value. Just because they SAY science supports this that or the other doesn’t mean they’re right.

        Once you stop making assertions that are easily refutable by a five-second google search, much less the academic literature, then I’ll be able to take your other assertion — that you don’t take things on blind faith — more seriously.

        • natecow permalink

          We could also start with the 400 million manuscripts of Harry Potter dated within less than 20 years (some as little as 6 years!) of the described events, all correlating with each other.

          According to you, that’s what makes the story true? Because in that case we should start looking for Hogwarts.

          Except we have this other fact to counter such an crazy assumption: J.K. Rowling, alive and wanting the world to enjoy this fictional story she wrote.

          I probably did stretch things a bit by claiming the 25 years bit, my bad. It was a figure that popped into my head that I recall hearing, but I now also recall finding it was bit of a stretch. The more accurate dates would probably be closer to the 100 year mark as you presented. My mistake.

          But compare it to other ancient writings: Caesar’s Gallic Wars (10 manuscripts, 950 years), Pliny’s History (7 manuscripts, 750 years), Thucydides’ History and Herodatus’ History (8 manuscripts each, 1,300 years). Yet no one seems to question these. But when you look at the 24,000 manuscripts of the New Testament, even dating things on the later side of over 100 years after the events, it still simply blows other literature of antiquity out of the water.

          The content of some of the New Testament books themselves hint at when the original documents were written, when it talks about prophesied events that supposedly had not yet come to pass, but which we know historically came to pass just decades later (http://tinyurl.com/dljrmr).

          CARM lists some more detailed information and explanation: http://tinyurl.com/c5h7bd (by the way, I just discovered they had that page while I was writing this post, and they happen to have the same numbers I have in my notes from when I went through The Truth Project, as well as more examples).

          Now regarding my personal experience, I didn’t say they are supposed to convince you (nor do I expect them to). But I’ve mentioned a few things before which you—not surprisingly—rejected. Here’s a few things, if you’re curious…

          -Witnessing the healing of my brother when he turned to God after eight doctors failed to figure anything out, and linking it to sin using scripture.
          -The fact that he grew up with a learning disability and still sometimes stumbles when reading or spelling (he’s 26), yet he can read the Bible without a problem and interpret it very well.
          -My own experience on a handful of occasions of opening the Bible with a question in mind, only to find the answer to the question that I SHOULD have asked in the first place on the page I opened to.
          -Seeing my prayers on damaged friendships answered, once within a matter of minutes, and a couple weeks ago in a matter of seconds (I prayed that my friend would just simply talk to me after ignoring me for weeks, and about 12 seconds later she sent me a text to talk about how things were going).
          -My overall comfort in an extremely tough emotional trial since turning to God vs the unbearable pain when trying to handle it on my own.

          I’m sure you’ll pass these off as coincidence or not impressive (the most impressive in my opinion is my brother’s healing and understanding of the word…and the comfort I’ve felt as God has helped me through some tough times lately), and probably make your warm and fuzzies comment you made in reply to me on another post. Sure, maybe it’s not science, but it’s human experience.

  12. dorkmanscott permalink

    Except we have this other fact to counter such an crazy assumption: J.K. Rowling, alive and wanting the world to enjoy this fictional story she wrote.

    She won’t be here in 2000 years. Does that mean it would be completely reasonable to argue that the story is true based solely on the number of identical manuscripts available?

    I almost wonder if the people back in those days knew the story was fictional the same way we know the story of Harry Potter was fictional, and have just forgotten over the centuries.

    But compare it to other ancient writings: Caesar’s Gallic Wars (10 manuscripts, 950 years), Pliny’s History (7 manuscripts, 750 years), Thucydides’ History and Herodatus’ History (8 manuscripts each, 1,300 years). Yet no one seems to question these.

    That’s because of a little thing called extratextual corroboration. We have evidence that the historical events mentioned in those works actually happened. Most of the events in the life of Jesus are supernatural in nature and left no evidence, and outside of the Bible not a single text mentions them. You would think at least one person of the hundreds who witnessed Jesus’ miracles would have written a letter to a friend talking about how amazing it all was, but not a single such letter has ever been found. And yet we HAVE such letters and pieces of physical evidence to corroborate those other ancient texts.

    Likewise, the few events that COULD be historically verified, such as the census ordered by Herod and subsequent killing of young children in the kingdom, never happened.

    But when you look at the 24,000 manuscripts of the New Testament, even dating things on the later side of over 100 years after the events, it still simply blows other literature of antiquity out of the water.

    Where exactly are you getting this number from? “The New Testament” is a collection of disparate works that were written at different times by different authors, and the official canon as we know it today was not set until around 400 A.D.

    And again, the fact that the story was popular does not mean that it is true.

    The content of some of the New Testament books themselves hint at when the original documents were written, when it talks about prophesied events that supposedly had not yet come to pass, but which we know historically came to pass just decades later (http://tinyurl.com/dljrmr).

    So if I write a story now that takes place in the 1990s, but make a foreshadowing reference to 9/11, that means the story I write must be true because I knew what would happen and could therefore put those words into my characters’ mouths?

    CARM lists some more detailed information and explanation: http://tinyurl.com/c5h7bd (by the way, I just discovered they had that page while I was writing this post, and they happen to have the same numbers I have in my notes from when I went through The Truth Project, as well as more examples).

    One group of apologists agrees with another? What a shocker. You know what would be much more impressive? If the actual historical record agreed with them.

    -Witnessing the healing of my brother when he turned to God after eight doctors failed to figure anything out, and linking it to sin using scripture.

    If the doctors “failed to figure anything out,” then how do you know what the problem was? And if you don’t know what the problem was, how do you know that it’s healed?

    -The fact that he grew up with a learning disability and still sometimes stumbles when reading or spelling (he’s 26), yet he can read the Bible without a problem and interpret it very well.

    It sounds to me like what you consider “interpreting very well” is what I would call “parroting the interpretation told to you by others.” You don’t have to be able to read or understand the Bible to repeat what someone else has said to you.

    -My own experience on a handful of occasions of opening the Bible with a question in mind, only to find the answer to the question that I SHOULD have asked in the first place on the page I opened to.

    So you opened the Bible and then it answered a completely different question than the one you were asking. This can’t even rightfully be called coincidence, just you deciding that whatever page you open it to must be “the right one” and placing meaning on a random passage.

    -Seeing my prayers on damaged friendships answered, once within a matter of minutes, and a couple weeks ago in a matter of seconds (I prayed that my friend would just simply talk to me after ignoring me for weeks, and about 12 seconds later she sent me a text to talk about how things were going).

    This I would call coincidence, yes. Incidentally, are you implying that God overrode your friend’s free will and forced her to text you in answer to your prayer?

    -My overall comfort in an extremely tough emotional trial since turning to God vs the unbearable pain when trying to handle it on my own.

    Sure, I believe this is the case. That doesn’t mean God exists, it just means that you think God exists and you draw comfort from the thought.

    Here’s the thing though: if God doesn’t exist, that means you are still handling it on your own.

    And again, you’re not saying anything that a Muslim wouldn’t say about why their god exists, or that an ancient Egyptian might say about one of theirs.

    If these things, like spiritual healing, were the sole province of one religion — for example, yours — then there would be something worth sitting up and taking notice. But not only does every religion in every culture report all of the exact same things, but when the claims are examined you find that no religion has them occurring more frequently than random chance would predict.

    Sure, maybe it’s not science, but it’s human experience.

    There is no maybe. It is non-repeatable, non-measurable, and anecdotal. It is not science.

    • See? This is what I meant in a previous post’s comment: Someone will take their experiences and interpret them in one way (or maybe a few ways) while ignoring the other possibilities.

      It does not prove the existence of God(s). While the error does not disprove the existence, the claim that these things prove it is indeed very wrong.

      Yet, proof by logical elimination has rules anchored in our physical existence. Trying to prove something that is apparently exempt from such rules must be impossible if we try to use the only references we can use. By the same token when one ignores the limit of our references and invents new ones, anything can have proof.

      *smash* [brick wall]

      Instead of trying to prove Theism right, Theists should try to prove it wrong and eliminate all of those other possibilities. I think they should question every evidence and propose all kinds of alternate possibilities before bringing it to us as proof that Atheism is wrong. When Theists do not try to eliminate the other possibilities, we will point them out.

      All Theists are doing is showing us that they do not need undeniable proof. That will just not fly with Atheism. They should not expect it to work with us. Given their apparent rules of proof, we would be hard pressed to prove them wrong.

      It is almost like we speak different languages (that just sounds the same).

  13. dorkmanscott permalink

    Drew:

    My argument is that under your view of morality, I can see no basis for faulting God with His actions.

    I can.

    If morality is an evolved capacity to understand reciprocity, then I cannot see how it would apply to a noncorporeal entity.

    Whether or not the entity is “corporeal” has nothing to do with whether or not the entity acts with conscious intent.

    If I hack into your computer, steal your passwords, transfer the money out of your bank account to mine and ruin your credit score by racking up tens of thousands of dollars, all over the web, is it less immoral, or amoral, simply because it was all digital and therefore “noncorporeal”? I took an action, it had an effect, and it can be measured against the gauge “would I want someone to do this to me”?

    The god of the Bible behaves in ways that, if it were a human, we would call “evil.” The fact that he’s “incorporeal” is itself immaterial.

    If morality is merely a set of intuitions that have appeared in us as a result of evolution, then how would they apply to a being who never evolved?

    You’re conflating two different things here: the evolution of morals, and the evolution of “beings”.

    Just because something has evolved does not mean it is subject to laws of morality. A shark is an animal which evolved, but the shark cannot be called immoral when it kills another animal because it does not have the “higher thinking” capacity that we enjoy — a sense of reciprocity being a part of that. As far as we know, a shark does not have a sense of identification. It does not look at another shark and recognize a kinship or a commonality, mating instincts notwithstanding. It is incapable of empathy and thus its behavior is instinctual and amoral.

    The converse of this is that any god worth the designation would have a sense of reciprocity. It would be able to empathize and understand that its actions caused suffering on the part of the other being. (Doesn’t the Bible say we are made in “their” image?) So regardless of whether the god evolved, and regardless of how morality came to be, such a god would understand reciprocity, and thus would be subject to moral guidelines. A god whose behavior violates the bounds of morality is, by definition, immoral.

    Why would our feelings be a standard by which we could judge such a being?

    Because they’re the standard by which we judge EVERY thinking being.

    If the way a god behaves is clearly evil, and yet we decide that because it is a god we should call it good, then what is the point of the distinction between good and evil? And if we’re redefining the god’s evil behavior to be good, then why doesn’t that become the standard by which we judge good and evil among ourselves?

    The question is, why should we create a DOUBLE standard just to excuse the inexcusable behavior of a sociopathic character?

    While an unconscious universe has nothing to answer for, an omniscient God has no one to answer to.

    If said god expects me to worship and praise him and call him good, wrong. He has to answer to me. He has to answer to every single person he wants to trust him, and tell them why they should when he has not behaved in a trustworthy fashion.

    I have not changed the rules or held a double standard to prove that God exists, as I have presented no positive case for God’s existence in this thread.

    I don’t recall saying that you had. Only that you’re using a double standard to call your proposed god “good.”

    By the same token, don’t assume that TheGamut’s responses to your questions necessarily represent mine.

    For a positive case for the existence of God, I have posted two arguments so far:

    I imagine both arguments will come up as part of Case for a Creator, so I’ll take them in their turn at that time.

  14. I believe the statement to think about is:
    He has to answer to every single person he wants to trust him, and tell them why they should when he has not behaved in a trustworthy fashion.

    If one stopped at “answer to me”, it is out of context.

    And yes. Michael and I seem to often take things at very different angles so be careful to which statements you refer.

    In reference to that one complete statement, it seems to me that it attempts to deal with God as a person. Drew seems to have solidly established that God (in his opinion) is not a person and has no reason for anyone to treat Him as such. There is no way to contest that on any grounds other than personal criteria. Yes?

    I do not understand why an omniscient entity would act in an ultimate authoritative manner outside common social standards between people (and other animals) and expect all people to accept it as anything less than tyranny. An omniscient entity would have the means to compensate for that.

    One could claim that this is because the entity wants everyone to have free will. If that is the case, then I think either the ability to compensate so people can understand still stands (as an omniscient entity would still have no issue with operating in those conditions) or the entity’s standards are moot on our lives (as it seems to be basically doing nothing for itself and leaving all the work to people).

    In the former case, God fails IMHO. In the latter case, God is immaterial IMHO. This sounds to me like a dead-beat god.

    Yet if the case is that any gods do not exist, there is no need to compensate for understanding, which might be why we do not have this thing bothering to work with us on this. It does not prove anything, though. It is just an alternative to consider.

    Again, I am not Michael. I am just some hick out in Mississippi.

    • I understand that your objection to the existence of God from the problem of evil is different than Michael’s objection, because I think you believe in free will.

      In both cases, I think the argument is this:

      1. An all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God would not allow evil to exist
      2. Evil exists
      Conclusion: An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God does not exist

      I would grant premise 2, but not premise 1.

      In defense of premise 1, it is normally argued that:
      a. an all-powerful being would be able to destroy evil
      b. an all-knowing being would know how to destroy evil
      c. an all-good being would want to destroy evil

      I could accept all 3 sub-premises and say that this is why God will destroy evil. The response to that is: Why would God allow evil to exist in the first place? This is a tougher question. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this topic:

      from Job: none of your business
      from Romans: to glorify God

      Not terribly informative. Can this question be answered philosophically?

      If we go with the Biblical definition of the good: that which is in accordance with God’s will, then it resolves the logical contradiction. Then why does so much stuff appear to go contrary to the will of the God of the Bible? If it is even logically possible that God has sufficient reasons for allowing evil to exist, then there still is no contradiction.

      What about the probabilistic argument? As Richard Dawkins says: God probably does not exist. I have already addressed this argument extensively in this thread. Given our short lives, limited mental capacity, and lack of knowledge of the universe, we simply do not have the understanding to assign a probability to such a proposition.

      Finally, the argument that the God of the Bible acted in an evil manner does not disprove theism, or even Christianity. At most, it shows that the Bible is not inerrant, yet if it is even logically possible that God has sufficient reasons for performing such actions, such a conclusion cannot be proven.

      Ultimately, the argument from evil is an antinomy (can prove a conclusion and its negation equally well) because if there is no God, there is no objective standard for good and evil, yet evil exists, so there must be a God.

      The theist has to explain why evil exists. The atheist has to explain why everything else exists.

      • dorkmanscott permalink

        Actually, the atheist doesn’t necessarily have to explain “why,” because the atheist does not necessarily assert intention or purpose behind existence. “Why” means “what is the reason,” and there is no “why” if there is no reason.

        Now, you’re right when you say that the problem of evil is not insurmountable, and does not disprove the existence of any deity or even necessarily the Christian deity. But likewise, merely asserting that “maybe God did it because of this” or “maybe because of that” also does not disprove the possibility that there is no god, or that the god that does exist is malevolent.

        So again we’re faced with the issue that hypothesizing what might be is not the same as demonstrating what is. And that’s why I say that even if a god exists, if he wants people to believe that he is good and loving, he must answer for the apparent contradictions to this claim and be willing to demonstrate the goodness of his nature.

        If he wants to say “none of your business,” that’s his prerogative, and saying “fuck you, then” is mine, because if that’s the way he wants to play it, then I have no cause to believe him when he says he is good or loving, as there is significant evidence to the contrary. And if I can’t trust him about that, why should I trust him about anything else, including:

        -his claim to be creator of the universe
        -his claim to ownership of my soul
        -his claim to have the power to send me to heaven or hell
        -his claim that such places even exist?

        As the saying goes, the winner writes the history. How do we even know that God’s really the good guy?

        A good and loving god would have nothing to hide. A god with something to hide — including but not limited to his very existence — becomes suspect.

      • As Richard Dawkins says: God probably does not exist. I have already addressed this argument extensively in this thread. Given our short lives, limited mental capacity, and lack of knowledge of the universe, we simply do not have the understanding to assign a probability to such a proposition.

        This is interesting. I would argue “given our short lives, limited mental capacity, and lack of knowledge of the universe” that we would not be able to say anything other than “probably.” You appear to be confusing “probable” with “probability.” One is philosophical and the other is statistical.

        In fact, by asserting that God exists, you are the only one assigning a probability which, in your words, you “simply do not have the understanding to assign.”

        • I have made no positive case for the existence of God in this thread. I am merely trying to show that there exists no contradiction between an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God and the existence of evil.

          • dorkmanscott permalink

            Any god who feels that there is a utility in the existence of evil is either:

            a) Not all-powerful — and therefore cannot destroy evil but must merely try to use it for an overall positive end;

            b) Not all-knowing — otherwise he would be able to think of better ways to do whatever he needs to do; or

            c) Not all-good — and therefore he has no reason to eliminate evil and perhaps even enjoys and causes it.

            You assert that there is no contradiction in a god possessing all three attributes and yet evil still being allowed to exist. You are incorrect.

          • Not in this thread, no. Though what I was trying to show was that your dismissal of a probabilistic argument was merely a strawman, wherein you quote-mined Richard Dawkins and applied a different meaning to his words, then dismissed that (Dawkins spends an entire book explaining the reasoning behind his statement, and it is not statistical in nature). You then move on to put a counter-argument against assigning probability:
            “Given our short lives, limited mental capacity, and lack of knowledge of the universe, we simply do not have the understanding to assign a probability to such a proposition.”
            Which, unfortunately, didn’t apply to Richard Dawkins’ actual statement; he didn’t assign a probability.

            … and as far as probabilistic arguments go, my statement stands. The one who asserts that God exists is the one assigning a probability.

  15. … and it often comes back to someone claiming God exists by saying something to the effect of “Well, prove that He doesn’t.”

    Let me take a stab at that approach: “Well, prove that Harvey, my 9′ invisible rabbit friend who exists in a manner that is undetectable but affects all of our lives, does not exist.”

    Hmmm…

    Okay. So nobody actually said “Prove that He does not exist.” But:
    The atheist has to explain why everything else exists.

    It is along the same lines of telling Atheists to prove their faith as a defense for Theists claiming proof of Theism. The repeated claims that “such and such do not disprove the existence of God” is not proof that God exists. If one says that God exists and attempts to prove it, they should actually attempt to prove it. Yes?

    My favorite part is how there is supposed to be a universal standard for evil as the definition of objective morality. I could have sworn that someone championing Theism earlier stated that what one would consider “evil” from one perspective might not be “evil” from another perspective and gave a nice glowing example of it. Albeit, it was another claim that God does not have to abide the laws He has placed on Man, but if it is supposed to be a valid point, then it is valid under all situations.

    What about child marriage and forced sex in a marriage? Some might say that is evil, but apparently, some say their God is cool with it. One could say they are wrong, but from their perspective, it could be that they feel others who try to stop them are oppressors. What if God really did mean for women to be nothing more than baby makers? (I do not believe that, but then, I do not believe in a purpose defined by any god(s).)

    I am not sure how one can claim objective evil or how my comment related to it. My statements were based on subjective standards of morality placed by people and how an omniscient entity cannot seem to work within those conditions and a couple of the excuses given on both sides.

    I also do not understand why people, who have already asserted that God does not have to abide by our rules or even the basic physical boundaries the rest of the Universe exhibits, try to use those same rules and boundaries to prove His existence. It is a logical paradox. What rules does God play by, then? Why do those rules that grant Him omniscience exempt Him from existing in our rules?

    Sometimes I feel like we are in a 0.9999…=1 argument, which always ends up with either relying on a partial (incomplete), implied evaluation (such as 0.3333… for 1/3) or adding (or subtracting) 1 with infinity for no reason. I feel like someone is adding 1 to infinity just because they think that it is the same as infinity. (All that proves is 1+1=1.)

    • (Or 3=1. Ha!) Okay. That was bad, but still… 😛

    • My mistake. I began arguing from an atheistic view of morality and its underlying assumptions and then later argued from the theistic worldview and its different underlying assumptions. If the theistic view is right, there is no contradiction. If the atheistic view of morality is right, then there exists no objective moral standard by which to judge God.

      In either case, the argument against the existence of God from the existence of evil fails.

      • dorkmanscott permalink

        You did not “begin arguing from an atheistic view of morality and its underlying assumptions,” you began arguing from a straw-man parody of them.

        The notion that atheism can have no objective morality, and that morality requires the existence of a deity, is fallacious, and that has been explained already.

        The argument from evil against the existence of your god, if you are proposing a god that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent all three, still stands. Your merely asserting that it does not — as with all your other bald assertions — is what actually fails under the light of scrutiny and objective evaluation.

      • “If the atheistic view of morality is right, then there exists no objective moral standard by which to judge God.” makes the assumption that an objective moral standard comes only from God.

        Yet from what the Bible tells us of God, his morals are anything but an “objective standard.”

        By labeling a moral standard as “objective,” it would be apparent to ALL as a moral standard, yet people take issue with the idea of God murdering and condoning murder in one Testament only to propose passive resistance in the New Testament.

        Also, it would conflict with a moral “standard” in that there was a shift in morality.

        If God’s morals are neither “Objective” nor a “Standard,” I’m left to ask if they’re even “moral.”

  16. Which argument still stands, the logical argument or the probabilistic one?

    • dorkmanscott permalink

      If you are responding to me, and I assume you are since you use the words “still stands” as I did:

      Do you honestly have this much trouble understanding words in the context in which they are spoken?

      The argument from evil against the existence of your god, if you are proposing a god that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent all three, still stands.”

      That is obviously a logical argument, not a probabalistic one.

      You have said yourself in previous conversations that your god is bound by the laws of logic. “He cannot make a married bachelor,” you said.

      And yet here you are, arguing that he can create or perpetrate an act of “good evil.” It’s ludicrous.

      • I think the objection here is that:

        1. A good God would not commit atrocities
        2. The God of the Old Testament committed atrocities
        Conclusion: the God of the Old Testament is not good

        And for the Christian there are at least two ways out of this.

        1. If you are not an inerrantist, you can just say that the Israelites were mistaken in their belief that God ordered such acts. If you do not believe in the inerrancy of scripture, then this isn’t even an issue.

        2. If and only if you believe in Biblical inerrancy, does this objection hold any weight. In this case, the problem is solved through divine command morality. This says that our moral duties are constituted by God’s commands. It is God’s commandments to us that give us right and wrong.

        If God issues you a command to do something, then that becomes your moral duty, and it would be wrong for you to not do it. Since God does not give orders to Himself, then He has no moral duty to fulfill. He simply acts in accordance with His nature. Life is a gift from God, and He is not duty bound to prolong anybody’s life. He can take your life as He sees fit. I do not have the right, as a human being, to kill somebody else, as that would be murder. If God were to take my life, it would not be murder, as He is not bound by any moral duty.

        The problem isn’t that God took the lives of the Canaanites, as God eventually takes the life of everyone. The problem might be that God ordered the killing of the Canaanites. God’s commands are not arbitrary, but reflect God’s logically necessary (same in all possible worlds) moral nature. Could God order someone to murder somebody? God could order someone to do something that in the absence of a divine command would be considered murder but is not murder in light of that divine command.

        Therefore, God commanded the Israelites to do something that if they had done it without a divine command would have been a moral abomination.

        Remember Abraham’s bargain with God, that if there were even ten righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah, God would have saved the cities. This sets the stage to show that God always has a morally sufficient reason for His actions, even if He does not always tell us. God told Abraham that his descendants would be in Egypt for 400 years because the iniquity of the Canaanites is not complete, in other words, they had not yet become so corrupted that they were ripe for judgment. the Canaanites were practicing prostitution in their temples. They practiced child sacrifice. God said that these people were abominable and deserving of destruction.

        Again, this is only a concern if you believe in Biblical inerrancy.

        • dorkmanscott permalink

          So if you are not a Biblical inerrantist, then you, too, do not believe that our morality comes from God. You create God in your own image, choosing which passages to believe because they already coincide with what you believe. It also raises the issue that if parts of the Bible are suspect in their veracity, then it renders the ENTIRE Bible suspect.

          This is why inerrantists exist at all. They at least recognize that if anything in the Bible might be wrong, everything in the Bible might be wrong, and that there is no objective way to separate true from false.

          As far as inerrancy goes, scripture makes it clear that God is not the source of morality. The understanding of what was good and what was evil was, you may recall, the Macguffin that engineered the supposed “fall of man.” God didn’t give that knowledge to Adam and Eve, they essentially stole it from him in a blend of the Prometheus and Pandora mythological archetypes. It was completely independently of God that we learned to distinguish good and evil, but we know that we definitely have this power because if we did not, God would not have punished Adam and Eve for obtaining it.

          In fact, a reading of the story from that perspective suggests that God’s opposition to Adam and Eve eating from the tree stems from the fact that humanity will then recognize his behavior for what it is.

          According to the inerrantist viewpoint as you’ve put it forth, something is right because God says so.

          When the Canaanites practice child sacrifice, it’s abominable.

          When God practices child sacrifice — as in the case of Jephtha or, you know, JESUS, who was after all God’s only child — it is righteous and holy.

          So if you are a Biblical inerrantist, your God is evil and a hypocrite.

          Also, explain to me how responding to the Canaanite sacrifice of children by having the Hebrews slaughter everyone in the city including the children makes any kind of sense at all.

          (The excuse I’ve heard is that they were making the child sacrifices in deference to another god, which makes the inerrantist god evil, a hypocrite, and a petty thug.)

          This is very simple: if God told you to murder someone, would you do it? And don’t try to pull the “God would never do that” card because we’ve established that he most certainly would. God tells you to kill someone and refuses to give you a reason because it’s none of your business.

          Do you do as God asks? If not, if you demand a reason that you should do so, or evidence that you are speaking to God and not succumbing to a trick of the devil, then you are a) admitting that you actually have a standard of evidence that must be met before you will believe a proposition, and b) stating that you have a morality that God’s dictates must meet, and not the other way around.

          If you do commit the murder, then you, like your god, are immoral.

          If anything God does is “good” then the notion of “good” becomes entirely worthless and self-contradictory.

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