Yahweh’s Murderous Tendencies January 7, 2010

Yahweh’s Murderous Tendencies

by Jesse Galef –

Every now and then it’s worth refreshing our memory about how absurd it is to call the God in the Judeo-Christian bible compassionate. Daniel Florien at Unreasonable Faith just released part five of his series called “An Evil God?” focusing on the story of Noah. Remember that this is the unchanging, ever-loving God many people claim to worship. After referring to this little episode as “the Tantrum of All Tantrums,” Dan describes the situation:

So everyone everywhere is evil. What will this regretful, all-powerful, all-knowing, yet loving god do about it? Perhaps teach them morality through a mandatory Sunday School class? Teach them the Golden Rule? Explain to them the concept of rule of law and justice? Give them a holy book with rules he expects them to live by? Turn the other cheek and repay evil with good?

Nah. He’s Yahweh! He’ll just kill everyone and start a clean slate. Or as he says in Bible, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

That’s a poetic way of saying, “Fuck it. I’m gonna drown all these evil bastards… and their children!”

I look forward to more of this series is soon – they’re well-written and really show the dark parts of the supposedly holy book.

You know, with all the things Yahweh does, you would think he would develop a reputation. I can totally see this role in a play… Yahweh is a power-hungry but insecure mafia boss who demands utter loyalty. He toys with his underbosses (go kill your son – haha, just kidding!). He personally commits acts of terrorism by assassinating the first-borns of a rival gang to make a political statement (and pulls some creepy blood-for-water stunt). He orders the total slaughter of another mob and their families (go back and kill the women and children!)

And of course, when Yahweh decides he doesn’t like most of his family, he kills them all save one.  This would be a very dramatic scene, probably near the beginning of the play to help establish the character’s darker nature.

Heck, I’d pay to watch this dramatic thriller performed!  I love stories with anti-heroes, and God is a perfect role – strong but flawed.  I’m sure I’ve left out some important plot devices and character development – anything that you deem necessary for the Play of God?


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  • Revyloution

    Damn Jesse, the idea of reinterpreting the bible as a play about the mafia is brilliant.

    I can see the flood scene. He arranges to have the entire family with cement shoes in the bottom of a huge pool. Poor Noah is standing at the bottom with his dog, cat, and an inflatable raft.

    Yahweh tells Noah how disappointed he is with the family. Then says ‘But I like you Noah. I like you lots. Heres a hammer, if you can chisel out your kids and wife before they drown, toss em on that boat. And save dem animals of yours too. I always liked them animals. Ok Tony, turn on the water.’

  • Angie

    (1) Yahweh the Mafia Boss would be a sexist pig — he views women as men’s property, and almost all of his henchmen are male. He’s abusive toward his wife Israel, always accusing her of “whoredomes” and threatening her over real or imagined wrongdoings.

    (2) Yahweh the mafia boss is deeply conflicted about his own sexuality. He despises homosexuals and loose women, but at the same time he demands the mutilation of his henchmen’s privates as a loyalty pact to satisfy a twisted fetish.

  • I still don’t get why not liking what a God does – or the claims about what God does – are reasons not to believe in God.

    The God of the Bible if he exists (and I believe he does) would then be the definer of love. Not us. He would also be the definer of “good”. Not us.

    Human centric theology (or understanding of god(s)) is not theology at all.

    I find this sort of argument and name calling the most confounding trait of new atheism.

  • yhj

    Indeed this psychopathic skyman would be most adored in the realm of fine literature, but apparently nothing above that.

  • gski

    I thought of a few scenes. But they wouldn’t be believable and would be banned as obscene.

  • Revyloution

    Ooh, I had another thought. The opening credits would be like Genesis 1:1. Let there be light! And all the construction halogens would be turned on. Then we watch as his mansion is built. Paintings on the ceilings for the creation of the heavens, bringing in exotic animals for the garden, filling of the pool for the oceans, etc.

    Oh, and Nathan, we don’t like or dislike what your god supposedly did. We just point these things out because they are contradictions in your faith. And there is nothing new about this treatment of theism. Go back and read Epicurus from 370 BCE, these arguments are as old as religion itself.

  • Fred

    I still don’t get why not liking what a God does – or the claims about what God does – are reasons not to believe in God.

    Because your god’s behavior is supposed to set the standard that we all must follow; yet it is demonstrably evil on many occasions. This is called a contradiction, and for most reasonable people, it would be enough to disbelieve.

  • “Because your god’s behavior is supposed to set the standard that we all must follow; yet it is demonstrably evil on many occasions. This is called a contradiction, and for most reasonable people, it would be enough to disbelieve.”

    It’s only demonstrably evil if you define “evil” and then demonstrate that Yahweh’s actions meet your definition.

    Not the other way around.

    It’s a bit like Nixon’s “it’s not illegal if you’re the president” – only it’s not actually illegal if you’re God.

  • It’s also not a contradiction if it can be easily reconciled by the claims the Bible makes.

    It’s a contradiction if two claims can not be consistently resolved.

  • Alz

    Nathan, how many times has Yahweh broken “The Golden Rule” – the standard for all that is good.

  • Josh W.

    Question for Nathan: Do you accept the Bible as an accurate and infallible representation of human history?

    Also, just because Nixon said it doesn’t make it true. If the president commits a crime, it’s still a crime.

  • GJ

    “It’s only demonstrably evil if you define ‘evil’ and then demonstrate that Yahweh’s actions meet your definition.”

    We’re using “evil” in its ordinary sense. How are you using it? Are you prepared to defend the view that the wanton slaughter of innocents is permissible, at least if Yahweh does it? But then why isn’t it permissible if, say, Hitler does it?

    It’s awfully funny seeing theists go into convulsions trying (hopelessly) to defend god against the charge that he’s a moral monster.

  • yhj

    Please Nathan define “evil” for us then. As the Christian theology/culture (both pop and proper) thrives off this notion of a ever present struggle between “good” and “evil”.

  • Angie

    Just because a theoretical being (such as Yahweh) would have the power to enforce his will does not mean that his will would be good. The power to dominate is not synonymous with intrinsic goodness.

  • Polly

    I find this sort of argument and name calling the most confounding trait of new atheism.

    These aren’t arguments, it’s just a little imagination play. There are plenty of reasons not to believe in YHWH other than his total lack of consistency (“Thou shalt not kill”).

    I’d like to see Allah next.
    Actually, I think Mohammed was probably more mafia boss than anyone: “Who will rid me of dis trouble?”
    “I will boss, I will!”
    Two words: Camel head

    btw – anyone else hear of that new movie where the Greek gods are real? “The Lightning Thief” it’s called.

  • yhj

    Benevolent being? Hm where did I hear that..

  • But your talking about the Ollld Covenant! Jesus gave us a Newwww and Better one!!! snark

  • “Nathan, how many times has Yahweh broken “The Golden Rule” – the standard for all that is good.”

    Many – but that’s a human standard. If God exists then he sets the standard – not us. The Bible is pretty clear that God’s standards are different. It’s also pretty clear that God’s actions are not necessarily to be our actions (vengeance is mine etc).

    “Question for Nathan: Do you accept the Bible as an accurate and infallible representation of human history?”

    I accept it as an accurate and infallible theological account – a book that helps us to understand God. It sometimes contains history but it also often contains allegory or metaphor. I don’t think it’s all that hard to tell the difference. Sometimes it includes accurate accounts of history that are allegorical.

    “Just because a theoretical being (such as Yahweh) would have the power to enforce his will does not mean that his will would be good. The power to dominate is not synonymous with intrinsic goodness.”

    No – the power to enforce does not make it “good” – the fact that this theoretical being theoretically created and judges the world makes it “good”.

    “Are you prepared to defend the view that the wanton slaughter of innocents is permissible, at least if Yahweh does it? But then why isn’t it permissible if, say, Hitler does it?”

    Had Hitler won the war and been the one writing laws he would have been the one who defined “good” for those living in his world.

    I am not prepared to call anybody innocent. The Bible says nobody is innocent. That’s kind of the point.

  • monkeymind

    Whatever God says is good, is good. Take that you moral relativist atheists!

  • “There are plenty of reasons not to believe in YHWH other than his total lack of consistency (“Thou shalt not kill”).”

    That’s not a lack of consistency.

    Firstly there’s a false assumption that the rules are the same for God and us. Any parent knows that the rules are different for adults and children (alcohol consumption for example). This is not inconsistent it is consistent with different capacity. It shouldn’t be difficult to theoretically apply the same principles to gods and humans.

    The original text says “murder” rather than “kill”. There’s a difference.

    The Bible would suggest that God’s actions are always justifiable and therefore not murder.

    Your suggestion that it’s inconsistent – while not being related to your atheism – is a fallacy that doesn’t ring true with most believers.

    They are theologically inaccurate. If you want to convince a Christian that their beliefs are riddled with contradictions this is not the area to do it…

  • Angie

    I just thought of a few more! 🙂

    (1) It’s an open secret among Yahweh’s family and associates that he’s into kinky stuff. How else would that explain Yahweh founding the underground bondage club, Hell? Unfortunately, Yahweh’s still bitter about the falling out he had years ago with the club’s manager, Lou (as in Lucifer).

    (2) Yahweh is known to use bizarre methods to intimidate his opponents. Once, after he learned that a local fruit mogul nicknamed “the Serpent” was talking trash about him, Yahweh made him crawl on his belly in the dirt. And then there was that nasty incident will rival crimelord Baal’s henchmen (1 Kings 18:19-40) …

  • Jeff

    Speaking of toying with underbosses: Daniel, anyone? “Hey dude, go play with those hungry lions. It’ll be cool.”

  • Revyloution

    Nathans just moving goal posts. We answered his first question, so he jumped to another. Until he is willing to explain why god was suprised to see Adam and Eve cover themselves when he was omniscient. If he was truly all seeing and all knowing, he would have known that Adam and Eve would eat the apple before he even made them. Same for the flood, if he knew man was going to get so bad that they would all need to be destroyed, why not just start with Noah, and skip the whole Adam and Eve thing.

    Angie, I love it. Do we have any playwrights in the house? I think this needs to happen.

  • Angie

    I second Revyloution’s proposal. Let’s type up this baby and put it on Broadway!

  • yhj

    @Nathan

    If it’s not a lack of consistency then what is this contradiction of terms? What reason is there for the mass murders?

    Ok. Let’s assume that God has different “standards” than us, as in he can drink beer while we pathetic humans can’t, then why does Christian theology or teaching preach the “morality” of the skyman? Why are we trying to compare ourselves with something that has standards that are not applicable to humans?

    Also you say that “The Bible would suggest that God’s actions are always justifiable and therefore not murder.”

    do you take these “suggestions” as infallible and true?

    Might I “suggest” that most things do not “ring true with most believers”, say evolution by natural selection or rational thought processes?

  • “Until he is willing to explain why god was suprised to see Adam and Eve cover themselves when he was omniscient.”

    Who said he was surprised?

    If he was truly all seeing and all knowing, he would have known that Adam and Eve would eat the apple before he even made them.

    Indeed, he would, and he did. At least that’s what the Bible says.

    Same for the flood, if he knew man was going to get so bad that they would all need to be destroyed, why not just start with Noah, and skip the whole Adam and Eve thing.

    Because then we’d miss out on heaps of theologically important stuff – like the fall of man, a “creation” account that claims God is responsible for the beauty, complexity and goodness of the world, and a parallel picture of heaven (the Garden of Eden) as a place God dwells with with man – a parallel picked up in the final book of the Bible (Revelation) in a piece of theological brilliance consistent with Hebraic narrative (beginning – middle – new beginning).

    I don’t think I’ve moved the goalposts anywhere – other than to suggest that you’ve put them in the wrong place for the purpose of falsely ridiculing the other side for their inability to score.

  • Josh W.

    So basically what Nathan is saying is that anything God does is justified and beyond human questioning. God sets the rules, but there is one set that he tells people to live by and a second that he lives by. This is to be considered, as Nathan say, “not inconsistent, but consistent with different capacity.” I think that Nathan has just gone and moved the goal posts ALL the way back.

    Nathan, regarding the Bible, you say “It sometimes contains history but it also often contains allegory or metaphor. I don’t think it’s all that hard to tell the difference.” I know Christians who accept the story of the Garden of Eden as absolute fact any others who take it as metaphor. It seems a bit arrogant to assume you know which parts of the Bible God wanted you to take as fact and which He did not.

  • @Nathan:

    I’m not trying to be antagonistic; this is a genuine philosophical question.

    First; I have a different definition of “good” than you do (I do not believe that it’s possible for an “objective” standard of good to exist, because “goodness” is conditional; therefore a truly “objective” definition would be meaningless because what qualifies as “good” varies from situation to situation based on conditions).

    Given that, I’m asking you to try something: convince me why I should value your definition of “goodness” — a standard set up by a higher power whose nature is beyond our comprehension. What is the best case you can make as to why your definition of “good” should mean anything to me? My definition of good accounts for my worldview just fine. Why should I care what a higher power thinks I should do? Even if he’s more powerful than me, he’s still a single mind — separate from my own mind — that has thoughts that are different from mine. That makes his thoughts just as subjective as mine; maybe more “powerful,” but still subjective.

    So what, besides scale/power/awesomeness/creation, makes god’s opinion magically become “objective” as opposed to yours or mine?

  • yhj

    lol, this guy (yeah you Nathan) has no hope. Why was I wasting my time here, oh well, good day/night to you, try to produce more sensible arguments in the future, although that would be near impossible when one is fending for a sadistic child of the clouds.

  • Staceyjw

    @Nathan
    “Because then we’d miss out on heaps of theologically important stuff ”

    Yes, that’s a GREAT reason for condemning the entire human race (FOREVER!) for the sins of 2 people, then killing off an entire world of people and animals. Just to make a good story. REALLY???

    We ridicule xtianity because it’s silly. This post wasn’t intended to persuade theists, just to make fun of a terrible, blood-thirsty book.

    If you want to read some REAL arguments (from an ex-fundie), I suggest you go over to: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=3148#atheism
    ________
    AND- For all you playwrights:
    Here are the top 20 Evil Bible Stories:
    http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=21

    And more New Testament killing:
    http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=682

  • Vas

    The God of the Bible if he exists (and I believe he does) would then be the definer of love. Not us. He would also be the definer of “good”. Not us.

    But he revealed the difference between good and evil to us all with the magical fruit… right? Yet Tim D seems to have a different idea of good and evil than you do… right. So what the dealeo there slick, come on now Nathan, give me the bafflingly ridiculous story I just know you have up your sleeve.

  • Angie

    Perhaps our new visitor would benefit from reading “The Tale of the Twelve Officers”?

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mark_vuletic/five.html

  • Aj

    The evil nature of God in the Bible is not a reason a good reason to stop believing in him. However, people are generally moral, and it would create them discomfort to believe that whatever ever God does in the Bible is true and good. Because Christians believe in God through wish thinking and indoctrination, God doing morally reprehensible acts causes them to doubt God the same way they became to believe, irrationally.

    Only sociopaths would accept that God killing innocents was moral, and there aren’t many of those. Some will remain Christians by rejecting large parts of the Bible, as they have to for the parts of the Bible that conflict with scientific knowledge. It is absurd for moral people to claim they believe the Bible to be true, including the parts where God kills innocents, and maintain that God is compassionate or good. Asking most people whether God killing innocents is moral would recieve a strong negative response.

    There’s no reason to accept that a deity is the source of morals. It’s an appeal to authority. Why should a creator write the laws? There’s no good reason for that.

  • So basically what Nathan is saying is that anything God does is justified and beyond human questioning.

    Not at all. Question all you like. I’m saying that disagreeing with the way God does things (if he does) is not a reason to do away with God.

    Nor do actions that involve killing people necessarily constitute evil if you gave them life to begin with and they are not “innocent” as we would claim.

    I’m suggesting that the God of the Bible – understood on the terms of the Bible – is not actually evil. He’s only evil if we define morality/evil – and then only if we reject any claims to the divine nature of this God. If God is divine, and the creator, then he can not logically be evil.

    If he’s not then he firstly doesn’t exists, and then secondly, because he doesn’t exist he can not be called evil.

    This whole premise – that God is evil – does not make any sense. Either he is good, or he does not exist.

    God sets the rules, but there is one set that he tells people to live by and a second that he lives by. This is to be considered, as Nathan say, “not inconsistent, but consistent with different capacity.”

    I don’t know why this would be a problem. Here’s the logic in the Bible – all humans are equally culpable so can not carry out justice without hypocrisy. God is both without sin, and the rightful judge, so the exercise of this judgment is his prerogative.

    “But he revealed the difference between good and evil to us all with the magical fruit… right?”

    Only in that the fruit – symbolic or literal – was an opportunity for us to act autonomously – that’s what sin is – a decision to reject God’s intentions and do our own thing.

    “We ridicule xtianity because it’s silly.”

    I love this erudite explanation of your position. Perhaps this is why atheism is destined to remain a misunderstood and disliked minority.

    Now to Tim.

    First; I have a different definition of “good” than you do (I do not believe that it’s possible for an “objective” standard of good to exist, because “goodness” is conditional; therefore a truly “objective” definition would be meaningless because what qualifies as “good” varies from situation to situation based on conditions).

    You’ll have to excuse me if I’ve given the impression that I believe good is objective. I don’t. I believe that it’s God’s subjective position on “good” that actually matters. If God exists, and judges the world.

    If God doesn’t exist then this idea is pretty meaningless and you may as well eat, drink, and be merry. At other people’s expense too – if that’s what you enjoy.

    If God exists though – he is not the objective definer of good. You can disagree with what he says is good. But ultimately your disagreement is like that of a child who wants to play on the road.

    What is the best case you can make as to why your definition of “good” should mean anything to me? My definition of good accounts for my worldview just fine. Why should I care what a higher power thinks I should do? Even if he’s more powerful than me, he’s still a single mind — separate from my own mind — that has thoughts that are different from mine. That makes his thoughts just as subjective as mine; maybe more “powerful,” but still subjective.

    All of this only works on the assumption that God as a single mind exists.

    Then the argument is simple – God’s thoughts are what is going to count in the end.

    You can choose not so subject yourself to that “power” – that’s your (perhaps God given) freedom. You just can’t complain when that power is eventually applied as promised.

  • Matto the Hun

    “Until he is willing to explain why god was suprised to see Adam and Eve cover themselves when he was omniscient.”

    Who said he was surprised?

    If he was truly all seeing and all knowing, he would have known that Adam and Eve would eat the apple before he even made them.

    Indeed, he would, and he did. At least that’s what the Bible says.

    later on you say

    Only in that the fruit – symbolic or literal – was an opportunity for us to act autonomously – that’s what sin is – a decision to reject God’s intentions and do our own thing.

    So on one hand you say god is all seeing and all knowing. On the other hand you are claiming we get to make decisions.

    You’ve contradicted yourself.

    If god is all knowing, he knows what we will do before we do it (you already conceded this in the case of Adam & Eve), then that excludes the possibility that we can make decisions at all.

  • yhj

    As I said Nathan is hopeless. lol, this only makes me laugh now. sigh.

  • The original text says “murder” rather than “kill”. There’s a difference.

    Seriously, give us a break. The same Hebrew word that you claim translates to ‘murder’ is the word used to describe a lion killing something, elsewhere in the Bible. Do lions murder, or is the translation selectively beneficial to your interpretation?

    I believe that it’s God’s subjective position on “good” that actually matters.

    Here, let me translate that into plainer English: Might makes right.

    That’s really the core of Christian theology. God’s the biggest kid on the block, so he gets to tell everyone else what the deal is. Sorry, but even if I still believed in your god, I would never worship him.

  • So on one hand you say god is all seeing and all knowing. On the other hand you are claiming we get to make decisions.

    You’ve contradicted yourself.

    I think it’s a paradox rather than a contradiction.

    Plenty of Christians and theologians have grappled with that paradox for years. I’m happy not to completely understand God.

    I don’t see why apparent paradoxes are a reason to reject the premise of God’s existence.

  • Please Mike, if your rebuttal is so quickly and easily answered with an obvious perusal of wikipedia don’t bother…

    “The Hebrew word for “kill” is ??? (harog), while the Hebrew word for “murder” is ??? (retzach), which is found in the Ten Commandments ?? ???? (lo tirtzach). In the fullness of the Old Testament Exodus 20:13 is abundantly evidenced as prohibiting unjust killing, rather than a universal injunction against all killing, as retzach is never used in reference to the slaying of animals”

  • No, it’s not a paradox. It is a contradiction. If our actions are known, there is no choice. The only resolution is to say that God knows all possible outcomes of our choices, which does a poor job of maintaining the idea that he actually knows which possible outcome is the one that will happen.

    A universe in which an omnipotent being with accurate foreknowledge exists is a universe in which choice is a total illusion.

  • That’s really the core of Christian theology. God’s the biggest kid on the block, so he gets to tell everyone else what the deal is.

    Well, feel free to go up against him. But it’ll be a Pyrrhic victory only.

    That really is a triumph of your personal philosophy rather than reason.

    Sorry, but even if I still believed in your god, I would never worship him.

    That’s your choice. I’m not out to convince you otherwise – just pointing out that this “God is evil” thing doesn’t actually work for anybody but sycophantic atheists with chips on the shoulder.

  • Aj

    A paradox that isn’t a contradiction? A miracle!

    This reminds me of the interview with Richard Dawkins on Fox News Radio. A man called in to say he would kill his neighbour if God wasn’t watching him. I don’t know if that guy’s any better or worse than a guy who says that whatever something powerful does is good, even if it’s killing children.

  • “The only resolution is to say that God knows all possible outcomes of our choices, which does a poor job of maintaining the idea that he actually knows which possible outcome is the one that will happen.”

    I didn’t suggest that this was the case. Did I?

    I also didn’t suggest this needed to be resolved.

    I’m happy to believe in an omnipotent (and in jargon terms “sovereign”) God – who predestines things and in human agency/free will.

    “A universe in which an omnipotent being with accurate foreknowledge exists is a universe in which choice is a total illusion.”

    Indeed. And yet we’re all under the same illusion whether we believe in God or not (assuming that the omnipotent being exists).

  • That’s your choice. I’m not out to convince you otherwise – just pointing out that this “God is evil” thing doesn’t actually work for anybody but sycophantic atheists with chips on the shoulder.

    So you’re not willing to recognize that “might makes right” does not actually mean that the mighty is right?

    By the way, regarding ‘retzach’, Proverbs 22:13.
    “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.”
    ‘Slain’ is ‘retzach’. Can a lion murder?

  • Indeed. And yet we’re all under the same illusion whether we believe in God or not (assuming that the omnipotent being exists).

    I don’t disagree. But it does put the lie to the entire concept of sin and salvation. If choice is an illusion, God has predestined those who will be saved and those who won’t, which essentially means he’s messing with people at his whim.

    Again, not worthy of worship.

  • I don’t know if that guys any better or worse than a guy who says that whatever something powerful does is good, even if it’s killing children.

    Someone earlier asked me to define “good” – here’s my definition…

    “Good is what the being with the most power decries to be good.”

    It works with regards to democracy where the majority is the “being with the most power”, and it works with regards to God, and it works with regards to subjective morality – in your own life you have the most power – and thus you define good…

  • Aj

    I’m happy to believe in an omnipotent (and in jargon terms “sovereign”) God – who predestines things and in human agency/free will.

    Indeed. And yet we’re all under the same illusion whether we believe in God or not (assuming that the omnipotent being exists).

    Wait a minute, you can’t believe in an illusion, knowingly! Unless you’re insane.

  • yhj

    Aj and Mike you guys are just exciting Nathan lol. Nathan your arguments have been nothing but equivocating, never answering the questions you were asked, and when you do (and attempt to explain something) you shovel out contradictions one after another.

  • in your own life you have the most power – and thus you define good…

    Uh, no. See, I’m a member of a society. I don’t have the most power.

  • We Are The 801

    Sorry, but any god that commands genocide is automatically bad in my book. I don’t need a god to tell me that’s seriously f-ed up! And that’s just for starters.

    Funny how Christians have to jump through loads of mental gymnastics in order to justify their beliefs and the actions of their monstrous god.

    Were such a god to actually exist, I would find it my personal moral obligation to oppose him, no more than any other tyrant.

    And comparing the god Yahweh to Nixon? That doesn’t exactly help your case, dude! LOL

  • Matto the Hun

    I think it’s a paradox rather than a contradiction.

    No, it is a contradiction.

    Plenty of Christians and theologians have grappled with that paradox for years. I’m happy not to completely understand God.

    Like you, they don’t have an answer. Like you, they do what every good theologian of pretty much every religion humans have ever invented… they bullshit their way out of it.

    I don’t see why apparent paradoxes are a reason to reject the premise of God’s existence.

    I’m beginning to see why.

  • We Are The 801

    “It is not acceptable to have a religion where the alternative to faith is punishment — that’s how you train dogs, not develop people.” ~ Deng Ming-Dao

    (hell, its not even a way to train dogs!)

  • “By the way, regarding ‘retzach’, Proverbs 22:13.
    “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.”
    ‘Slain’ is ‘retzach’. Can a lion murder?”

    Is it not possible that the proverb may be referring not to a literal lion but to any form of danger…

    Like “a lazy man says “if I go outside I may be murdered by a bus”…

    “Wait a minute, you can’t believe in an illusion, knowingly! Unless you’re insane.”

    Or willing to submit my understanding of things to a higher power. A God. If you will…

  • Funny how Christians have to jump through loads of mental gymnastics in order to justify their beliefs and the actions of their monstrous god.

    I’m barely even stretching.

    “And comparing the god Yahweh to Nixon? That doesn’t exactly help your case, dude! LOL”

    That was tongue in cheek.

    Some of us Christians are still capable of humour.

    ““It is not acceptable to have a religion where the alternative to faith is punishment — that’s how you train dogs, not develop people.” ~ Deng Ming-Dao

    (hell, its not even a way to train dogs!)”

    Unless the religion is actually true. This statement would be acceptable if religions were truly fallacies designed to dupe people as a form of social control.

    Nathan your arguments have been nothing but equivocating, never answering the questions you were asked, and when you do (and attempt to explain something) you shovel out contradictions one after another.

    How can I both never answer questions and answer questions while shovelling out contradictions?

    Can you direct me to questions I might have missed?

    I’ll attempt to answer them.

  • Josh W.

    Nathan, I was truly curious to hear your rebuttal of my assertion that you are slightly arrogant in presupposing what parts of the bible God meant for you to take seriously and what parts he meant for you to take as metaphor. Sorry that you didn’t have one. Either that or you are just cherry picking the things you will respond to, however unimpressively.

  • Spurs Fan

    Nathan, how many times has Yahweh broken “The Golden Rule” – the standard for all that is good.”

    Many – but that’s a human standard. If God exists then he sets the standard – not us. The Bible is pretty clear that God’s standards are different. It’s also pretty clear that God’s actions are not necessarily to be our actions (vengeance is mine etc).

    Nathan-this is an interesting point. A good Christian would definitely know that the Golden Rule is attributed to Jesus (among others). So, if you believe that Jesus is God (which you may not), then that rule is actually not a “human standard”, and thus, there is a lot of gymnastics to jump through from Noah to there. If you believe that Confucius stated the rule earlier, than Jesus is just a plagiarizer or that people who wrote the NT inserted false sayings. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for the good ol’ Bible to be the authority on a consistent deity.

  • Nathan: If you had a genuine revelation from God that told you that you were to go out and begin murdering people until God told you to stop, how many people would you be willing to kill before you disobeyed?

  • Josh W.

    “It is not acceptable to have a religion where the alternative to faith is punishment — that’s how you train dogs, not develop people.” ~ Deng Ming-Dao

    (hell, its not even a way to train dogs!)”

    Unless the religion is actually true. This statement would be acceptable if religions were truly fallacies designed to dupe people as a form of social control

    I think Nathan is coming around.

  • Josh,

    I think it’s actually pretty clear from the text – or as clear as can be without it being colour coded – what is metaphor and what is literal.

    It doesn’t have to be all literal or all metaphor. To assume so would be to believe that God is not capable of the same nuance that we humans are. That isn’t logical.

    So – poetry in the Bible is clearly poetry, and most narratives are first theology (teaching us about God) and then possibly history (tied to a specific time and place). Other parts of the Bible are letters of instruction (think the epistles).

    Each book – or chapter of the Bible – has a clear feel to it. Except perhaps Genesis 1 – 3, which many argue is poetic in structure and mythical (but theological) in nature and others want to take literally. I believe those that take it literally are making the same false assumption about nuance that you are.

    Spursfan,

    “A good Christian would definitely know that the Golden Rule is attributed to Jesus (among others). So, if you believe that Jesus is God (which you may not), then that rule is actually not a “human standard”, and thus, there is a lot of gymnastics to jump through from Noah to there.”

    Sorry, I may not have been clear enough there… I believe it is a standard for humans to obey – see my earlier point about humans judging other humans being a fast track to hypocrisy.

    “Nathan: If you had a genuine revelation from God that told you that you were to go out and begin murdering people until God told you to stop, how many people would you be willing to kill before you disobeyed?”

    Let me answer with a statement, a disclaimer and a question.

    a) If it were absolutely, unquestionably, genuine – I’d kill them all.

    b) I would suggest that the Bible establishes pretty clear rules for testing the “genuineness” of such claims. It couldn’t be contradictory to what God has already revealed and commanded – and that clearly would be. So I don’t think I would actually kill anyone. I would probably assume that I was hallucinating and check myself in for rehab.

    c) If God genuinely appeared to you and convinced you that all his actions were justifiable (in his mind) would you still stand in opposition to him as you claimed you would – even if you disagreed with the justification?

  • AxeGrrl

    Jesse wrote:

    I can totally see this role in a play… Yahweh is a power-hungry but insecure mafia boss who demands utter loyalty. He toys with his underbosses (go kill your son – haha, just kidding!). He personally commits acts of terrorism by assassinating the first-borns of a rival gang to make a political statement (and pulls some creepy blood-for-water stunt). He orders the total slaughter of another mob and their families (go back and kill the women and children!)

    Jesse, it’s sooo funny that you posted that today! Just last night, on another message board, a Christian was describing how he came to believe and he literally said: “God made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse, almost like the Godfather” I’m not kidding!

    He was bemoaning the fact that he’s not a terribly successful Christian ‘fisherman’ (meaning someone who sways non-believers to belief) and I said to him: “well, conjuring up Marlon Brando and the disembodied head of a horse, no wonder you’re not ‘hooking’ people! They’re probably more inspired to join the witness protection program!

  • yhj

    The flying spaghetti monster will smite Nathan’s ignorance so no worries. Oh and we atheists/skeptics/humanists are still capable of humor. sigh. You make me shake my head.

  • monkeymind

    Yahweh and his gang walk into Babel:

    “Nice little tower ya got there. Be a shame if something happened to it…”

  • We Are The 801

    “Never mind, Abraham, it was a test, just a test– fuggetaboutit!”

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Nathan, you can define terms any way you want. You can define “good” to be whatever the Yahweh described in the Bible wants, or “black” to be the color of freshly fallen snow, and as long as you’re internally consistent in that usage, you can use those definitions for your internal processing just fine. But if your definitions produce categories too different from people’s, it’s not going to make sense when you talk to them. And it’s certainly not going to make sense to them when you berate them for failing to use your definitions. I recognize that you define “good” as “whatever Yahweh wants”, but commanding the genocide of innocents is, in my view, such a straightforward example of an evil act, that your definition makes as much sense to me as calling freshly fallen snow “black.” I do not define “good” as “whatever Yahweh wants” and I do not define “black” as “the color of freshly fallen snow,” so there’s nothing contradictory or illogical in me calling the actions attributed to Yahweh in the Bible as “evil” or in me calling freshly fallen snow as “white.” I would, however, argue that it’s illogical for you to berate me for failing to use your definition.

    “Good is what the being with the most power decries to be good.”

    It works with regards to democracy where the majority is the “being with the most power”

    I like democracy just fine, but if the majority votes for slavery, I conclude that that majority has democratically decided to do something bad, not that slavery is good.

    It couldn’t be contradictory to what God has already revealed and commanded – and that clearly would be.

    Why would God ordering you to murder people be clearly contradictory to what God has already revealed? The God described in the (Hebrew) Bible orders innocents killed all the time.

  • Tony

    The God of the Bible if he exists (and I believe he does) would then be the definer of love. Not us. He would also be the definer of “good”. Not us.

    Human centric theology (or understanding of god(s)) is not theology at all.

    This was always a curious argument for christians to make. So if god defines things like good and evil and his definition of good and evil may not be the same as our definition of good and evil then might heaven be a place of appalling torment and sorrow and hell be blissful paradise? I mean god says that hell will be bad and heaven will be good, but that’s by god’s standards! Who are we to judge?

    Nor do actions that involve killing people necessarily constitute evil if you gave them life to begin with and they are not “innocent” as we would claim.

    So it’s permissable to murder your own children if they turn out bad? I mean in the bible it isn’t just OK it’s actually mandated. But I wonder what you think, seeing as you “gave them life” and they turned out “not so innocent” it should be alright, shouldn’t it?

    This whole premise – that God is evil – does not make any sense. Either he is good, or he does not exist.

    Finally, you’re getting it.

    Someone earlier asked me to define “good” – here’s my definition…

    “Good is what the being with the most power decries to be good.”

    With apologies to Mike Godwin does this mean that in Nazi Germany the persecution and murder of jews was “good” because the “being with the most power” in Germany decreed it to be so?

    I always maintained that the problem isn’t religion. It’s people who take religion seriously. There’s something frightening psychotic about christians who make the sorts of arguments that Nathan has.

  • centricci

    “c) If God genuinely appeared to you and convinced you that all his actions were justifiable (in his mind) would you still stand in opposition to him as you claimed you would – even if you disagreed with the justification?”

    the key words here are “in his mind”.
    if god actually appeared before me, he may very well be able to convince me that his actions are justifiable in his own mind, but they would still be unjustified to me.
    if he then told me to go out and kill people, i’d like to think that i had the fortitude to tell him no.

  • AxeGrrl

    Tony, GREAT post:) You said:

    So if god defines things like good and evil and his definition of good and evil may not be the same as our definition of good and evil then might heaven be a place of appalling torment and sorrow and hell be blissful paradise? I mean god says that hell will be bad and heaven will be good, but that’s by god’s standards! Who are we to judge?

    Brilliant 🙂 ah, the consequences of taking such inconsistent ‘reasoning’ to its logical end!

  • “The God described in the (Hebrew) Bible orders innocents killed all the time.”

    No he doesn’t. There are no innocents.

    With apologies to Mike Godwin does this mean that in Nazi Germany the persecution and murder of jews was “good” because the “being with the most power” in Germany decreed it to be so?

    I always maintained that the problem isn’t religion. It’s people who take religion seriously. There’s something frightening psychotic about christians who make the sorts of arguments that Nathan has.

    With respect to Godwin’s law – that was broken a while back in this thread…

    I think religion not taken seriously is pointless.

    “Nathan, you can define terms any way you want. You can define “good” to be whatever the Yahweh described in the Bible wants, or “black” to be the color of freshly fallen snow, and as long as you’re internally consistent in that usage, you can use those definitions for your internal processing just fine.”

    This is a catch 22 – I was asked to provide a definition, I was lambasted for “not answering questions” and now I’m being berated for providing an answer.

    Good is subjective, it’s hard to define. I’m sure our definitions are closer than you think – I just include the God I actually believe to be good in the mix.

    I don’t think God’s character is overwhelmingly bad, even from a human standpoint. He provides a pretty easy out from his judgment to people who are guilty of rejecting him.

    He does things you say you wouldn’t do – sure. But perspective is a gamechanger – who’s to say that your actions wouldn’t change if you were God…

  • AxeGrrl

    But Nathan, you didn’t respond to this point that Autumnal Harvest made:

    “Why would God ordering you to murder people be clearly contradictory to what God has already revealed? The God described in the (Hebrew) Bible orders innocents killed all the time.”

    Could you reply to that?

  • AxeGrrl

    Even if the people God commanded be killed in the OT ‘weren’t innocent’, he still commanded people to kill.

    If God commanded you to kill someone right now, how on earth could you claim that that’s ‘inconsistent’? The person he commanded you to kill might be ‘not innocent’ as well (according to your reasoning)

    What would you do?

    If the person isn’t ‘innocent’, you’d be justified in carrying out God’s commandment, wouldn’t you?

  • Matt Johnson

    There’s something frightening psychotic about christians who make the sorts of arguments that Nathan has.

    I think this really hits the nail on the head here. After reading all these comments with a deep feeling of dread this really made me feel kind of sane again.

  • If God exists though – he is not the objective definer of good. You can disagree with what he says is good. But ultimately your disagreement is like that of a child who wants to play on the road.

    There are two differences between a child playing in the road and the authority figure who condemns such behavior:

    1) Power
    2) Ignorance

    I assume you are applying these to humans, in context with god — that he is more powerful and therefore more “valid,” and that we don’t know what his plan is and therefore we can’t say with certainty that he is “wrong.”

    In the case of power, I don’t believe that’s a sufficient reason to acknowledge anyone. There is nothing inherent about having godlike powers that implies one must be good — no way to logically exclude traits like selfishness or vanity.

    In the case of ignorance, that’s a fair claim against ultimate knowledge one way or the other….but it’s still not a definite answer. It’s a “give god the benefit of the doubt” answer — a faith statement, basically. Now it’s fine of course if you’re comfortable making that faith statement, but I am not. That’s why I can’t value the definition of good set forth by the god of the bible.

    Then the argument is simple – God’s thoughts are what is going to count in the end.

    So it is an argument from power, then? Keep in mind, what you are saying here is this: Because god has the power to realize his desires through force, that means he is “good.” I asked you why god is “good” and why I should worry either way, and your answer was “because his thoughts are what’s going to count in the end.” Is that what you meant to imply?

    And also, does this apply to *anyone* who has the power to realize their ideals through force?

    You can choose not so subject yourself to that “power” – that’s your (perhaps God given) freedom. You just can’t complain when that power is eventually applied as promised.

    This further implies the case mentioned above.

    I think it’s a paradox rather than a contradiction.

    Paradox, as defined by my Mirriam-Webster 2009 dictionary:

    -(n) A statement that is self-contradictory in fact and, therefore, false
    -(v) a person, situation, act, etc. that seems to have contradictory or inconsistent qualities

    Conclusion: a paradox usually *is* inconsistent.

    That’s your choice. I’m not out to convince you otherwise – just pointing out that this “God is evil” thing doesn’t actually work for anybody but sycophantic atheists with chips on the shoulder.

    I disagree. Even given the strict conditions you laid down, it’s still entirely possible to argue that god is “evil.” You said that we can only define him as such if we define it ourselves first (although I’d say that’s true of anything, even god; it can’t be described at all if it can’t be defined in at least some vague way), and then you gave a reason why you think it’d be impossible for god to be evil if he existed. Your argument was that he cannot be evil because he is the most powerful being, ever. Forgive me if I do not see how that logically follows — is it not theoretically possible for there to be a supremely powerful evil force? If power is the only deciding factor, it seems to me that you’re making a decision to believe that god is “good” based not on his actions one way or the other, but based on the idea that he’s supreme and that it would suck if he wasn’t good.

    If I may draw a comparison, that’s a lot like saying that a dictator in control of the world (who can do whatever he wants without any real consequence) must be “good” because he’s so powerful, and it would really suck if he were evil.

    I also didn’t suggest this needed to be resolved.

    Unfortunately, it *does* need to be resolved for belief in god (as outlined here) to be rationally consistent. If you don’t believe that your belief is rationally consistent, then that is fine as well, but if you mean to present it as a reasonable thing to believe then it needs to be….well, reasonable.

    I mean, this is not like other aspects of god that are “mysterious” — this is something blatant and observable, two logical precedents (god knows what will happen/humans have free will) that absolutely cannot exist alongside one another. This is not a quality of god, it’s a quality of rational “reality,” so it’s a bit much, I think, to simply handwave it as god’s mysterious handiwork.

    An example….it would be a lot like saying that it’s possible for an object to both “be a can of soda,” and to “not be a can of soda.” The states are mutually exclusive; if it’s a can of soda, then it can’t “not” be a can. If it’s not a can, it can’t “be” a can. They are by definition exclusive. Likewise, if god can see the future, then that means there is but one future (and therefore no possible “branches,” and no true free will). If he can only see all *possible* outcomes, then he does not truly know the future; if he can see all possible outcomes and *still* knows the one true outcome, then that still negates the possibility of “branching decisions” and thus free will.

    Unless the religion is actually true. This statement would be acceptable if religions were truly fallacies designed to dupe people as a form of social control.

    Even if it were true, the point is that it’s unacceptable to have a system (“true” or not) that punishes a lack of faith.

    a) If it were absolutely, unquestionably, genuine – I’d kill them all.

    I’d tell him to get off his ass and do it himself….

    c) If God genuinely appeared to you and convinced you that all his actions were justifiable (in his mind) would you still stand in opposition to him as you claimed you would – even if you disagreed with the justification?

    I wouldn’t necessarily say “opposed.” More like, “What the hell, dude?” Followed by a period of intense questioning. Then, if he refused to answer my questions (or did so in a shifty/weasely manner so as to avoid giving real answers), then I might say I’d be somewhat opposed.

    who’s to say that your actions wouldn’t change if you were God…

    If I was god, I wouldn’t exist because I would be timeless, spaceless and without mass, and I would be perfect (“nothing is perfect….and I am nothing”).

  • a) If it were absolutely, unquestionably, genuine – I’d kill them all.

    Then you’ve given up your humanity. I don’t even feel it’s necessary to respond to the rest of what you said.

  • AxeGrrl

    MikeTheInfidel wrote:

    Then you’ve given up your humanity. I don’t even feel it’s necessary to respond to the rest of what you said.

    I obviously didn’t read through all of the responses carefully enough because I missed that Nathan said that.

    Wow.

    Nathan, here’s a question for you….

    would you have any objections to say, a Muslim, who said he’d follow through if ‘Allah’ commanded him to kill you? How would you feel about living alongside a person with that mentality?

  • Even though I’m an atheist, I can at least imagine a universe controlled by an evil God. I can also imagine a universe controlled by a good God. I would also think that a book inspired by a good God would look quite different than the Christian bible. I can easily imagine that a book inspired by an evil God could look quite similar to the Christian bible. So therefore, if one is inclined to believe in a supernatural (Christian) God, I don’t see any reason not to consider that this God is also evil. Of course, for atheists, its all just a thought experiment.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    What Nathan is saying is that there is no morality, no genuine natural goodness in the world, because God can play the capricious, sadistic bastard all he wants and get away with it just because he is God. So there is no good, only redemption, offered through another act of sadistic (self) torture that will allow you to become attached to this being for all of eternity. This is the selling point of Christianity, cozy up to the bastard or burn for eternity. I’m somehow thinking the burning will be a more pleasant experience.

  • Nathan says:

    Good is what the being with the most power decries to be good.

    If it were absolutely, unquestionably, genuine – I’d kill them all.

    Tony says

    So if god defines things like good and evil and his definition of good and evil may not be the same as our definition of good and evil then might heaven be a place of appalling torment and sorrow and hell be blissful paradise?

    Darwin’s Dagger Says

    So there is no good, only redemption, offered through another act of sadistic (self) torture that will allow you to become attached to this being for all of eternity. This is the selling point of Christianity, cozy up to the bastard or burn for eternity. I’m somehow thinking the burning will be a more pleasant experience.

    Interesting. Very interesting. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if there is one, these are good arguments to choose door number 2.

  • muggle

    I was gonna feed the troll but thought the better of it, especially since he’s shown his psychopathic nature. Besides there were some beautiful arguments put forth here that he ducks instead of addressing so I don’t see much point. Instead, he’s rather like Linus clinging to his blanket but not as benignly. I hope we haven’t put ideas in his fucked up head re: hearing “God” ask him to murder. He seems screwed up enough to do it.

    “It is not acceptable to have a religion where the alternative to faith is punishment — that’s how you train dogs, not develop people.” ~ Deng Ming-Dao

    Great quote! Now I’m gonna have to google Deng Ming-Dao since I’ve never heard of them.

    I love this mafia play idea! I usually don’t go for the genre — it bores me — but this could be interesting. And hilarious if done as a spoof. It’d have to be a comedy. Not even the mafia would tolerate that sadistic a boss.

  • monkeymind

    The OT does have at least one example of someone standing up to God’s authority:

    22And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

    23And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

    24Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?

    25That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

    V. confusing to include this bit if there is no external standard by which to judge god!

  • Polly

    I think I get Nathan’s viewpoint. It’s at least more consistent than every other Xian I’ve known in real life.

    Nathan –

    Tell me if I got it straight.

    God is like the laws of physics – he does what he does regardless of what humans think about it or even what happens to humans as a result.
    Like gravity keeping our feet on the ground and bringing a busload of children crashing to the bottom of a cliff, there’s no point in arguing about what it does, because that’s what gravity IS – an unstoppable force, so we may as well just get in line with it because otherwise we’re going to fall.
    Could we just as easily get rid of the moral terminology of “good” and “bad” and just say “in conformance with god”, or “not in conformance with god” while still keeping the exact meaning of what we’re saying?

    By this way of thinking, it’s “murder” when it’s done without god’s permission and “killing” when done with his permission. So, the 6th commandment is a regulation – and not an all out ban – of the practice of putting other humans to death. Kind of like how it is “breaking and entering” UNLESS you have a warrant from a judge.

    Right?

  • Revyloution

    Genesis 3:8

    Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

    God didn’t know where they were? Sure doesn’t sound like an all knowing deity to me. Shortly after that, he was surprised to see them covered!

    Unless you want to add a whole bunch of words that aren’t there, like “God knew where they were, but was just testing them to see if they would admit what they had done” The words in Genesis are quite clear, god didn’t know where they were, and didn’t know they had clothed themselves.

    Omnipotence fail.

  • GJ

    “Had Hitler won the war and been the one writing laws he would have been the one who defined ‘good’ for those living in his world.”

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, but you seem to be suggesting that might makes right. Fair enough. But I was under the impression that theists thought that there are certain objective moral principles the violation of which is ALWAYS wrong. At any rate, virtually every theist I know thinks this.

    Be let me try to be maximally charitable. Perhaps you want to say that since god is sovereign, he can do whatever he wants, which means he can slaughter innocent people. Others have argued along these lines. But the argument is hopeless: it equivocates on “can.” Nobody’s denying that god can slaughter people in the sense that he has the ABILITY to. What’s being denied is that god is morally permitted to slaughter people. He can’t slaughter people in this sense. Nobody, not even god, is morally permitted to commit genocide. Most sophisticated theists recognize this. Read up on these matters before careening off another conceptual cliff.

    “I am not prepared to call anybody innocent. The Bible says nobody is innocent. That’s kind of the point.”

    Innocent of what? What does it even mean to say that an infant isn’t innocent. Your view is just asinine.

  • Brooke

    I’m skipping over most of these posts and adding my two cents. This is the FRIENDLY Atheist website, is it not? I’m starting to grow tired of the less-than-friendly posts by Mr. Galef (this isn’t the worst…just the latest). Okay, so there is an interesting series of articles on Unreasonable Faith – post that. Skip the additional commentary on how evil god is, and leave that to the message boards. Those of us that are atheists already know the god in the bible is a twisted piece of work. Posting nasty commentary only encourages the angry atheist stereotype that makes Richard Wade need to counsel young teens with irrational parent issues.

  • Laramie

    I second Brooke’s post. Negative atheism (i.e. non-constructive) elicits negative responses that simply spawn more to b**ch about. It’s a positive feedback loop that seems to promote argument over debate, up to the point that those of a certain point of view no longer visit this site.

  • We Are The 801

    Shorter Nathan:

    “Befehl ist Befehl”

  • Autumnal Harvest

    No he doesn’t. There are no innocents.

    The question was why the situation Mike posed—God ordering you to go out and randomly kill large numbers of people—would be contradictory to what God has already revealed. We can stipulate that the infants Yahweh orders killed in the Hebrew Bible are not innocent, due to original sin, but then so are the people He orders you to kill in Mike’s hypothetical.

    This is a catch 22 – I was asked to provide a definition, I was lambasted for “not answering questions” and now I’m being berated for providing an answer.

    I’m not berating you for providing an answer. I’m saying that your definition produces categories of “good” and “evil” so vastly different from mine that, while I agree that it’s logically internally consistent, I have trouble conceiving of using it, and that it makes little sense for you to berate me, or other atheists, for failing to use it. I respect that your answers are logical and consistent, and that you’re not evading the issue with “God works in mysterious ways” type of responses. But I cannot view a moral system in which genocide is good, and newborn infants fail to be innocent, as “close” to mine.

    I guess I’m not sure what you’re trying to convince people of in your thread. Jesse, and other atheists in this thread, are saying that the actions of the fictiional entity described in the Bible are evil, by any sensible definition of evil. Yes, I understand that you think that this entity is (1) nonfictional, and (2) the definition of good, but surely you understand that the author of the post, and his target audience, do not hold these positions, so why are you berating us for failing to apply those positions? To an atheist, your arguments seem akin to a man, who overhearing a woman say “Wow, Jabba the Hut was really a horrible monster in Return the the Jedi” then complains that the woman has failed to use the correct definition: “good = whatever Jabba the Hut does.” (I understand comparisons of Yahweh to a Flying Spagetti Monster, or Jabba the Hut, can come off as insulting, but that’s not my intention – I just no of know clearer way to emphasize that you’re talking about, from our point of view, a fictional entity.)

  • Casimir

    Nor do actions that involve killing people necessarily constitute evil if you gave them life to begin with and they are not “innocent” as we would claim.

    I never expected Nathan to make an argument sympathetic to abortion. Much less the kind of… let’s say “ultra-super-late-term” abortion practiced by the god of the Bible.

    Had Hitler won the war and been the one writing laws he would have been the one who defined “good” for those living in his world.

    No, Nathan, Hitler still would have been evil.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    c) If God genuinely appeared to you and convinced you that all his actions were justifiable (in his mind) would you still stand in opposition to him as you claimed you would – even if you disagreed with the justification?

    I’m not sure if this question was for Mike, or for all atheists, but since you’re mostly getting questions, I guess you deserve some answers too. . . If there was an omnipotent, omniscient entity that ordered me to commmit genocice, that order would be evil, and I would refuse. However, the description of this entity that I encounter most often tells me that this evil entity will punish this refusal by setting me on fire for all eternity. I would like to think that I would still refuse, for those orders, backed by threats, would still be evil. However, if I’m honest, I doubt that I could keep my moral compass even under the comparatively small, finite, threats of torture by Mr. Mengele, or Saddam Hussein, so the honest answer is that I would probably give in, and then try to rationalize my evil actions as good.

  • Casimir

    “Moses, either my commandments or your brains are going to be on those tablets.”

    “I know it was you, Judas. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!

  • In the interest of toning things down a bit, I have to say that I do like Nathan and like that he leaves comments here occasionally. Perhaps God is no more evil than me when I add water, sugar, and flour to yeast (letting the yeast grow) and then put the doe in the oven (thus killing the yeast).

    Now if I can just figure out a way to torture the yeast after they die I can be even more God-like… 😉

  • Autumnal Harvest

    I’ll second that, Jeff. I’m finding Nathan’s comments very interesting and enjoyable, I like seeing his perspective.

  • Aj

    I find it scary, I find this enjoyable in fiction, not in reality. No one is innocent of a crime deserving death? You can be guilty of crimes you didn’t commit? Might makes right? Killing children is good? Although Nathan did provide me with two good laughs so I can’t complain.

  • I’m skipping over most of these posts and adding my two cents. This is the FRIENDLY Atheist website, is it not? I’m starting to grow tired of the less-than-friendly posts by Mr. Galef (this isn’t the worst…just the latest).

    Those of us that are atheists already know the god in the bible is a twisted piece of work. Posting nasty commentary only encourages the angry atheist stereotype that makes Richard Wade need to counsel young teens with irrational parent issues.

    I agree with this posting. I’ve read maybe one or two posts by Jesse Galef so far that don’t sound like they were written by an indignant sixth-grader with a thesaurus on hand. I thought it was odd that Hemant would write such a deliberately antagonistic article as this one, but then I noticed it was Galef’s and I wasn’t surprised.

    Also, there are a lot of elitist douche-isms and name-callings being thrown around here. Yeah, I think Nathan’s beliefs are mostly bunk, too, but he took the time to come on here and talk about them and I think that’s important (as Jeff had pointed out). It pains me to see atheists on one of my most beloved blogs unable to hold such a simple discussion without resorting to ad-hominem — if the argument is really *that* stupid, it should be easy to show how or why without resorting to trash talk.

    [/rant]

    [raise +3 Flame Shield]

  • Lisa

    It sounds a lot like a Shakespearean tragedy when you put it that way…

  • I want to start this comment (where I’ll try to address the points made since my last visit – I probably won’t get them all) by saying that I actually believe that God is good, not some warped type of good – but actually and objectively good. And the goodest of all the Gods actually believed in by people of faith and all systems of faith.

    AxeGrrl:

    If God commanded you to kill someone right now, how on earth could you claim that that’s ‘inconsistent’? The person he commanded you to kill might be ‘not innocent’ as well (according to your reasoning)

    I couldn’t. If God commanded it right now then I guess, like the other people in the Bible who carried similar actions, I would be an agent of God’s judgment.

    There’s a difference between obeying a direct and irrefutable command and killing people because I think that’s what the Bible commands me to do. Which I don’t. I’d have to be thoroughly convinced that God had directly appeared to me and spoken to me with proof beyond the coincidental.

    This – I believe – is where I differ from a suicide bomber. They are going from commands from a book from long ago – my book from long ago actually commands me not to act that way.

    I don’t know anybody who would really, believing in the Christian God, disobey him if he were to appear and directly command such an action.

    There are some Christians who believe that is exactly what is going to happen at the end of the world.

    What would you do?

    I would do what God told me to do.

    If the person isn’t ‘innocent’, you’d be justified in carrying out God’s commandment, wouldn’t you?

    Yes.

    But.

    God has also given us the general principle not to kill (murder) – which would preclude us killing innocents.

    When Jesus came to town he also told us that we’re as guilty as anybody we’d like to kill – so we probably shouldn’t even kill the guilty.

    Monkeymind,

    Your example is not so confusing if you then see what happens. And this is a similar issue to revyloution’s little Genesis 3 example.

    In the Abraham example – nobody innocent can be found and God (in)famously wipes out two cities with fire and brimstone.

    God agrees with Abraham that it would be wrong to slay the righteous with the wicked – and Abraham can’t find any righteous. I don’t see how that’s confusing.

    In the Genesis 3 chapter – which Revyloution quotes – I would suggest that the “where are you” isn’t so much a “I don’t know where they are” but the type of “where are you” you might say when playing hide and seek with a child and you know exactly where they are hiding. I would suggest the “surprise” is the same.

    You are making the same mistake that some fundamentalist Christians make and not allowing for anything but your own plain reading of the text without any sense of nuance or context. If all the Bible said about God’s character was that he was surprised and didn’t know where they were then that would be a blow to claims of omnipotence. But theologians try to take all the claims made about God throughout the Bible and assess them together. This is a strawman God that nobody believes in and you’ve erected him by ignoring context.

    Polly has summed up my thinking on the matter pretty well with the gravity analogy.

    Muggle – you’re making assumptions about my intentions that aren’t fair – I haven’t seen any beautiful arguments that I have ducked. Certainly not intentionally. Please – point out the points I haven’t addressed and I’ll do so if time permits.

    GJ,

    ““Had Hitler won the war and been the one writing laws he would have been the one who defined ‘good’ for those living in his world.”

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, but you seem to be suggesting that might makes right. Fair enough. But I was under the impression that theists thought that there are certain objective moral principles the violation of which is ALWAYS wrong. At any rate, virtually every theist I know thinks this. “

    I would suggest – using Polly’s gravity framework – that Hitlers actions would be contraventions of this “natural law” and that his power would be secondary to God’s.

    As a Christian I believe God creates the standard by which we should act – not that we should act as though we are God, but as though we are subject to his rule.

    What’s being denied is that god is morally permitted to slaughter people. He can’t slaughter people in this sense. Nobody, not even god, is morally permitted to commit genocide. Most sophisticated theists recognize this. Read up on these matters before careening off another conceptual cliff.

    God, as the arbiter of morality, can morally do whatever he wants. We don’t set what’s moral and what’s not. If God exists he does.

    The God of the Bible is also described as perfectly “holy” (intolerant of unholiness) and perfectly “righteous” and “just”. The Bible says it’s his world. He sets the standard for morality and he dictates things to us, we’re not in a position to dictate our morality to him. Even if we think we’re better equipped to make these decisions.

    So he alone can slaughter people, and is actually permitted to commit genocide – but the Abraham example above suggests that he won’t do that if people are “righteous”. But, Romans (the book) says that nobody is righteous and that the wages of sin = death.

    Tim D’s long comment deserves a proper response. I’m off for now. I’ll be back.

  • Eliza

    The God of the Bible is also described as perfectly “holy” (intolerant of unholiness) and perfectly “righteous” and “just”.

    God of the Bible is only “described” as being these things for those who already base their worldview on that book. He is “described” by that book, using the secular meaning of that verb, as being an almost perfect unholy character for those of us who have a wider view of life, the universe, and everything. That’s the point of Jesse’s OP.

    The Bible says it’s his world.

    Yes, but the Bible is somewhat limited in its understanding of the universe. Christians refer to God as if He is the be-all and end-all of the universe. I have never understood why the God of the Bible, even if he existed, would have to be the only God. Seems to me he could easily be one of a large group of Gods, each of which has its own planet or solar system to lord it over.

    He sets the standard for morality…

    Again, only true if you start with the assumption that all truth is based on the Bible (which I understand that Nathan and other Christians largely do). If your basis for morality & truth (as well as we can know these things) has a wider basis, then this god described in the Bible, even if he existed, absolutely does not and cannot set the standard for morality, because of the actions (and justifications for these actions) described in the bible.

    So he alone can slaughter people, and is actually permitted to commit genocide

    “Permitted” seems like a very interesting word choice here. Permitted by whom? (I’d say, by those who “buy” the story, lock stock and barrel.)

    We’re back to “might makes right” and “he who wins the fight writes the rules” (or however that goes). God (you say) wrote or inspired the Bible, which claims that God exists and is the sole arbiter of morality and has the right to commit genocide.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. The word “gullible” comes to mind. (I’m not meaning that in a mean way. It’s just the best way I can describe how that circular claim-and-support looks to those of us who don’t buy into it.)

    – but the Abraham example above suggests that he won’t do that if people are “righteous”. But, Romans (the book) says that nobody is righteous and that the wages of sin = death.

    If I were to believe what the Bible says, then:
    1) God created people, with full foreknowledge of what could, or would, happen.
    2) Then he blames them for not being perfect and without sin.
    3) Then he claims, through the Bible, that it is perfectly acceptable for him to kill them (commit genocide, as well as killing a large number of individiuals throughout the OT).

    Regardless of what you believe, can you see how this looks to those of us who don’t share your beliefs?

    I will leaving you with this related paradox:
    1) God is said to have written or inspired the Bible.
    2) The Bible says God doesn’t lie.

  • Eliza

    Sorry, English fail on my part on the paradox ending.

    Point being, for those who believe in God and the Bible, there is no answer to the question “Does God lie?” (or, conversely, “Does the Bible tell us about God & His character & His expectations for us?) because God could be lying all throughout the Bible. Both a truth-teller and a liar claim, “I am not a liar”. So, ignoring for a moment the problems of cherry-picking and literal/allegorical and interpretation, I claim that even if the Bible were absolutely the word of God, noone would know anything about God from it, because there is no external validation of its claims about God. Confusing enough?

  • muggle

    I’m starting to grow tired of the less-than-friendly posts by Mr. Galef (this isn’t the worst…just the latest).

    I’m not. He’s a little naive at times but he’s young and perhaps I find him so because I’m probably roughly 25-30 years older than him. Not sure he’s mentioned his exact age. I think his posts are a nice change of pace and not at all unfriendly, just truthful. Of course, friendly doesn’t equate kissing ass to me.
    I’ve disagreed with him at times but I like his occassional post and hope he’s not going anywhere soon as I really only have time for the one blog a day.

    I vote we keep Jesse and ban that sick fuck Nathan.

    For me this says it all:

    If God commanded it right now then I guess, like the other people in the Bible who carried similar actions, I would be an agent of God’s judgment.

    And you have the nerve to call him friendlier than Jesse who seems rather harmless, frankly, despite chasing down would-be muggers? Are you freaking kidding me? The man’s an ass. A potentially dangerous ass who seems to admire Hitler.

    Can we ban this sick fuck now? Please, Hemant?

  • Wayne Dunlap

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mark_ball/bible.html

    This essay on inconsistencies in the Bible shows a lot of passages which display the cruelty of Yahweh. Quite eye opening.

  • Muggle, I trust that Nathan is waiting for his “Monty Python” moment where the clouds literally part and God talks to him before he goes on any killing sprees. I’m very curious if other Christians would follow the same logic as Nathan if they spent time following their beliefs to their logical conclusions. I’m glad he is commenting here. I wish some of the Christian lurkers would chime in. It would also be very interesting for a Muslim lurker to chime in.

  • Casimir

    I vote we keep Jesse and ban that sick fuck Nathan.

    I disagree entirely. Nathan gives his reasons, morally obtuse as they are. His comments have actual content that can start a discussion, unlike 99% of comments on blogs, and he’s not name-calling.

    I’m really more than happy to have a theist making those sorts of argument out in the open, if only to know that people who hold those views do exist.

    As far as Jesse goes, I like Jesse, I think he’s a nice guy. I don’t have any problem with his post per se, but the a post titled “Yahweh’s Murderous Tendencies” is definitely flamebait. If Hemant’s ok with it, hey, it’s his blog. But I don’t think this post (and I did enjoy the post) necessarily matches the tone Hemant is trying to go for with this blog.

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan wrote:

    This – I believe – is where I differ from a suicide bomber. They are going from commands from a book from long ago – my book from long ago actually commands me not to act that way.

    But say a Muslim suicide bomber claimed precisely the same thing you referred to ~ that he received direct, unequivocal orders from his ‘God’ (not from a book) to kill thousands of people….

    if the Muslim bomber then perpetrated the act, would you be ok with it? If not, how would you argue that he was wrong in doing so?

  • I actually don’t mind the post. I don’t mind Jesse’s tone. I just think the premise that God, if he exists, is evil is a bit silly.

    I wrote a lengthy comment and must have navigated away before posting it… I can’t be bothered writing it again.

    But in summary…

    I started by saying that I wouldn’t be a Christian if I believed God was “evil” – I don’t, not for a minute. I believe he is good. Good, generous and merciful. And loving. More so than any other “god” from any other religious system. You might disagree and point to some obscure spiritualism – I’ll restrict my defintion to a religion that adequately explains all the bad stuff that happens in the world.

    The Hitler example has been unhelpful – and I’m sorry it was brought up, and sorry that I perpetuated it.

    I do think the definition of “good” has something to do with “conforms to the view of the ultimate authority” – Hitler may have tried to claim to be that authority – but I believe his authority would not have been ultimate – he would have believed different.

    I don’t think that as a Christian you can separate “good” from “God’s will” in any consistent sense. Because we believe that our nature, by definition, leads us towards evil.

    “If I were to believe what the Bible says, then:
    1) God created people, with full foreknowledge of what could, or would, happen.
    2) Then he blames them for not being perfect and without sin.
    3) Then he claims, through the Bible, that it is perfectly acceptable for him to kill them (commit genocide, as well as killing a large number of individiuals throughout the OT).

    Regardless of what you believe, can you see how this looks to those of us who don’t share your beliefs?

    I will leaving you with this related paradox:
    1) God is said to have written or inspired the Bible.
    2) The Bible says God doesn’t lie.”

    Yes. I agree. I’m not sure what the point is here… it is perfectly acceptable for God to kill whomever he wants, whenever he wants.

    It’s not perfectly acceptable for us to do so (see my previous points about Jesus).

    This also touches on my point about paradoxes not needing to be resolved (and that’s not actually a paradox because I don’t think the Bible lies). A paradox is an apparent contradiction that may be resolved in a way that shows it was only assumed to be a contradiction. I think that will end up being the case in the free will v foreknowledge debate.

    I’m happy not knowing stuff. My Christianity doesn’t hinge on this question – but on the question of Jesus.

    Muggle – feel free to point out the things I’ve dodged, or the things I’ve said that justify my being banned from this site.

    Censorship of conflicting ideas would be an interesting approach for an atheist to advocate wouldn’t it?

  • Yes. I agree. I’m not sure what the point is here… it is perfectly acceptable for God to kill whomever he wants, whenever he wants.

    So again: why?

    I know you probably think you have answered that question (and you have given an answer), but you still haven’t verified whether or not it’s an issue of power. The reason I see that as important is….let’s pretend for a moment that there is *no god.* Pretend you’re an atheist for just a moment, if ya don’t mind.

    Now, apply that same reasoning to the new world you find yourself in — now that there is no god, no “ultimate authority,” we are left with only other humans to judge what is “right” or “wrong.” And using the same reasoning that you used as a Christian, you are *forced* to admit that whoever has the power to do what he/she desires, is right to do that. If someone becomes a leader of a powerful nation, and they want to enslave the third world and force its population to labor themselves to death, then that means they’re “right” because they can. So in this world with no god, do you still believe that there is nothing inherently “wrong” about a government enslaving a population and harvesting them like animals until they die?

    (Okay, you can stop pretending to be an atheist now….)

    My point being….if I may be so bold….I think you only say you believe that “power justifies.” I don’t think you really believe that, and I don’t think you would really believe that in a world where there was no god and no objective moral standard. I think you only *say* that you do because it works in god’s favor, and you want to believe in god. I don’t think that power is the reason why you trust god — I think god is the reason why you trust power. If that makes sense.

    A paradox is an apparent contradiction that may be resolved in a way that shows it was only assumed to be a contradiction. I think that will end up being the case in the free will v foreknowledge debate.</blockquote

    True. However, traditionally the idea is to assume it's a contradiction until some evidence comes up (or doesn't come up) implying that there is a way to solve the contradiction. There may never be a solution to the contradiction; it’s a bit hasty to stand around waiting for someone to discover the solution to what seems like a blatantly unsolvable problem.

    The way I see it, it’s a contradiction until someone proves that it’s not.

    I’m happy not knowing stuff. My Christianity doesn’t hinge on this question – but on the question of Jesus.

    That’s good and well. But perhaps you can understand the frustration one experiences when someone makes a claim about his or her god being the “one true god,” and then responds with the above quotation when pressed for rational explanation. It’s….odd.

  • ^Dammit.

    That last part should look like this:

    A paradox is an apparent contradiction that may be resolved in a way that shows it was only assumed to be a contradiction. I think that will end up being the case in the free will v foreknowledge debate.

    True. However, traditionally the idea is to assume it’s a contradiction until some evidence comes up (or doesn’t come up) implying that there is a way to solve the contradiction. There may never be a solution to the contradiction; it’s a bit hasty to stand around waiting for someone to discover the solution to what seems like a blatantly unsolvable problem.

    The way I see it, it’s a contradiction until someone proves that it’s not.

    I’m happy not knowing stuff. My Christianity doesn’t hinge on this question – but on the question of Jesus.

    That’s good and well. But perhaps you can understand the frustration one experiences when someone makes a claim about his or her god being the “one true god,” and then responds with the above quotation when pressed for rational explanation. It’s…odd.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Jeff:

    It would also be very interesting for a Muslim lurker to chime in.

    Jeff, the following is an excerpt from “Whatever God Wills Is Right,” by Al-Ash’ari, a (long-dead) Muslim theologian, that I enjoyed reading. Al-Ash’ari’s view is pretty similar to Nathan’s.

    Question: Is God free to inflict pain on infants in the world to come?

    Answer: God is free to do that, and in doing that it would be just. In the same way, whenever he inflicts an infinite punishment for a finite sin, and subjects some living beings to others, and is gracious to some and not to others, and creates some knowing well that they will reject faith—all that is justice on His part. It would not be wrong on His part to create them in painful torments and make these everlasting. Nor would it be wrong on His part to punish the faithful and cause the rejecter to enter Paradise. We only say He will not do it because He has informed us that He will punish rejecters; and He cannot lie when He gives information. He is the Overwhelming Monarch, subject to no one. That being so, nothing can be wrong on God’s part. For a thing is wrong on our part only when we go beyond the limit set for us and do what we have no right to. But since the Creator is subject to no one, nothing can be wrong on His part.

    Question: Then lying is wrong only because God has declared it to be wrong.

    Answer: Quite so. And if He declared it to be good, it would be good; and if He commanded it, there could be no opposition to it.

  • “Now, apply that same reasoning to the new world you find yourself in — now that there is no god, no “ultimate authority,” we are left with only other humans to judge what is “right” or “wrong.” And using the same reasoning that you used as a Christian, you are *forced* to admit that whoever has the power to do what he/she desires, is right to do that. If someone becomes a leader of a powerful nation, and they want to enslave the third world and force its population to labor themselves to death, then that means they’re “right” because they can. So in this world with no god, do you still believe that there is nothing inherently “wrong” about a government enslaving a population and harvesting them like animals until they die?”

    If you had asked me to do this right off the bat I would have agreed with you.

    We’re not talking about morality sans God – an atheist is making the claim that the God he doesn’t believe in is evil and immoral.

    You’re right in that my approach to the definition of God springs from my Christianity.

    But remove the absoluteness of a good v evil dichotomy from the picture and you get a wishy washy “harm” based moral framework where nobody is prepared to speak in black and white.

    “I’m happy not knowing stuff. My Christianity doesn’t hinge on this question – but on the question of Jesus.

    That’s good and well. But perhaps you can understand the frustration one experiences when someone makes a claim about his or her god being the “one true god,” and then responds with the above quotation when pressed for rational explanation. It’s…odd.”

    Not at all. Firstly a God simple enough to understand is a God simple enough to dismiss.

    My decision to hinge things on the person of Jesus is ultimately the most rational way to approach the issue of God. Jesus became flesh – he ultimately became scientifically testable (for those lucky enough to be there). He could be touched, watched, questioned and measured.

    The decision to trust the accounts of Jesus life from the Bible is a personal one – I find the case for accepting the Bible more convincing than the case against.

  • Spurs Fan

    Muggle – feel free to point out the things I’ve dodged, or the things I’ve said that justify my being banned from this site.

    Censorship of conflicting ideas would be an interesting approach for an atheist to advocate wouldn’t it?

    Despite the fact that I believe Nathan’s views are frightening, self-fulfilling, and quite the show of gymnastics, I am in full agreement with him on this. Most Christians who post on this blog drop in for moment, present us with some cliched phrase, and then leave. Nathan has responded to questions, presented some of his own, and been thoroughly polite the entire time. I have to respect that and the thought of banning him seems ridiculous-even if he may be ordered to kill me and my children during the rapture.

    Nathan, please don’t take this as some sort of “I’m making headway with these skeptics” moment like I would have a few years ago, but know that you are welcome. Debate on friend.

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan, you haven’t yet answered this question, and I’m really interested in hearing what you have to say:

    Say a Muslim suicide bomber claimed precisely the same thing you referred to ~ that he received direct, unequivocal orders from his ‘God’ (not from a book) to kill thousands of people….

    if the Muslim bomber then perpetrated the act, would you be ok with it? If not, how would you argue that he was wrong in doing so?

  • Polly

    I have to respect that and the thought of banning him seems ridiculous…

    Agreed. The thought would never even have occured to me. Why shut down a perfectly good conversation? Isn’t that EXACTLY why we’re here?

  • But remove the absoluteness of a good v evil dichotomy from the picture and you get a wishy washy “harm” based moral framework where nobody is prepared to speak in black and white.

    1. There is no reason to believe that there IS an absolute good vs. evil dichotomy, since good and evil are labels mankind gives to things.

    2. The fact that you think it’s wishy-washy and that nobody can speak in black and white means absolutely nothing to the point of whether or not it’s functional and whether or not an absolute is required. Why MUST we speak in black and white? Why is that even a rational approach to moral dilemmas?

    You WANT an absolute moral standard, but you’re confused “what should be” with “what is”. There’s no reason to think that your standard actually exists.

  • Brian Macker

    yhj,

    “Nathan your arguments have been nothing but equivocating, never answering the questions you were asked, …”

    That’s not what equivocation means. An equivocation is an argument that rests on a word which has two different meanings, and switches between those meanings in a way that invalidates the argument.

    Look it up.

  • AxeGrrl

    Polly wrote:

    Why shut down a perfectly good conversation? Isn’t that EXACTLY why we’re here?

    Yes! I’m glad Nathan is here…..

  • Brian Macker

    Muggle,

    “I was gonna feed the troll but thought the better of it, especially since he’s shown his psychopathic nature. ”

    He’s not being a troll as far as I can tell. I think his mind is honestly warped. He’s definitely on topic, he’s not calling names, he’s not trying to provoke emotions, etc. In short he isn’t acting like a troll.

    I’m learning things from this conversation and it appears you are too. I find such evasions interesting and the attempts to nail the jell-o to the wall by atheists leads to interesting new counterpoints.

  • AxeGrrl

    Brian Macker wrote:

    and the attempts to nail the jell-o to the wall by atheists

    Examples of that would be……?

  • Brian Macker

    Nathan,

    You claim that because of gods standing that when he commits an act that is plainly bad by human standards we cannot call it evil.

    Doesn’t this also apply to “good” acts. Because he is god when he does what is good by human standards that doesn’t necessarily mean we can call god good.

    In Hansel and Gretel when the witch feeds the boy to fatten him up that is not a good act because her intentions are just to slaughter him later. Gods “good” acts are similar in nature.

    So for all the vast number of people he kills and sends to hell all the good things he gives them are in fact evil by human standards. He’s merely fattening them for the eventual slaughter.

    Your use of good and bad are an equivocation between the human and the god meaning of the word. When we speak we are talking about good and bad from a human perspective, not some god perspective that we cannot possibly comprehend.

    For example, I cannot comprehend how burning someone for eternity can serve any purpose what-so-ever. It’s not going to change future behavior because the person has no future opportunity to act since he is too busy being tortured.

    Since you are not a god with infallible knowledge you cannot know when something is good or bad from the god perspective.

    So now a question for you. Your puppy gets hit by a car and dies. Is that a good or a bad thing?

    If you say bad then I’d have to question that because maybe god thought it was good for some reason which you don’t fathom.

    Likewise if you say good then perhaps god thought it was bad. Like maybe the driver killed the puppy on purpose in an evil act, for which god will punish him later.

    On the other hand maybe the evil drivers act was good because it was to test your faith. Maybe god directed the puppy near the street with magical treats that were gobbled up in order to test both the driver, and you.

    Likewise maybe god will test whether you are good or evil by making you hear his voice, but with no other obvious evidence that it is him. You already seem to believe he’s around for no credible evidence, so doesn’t his talking to you count. You said you would start murdering people if you got the go ahead from god. How are you going to be able to tell?

    God likes to hide. Likes to play invisible. So why wouldn’t him speaking to you directly with a voice convince you this was some test.

    The question then is how do you tell what to do. Obviously if you hold the human definition of good vs. bad you don’t start murdering people. However, you can’t tell what to do in the other case. God may or may not want you to murder when he tells you to. He’s played these games before instructing one guy to sacrifice his son when he didn’t mean it. How can you tell?

    Obviously you can’t. Especially in your case since you seem willing to turn on your fellow humans in the wink of an eye.

  • Brian Macker

    AxeGrrl,

    Nathan is the jell-o.

  • Brian Macker

    Axelgrrl,

    Had you quoted me as,
    “the attempts to nail the jell-o to the wall by atheists leads to interesting new counterpoints”, and then asked me for examples then I would have given an example of a new counterpoint. For example the “Since gods notions of good and bad do no match human conceptions then maybe hell is a good place to be” argument.

    I think Nathan is ethically rudderless at this point. His notion of god allows him to commit any evil act just so long as he is convinced god wants it.

  • AxeGrrl

    Brian Macker wrote:

    Had you quoted me as,
    “the attempts to nail the jell-o to the wall by atheists leads to interesting new counterpoints”, and then asked me for examples then I would have given an example of a new counterpoint. For example the “Since gods notions of good and bad do no match human conceptions then maybe hell is a good place to be” argument.

    Ah yes….sorry for my misinterpretation!

    I really hope Nathan returns ~ I want to hear his response to my question and now, to what you just proposed: how do we know hell is a ‘bad’ place if ‘God’s good doesn’t match up to ours?

    This thread is getting so long that I think I miss certain things that have been said (it’s a lot to read:), but I think there’s a really interesting discussion happening 🙂

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Jeff said:

    Even though I’m an atheist, I can at least imagine a universe controlled by an evil God. I can also imagine a universe controlled by a good God. I would also think that a book inspired by a good God would look quite different than the Christian bible. I can easily imagine that a book inspired by an evil God could look quite similar to the Christian bible. So therefore, if one is inclined to believe in a supernatural (Christian) God, I don’t see any reason not to consider that this God is also evil. Of course, for atheists, its all just a thought experiment.

    Excellent point. This is probably why Marcian looked at the god of the Old Testament and compared him to the god of the New Testament and decided that they were two very differnt gods. The god of the Old Testament was petty and vengeful. The god of the New Testament was loving and forgiving.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Nathan:

    We’re not talking about morality sans God – an atheist is making the claim that the God he doesn’t believe in is evil and immoral.

    I suspect you’ve left this thread, and there are at any rate too many atheist comments for you to respond to them all, but. . . Comments like this make me think that not only do you not understand your perspective, but that you’re not even trying. You keep saying things like this as if you’d found some great contradiction: “atheists claim not to believe in God, but then they say that he’s evil!” He’s (according to us) a fictional entity. What atheists are saying is that the actions (which never really occurred) ascribed to the (nonexistent) entity in the (Hebrew) Bible are so clearly evil (e.g. genocide) that it makes no sense to call them “good.” Do you really not understand this? Why do you find this “silly” or “confounding,” as you have repeatedly stated? Are you confused when you hear people describe Jabba the Hut as evil?

    But remove the absoluteness of a good v evil dichotomy from the picture and you get a wishy washy “harm” based moral framework where nobody is prepared to speak in black and white.

    Trumpeting God as giving you a black-and-white moral absolutism over the wishy-washiness of atheists rings a little hollow in the context of this thread. Perhaps you’ve noticed that everyone in this thread is willing to call genocide evil, except for you?

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    You state that God knows all, but when it came to Sodom and Gomorrah we read the following: And the Lord said because the cry of Sodom and gomorrah is great, and because their sin is grievous, I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, and which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
    It seems clear here that the Lord admits that he doesn’t know and that he is going down to to see. That does not sound like an all knowing God.

    In the Old Testament, God is vengeful, but in the New Testament, he says to love your enemies and to turn the other cheek. Doesn’t that sound like two different Gods? It certainly does to me, unless God changed his personality.

    Nathan, you seem to hold a lot of FAITH in the words of the Bible. Reminds me of the statement, the Bible is the word of God and the Bible says God never lies, therefore it must be true. A circular statement if I ever heard one. Funny, there are many religions and even Christians cannot agree how to worship God. It seems to me that, if there really is a God who created the entire univese, and this god wanted to be worshipped in a certain way and follow certain rules, then it stands to reason this creator god would be able to get this point across to everyone without there being any question. Since this god, if it exists, has not done this, I really think you are simply whistling into the wind that we need to listen to the god you subscribe to in the Bible, because the odds are that ths god is just another man-made invention. We laugh now at the many gods of ancient Egypt, but, for some reason, probably because our parents taught us to, we think that the god we believe in is authentic.

  • Wayne said:

    The god of the Old Testament was petty and vengeful. The god of the New Testament was loving and forgiving.

    I agree that the God of the new Testament says to be kind to your fellow man. Too bad the God of the new Testament doesn’t follow that advice Himself in dealing with people after they die. That’s my main beef with the whole Christian hell concept. I actually think the tyrant of the Old Testament is more ethical. Yahweh kills but doesn’t infinitely torture.

    P.S. I realize that the Christian Universalists don’t believe in hell.

  • Perhaps you’ve noticed that everyone in this thread is willing to call genocide evil, except for you?

    I didn’t get the impression that Nathan has denied that genocide is wrong, but rather that God hasn’t committed genocide. A question such as ‘how can God be good and commit genocide?’ is a loaded question.

    In the Old Testament, God is vengeful, but in the New Testament, he says to love your enemies and to turn the other cheek. Doesn’t that sound like two different Gods? It certainly does to me, unless God changed his personality.

    God tells us to turn the other cheek, because we are not God. The NT makes very clear that God will not just ignore our rebellion.
    This misses the point Nathan made early on which seems to have been almost entirely missed – a parent is not bound by the rules their child must follow. It would be foolish to assume that parents must also go to bed when their children do, for example.

  • Eliza

    Sung to the tune of…oh, you’ll figure it out.

    Oh! You better watch out,
    You better not cry,
    You better not pout,
    I’m telling you why:
    Jesus Christ is coming to town!

    He’s making a list,
    He’s checking it twice,
    He’s gonna find out
    who’s naughty or nice.
    Jesus Christ is coming to town!

    He sees you when you’re sleeping,
    He knows when you’re awake.
    He knows when you’ve been bad or good,
    So be good for goodness sake!

    So…You better watch out,
    You better not cry
    You better not pout,
    I’m telling you why.
    Jesus Christ is coming to town.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Jeff said,

    I agree that the God of the new Testament says to be kind to your fellow man. Too bad the God of the new Testament doesn’t follow that advice Himself in dealing with people after they die. That’s my main beef with the whole Christian hell concept. I actually think the tyrant of the Old Testament is more ethical. Yahweh kills but doesn’t infinitely torture.

    This is true, but, at least Christianity states that you need only accept Jesus as your saviour and you are off the hook. Trouble is, only 126,000 are supposed to make into heaven. I remember when I was a kid that the Jehovah Witnesses were trumpeting this. Funny, now that they have a lot more than 126,000 members, they had to come up with another line. BTW, though Christianity states that you need only accept Jesus as your saviour, Jesus said that you can only be saved based on your works. I think the argument is that when you transgress against God you can only be forgiven by intercession of a God.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    You comment that you follow the teachings of Jesus. I assume that, like most Christians, you consider him the Son of God. I submit to you that, on the contrary, he was a human being who was an apocalypticist who was preaching that God was about to arrive in his kingdom and that the people must prepare themselves. In Mark 9:1, Jesus states “Truly I tell you, some of you standing here will not taste death before they have seen the Kingdom of God having come in power. And Mark 13:30 Truly I tell you, this generation (i.e., presumably, the one he was addressing) will not pass away before all these things take place. In Mark 14:62 Truly I tell you, You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. In Mathew 16:27-28 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (i.e., the coming resurrection of the dead on judgment day.) Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. Mathew 10:23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. Paul, when asked by one of his churches, if they should continue to help the poor, he said no because they would soon be elevated to the coming Kingdom. Check out 1Cor. 15: 12-26. Here Paul is essentially stating that now that Christ has been risen from the dead, he is the first fruits and the resurrection of the dead with every man in his order will now begin. Paul also states that if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised (i.e., the end times along with the resurrection of the dead to be judged was to happen then not millenniums later.) Are you seeing a trend here? Jesus &, Paul as well, expected this to happen soon, not in the far future. Otherwise, what would be the point? Even Revelations 1:1 starts off saying “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass. Revelations talks about the Whore of Babylon. This was a reference to Rome since the Jews felt that Rome rule was like being in exiled in Babylon. It also mentions the Whore of Babylon seated on 7 hills. Everyone during the time of this writing knew that was referring to the 7 hills of Rome. Every year it seems someone will decide that the end times are coming and who the 666 beast is. But, the beast was in reference to someone back then. It was the hated Roman Emperor Nero. The alphabet was also used as numbers and, guess what, Nero’s name totaled to 666. More recently, scrolls were found that said the number of the beast was 665. 665? Well, it seems that Nero’s name was spelled two different ways and the 2nd way totaled to 665. That makes a whole lot more sense than Ronald Regan. Oh, one more thing. The beast was supposed to suffer a mortal wound but would come back. Well, it so happens that Nero had died and there were Jews who believed he would come back from the dead to rule once more.
    Nathan, all this was to occur during the life time of some of the people Jesus was preaching to. It did not happen. From this I can only come to the conclusion that Jesus, though he was a moral man, was also another failed prophet. As a result, I feel this blows Christianity out of the water. You could argue that it states that not even the son knows when the exact hour and day it will occur, but Jesus was not saying the exact time and hour, he was stating within a certain period of time, which doesn’t violate this statement at all. One more thing, when John stated that the prophesy was fulfilled by the word made flesh, that did not fulfill the prophesy of God arriving in glory in his Kingdom during the life time of the disciples. John, knowing that it wasn’t happening had to come up with that statement. However, it really doesn’t take Jesus off the hook.

    Jesus was crucified because he was a revel and the Roman government could not allow this for fear he might cause an uprising among the people. Crucifixion was reserved for lowly criminals. Even Moses stated “Cursed is he who hangs on a tree”. The Jews were expecting a powerful military leader. Jesus didn’t fit this expectations and the new Christian sect had to come up with something to save face. Therefore, they decided that Jesus must have been sent by God to die for our sins.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    I think we are talking two different things here. On one hand, the question is, does the God of the Old Testament deserve to be worshipped. My answer is no. I find him immoral. That said, I have always argued that, if a god exists who created us, he can do what ever he pleases, good or bad and, yes if it means that, if I am going to be tortured for eternity, I would be FORCED to do as he says. Fortunately, the god of the Old Testament was a myth, so I don’t need to worship a myth. BTW, bet you didn’t know that the early Isralites were henothists. What that means is that they believed there were many gods, but chose only to worship one. Abraham made a covenant with God that, if he would help them, then they would worship only Him.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Andrew:

    I didn’t get the impression that Nathan has denied that genocide is wrong, but rather that God hasn’t committed genocide. A question such as ‘how can God be good and commit genocide?’ is a loaded question.

    This is a rather long thread, so I may have missed it, but I don’t see a comment in which Nathan claims that God hasn’t committed genocide. His comment of Jan 8, 2010, 8:06 P.M. appears to deny that genocide, committed by God, is wrong. And I’m not really sure what other word to use for the mass killings that God orders in the Hebrew Bible to establish Israel.

    This misses the point Nathan made early on which seems to have been almost entirely missed – a parent is not bound by the rules their child must follow. It would be foolish to assume that parents must also go to bed when their children do, for example.

    Yes, but bedtime is not an issue of morality. I would not say it’s immoral for a child to stay up late, or drink alcohol (Nathan’s example); I would say that those are activities that are harmful for children, but not for adults. In contrast, the basic underlying rules of moral behavior are the same for adults and for children.

    On the other hand, yes, it is possible to say that God is so incredibly different than humans, that our normal human standards don’t apply. After all, I don’t call lions immoral for the viciousness with which they hunt, or cows virtuous for their vegetarian lifestyle. They’re just different, and our moral standards are inapplicable. It’s not unreasonable to argue that God is like that, but in that case, it makes no sense to claim that God is good. If it’s logically impossible for God’s actions to be meaningfully morally evaluated by humans, and determined to be evil, then it’s similarly impossible for those actions to be determined to be good.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Autumnal Harvest said:

    Perhaps you’ve noticed that everyone in this thread is willing to call genocide evil, except for you?

    I wonder if he is really trying to say that, since God created us, he can do anything he pleases. Like I told Nathan, there are two issues here. One, does the God of the Old Testament deserve to be worshipped. I feel the answer is no because of the immoral acts he committed. The other issue, is that if this God created us, and wishes me to worship him a certain way or I will be subjected to eternal torture, then I would be force to do as he wishes. However, since I don’t believe this God exists, and even if he does, he was only the god of Israel, I don’t think I have anything to worry about.

  • I think this will be my last comment on this thread.

    SpursFan,

    “Nathan, please don’t take this as some sort of “I’m making headway with these skeptics” moment like I would have a few years ago, but know that you are welcome. Debate on friend.”

    Headway – nay. I don’t ever expect to win an argument in a room full of people who humour me as a madman on the cusp of losing my delusions…

    But I do enjoy the discussions. It’s good to have one’s faith (or lack thereof) tested.

    AxeGrrl,

    Apologies. I thought I had answered your question.

    “Say a Muslim suicide bomber claimed precisely the same thing you referred to ~ that he received direct, unequivocal orders from his ‘God’ (not from a book) to kill thousands of people….

    if the Muslim bomber then perpetrated the act, would you be ok with it? If not, how would you argue that he was wrong in doing so?”

    I think I’d like to qualify my response to the hypothetical situation where God would order me to kill a group of people (or a single person). Part of my “burden of proof” would be that it would need to be not just me hearing these instructions. I think that’s reasonable. There are occasions in the Bible where God only appears to one person, or two people (Moses and Abraham particularly) – but I would want to know that I wasn’t falling for some delusion.

    I really don’t think God operates that way as a general rule. How could I think that when by all accounts he has been “silent” since the first century AD? I believe God has given us the Bible to guide our actions. I am suspicious of those who claim to have had “words from the Lord”…

    If a Muslim genuinely believed God had ordered him to kill people (in person – which they don’t need to because they have that order in front of them in the Qu’ran) then I would hope that they were stopped.

    If it’s really “God’s will” then there’d be no stopping it right?

    If a Muslim could convince me that God had appeared to him (and probably other witnesses) then I’d probably convert to Islam.

    Jeff,

    I would suggest that Daniel 12:2 suggests that YHWH also sends people to Hell…

    MikeTheInfidel,

    “There is no reason to believe that there IS an absolute good vs. evil dichotomy, since good and evil are labels mankind gives to things.”

    Unless you believe that God gives those labels in the Bible. But that’s a discussion for another thread – this thread is about, in my mind, whether God can actually be accused of being evil on the basis our our understanding of evil.

    My pet fish can call me evil from their tank all they like – but they have no idea what it’s like walking around outside the tank, and no experience to judge my actions by. They may not like it when I eat fish and chips – but they don’t complain when I feed them their food (which is also made of fish).

    I quite like that analogy. Feel free to rip it to shreds – but that’s my understanding of this debate. It’s all well and good for you, as a fish, to come up with your own moral framework – but ultimately if life outside the tank exists, and makes its presence known – you are not in a position to have any real influence on that “framework”…

    Autumnal Harvest,

    “Trumpeting God as giving you a black-and-white moral absolutism over the wishy-washiness of atheists rings a little hollow in the context of this thread. Perhaps you’ve noticed that everyone in this thread is willing to call genocide evil, except for you?”

    This seems an odd point to raise. I also haven’t made any comments about the colour yellow. Or why coffee is preferable to tea.

    It hasn’t seemed necessary to condemn genocide. Genocide’s badness is beyond question.

    I’ll go further – any genocide perpetrated by humans alone is extremely evil.

    What I have said is that God gets to make the call on human life and when it ends. And if God is omnipotent then he gets to set the definition of “morality” not us.

    Wayne,

    You seem to be lecturing yourself. It’s all very interesting. But you’re asking questions of yourself and then answering them. And not really saying anything to my points or my understanding of the Bible (which is quite orthodox (but possibly not in the American sense) and seems to be the same Christianity advocated by Jesus, the apostles, the early church fathers, Martin Luther and John Calvin – and those in their stead. I’ve provided this list of people to give you the idea that I’m not some rogue Christian who dismisses the Christian lunatics. I can happily sign up to the creeds and statements of belief of each of those people (except where they disagree).

    I will try to get my head around some of the points you’ve raised.

    And the Lord said because the cry of Sodom and gomorrah is great, and because their sin is grievous, I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, and which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
    It seems clear here that the Lord admits that he doesn’t know and that he is going down to to see. That does not sound like an all knowing God.

    It seems clear? Well. That’s not the way I would understand that passage. Unless I went into it with the idea of suggesting that God is not omnipotent. That’s called eisegesis Wayne – it’s coming at a text with an agenda.

    Perhaps the passage was written as theology – to teach us that God does not judge rashly and that when he punishes it is truly deserved?

    Revyloution brought up a similar passage about the garden of Eden before. I suggest that this passage should be understood alongside the passages that suggest that God is omnipotent (like Psalm 139).

    “It seems to me that, if there really is a God who created the entire univese, and this god wanted to be worshipped in a certain way and follow certain rules, then it stands to reason this creator god would be able to get this point across to everyone without there being any question.”

    Why? I mean, I can understand you wanting it to work like that – but why must that be the way God does things? If there is a God then why must he be subject to the reasoning of the beings he creates? I am not subject to the reasoning of my pet fish.

    “Trouble is, only 126,000 are supposed to make into heaven. I remember when I was a kid that the Jehovah Witnesses were trumpeting this”

    Actually, first of all, it’s 144,000. In Revelation. Probably the most misunderstood book in the Bible – even by Christians. There are hundreds of explanations. I actually agree with you on the Nero thing.

    “Nathan, all this was to occur during the life time of some of the people Jesus was preaching to. It did not happen. From this I can only come to the conclusion that Jesus, though he was a moral man, was also another failed prophet. As a result, I feel this blows Christianity out of the water.

    One more thing, when John stated that the prophesy was fulfilled by the word made flesh, that did not fulfill the prophesy of God arriving in glory in his Kingdom during the life time of the disciples. John, knowing that it wasn’t happening had to come up with that statement. However, it really doesn’t take Jesus off the hook.”

    I suggest you reread these passages and consider that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies at the cross and then at his ascension to heaven.

    If you are convinced that the prophecies as recorded are worthy of assessing (and it seems you are) – then consider that Jesus came in to his glory when he completed his mission on earth.

    Most theologians (just not the fundamentalist fringe who are expecting him to come wielding swords any day now) will hold that Jesus “arrived in glory” and began “God’s kingdom” at the cross.

    And thus when he preached the following:

    a)”the kingdom of heaven is near, repent and believe the good news”
    b)”I will rebuild this temple (referring to his body) in three days”
    c)”and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

    That he was talking about the same thing each time. His death and resurrection.

    The conclusion – these things happened within the lifetime of the people Jesus spoke to.

    “Jesus said that you can only be saved based on your works”

    Umm. No. He didn’t. He said those saved would be rewarded based on their works. Salvation does not equal “reward”…

    “I think we are talking two different things here. On one hand, the question is, does the God of the Old Testament deserve to be worshipped.”

    Wayne, forgive me if I missed your earlier comments but we had not been talking about two different things at all. This is the first time I’ve addressed your comments isn’t it?

    Brian,

    “Your use of good and bad are an equivocation between the human and the god meaning of the word. When we speak we are talking about good and bad from a human perspective, not some god perspective that we cannot possibly comprehend.”

    Well that’s because I am trying to demonstrate that there may be two different definitions at play. You can say “I think God is not good” but you can’t say “God is not good.” Because if “God is” then good is his to define. As is bad. And the Bible suggests that he has (if you accept the Bible – I understand you don’t) decided that humans are bad. That is ultimately his decision.

    “Especially in your case since you seem willing to turn on your fellow humans in the wink of an eye.”

    That’s really a gross misrepresentation of what I said and you know it. That is cheap point scoring.

    “I think Nathan is ethically rudderless at this point. His notion of god allows him to commit any evil act just so long as he is convinced god wants it.”

    This is another bastardisation of my actual words that pays no regard to the content of my argument.

    how do we know hell is a ‘bad’ place if ‘God’s good doesn’t match up to ours?

    Umm, if you’re going to go with Pascal’s wager you may as well go all the way right… 😛

    But seriously – given that I make most of these judgments on the basis of what is revealed in the Bible I would say the descriptions of paradise v lakes of fire are what swing it for me.

    But you can take that chance. Or wager…

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,

    How can we look at the Old Testament and take it seriously? Scholars have determined that Abraham was simply a legend and didn’t exist. Also, the book of Joshua tells a powerful tale of conquest, supported by a God who showed no respect for most of the Holy Land’s existing inhabitants, however scholars have determined it is not history and it never was. In the story of Lot, he invites two angels into his house, but men from the city want him to give up these two men so that they can have sex with them. Lot offers up his virgin daughters instead to be raped. When the men try to break in, the angels make them blind. God later commends Lot. Woah! Instead of trying to fight these men off, Lot offers up his daughters, and then God commends him for that. What kind of morally screwed up god is this? I’m afraid that fails to make a case for his morality as you claim it. Moses upon defeating an enemy, tells his soldiers to keep all the virgin women and that the soldiers can take the women children for themselves. Wow! The morality of the Bible gets stranger and stranger. Abraham in fear for his life tells the enemy that his wife is his sister and causes her to be placed in a harem. In the Old Testament, it was OK to put your daughter into prostitution. These are things that we strongly feel are morally wrong, but it was OK in for the Israelites who worshipped their God, and, assumedly OK with their God.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Nathan, I think this will be my last post on this thread too (unless Andrew has an interesting perspective to add), since we seem to be going in circles. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint, it was interesting.

    My pet fish can call me evil from their tank all they like – but they have no idea what it’s like walking around outside the tank, and no experience to judge my actions by. . . I quite like that analogy. Feel free to rip it to shreds – but that’s my understanding of this debate.

    I think that’s a perfectly reasonable analogy. Of course, having stated that the fish-Nathan difference is so large that fish are not equipped to morally to evaluate you as evil, it would be irrational for you to then turn around and claim that your fish were equipped to morally evaluate you as good. Completion of the analogy (fish->humans, Nathan->Yahweh) is left as an exercise to the reader.

    It hasn’t seemed necessary to condemn genocide. Genocide’s badness is beyond question.

    I’ll go further – any genocide perpetrated by humans alone is extremely evil. (emphasis added)

    Um, unless we’ve been having entirely different conversations (and maybe we have), genocide’s badness is not beyond question. In fact, the boldfaced section of your very next sentence is entirely pointless, unless you think that genocide is sometimes bad and sometimes good. There’s no need for that qualification unless genocide perpetrated by God, or by humans ordered to be God (both of which occur in the Bible), is sometimes acceptable and/or good. You appear to have already endorsed this conclusion, generally throughout your comments, and more specifically in your comment of Jan 8, 2010, 8:06 P.M..

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan said,
    It seems clear? Well. That’s not the way I would understand that passage. Unless I went into it with the idea of suggesting that God is not omnipotent.

    That’s called eisegesis Wayne – it’s coming at a text with an agenda.
    Perhaps the passage was written as theology – to teach us that God does not judge rashly and that when he punishes it is truly deserved?
    Revyloution brought up a similar passage about the garden of Eden before. I suggest that this passage should be understood alongside the passages that suggest that God is omnipotent (like Psalm 139).

    Nathan, it is clear that God did have to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord had to go down to check before he could say that he knew, and I brought this up specifically because you tried to talk around Revyloution’s passage in the garden of Eden. You are so convinced that the Bible is factual that you will even try to come up with some lame speculation that the passage was written as theology. That really doesn’t fit here.

    Why? I mean, I can understand you wanting it to work like that – but why must that be the way God does things? If there is a God then why must he be subject to the reasoning of the beings he creates? I am not subject to the reasoning of my pet fish.
    Really now, we aren’t talking about a relationship between you and a pet fish.

    We are talking about a creator, who, supposedly, wants to be worshipped in a particular way or else he is going to send you to hell. If this creator exists, then he created the entire universe. Seems to me that with this capability, it would be an insignificant task for him to get across his wishes. And, if, like you indicate, he doesn’t really care to get this wish across, even though he is going to send you to hell even though you don’t know for sure what he wants, then he is immoral and does not deserve to be worshipped. BTW, you think that by following Christianity, you are safe. Well, Moslem might be the correct religion. If so, then you are in trouble because they believe that worshipping Jesus as a god is blasphemous.

    Actually, first of all, it’s 144,000. In Revelation. Probably the most misunderstood book in the Bible – even by Christians. There are hundreds of explanations. I actually agree with you on the Nero thing.

    Oh dear, I got it wrong. Big difference. Either way, heaven has already reached its quota and you are left out in the cold, or is the heat of hell? I agree that Revelations is the most misunderstood book in the Bible. It turns out that there were many of these apocalyptic texts during this period. This one just happened to make it into the Bible. The author is essentially relieving his stress over being under the cruel Roman rule and has made up this text as an outlet, and perhaps hope that it will actually come about. Remember that Jesus already stated that God would arrive in glory with his kingdom. And no, Jesus did not fulfill this. He wasn’t talking about himself. He was talking about end times when God’s kingdom would physically come down to earth and the poor, sinners, and downtrodden would be lifted up into this kingdom and the rich and powerful and religious would be put down, i.e., a turn in fortunes. And Jesus certainly did not fulfill the “word made flesh” since, if he was God, his prophesy of God coming in his kingdom in glory during the life time of the people then did not happen and that makes him a failed prophet instead of God.

    Most theologians (just not the fundamentalist fringe who are expecting him to come wielding swords any day now) will hold that Jesus “arrived in glory” and began “God’s kingdom” at the cross.

    Nathan, that is such a stretch. You completely ignore the fact that Jesus was preaching that a kingdom would come to take up the downtrodden and poor. And he stated that God would arrive in glory. Jesus being crucified like a common criminal certainly does not fulfill that prophesy. He was considered a threat and most likely had a trial lasting a few minutes and then taken immediately out to be whipped and then crucified. In case you thing that story about Pilot washing his hands and all those people present at Jesus’ trial was true, it was not. Also, no one would be allowed to get close to Jesus hanging on the cross. So, if he had anything to say, he probably wouldn’t have been heard. Also, someone hanging on a cross would find it very difficult to speak as they are slowly being suffocated.

    If you are convinced that the prophecies as recorded are worthy of assessing (and it seems you are) – then consider that Jesus came in to his glory when he completed his mission on earth.
    On the contrary, this was an invention by his followers.
    And thus when he preached the following:
    a)”the kingdom of heaven is near, repent and believe the good news”
    b)”I will rebuild this temple (referring to his body) in three days”
    c)”and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
    That he was talking about the same thing each time. His death and resurrection.
    The conclusion – these things happened within the lifetime of the people Jesus spoke to.

    A. Exactly what I’ve been saying. Jesus believed that the kingdom of heaven was near, i.e., it was physically coming down to earth and the poor and downtrodden would be elevated up to this kingdom and the rich and powerful would be put down. Paul believed this too, and that is why he told his churches that it was not necessary to help the poor because they would soon be elevated up to this kingdom. Unless some of these people are still living amongst us, it did not happen.
    B. The end of, I think Mark, it says that the women went to his grave and found it empty. Scholars have determined that this was the true ending of this Gospel. However, years later, the passage that Jesus then appeared to the disciples was added later. Therefore, this makes that belief extremely unlikely. The Romans buried the crucified people in a common grave after their bodies were consumed by wild beasts. That is most likely what really happened.
    C. Not really hard to predict since Jesus had angered these people by causing a ruckus during the Passover feast by overturning the money changers.
    Sorry, no matter how you look at it, the Kingdom of God did not come in the lifetime of the people Jesus preached to.

    “Jesus said that you can only be saved based on your works” “Jesus said that you can only be saved based on your works”

    OK, I may not have quoted this one quite right. However, essentially Jesus is saying that believing is not enough, you need good works. Christians, since they claim Jesus died for our sins, try to override this by stating that works no longer count, only accepting Jesus as your savior.

    “I think we are talking two different things here. On one hand, the question is, does the God of the Old Testament deserve to be worshipped.” Wayne, forgive me if I missed your earlier comments but we had not been talking about two different things at all. This is the first time I’ve addressed your comments isn’t it?
    No, we weren’t discussing this with me, but you were discussing it with someone else. I am just giving my opinion.

    Nathan, though we don’t agree, I have enjoyed your comments. BTW, I am a former Christian who had questions that religion could not answer, such as why Jesus would be preaching fervently for the people to prepare themselves for the coming Kingdom when it wasn’t supposed to happen for millenniums later. It simply made no sense. I’ve since realize the problem after much research from non religious sources, that it was actually supposed to happen back then, but it didn’t, which blew Christianity out of the water for me. Since religion is a fascinating subject because so many people believe in it and are influenced by it, I have continued to read and study it. The more I read, the more I am convinced that it is man-made, not God inspired. I know you won’t, but I would suggest to you to do the same.

  • Brian Macker

    Nathan,

    “This is another bastardization of my actual words that pays no regard to the content of my argument.”

    There’s a joke that has a man asking a woman how much money it would take for her to have sex with an extremely ugly man. She says one million dollars would get her to compromise herself. So he pulls out fifty dollars, and propositions her, “How about fifty? I’m not so ugly.” She exclaims, “What kind of woman do you think I am?”. He says, “We’ve already established what kind of woman you are. I was just haggling on a price.”

    That’s what came to mind when you objected to my claims. Seems to me you were willing to turn on your fellow man just so long as you were sure god told you to. Now that you have clarified that it would take an extra eye witness.

    So we’ve established what kind of guy you are. We were only haggling on a price.

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan, I’d just like to thank you for staying with this discussion and taking the time to try to respond to every question/response directed at you…..

    I appreciate the sincerity of your participation here, even if what you’ve said scares the hell out of me (and it truly does).

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand the ‘might makes right’ argument for morality.

  • “That’s what came to mind when you objected to my claims. Seems to me you were willing to turn on your fellow man just so long as you were sure god told you to. Now that you have clarified that it would take an extra eye witness.”

    “I appreciate the sincerity of your participation here, even if what you’ve said scares the hell out of me (and it truly does).”

    Given that you’re both atheists – what probability do you put on the prospect of God appearing to me in a verifiable way and ordering me to kill anybody?

    I don’t know what you’re worried about. This seems like a moot point from your perspective and mine.

    I’m an Australian so I don’t own any guns and I’m not about to stock up for the coming “armageddon”… I think this is a pretty odd overreaction to a hypothetical question that I had little patience for.

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan wrote:

    Given that you’re both atheists – what probability do you put on the prospect of God appearing to me in a verifiable way and ordering me to kill anybody?

    The ‘probability’ that it would actually happen isn’t what I find scary….

    It’s the idea that you’re willing to kill your fellow man to appease some character that exhibits such an inherently contradictory ‘morality’ that’s frightening.

  • “It’s the idea that you’re willing to kill your fellow man to appease some character that exhibits such an inherently contradictory ‘morality’ that’s frightening.”

    If God appeared to me and told me to kill people, and I could prove that he had, and I told you – would you believe that he exists?

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan wrote:

    If God appeared to me and told me to kill people, and I could prove that he had, and I told you – would you believe that he exists?

    Since you said “and I could prove”, I assume you mean that you could ‘prove’ it to me, but proving the existence of such an entity isn’t necessarily the most important part here….

    The fact that you would pledge your allegiance to such a morally inconsistent character over your fellow man is the relevant part here.

  • muggle

    Muggle, I trust that Nathan is waiting for his “Monty Python” moment where the clouds literally part and God talks to him before he goes on any killing sprees.

    I wish I shared your confidence that this won’t happen. Obviously, it literally won’t but it wouldn’t be the first time it happened inside someone’s head.

    As for answering questions, then why are people having to ask him to over and over again? I’m willing to dialogue with Christians but not freaking insane nutcakes spamming the board with vile.

  • Brian Macker

    “Given that you’re both atheists – what probability do you put on the prospect of God appearing to me in a verifiable way and ordering me to kill anybody?”

    Humans are fallible. The issue isn’t whether he will but whether you, or others who were educated in your church, might think they have verifiable evidence.

    If God appeared to me and told me to kill people, and I could prove that he had, and I told you – would you believe that he exists?

    Merely on your say so? No I wouldn’t believe. However, I’m a pan-critical rationalist, not a faith based believer. Given that 9/11 happened it’s clear that the religious aren’t so skeptical of claims of instructions from god.

    If there was no question that god existed and he personally instructed me to explicitly target innocents for murder then I wouldn’t do it. It wouldn’t matter to me that they were “guilty” of not serving gods vanity.

    Also, the way I see things, when you create a human that doesn’t mean you can kill them at will. Just because you have children that doesn’t mean you own them and that they owe you something. I think it runs the other way around.

    If there was a healthy person and because of your actions they were harmed then it would be your responsibility to take care of them until they were better. Your actions put them in a vulnerable position where they could not take care of themselves and you have a duty to get them to where they can take care of themselves again.

    Likewise when a parent has a child their actions create a situation where another individual is in a helpless position. So it becomes their duty to care for the child till it can take care of itself. Although inaccurate it would be more correct to think the child owns the parent.

    In your world view this imagined god created us. He created us as vulnerable creatures in a hostile world. If he exists then he owes us a duty and it’s pretty clear he isn’t living up to it.

  • “The fact that you would pledge your allegiance to such a morally inconsistent character over your fellow man is the relevant part here.”

    Because man’s track record on morality is one to be proud of?

    Why would I choose my fellow man over God?

    What if God appeared, told me to kill someone, and proved to me that they deserved it?

  • Wayne,

    “I’ve since realize the problem after much research from non religious sources, that it was actually supposed to happen back then, but it didn’t, which blew Christianity out of the water for me.”

    Clearly we disagree on this and we’re at an impasse.

    I’m absolutely convinced that Jesus came into his kingdom at the crucifixion/resurrection. So is Paul.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan, I agree that we are at an impasse.

    I’m absolutely convinced that Jesus came into his kingdom at the crucifixion/resurrection. So is Paul

    I’m convinced that Paul expected a physical kingdom to come since he told his church not to bother helping the poor since they would soon be elevated to God’s kingdom. He even said getting married was unneccessary because of God’s coming kingdom. However, it sounds like you are merely saying that Jesus went into his kingdom. However, there is no way of knowing this, plus it does not fulfill his prophesy which would have been obvious if it had occurred. BTW, Paul believed that Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection of the dead, which means all the dead would shortly rise from their graves to be judged. Again, the prophesized end times. I see no evidence of that plus I don’t think we would be here if it happened.

  • “BTW, Paul believed that Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection of the dead

    Yes.

    which means all the dead would shortly rise from their graves to be judged.”

    Or it means that thanks to Jesus death and resurrection death has been conquered and we can expect eternal life. As can those who died before Jesus who will, at judgment, be raised to life.

    “since he told his church not to bother helping the poor since they would soon be elevated to God’s kingdom”

    Reference please.

    And yet James says:

    “God our Father says that religion which is pure and genuine is this: to care for orphans and widows in their suffering, and to remain unstained from the world.”

  • And 1 Timothy (written by Paul) in chapter 5 says the following.

    Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Jeff said,

    And 1 Timothy (written by Paul) in chapter 5 says the following.

    Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever

    Unfortunately, scholars are convinced that Paul did not write the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (called the “Pastoral” epistles, because they deal with how these pastors should oversee their churches.) So this passage you quoted has no validity.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan said,

    “since he told his church not to bother helping the poor since they would soon be elevated to God’s kingdom”

    Reference please

    Ok, here an even better reference that Paul believed that the Lord himself will descend from heaven and the dead will first be resurected and he goes on to say “we who were still alive will be caught up toegher with them in the clouds. This is very clear that Paul expected it to happen in his life time.
    Here is the reference:
    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (King James Version)

    13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

    14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

    15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

    16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

    17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

    18Wherefore comfort one another with these words

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    I have,so far, been unable to find the passage where Paul told the church that it need not concern itself with the poor since they would soon be elevated to God’s kingdom. However, the passage I did quote makes it clear that Paul was expecting the end times to occur in his life time.

  • However, the passage I did quote makes it clear that Paul was expecting the end times to occur in his life time.

    Or that he expected his writings to be read by the church for thousands of years.

    “Unfortunately, scholars are convinced that Paul did not write the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (called the “Pastoral” epistles, because they deal with how these pastors should oversee their churches.) So this passage you quoted has no validity”

    Unfortunately those scholars are not reputable. They are the fringe historians with an axe to grind.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Unfortunately those scholars are not reputable. They are the fringe historians with an axe to grind.

    I disagree. I have read this in other texts as well. It is well known that there were later writes who wrote in the name of a famous person in the past in order to get their own views across. A couple still managed to slip by and make it into the Bible. This was one them. Besides, I have an undisputed Pauline passage, which I quoted which clearly shows that Paul expected to see the end times in his lifetime.

  • You said:

    “It is well known that there were later writers who wrote in the name of a famous person in the past in order to get their own views across.”

    What you should have said:

    Bart Erhmann said that there were later writes who wrote in the name of a famous person in the past in order to get their own views across.

    Do you think Bart Erhmann would have received half the attention that he has if he had not come up with a revolutionary way of thinking about things some 2000 years after the events.

    “I quoted which clearly shows that Paul expected to see the end times in his lifetime.”

    Only with your slightly odd interpretive framework.

  • A criticism of Erhman from an NT scholar:

    It is mystifying however why he would attempt to write a book like Jesus, Interrupted which frankly reflect no in-depth interaction at all with exegetes, theologians, and even most historians of the NT period of whatever faith or no faith at all. A quick perusal of the footnotes to this book, reveal mostly cross-references to Ehrman’s earlier popular works, with a few exceptions sprinkled in—for example Raymond Brown and E.P Sanders, the former long dead, the latter long retired. What is especially telling and odd about this is Bart does not much reflect a knowledge of the exegetical or historical study of the text in the last thirty years. It’s as if he is basing his judgments on things he read whilst in Princeton Seminary. And that was a long time ago frankly.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Nathan, Wayne didn’t bring up Ehrman. You did, it’s a little strange to choose to attribute his views to an author of your choosing, and then attack that author. Everything I’ve read states that pseudonymous writings were common in that period (and indeed throughout much of human history). My readings have been based on an interest in history and religion, and are not atheist polemics (until this year I had never heard of Ehrman), so it strikes me as rather disingenous to suggest that the problem of pseudoynmity was created by Ehrman, or some cabal of fringe historians.

    From my textbook, “The New Testament: A Student’s Introduction,” by Stephen L. Harris:

    Six canonical letters in which the author explicity identifies himself as Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, contain discrepancies that cause scholars to question their Pauline authorship. Two of the letters – 2 Thessalonians and Colossians – are still vigorously disputed, with a large minority championing their authenticity. By contrast, an overwhelming scholarly majority deny that Paul wrote the four others – Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus.

    I don’t want to get into a dispute about interpretation of Bible verses, I’ll leave that to you and Wayne. But unless by an amazing coincidence, everything I’ve read has been secretly funded by Ehrman, your claim that pseudonymity is only believed by “fringe historians with an axe to grind” is factually incorrect.

  • I’d suggest it’s much less cut and dried than Wayne suggests.

    The movement to suggest that they were not Pauline was largely driven by the gnostics who didn’t like some of Paul’s theology.

    It’s all very well to cast doubt on the authorship of books of the Bible. If I was an atheist, or had an agenda that involved disagreeing with some of the content – then that’s what I would do.

    I just don’t think it’s logical – and most Christian theologians (rather than textual critics) agree with me.

    I can see that if someone wanted to fake a letter to give it Pauline authority they might open with something like this (1 Timothy 1:1-3)

    1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;

    2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

    3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,

    But the style of the letters is demonstrably closer to Paul’s style than a couple of undisputed books (see wikipedia for the summary).

    For Wayne to suggest that “scholars believe” something as though it’s unanimous is duplicitous.

    And his assumption that I’m not familiar with the revelations he proposes is slightly offensive.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    Erhman is only one of many writers who have stated that it was commonly known that writers in the future wrote stuff as though they were some writer in the past. it appears that you only chose to ignore this fact in a desperate attempt to defend these writings. Also, you claim that my interpretation of Paul is wrong, even though it is extremely clear what he is saying, and only a Christian apologist would would try to make this into something it isn’t. BTW, when there is a writing that Christians would probably object to, it is more likely that it was actually true.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    I was once a believing Christian, but eventually started questioning what I had been spoon fed. One very important question I had is why Jesus was fervently preaching to prepare for God’s coming Kingdom, if it wasn’t going to happen millenniums later. It simply did not make sense, and I could not find any viable answers from religious sources. It wasn’t until I started doing research in other places that I found answers that made sense. Mark 9:1 is one of several in which Jesus states that the coming kingdom is coming in the life time of the people standing there.
    Mark 9
    1And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”
    How you can say that this was fulfilled is beyond me. Funny, I get a kick out of the attempts to explain how the trinity is not three gods. Some are better than others, but in the end, if everything fails, Christian apologists will simply fall back on the statement that “it’s a mystery”.
    I continue reading because I find religion quite fascinating since it controls so many people’s lives, but the more I read, the more convinced I have become that the Bible is manmade, and we haven’t even touched on the Old Testament where you have three versions of the creation story and flood all wrapped up into one, but when you separate them out, you see that there are three different agendas. Doesn’t sound god inspired to me. And I am still surprised how many believe that the Flood Myth was real. There is no archaeology evidence of a worldwide flood. BTW, one of the versions, the P one, states that Noah is supposed to bring 7 clean animals and a pair of unclean ones. The reason for this is that the P or priestly version states that Noah sacrifices one them to God, and if he only had 2, it would wipe out the species. Also, the reason wooden vessels have never been made as large as the arc is because it would break up when the first wave hit it.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    There are letters attributed to Paul which state that he has woman as officials in his church. Years later, someone wrote as Paul stating that woman should remain silent while in church and not speak. This is so obvious that someone at a later date believed this and tried to make it official by making it look like it was Paul, when, in fact, Paul had women speaking in church. How do you explain this?

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Autumanal Harvest,
    You are very informed. Please feel free to continue commenting. Thanks for the comments.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    Let’s look further on how Satan came about, i.e., why he was invented.
    An interesting question is, if God had promised the Israelites in the Old Testament to[protect and defend Israel against its enemies, why was it constantly being dominated by foreigners? Why was it conquered, in succession, by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Syrians, and the Romans? One of the popular answers was given by ancient Jewish prophets that these ills came upon the Israelites as a form of punishment by God, and once they repented and stopped sinning, God would relent and reestablish them as a sovereign nation. Some Jewish thinkers eventually became dissatisfied with this answer because it was not just the sinners who suffered, but people who were righteous as well. And matters never improved even when people did repent and returned to God and committed to God’s Law. Why would Israel continue to suffer after it returned to God, while other nations that made no effort to please him prospered? Around the time of the Maccabean revolt, some came up with another solution. In their view, the suffering of God’s people could not be explained as a penalty for sin. God surely would not punish his people for doing what was right, for keeping his laws, for example. There must have been some other supernatural agency responsible. God was not making his people suffer: his enemy, Satan was. According to this new way of thinking, God was still in control of this world in some ultimate sense. But for unknown and mysterious reasons he had temporarily relinquished his control to the forces of evil that opposed him. This state of affairs, however, was not to last forever. Quite soon, God would reassert himself and bring this world back to himself, destroying the forces of evil and establishing his people as rulers over the earth. When this new Kingdom came, God would fulfill his promises to his people. This is where Jesus was supposed to come in. He was supposed to overthrow the Roman rulers and elevate the poor and downtrodden to the coming Kingdom.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    I was just listening to a lecture on the Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World taught by Professor Glenn S. Holland.
    I found it interesting that Saul also worshipped Baal and actually named two of his sons after him. I think one was Isbaal which meant man of Baal. I further found it interesting that David was originally a Jebuzite who worshiped their God and that he, for religious and political benefit, accepted Yahweh as his primary god, but still worshipped the Jebuzite god as well. You see, tough most people think that ancient Israelites and their leaders believe in only one God, that isn’t the case.
    Like I said, the more I read, the more I’m convinced that these gods, including Yahweh, were invented by man and really did not exist.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    Here is something to cogitate over. Yahweh made a covenant with the House of David that David’s descendants would hold the reigns of power over Israel for ever. Let me remind you that this is from a god who is all knowing. Well, the leader of a nation, I forget which, removed the ruling Davidian and replaced him with a nonDavidian. So much for an all knowing god. Interestingly, in spite of the fact that David had arranged the murder of the husband of the woman he wanted for himself, God still looked favorable upon him and made this covenant. I believe that says something about this god, don’t you think?

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    A friend of mine, Shane Hayes, started a blog back in November titled thebelievingagnostic.
    http://thebelievingagnostic.blogspot.com/
    He is a believing Christian. He calls himself the believing agnostic since he admits he cannot prove what he believes. I know he would love it if you leave a comment. Your comments would be a welcome addition, especially since it will help to balance out the opposing views. Thanks.
    Wayne

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Hi Hoverfrog,
    Shane Hayes has responded to your comment on thebelievingagnostic blog
    http://thebelievingagnostic.blogspot.com/2009/12/believing-without-proof-shane-hayes-you.html#comments

  • Spurs Fan

    I’m wondering what the record is for longest thread on “Friendly Atheist”. This could be it. If the thread ended now (not counting my post), it also may have set the FA record for most consecutive posts by one person. I’m counting nine a row by Wayne! 🙂

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Hi Spurs Fan.
    Very funny! 🙂
    Unfortunately, Nathan hasn’t responded to any of my recent posts. Hopefully, it is only because he is busy.

  • Wayne,

    This will be my last comment on this thread. I’ve said that before, but I’ve moved on. It’s not you. It’s me.

    Your views are fascinating. I believe they’re misguided – but at least they make some attempt to account for the rise in popularity of Jesus – as opposed to either denying he existed or discrediting the Bible as mere fantasy.

    “Also, you claim that my interpretation of Paul is wrong, even though it is extremely clear what he is saying, and only a Christian apologist would would try to make this into something it isn’t. BTW, when there is a writing that Christians would probably object to, it is more likely that it was actually true.”

    The vast majority of people who are familiar with the Bible (Christians) would suggest that your interpretation of Paul’s writing is wrong and not the “clear understanding”.

    They may be Christian apologists – but it seems you leave no room for counter-interpretations – this is slightly intellectually dishonest. You make claims as though your views are established and unquestionable facts. They are not. They are theories that you choose to subscribe to. They are not orthodox, nor are they held by the majority of Christian scholars.

    Erhman is only one of many writers who have stated that it was commonly known that writers in the future wrote stuff as though they were some writer in the past.

    Yeah. Don’t get me started on Dan Brown…

    How you can say that this was fulfilled is beyond me. Funny, I get a kick out of the attempts to explain how the trinity is not three gods. Some are better than others, but in the end, if everything fails, Christian apologists will simply fall back on the statement that “it’s a mystery”.

    I wonder how seriously you’ve considered the idea that the kingdom was inaugurated at the cross.

    Consider Psalm 22 and other prophetic OT passages that have the cross/crucifixion/punishment at the heart of the mission of the Messiah (See also Isaiah 53).

    This also fulfills the Davidic promise – Jesus is the king in David’s line who will rule forever.

    Your interpretations of Jesus’ message, the writings of Paul and the Old Testament are not eternal enough.

    Interestingly, in spite of the fact that David had arranged the murder of the husband of the woman he wanted for himself, God still looked favorable upon him and made this covenant. I believe that says something about this god, don’t you think?

    Yes, and Paul also murdered Christians, Moses killed at least one Egyptian and Abraham was an habitual liar.

    To me this says that God loves sinners (despite their wrongdoings) and is gracious and forgiving.

    I’ll touch on one more series of comments that you made (that you had brought up earlier)… and then that’ll do me. I’ve devoted far too much energy to this thread.

    I found it interesting that Saul also worshipped Baal and actually named two of his sons after him. I think one was Isbaal which meant man of Baal. I further found it interesting that David was originally a Jebuzite who worshiped their God and that he, for religious and political benefit, accepted Yahweh as his primary god, but still worshipped the Jebuzite god as well. You see, tough most people think that ancient Israelites and their leaders believe in only one God, that isn’t the case.

    I do not think these things are as profound as you do. It’s not like they’re special knowledge. Israel’s unfaithfulness and desire for other Gods is well documented. It happens over and over again (particularly Baal – who is even the subject of an Israeli fling (in the form of a golden calf) when Moses is receiving the ten commandments.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Solomon – who is the ultimate child of the Abrahamic covenant – inheriting a Jewish nation enjoying all the blessings God promised. He married hundreds of wives and took their gods… so what?

    There are plenty of Gods and idols still being worshipped today – this says nothing about the veracity of YHWH – according to the history recorded by the Old Testament the Jewish nation’s fortunes were tied to their faithfulness to God – when they were unfaithful they were punished (like the exile) when they were faithful they were blessed.

    This seems consistent with God’s promises to them (via Moses) in Deuteronomy 29 and 30.

    Lest anybody else bring up the prosperity doctrine at this point I would point out that while the Old Testament links blessings with obedience this is in line with God’s covenant with Abraham, the nation of Israel, and David. In the New Testament we see God promising to make us heirs to that promise through Jesus – and the benefit is that we share in the inheritance of Israel (heaven). We’re promised suffering and trial (in this life) as a result of signing up for the new covenant. I feel this is one of the most disasterously misunderstood concepts plaguing Christianity today. It certainly wasn’t the thinking of the early church who were a persecuted minority living in a communal style (some would say communist style) while fearing for their lives.

    “Nathan hasn’t responded to any of my recent posts. Hopefully, it is only because he is busy.”

    I don’t feel the need to respond to every comment made to counter my thinking in this thread – there are many of you, and more of your comments. And only one of me.

    If you want to come up with a list of ten questions (together) that you don’t think I’ve answered adequately leave them as a comment on my blog and I’ll respond to them all. I promise.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    The vast majority of people who are familiar with the Bible (Christians) would suggest that your interpretation of Paul’s writing is wrong and not the “clear understanding”.
    They may be Christian apologists – but it seems you leave no room for counter-interpretations – this is slightly intellectually dishonest. You make claims as though your views are established and unquestionable facts. They are not. They are theories that you choose to subscribe to. They are not orthodox, nor are they held by the majority of Christian scholars.

    When it comes to religion, I will pick the majority of scholars over the majority of Christians anytime, especially when their interpretation makes more sense. Unfortunately, the majority of Christians mostly accept what they are spoon fed by parents and the Church, and on faith. The Church has a powerful message of a heavenly after life, but a hellish one if you don’t believe. Also, the Bible states that if someone has a differing view, they are “false prophets” Hey, I don’t mean to sound overly critical I was also one of those spoon fed Christians as well, so I understand. I submit to you that the majority of Christians do not bother to do the research. They will read proreligious writings only. After all, who wants to upset the apple cart when it comes to hope for everlasting life.
    You said that it seems I leave no room for counter-interpretations. I find that a bit disingenuous. On the contrary, it is the closed minded Christians that refuse to entertain alternative interpretations no matter how valid they appear.

    Yeah. Don’t get me started on Dan Brown

    There you go again selecting one, of many authors, by your choice. In fact, I’m not familiar with Dan Brown.

    I wonder how seriously you’ve considered the idea that the kingdom was inaugurated at the cross.>
    I seriously think that the believers in Jesus were shocked to find their hero hung on a cross like a common criminal and scampered about to come up with a positive reason. That reason was that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. Unfortunately, it did not free them from the Roman oppression, like Jesus had promised.

    Consider Psalm 22 and other prophetic OT passages that have the cross/crucifixion/punishment at the heart of the mission of the Messiah (See also Isaiah 53).

    Christians took the words of Psalm 22 as expressive of the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they shake their heads. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint”, etc.
    For early Christians, the sufferings of the righteous Jesus were foreshadowed by the sufferings of the righteous Jew of the Psalms. His sufferings were therefore no mere miscarriage of justice: they were the plan of God. Unfortunately, these were passages that did not mention the Messiah, but Christians nonetheless took them to refer to Jesus, whom they believed to be the messiah. Most important were passages found in the writings of the prophet Isaiah, who also speaks of the suffering of God’s righteous one whom he calls the “Servant of the Lord.” According to the “Songs of the Suffering Servant”, as scholars have labeled our different passages in Isaiah, the most important of which is 52:13 – 53:12, this servant of God was one who suffered a heinous and shameful fate: he was despised and rejected (53:3), he was wounded and bruised (53:4-5). The widely held view among scholars is that it was originally speaking of the suffering of the nation of Israel during the Babylonian captivity ( see Isa. 49:3). What matters is that we have no indication that any Jew, prior to Christianity, ever took the passage as a reference to the Jewish Messiah. In fact the author refers to the Servant’s suffering as PAST, but his vindication as future. The earliest Jewish Christians simply took this passage and showed it was similar to Jesus’ suffering. Therefore, they managed to turn a stumbling block for Jews into a foundation stone for Christians. (see 1 Cor. 1:23). Therefore, the earliest Jewish Christians concluded that Jesus was meant to suffer and die. Obviously, it was a clever “save” since Christianity has managed to last all these years. Incidentally, did I mention that it helped that the Roman Emperor Constantine decided it was politically and religiously beneficial to him to choose Christianity over all other religions, or we might be arguing over a completely different religion.

    Yes, and Paul also murdered Christians, Moses killed at least one Egyptian and Abraham was an habitual liar.
    To me this says that God loves sinners (despite their wrongdoings) and is gracious and forgiving

    Hmmmm, if I recall correctly you thought it OK for God to kill people who simply complained when they were freed from Egypt and then required to wonder the desert for 40 years. And what about that prophet who the children called baldy? This prophet called on God to kill them and he did. I’m afraid that the God of the Old Testament comes across as a “loose cannon”.

    I do not think these things are as profound as you do. It’s not like they’re special knowledge. Israel’s unfaithfulness and desire for other Gods is well documented. It happens over and over again (particularly Baal – who is even the subject of an Israeli fling (in the form of a golden calf) when Moses is receiving the ten commandments.

    My point is that everyone believes that the Jews were monotheistic, when in effect they were henotheistic, i.e., they believed there were many gods, but made a covenant with YHWH as the only one they would worship. YHWH would get very upset if the people worshiped anyone else but him. Prophets claimed that was one of the reasons Israel ended up being taken over by foreign countries. That said, here is a leader David, worshipping his ancestor god right along with YHWH and YHWH never bats an eye. Instead, he tells David that his descendants will rule Israel for ever. BTW, you never explained why an all knowing god would state this if he knew it was a lie, because a leader of a foreign country, who took over Israel, removed one of David’s descendants and replaced him with a ruler who wasn’t. So much for God’s promise. Either this god is not all knowing and powerful, are it simply proves my point that these prophets claims that they were receiving the word of God were phony.
    You mentioned you had a blog, but you didn’t provide an address. What is it?
    Also, I mentioned that my friend, a Christian would be thrilled if you would make some comments on his blog. The address is: http://thebelievingagnostic.blogspot.com/
    Nathan, thanks for making comments here, it has been quite interesting and enjoyable. ?

  • Alright. I lied. One more comment. Only a shortish one though…

    My blog can be found by clicking my name (it’s in red to show it’s a link).

    I did answer how God’s promise to David was fulfilled – Jesus sits on an eternal throne. Jesus is in the line of David. Jesus will sit on that throne forever.

    Dan Brown wrote the Da Vinci Code – that was a joke. On that note – I read some of the comments at that link you posted and noted that you cite Erhman extensively. Seems my criticism was appropriate…

    You didn’t need to mention Constantine, I’m aware of church history. I’ve also read many of the criticisms you were convinced by and remain unconvinced. They all seem to miss the point of Jesus’ mission.

    I find it interesting that you base your ideas on what the expectations of Jesus were on the accounts in the Gospels – which are clearly written to suggest that the kingdom coming = the death and resurrection.

    John 1 for instance, and most of Mark… The earlier chapters of Mark demonstrate that Jesus is lord over many things, sickness, the weather, demons, the OT laws regarding cleanliness (he touches unclean people and makes them clean where the OT expects it to go the other way)… this is clearly the purpose of Mark – to show that Jesus is the Messiah, not a failed apocalyptic preacher.

    While it’s clear that the disciples were expecting something different (like when James and John request to be on his right and left when he comes into glory) – Jesus continually rebukes them – and tells them they’ve got it all wrong. In the case of the request of James and John he suggests that it’s not his place to fill those spots. Every time they have an argument like that – like about “who is the greatest” – he sets them straight about his mission – ie he was here to die on the cross.

    He is then crucified next to two thieves – and it wasn’t Jesus place to fill those spots.

    He promises not to drink wine before he comes into his kingdom (at the Lord’s supper).

    Matthew 29:

    “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

    In John 19 Jesus is offered wine vinegar while on the cross – and he takes it.

    John 19 says:

    “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. “

    This could, of course, have been written after the fact to salvage some Messianic street cred. Or it could have been (as you prepared to accept in order to criticise) true accounts of Jesus’ words.

    Or it could be an account of the miraculous incarnation of God, and his inauguration of a new kingdom and new covenant via death and resurrection. I know which option most people on this blog will take.

    But I am convinced…

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Alright. I lied. One more comment.

    Terrific!! Still, God might get you for lying. Hee. Hee.

    I did answer how God’s promise to David was fulfilled – Jesus sits on an eternal throne. Jesus is in the line of David. Jesus will sit on that throne forever.

    I was going to address this in my previous post, but decided to give you a chance to. First of all, a later author in the Bible was saddled with a problem by God’s promise and the obvious evidence showed that the Davidian line ended. This author had to scramble for an answer and he declared that there was another covenant that overroad the covenant that David’s line would rule for ever, and that was that the people had to follow God’s laws. Since the author claimed they did not, this overroad the covenant that David’s linage would rule for ever. Still, as I argued, the fact that David’s ruling line stopped, that glaringly shows that God was not all knowing. As far as your claim for Jesus as the continuance of this David line for ever, since he declared that God’s Kingdom was to come down to earth during the life time of the people he was preaching to, and that he was going to be king and ruler over this kingdom and it did not happen, he never got the chance to rule over Israel. And I don’t believe that the mocking sign the Romans put over his cross, The King of the Jews, counts.
    Da Vinci code was fiction. Even fiction may have something authentic, but it is still fiction.

    John 1 for instance, and most of Mark… The earlier chapters of Mark demonstrate that Jesus is lord over many things, sickness, the weather, demons, the OT laws regarding cleanliness (he touches unclean people and makes them clean where the OT expects it to go the other way)… this is clearly the purpose of Mark – to show that Jesus is the Messiah, not a failed apocalyptic preacher.

    Well, there is really no way of proving or disproving that Jesus was able to do miracles and control the weather. One thing that is clear is that Mark, the oldest Gospel, was written 25 to 30 years after Jesus’ death. Mark bases some of its text on Q, but the written copy is based on oral accounts passed down. As a result, we have no way of verifying if these oral accounts are completely true. A story can completely change over a short period of time, and this is no short period of times. So, who knows? Anyway, the accounts of Jesus healing and controlling the weather does not prove that Jesus is not a failed prophet. And since there were other competing religions, there is always the possibility that scribe guilded the lily, so to speak.
    Let’s look at what is available to us in the Gospels, starting with the oldest sources and working up to the newest Gospel of John.
    Mark 8:38-9:1 (King James Version)
    38Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
    Mark 9
    1And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
    Mark 13:24-27
    24But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
    25And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
    26And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
    27And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

    Mark 13:30
    30Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
    (Q)
    Luke 17:24;26-27,30 Matt. 24:27,37-39
    24For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. 26And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
    27They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
    (Luke 12;39;Matt. 24:44
    And you, be prepared, because you do not know the hour when the Son of Man is coming.
    (M)
    Matthew 13:40-43 (King James Version)
    40As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
    41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
    42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
    43Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
    (L)
    Luke 21:34-36 (King James Version)
    34And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
    35For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
    36Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
    OK, what I am trying to demonstrate here is that the earliest sources record Jesus as giving an apocalyptic message. However, some of the most clearly apocalyptic messages become toned down as we move further away from Jesus’ death. Mark was the earliest Gospel and was used as a source for the Gospel of Luke along with Q & L. As you go from the oldest to the more recently written Gospels, you can see how certain apocalyptic messages are toned down. For example, In Mark 9:1, Jesus says Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
    Luke takes over this verse, but he leaves out the last few words, so that now Jesus simply says: Truly I tell you, there are some who standing here who will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:27). The difference may seem slight, but it is actually huge because Jesus no longer predicts the imminent arrival of the Kingdom in power, but simply says that the disciples (in some sense) will see the Kingdom. In fact, in Luke, but not in our earlier source Mark, the disciples see the Kingdom, but not coming in power. For Luke states The Kingdom has already come to you in Jesus own ministry (Luke 11:20, but not Mark). And is said to be among you in the person of Jesus himself (Luke 17:21). Importantly, Luke continues to think that the end of the age is going to come in his lifetime, but evidentially not in the lifetime of Jesus’companions. It appears that the reason for this is he was writing after they had died, and he knew that in fact the end had not come. To deal with this fact, he makes the appropriate changes. This is evident as well near the end of the Gospel. At Jesus’ trial in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus states to the high priest, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). That is, the end would come and the high priest would see it. Luke, writing many years later, after the high priest was long dead, changes the saying to “from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69). No longer does Jesus predict that the high priest himself will be alive when the end comes. So, here is a later source that appears to have modified the earlier apocalyptic sayings of Jesus. You can see the same tendency in the Gospel of John, the latest Gospel. In this account, rather than speaking about the Kingdom of God that is soon to come (which is never spoken here),Jesus talks about eternal life that is available here and now for the believer. The Kingdom is not in the future, but available here and now for the believer. Those who believe, experience a heavenly birth (John 3:3,5): they already have eternal life, and do not have to face any prospect of judgment in the future, for good or ill (John 5:24.) In fact, the older view that there will be a day of judgment and a resurrection of the dead at the end of the age is replaced with a newer view that in Jesus a person can already be raised into eternal life. For example, when Mary, the sister of the dead man Lazarus, tells Jesus that her brother will be raised on the last day, Jesus corrects her by saying that he, Jesus himself, is the resurrection and the life, and that anyone who believes in him though he die, yet shall live. (John 11:23-26) There is no longer an apocalyptic message about the coming Son of Man. The emphasis now is on faith in Jesus who gives eternal life in the present. The world is not going to enter a crisis at the end of the world before being redeemed. Believers are saved out of this world.
    So, as you can see, the early traditions record apocalyptic teachings by Jesus. Later traditions generally mute these emphasis. And the latest of our early sources explicitly argue against it. Looks like a trend to me. You see, when the earlier words of Jesus stated that it was going to happen in the life time of the disciples and it didn’t, later writers had to modify this until John finally said that believing in Jesus was all that was required. Like I said, the original message that the coming Kingdom would come in power didn’t happen and it left later writers saddled with trying to explain why not. That is why you see the modifications.
    To me, this makes the most sense, and remember that, unlike most here, I am an agnostic with leanings towards a creator. I just feel that all religions are manmade. I lean towards a creator because, to me, it appears that we have to have all of the following systems at once in order to exist: digestion, elimination, respiration, circulation, a flap to keep food from going into our lungs, and reproduction and that seems hard to believe without a creator involved. I do believe in evolution because the evidence is there, but the gradual changes could have been a creator trying to improve on its creations.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Hi Autumnal Harvest,
    My friend on thebelievingagnostic blog has responded to your comment.
    http://thebelievingagnostic.blogspot.com/2009/12/believing-without-proof-shane-hayes-you.html#comments

  • Wayne, and others, I invite you to continue this interesting discussion at this post.

  • @Autumnal Harvest – the thread seems to have moved on, but FWIW:

    This is a rather long thread, so I may have missed it, but I don’t see a comment in which Nathan claims that God hasn’t committed genocide. His comment of Jan 8, 2010, 8:06 P.M. appears to deny that genocide, committed by God, is wrong. And I’m not really sure what other word to use for the mass killings that God orders in the Hebrew Bible to establish Israel.

    Ok, perhaps Nathan has called in Genocide, I think it’s wrong to do so, and muddies the water. If it is God’s judgement and not about race, then it’s not genocide – and remember that God used other nations to enact his judgement upon Israel as well. Further, I think it’s important to note ancient war rhetoric which uses hyperbole; e.g. ‘total annihilation’ is a form of rhetoric, and did not mean that every single person was killed. Indeed, we see members of the other nations integrated into the covenant people, and given provision in the Jewish law. To equate it then with extermination of a race without mercy is misleading at best. The term is inaccurate and doesn’t help.

    Yes, but bedtime is not an issue of morality. I would not say it’s immoral for a child to stay up late, or drink alcohol (Nathan’s example); I would say that those are activities that are harmful for children, but not for adults. In contrast, the basic underlying rules of moral behavior are the same for adults and for children.

    On the other hand, yes, it is possible to say that God is so incredibly different than humans, that our normal human standards don’t apply. After all, I don’t call lions immoral for the viciousness with which they hunt, or cows virtuous for their vegetarian lifestyle. They’re just different, and our moral standards are inapplicable. It’s not unreasonable to argue that God is like that, but in that case, it makes no sense to claim that God is good. If it’s logically impossible for God’s actions to be meaningfully morally evaluated by humans, and determined to be evil, then it’s similarly impossible for those actions to be determined to be good.

    You did get the point – not so much that bedtime is a moral issue, but that difference in position or relationship between parent and child means that all rules do not apply equally. Perhaps a moral example would be incarcerating a person: if you or I did it as a private citizen, it is criminal and I would say immoral, yet there are some, i.e. a magistrate, in the postion to do that. So the analogy simply points out the principle that it’s not a case of one in all in so to speak.
    Now this does not mean God’s actions are not able to be evaluated, it’s just that we shouldn’t use the standard for us to do so, just like it would be absurd to accuse a magistrate of immorality for incarcerating a convicted criminal. We must use the standards for them. And if God is God, then he is the giver and taker of life.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,

    I failed to respond to your negative review of Bart Erhman. I just did a Google on Ben Witherington, and was not in the least bit surprised to find that he has an axe to grind as a Christian apologist. Furthermore, I couldn’t help noticing him giving glowing praise to Oral Roberts, who used to be one of a group of phony healers along with A.A. Alan. Check out James Randi’s book, The Faith Healers. It is quit revealing. Randi managed to shut down Popoff by showing that his wife was planted out in the audience interviewing people and then she would give her husband this information by wireless transmitter to a receiver in Popoffs ear. Popoff would then act like he was receiving this info from God. Randi’s plant picked up this transmission and gave it to the press. Popoff was soon off the air and bankrupt, but people have short memories, or just so badly wanting to believe, and he is back. I remember my mom taking her mother to A.A. Alan healing service. Before hand, Alan interviewed those wanting healing. One guy said he didn’t know what his problem was and Alan responded that if he didn’t know, then God couldn’t help him. I was just a kid then and, even then I thought something wasn’t right since I thought God knew everything. When he came to my grandmother, he asked my mom if she could walk without the cane. My mom responded yes. So, during the service, he lifted my grandmother out of her wheel chair and said “walk in the name of God”. She took a couple of steps and my mom grabbed her. She wasn’t healed, but my grandmother said that Alan made her feel like she could walk. However, no healing occurred, but it looked good to the audience. On Oral Roberts, he claimed God told him to build a hospital and provide rooms where loved ones could stay. The hospital was a complete failure. So much for God’s good advice. And how can we forget that crying diatribe by Oral about how God was going to take him home if he didn’t get a certain amount of donations. When it failed, he just so happened to have a rich man donate the balance. What a JOKE!!! Anyway, back to Bart Erhman. It just so happens that he was selected by The Teaching Company to give lectures on tape, and one of them was The New Testament and another, The Historic Jesus. I highly recommend these to anyone with an open mind. Here is how they introduced him in 2000: Bart Erhman is the Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With degrees from Wheaton College (B.A>) and Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div. and Ph.D., magna cum laude), he taught at Rutgers for four years before moving to UNC in 1988. During his tenure at UNC, he was garnered numerous award and prizes, including the Students’ Undergraduate Teaching Award (1993), the Ruth and Philip Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement (1994) AND NOW THE Bowman and Gordon Gray Award for excellence in teaching (1998)

    With a focus on early Christianity in its Greco-Roman environment and a special expertise in the textual criticism of the New Testament, Professor Ehrman has published dozens of book reviews and over twenty scholarly articles for academic journals. He has also authored or edited eight books, including Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium; The New Testament: A historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings; After the new Testament: in Contemporary Research. He is currently at work on a new Greek-English Edition of the apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library.
    Professor Ehrman is a popular lecturer, giving numerous talks each year for such groups as the Carolina Speakers Bureau, the UNC program for the humanities, the Biblical Archaeology Society, various civic groups, and universities across the nation. He has served as the President of the Society of Biblical Literature, SE Region; book review editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature; editor of the Scholar’s Press Monograph Series The New Testament in the Greek Fathers’, and co-editor of the E.J. Brill series New Testament Tools and Studies. Among his administrative responsibilities, he has served on the executive committee of the Southeast Council for the Study of Religion and has chaired the New Testament textual criticism section of the Society of Biblical Religion, as well as serving as Director of Graduate Studies at the Department of Religious Studies at UNC.

    The Teaching Company only brings on board high caliber professors. So, Whitherington’s suggestion that Erhman has no credentials is false. Also, Erhman was an extremely religious Evangelical and Fundamentalist. Eventually, through all his Biblical studies, he came to realize that religion was all manmade and he present very clear evidence to back his arguments. Nathan said he hates people who quote scholars. I submit that I go with scholars who make sense and Erhman does. I would also recommend you read Karen Armstrong’s The History of God. It could be titled the Evolution of God, which is essentially what it is. People’s made up image of a god has evolved over time and within differing cultures. When I was still a Christian and my wife was trying to convert to Christianity from being an agnostic, she brought home A Case For Christ. I remember the author describing how he was a nonbeliever but due to his wife’s pressing, he started doing research. One thing that I found disingenuous was his claim that, since he was a reporter, he was able to come up with facts that made a case for Christ. For me, he made no viable case, even though I was a believer at the time. Funny, for fun, I occasionally listened to this evangelical station, and remember a few years ago that they were making the claim that everything was right for the end times to come. PLEASE!!!! Ever since the death of Christ, we have heard just the same stories, and it hasn’t happened. You know why? Because it was supposed to happen in the life time of Jesus’ disciples, and unless one of them is still living, it has not happened. Nero was supposed to be the antichrist. The alphabet was also used as numbers and his name totaled to 666. He died, the beast would suffer a mortal wound, but some Jews believed he would come back to life to rule. BTW, not to long ago they discovered documents claiming that the number of the beast was 665. 665? It so happens that Nero’s name was spelled two different ways and the other way totaled to 665. People it was suppose to happen then and it didn’t. Stop waiting for the end times. They aren’t coming, unless someone triggers an atomic war or global warming is fact and does us in. Stop trying to place Biblical writings in today’s context. It doesn’t belong there. If Jesus was correct about God arriving in glory in his Kingdom while some of the disciples were still standing, there would not be a 21st century. BTW, I wasn’t all that surprised to tune into this evangelical program to find them interviewing the author of The Case For Christ.

  • “I just did a Google on Ben Witherington, and was not in the least bit surprised to find that he has an axe to grind as a Christian apologist.”

    What you mean is that he is a scholar who disagrees with you.

    “I couldn’t help noticing him giving glowing praise to Oral Roberts, who used to be one of a group of phony healers along with A.A. Alan.”

    Yes, I’m not a fan of Oral Roberts – but this tangent is tantamount to bringing up the fact that Obama once sat on a municipal board with an extremist.

    “Nathan said he hates people who quote scholars. I submit that I go with scholars who make sense and Erhman does.”

    That’s not quite what I said. I hate it when people say “scholars agree” and then disregard any differing opinions as though this scholarship is fact. I also don’t like it when the scholars aren’t named but referred to in general.

    Here are some things you could justifiably say “scholars say” that I believe are incorrect…

    “Scholars say that dinosaurs lived at the same time as people.”

    “Scholars say that climate change is a myth.”

    “Scholars say that smoking is good for you.”

    At all those points you’re right to raise the question of bias – but when a scholar declares their bias, or is convinced by their scholarship to take a position (ie a Bible scholar who is a Christian apologist)…

    You can’t simply dismiss scholars who disagree with you on the basis that they have come to a different conclusion.

    I see Ehrman’s role in the new atheist movement as being similar to that of a pro-tobacco researcher in Big Tobacco’s fight to protect their empire. He’s popular because he says things they like to hear, and he sells a lot of books because he gets a hearing in those circles.

    I think, unless you have anything interesting to add, that this is my last comment (maybe this time I mean it).

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Nathan,
    What it comes down to is that I feel that Erhman makes good points, and, before you take a critique by Ben Witherington as gospel, you need to check out Erhman. A good place is the courses on tape from The Teaching Company; The Historic Jesus and The New Testament. A good book by Erhman is Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of The New Millennium. Also, Autunmal’s suggested book The New Testament, a Students Introduction by Stephen L. Harris. Erhman just happens to be the first scholar who was able to answer my questions. I have since moved on to other Scholars, just because I haven’t given you a list of scholars doesn’t mean that Erhman is my sole source. He isn’t. In fact, I did mention another one. Funny you should say in jest that Scholars say that dinosaurs lived at the same time as people. That is the nonsense spread by Creationists. I stand by my stance when I say that the majority of scholars agree that certain of Paul’s letters were not written by him. And I completely disagree with your statement that Erhman’s role in the new atheist movement is similar to that of pro-tobacco researcher in Big tobacco’s fight to protect the empire. That is utter Nonsense. Erhman started out being an overly devout Christian who, through much study, started to see too many inconsistencies in the Bible for it to be God inspired. He is not an enemy; he is only calling it as he sees it.
    Look, we have pretty much beaten this subject into the ground, so I am with you that we cool it. Like I said, my wife is getting annoyed that I am spending too much at this blog. Nathan, thanks, I really have enjoyed it. If you still want to respond to this post, then I will try my best to find the time to respond. Take care.
    Wayne

  • To Friendly Atheist Writers and Commenters:

    Both the postings and comments on this blog generally deal with the question of God’s existence in a strictly Biblical context. Many incisive, forceful, and even erudite points are made pro and con. May I suggest, though, that all contributors on the Friendly Atheist look afresh at the question of God’s existence completely apart from the Bible, Judeo-Christian theology, and the theology of any organized religion?

    The doctrines and scriptures of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists need have no bearing on the elemental question of whether a personal and loving God exists. If he does, we can conceive of him untarnished by all established theologies and scriptures. We can commune and build a relationship with him directly and without intervention of a rabbi, priest, minister, or imam.

    Though I have embraced an organized religion, I was a pure theist for years. That is a wonderful option that should be considered by everyone who is put off by images or stories of God that are embedded in any established religion. It is this pure theistic line of inquiry and debate that I mainly follow (unless a commenter deflects me) on my blog The Believing Agnostic, which I would encourage you to visit: http://www.thebelievingagnostic.blogspot.com/

    You and I are engaged in the same inquiry but with sharply different perspectives.

    Shane Hayes