God’s Goodness and Modus Ponens/Tollens January 9, 2010

God’s Goodness and Modus Ponens/Tollens

by Jesse Galef –

To religious individuals, do God’s actions define good, or does God follow an objective “goodness”? That’s the question raised by Socrates in Euthyphro, and it keeps popping up. For atheists, the question is meaningless – we don’t believe in God, so any practical definition of ‘good’ is secular.

Obviously, many people disagree. Commenter Nathan describes this worldview nicely:

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.

First of all, I want to thank Nathan for his continued patience and politeness in comments. Yes, we disagree with him – vehemently on some issues – but I’m impressed that the comments have stayed mostly productive and substantive. In college I used to go to Christian clubs for this kind of debate and I appreciate how important it is to interact and try to understand others’ point of view.

I recently heard a saying that applies very well:
One person’s modus ponens is another person’s modus tollens.

In this case, we start with the expression, “If God is just and loving, then he would not kill innocent people.” We are then faced with the story of God ordering the killing of children. There are a couple ways to resolve this. The atheist uses modus tollens: “Those children were innocent, therefore God must not be just and loving.” Many theists go the other way and use modus ponens: “God is just and loving, therefore those children must not have been innocent.”

That’s the case Nathan seems to be making, and one I’ve heard before. Many religious individuals I’ve talked to have told me that so much of their worldview is tied to their understanding of God that they’re not going to toss that set of beliefs aside easily. When it comes into conflict with another belief – say, that babies are innocent – they feel the strong urge to retain their God beliefs. It’s a huge network of ideas that have deep-seated roots and a strong emotional investment. It can be emotionally and intellectually difficult to tear down that belief system. Of course, sometimes a belief system is inherently incorrect and does need to be wholly replaced… it’s just a tough process.

I certainly see where they’re coming from. It’s not easy to change an entire worldview. I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind in these heated discussions.

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  • It’s a very key point, and one I use with JWs when they call. It’s highly interesting to watch the little old ladies squirm as they try to defend Yahweh’s genocide at the same time as claiming he’s all good. I ask along the lines of “are you sure that even just one of those kids killed was not evil?”

  • Well, no mater how difficult it is to let go of deep seated beliefs, modern society would never accept that children and/or babies must be guilty in a similar situation. And it is wholly dishonest to simply claim that because one is a god, that normal rules don’t apply when the actions of said god are being compared to humans.

    If some theists insist that we cannot compare their god to humans, then they have no right to do so in any debates or discussions, nor can they claim that their god gets any human attributes. Though, it seems plain to me that Bible God ALWAYS gets the best of both worlds.

  • Barry

    First, I was pleased to see your salute to Nathan. Second, to me, the most interesting aspect of the question of God’s conduct (which, taken at face value, is horrific) is not what it says about God’s existence but about whether a god like that should be worshipped. Worshipping a cruel and amoral god, or one whose morality was self-defined, merely because that god was powerful, means worshipping power alone. Indirectly, though, this issue does have something to say about the existance of God: it helps strengthen the suspicion that the Bible was made up by people at an early stage of moral development, and not dictacted from above.

  • keddaw

    The excuse I have heard is that the children were God’s creations thus He can do as He pleases with them.

    Which sounds awful, but gets round this problem as we are seeing it from a human perspective, but from God’s it’s completely different.

    The exchanges tend to be heated on their side and exasperated on ours.

  • Question Authority

    Seems to me that Natan’s comment is merely a circular argument.

    Christians claim that good and evil are timeless, unchanging concepts created by their alleged God. Therefore, claiming that God is not bound by them is illogical.

    As far as the children go, how can a baby or small child commit a sin to henious that they deserve eternal torment in Hell? This is why Catholics came up with the concept of “Limbo.” It’s indefensible.

    I definitely agree with Jetson’s last paragraph. Christians and other believers can’t compare their God to humans and then claim human attributes for their God. They need to make up their minds.

    For me, this helps illustrate the problem of superlative powers, I.e. omniscience, omnipotence, etc. Those concepts sound great, but they end up locking the user in contradictions and oxymorons.

    Barry is also right that it is essentially worshipping power. “I will worship you because if I don’t, you’ll punish/torture/kill me.” Gee, what a loving, merciful God they have…/snark

  • Duke York

    The biggest problem with the “If (my) God does it, it isn’t wrong” is it makes the theist completely impotent at deciding moral questions in the real world.

    Consider the pogroms against the Jews in pre-Soviet Russian. Were they good or not? They involved killing of “innocent” people, but they were people who worshiped the wrong god (or the wrong god in the right way). The Christian God clearly says such killing is not just morally appropriate but morally necessary.

    Now, can a secularist condemn the killing of the Jews in pre-Soviet Russia? Yes, because we can say taking of a human life in those circumstances is flat out wrong, and we can lay out the information we have about the situation (that the Jews weren’t a threat to the larger Christian community, and so on) that let us make that decision.

    Can a committed, sincere Christian Theist say those killings are wrong? No. Of course not. The Christian isn’t privileged to the information that he would use to make that decision, namely whether or not (his) God ordered those killings. A sincere Christian — one who has an interest in not being a hypocrite — would have to remain quiet and let the secularists shape the moral world, which is just as well, since it was the Christians killing the Jews that gave us this example.

    Duke

  • Lou

    While it may be a bit off topic, the exchanges above reminded me of something from David Hume that I’ve always enjoyed. When it comes to the topic of apply the rules of logic to the assertions of religion, nobody did it better than Hume:

    Current Abrahamic religions rely upon two essential notions for their ‘validity’:

    1. There is a personal god who is deeply involved in each individual’s life (as well as the running of the universe)
    2. This personal god asserts the existence of true good and true evil as universal constants that we mortals must choose between.

    However, as Hume points out, god can not be all-good (benevolent); all-powerful (omnipotent) and all-knowing (omniscient) if true evil exists in the universe. This basic belief, that all these religions rely upon for their foundation, is false. Here’s why:

    1. IF GOD KNOWS OF EVIL AND HAS THE POWER TO STOP EVIL BUT DOES NOT DO SO, THEN HE CAN NOT BE ALL-GOOD.

    2. IF GOD IS ALL-GOOD AND KNOWS OF EVIL BUT CAN NOT STOP IT,
    THEN HE CAN NOT BE ALL-POWERFUL.

    3. IF GOD HAS THE POWER TO STOP EVIL AND IS ALL-GOOD BUT HE IS UNAWARE OF EVIL, THEN HE CAN NOT BE ALL KNOWING.

  • Claudia

    @Lou, that reasoning is simply a restating of Epicurus, I believe.

    What I’ve seen in terms of justification is mostly that things like mass drowning of infants and killing newborn Egyptian babies (to name just two things God does directly, never mind all the things he orders humans to do) are not bad when God does them, but would be utterly horrible if humans do them.

    From what I’ve been able to gather from people I’ve spoken to, they rarely have their idea so philosophically pure as “When God does it, it is good because he is perfect” or “God wouldn’t do something bad”. It tends to be a lot more muddled. The trend seems to be that yes, massive butchering of babies is absolutely bad but when God does it it’s magically different because its God that’s doing it. So its a mix; there is an objective good and bad but god made it but it still exists and isn’t arbitrary. It’s hopelessly muddled, but I simply assume that’s because they are trying to reconcile two utterly contradictory things that they believe absolutely; God is perfect and killing babies is wrong.

  • From a logical perspective, the problem is that we have an evidentiary basis for asserting ~Q in this P>Q, ~Q, therefore ~P. By our definitions as humans, ~Q is definitely true.

    (for those not trained in formal logic or those who use different symbol sets, I’m taking ~ to mean “not” and > to mean “implies”)

    The theist in this case asserts P with only biblical evidence, but is contradicted by our mundane evidence of ~Q. Oftentimes even the theist recognizes this incongruity between biblical and actual evidence, so instead attempts to escape by arbitrarily redefining terms to taste. “Just and loving”, they claim, doesn’t have the same meaning as it does in our human discourse, or else “innocent” doesn’t. The problem here is that, when we arbitrarily redefine these terms of morality to whatever makes the language of the bible fit the observations of the world, we’ve robbed them of meaning. If “good” has some mysterious cosmic meaning that we’re not aware of, then there’s no reason to use the same word. With one hand, the theist asserts that the human concept of good is given to us by god, and with the other he confounds our discussion of god by disqualifying him from human description.

    What it comes down to is that, according to the human understanding of good and evil, if god is omnipotent and omniscient then he’s a total jerk. If he didn’t want us coming to that conclusion, he should have clued us in to the big M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end of the universe that makes it retroactively good to have murdered children.

    For those of you with several minutes of a Saturday to waste, I treat the Problem of Evil more thoroughly here [/shamelessselfpromotion]

  • Casimir

    One problem with a lot of Christians’ wrangling with theodicy has to do with the excuses made for God. They start to view what should be inarguable evil events as “part of God’s plan”. They still measure God according to their own morality, not fully accepting arguments that God determines morality. If God did something evil, he must’ve had a good reason for it.

    The problem this can lead to is a passive attitude to evil. An attitude that, not only does God allow evil things to happen, but that it’s intentional and part of his plan.

    For an example, you can look at this article on Answers in Genesis. There, an AiG writer argued that if you were hiding Jews, and Nazis came by and asked if you were hiding Jews, you should not lie. You should trust in God that telling the Nazi you’re hiding Jews will serve a “greater purpose”. I think it’s safe to say it’s not a widespread view, but it’s an example of how religion can get someone who is not evil to do evil things.

  • The excuse I have heard is that the children were God’s creations thus He can do as He pleases with them.

    Which sounds awful, but gets round this problem as we are seeing it from a human perspective, but from God’s it’s completely different.

    Back when I was a fundie I used to cite Jeremiah 18 as evidence that God could do whatever he wanted with his people. Now that I re-read it, it doesn’t really give much confidence to the idea that God will be faithful, because it makes him sound spiteful and a bit petty. If it does “evil in [his] sight” he’ll destroy Israel? This means that God makes the rules, and if they’re not obeyed, he’ll “[prepare] a disaster for you and [devise] a plan against you”.

    Funny how this doesn’t happen anymore…

  • “God is just and loving, therefore those children must not have been innocent.”

    In Joshua, god ordered the execution of every male child, including infants. By definition an infant cannot be guilty or complicit in acts offensive to a god.
    Their argument that the children must be guilty is simply denial.

    The only thing they were guilty of is being born to parents, and into a culture that the Hebrews wanted destroyed.

    Proffering their guilt, or that “God is above the laws [and morality] of Man.” is a transparent and grotesque defense of Biblical brutality. It negates any possibility of real Biblical criticism, or discourse on ancient warfare and mans injustice to man, or any meaningful dialogue with,or respect for, these deluded religionists.

  • keddaw says:

    The excuse I have heard is that the children were God’s creations thus He can do as He pleases with them.

    Following that logic, they should be all for abortion. After all, if I made it, I can destroy it, right? Right?

  • Another Atheist

    Funny how this doesn’t happen anymore…

    Of course it does: Katrina,9/11, the tsunami in 2005 were all god punishing us for our sins.

    We need an eye rolling tag.

    On one hand, I think debate and discussion is valuable and understanding other points of view is important. On the other hand, I think this whole argument is pointless. Call me cynical, but I have yet to meet a religious person willing to apply logical reasoning to their personal beliefs.

    A JW came to my door last week. When I opened the door, they said, “does the universe have a purpose?” I said no and shut the door.

  • one other thought:

    When Herod slaughtered the Hebrew children it was dubbed “The Slaughter of the Innocents.” When their God slaughters children it’s because they “must” have been guilty.

    If the Hebrew children weren’t guilty, why would God have not stayed Herod’s hand or spirited away the children and prevented the slaughter? Q.E.D the Hebrew children must have been guilty, Herod acted correctly.

    It’s a tangled web when supernaturalism, apologetics,the religion meme, and rejection of reason act in concert.

  • Neon Genesis

    The argument I’ve heard is not that the children were guilty, but that God already knew that one day the children will grow up to become evil. If God didn’t kill the children, they would have grown up and become sinners and go to hell, but since God murdered them when they were still innocent kids, God will spare them and send them to heaven, so God really did the kids a favor by sending them to heaven early. But if Christians accept this as a justifiable explanation, then they’re saying essentially that the children were born to die and it’s still doesn’t explain why couldn’t have God found another way to save the Isrealites without murdering the children. Like, why couldn’t have God teleported the Isrealites to Canaan? Or God could have sent Jesus ahead of time to convert the Egyptians to Christianity. The fact I can come up with all sorts of alternative ways God could have saved the Isrealites without murdering innocent babies shows just how human-made the bible really is.

  • Brian Macker

    The problem with Nathan’s thinking isn’t that it isn’t possible to come up with a rationalization, it’s that you can always come up with one.

    I’ll post as Nathan-Simulation to show you how.

  • Nathan Simulation

    God does indeed kill innocent children, but he spirits them away to heaven. Your belief that he is willing to kill even babies serves to keep you on a moral path. Therefore, not only are his acts good by a deities standards but also from a human standard. While it may appear that the babies are suffering, in fact, god has already spirited their souls away, and only an empty shell of a body is writhing in pain (or suffering while drowning).

  • Brian Macker

    Ta da.

  • Why is it that being good or bad suddenly seems more important than actual existence in this discussion? Reminds me a little of Dawkins’ comment about feminist theology, where gender is more important than existence…

    Because at bottom, Hemant is of course correct: Euthyphro’s central question makes no sense to atheists. This makes it a challenge for religious people. If you are a religious person reading this, don’t be afraid: this is not a challenge about the existence of god. Merely one about whether or not he’s needed for morality to exist…

    The atheist version of the answer to this could run:
    P=”God exists”
    Q=”Morality exists”
    Since Q and ~P, therefore P is not a necessary condition of Q.

    The religious version is more difficult. They affirm both P and Q, and the question then is: ‘Is P a necessary condition of Q?”

    As stated, a challenge strictly for the religious. So…any (convincing) answers yet? It’s been asked over 2000 years ago, but we are being nice, patient, and tolerant people curious about other people’s interesting though somewhat exotic dilemmas here. 🙂

  • Polly

    God could’ve just made all the Canaanites barren starting 40 to 100 years before the arrival of Joshua, Moses and friends.

    He could have convinced the Canaanites to follow him with great signs and wonders like he did with Israel.

    He could’ve told Joseph and his brothers to…oh, I don’t know…just stay in Canaan and not even move to Egypt 430 years earlier and then they could’ve outbred (with god’s help) the other Canaanite tribes.

    I’m just a mere mortal and I can think of less wasteful, more peaceful ways to go about it. The thing about the Bible god is that he just doesn’t seem that bright. “Mafia boss” may be an undeserved compliment. It’s much more reasonable to disbelieve in him for this and many other non-biblical reasons.

    Regardless of god’s rights, ordering a society full of humans with human natures to slaughter women and children would have drastic psychological consequences for the men doing the killing and the society – none of them good. PTSD? But, if he can wipe our minds in heaven, I guess he can wipe their minds on Earth.

  • muggle

    I agree 100% with Jetson and Brian Macker.

    Why are we even continuing this nonsense up here? Talk about feeding the troll. A particularly nasty vile little troll who has stated flat out he would kill for Gawd.

    Personally, I see no benefit to trying to understand this warped, frustrated little man. He’s got nothing of value to offer.

    The same can’t be said of all Christians. And I can think of plenty who could not murder babies even if they thought “God” asked them to. Let’s encourage those ones here for discourse, not wackadoodles who would have to do it, so sorry and they feel bad about it.

    Am I the only one who gets someone this unsavory is someone you want to avoid?

  • Casimir

    The argument I’ve heard is not that the children were guilty, but that God already knew that one day the children will grow up to become evil.

    Really? They think the firstborn of every Egyptian family just happened to be future-evil? That’s some coincidence.

  • Brian Macker

    Muggle,

    Why do you keep calling Nathan a troll? What is your definition of troll?

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Muggle,

    Why do you keep calling Nathan a troll?

    Muggle, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Jeff Dale

    Urbandictionary.com: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.

    Dictionary.com’s slang dictionary: an internet user who sends inflammatory or provocative messages designed to elicit negative responses or start a flame-war.

    If Nathan’s only (or main) purpose in posting was to cause trouble, then he was being a troll. If, on the other hand, he wanted to introduce something to the discussion for its own sake (not because of the trouble it’d cause), then he was not being a troll.

    Either way, the view expressed is troubling, but (if he’s sincere) must seem reasonable to him (which is even more troubling). It may indeed be fruitless to try to change his mind, but hearing his view might help a lot of other people see what can easily be derived from taking the fundamentals of theism at face value. It also gives atheists the opportunity to sound more reasonable, if we don’t squander it by pulling out the flamethrowers.

  • I’ve always heard the argument from the evangelical community that since God created the children, He can do anything he wants with them (including killing them). I also think that the evangelicals don’t consider parents as the “creator” of children, so parents don’t get to abort their own children. Only God. That is at least the logic I’ve heard.

  • The ‘benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient deity’ is a mystical Greek pre-Christian view of a monotheistic god and is only a latter addition to the Christian tradition.

    While I agree that there have been countless debates on this issue within Christian communities themselves, as well as with us, outsiders, several Christian theologians have – quite independently from each other – explained to me that this debate is mute in Christianity.

    Why?

    Because the Christian God created EVERYTHING – including evil. Both ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are tools that God uses to achieve his aims, and it is not our place to judge Him.

    Plus, it is BECAUSE God created ‘good’ and ‘evil’ that he understands them, their nature, and can judge between them – and we, humans, must be ‘good’ because God ordered us to be ‘good’….

    I have not made my mind up on what I think of this particular line of argument, but, as it has not been mentioned in the discussions, I thought I’d mention it – there must be others who have encountered it!

  • MFletcher

    Hey I know, lets throw this into the equation: God didn’t order the killing of the children, that was an reason to order it, or an excuse for having done it. You seem to assume the bible is 100% accurate. Why?

  • Matto the Hun

    The idea that when god does something contradictory to what is defined as good is not some conundrum we who disagree have to wrestle with at all.

    It’s the same thing an abusive husband does to his family. He has total authority over his victims and has them convinced that every bad, vile, abusive thing he does is good or for their own good.

    Theists who buy into this are the abused family of their deity. They god operates they say way by their own admission.

    How do they know their god is good? They have nothing to support this. His actions sure do not. I certainly hope the answer isn’t “Becasue he said he’s good,” or Because the bible tells me so” as it should hopefully occur to them an evil being might have thought of doing those things as well.

    All we have to gauge the goodness of our fellow humans is to examine each others’ actions. What kind of idiot god would expect this to be different for it?

    If god expect to be measured by his own standard and wants to keep it a mystery, then he can hardly expect those us to use the brains he supposedly gave us to regard him as good.

    The idea that this is something we have to answer is nonsense.

    Theists make the claim there is a god. It is incumbent on them to prove this. They have had hundreds of years to do this and they have nothing to show for it.

    Theists (in this case Christians) make the claim their god is good. They cannot do this either without resorting to appeals to authority and any number of other logical fallacies.

    They have nothing but baseless assertions.

  • Edmond

    Seems to me that Natan’s comment is merely a circular argument.

    I have debated with Nathan before, and it simply devolved into him wondering why atheists have such a problem with circular reasoning. For theists, it would seem, circular reasoning is A-OK. “I believe the bible’s true, because the bible says the bible is true.” But if you can’t get past that, then you’re never going to get anywhere else.

    On the troll subject, I’ve never seen Nathan’s posts to be anything but calm and polite, as Hemant said. He doesn’t seem to be here to stir up controversy or be incendiary, he seems to legitimately want to debate the things he truly believes.

    That said, I’ve never liked the practice of labeling someone as a troll and then using the “report abuse” function (or whatever) to ban them from a website. They’re as free as anyone else to visit a site and post whatever they want, even if it is hateful and infantile (provided it is within the bounds of profanity/obscenity upheld by the site itself. I personally love profanity and obscenity). If you ban them, they’re just going to come back under another name anyway, they will find a way.

    I say let them post their vitriol. The heartfelt responses are how the good ideas are going to get heard. There will be theists out there who won’t be able to believe the mindset that they are apparently allying themselves with. You never know who’s mind you are going to change.

  • Claudia

    God does indeed kill innocent children, but he spirits them away to heaven.

    Where in the Bible is this stated?

    Your belief that he is willing to kill even babies serves to keep you on a moral path.

    The fact that God is willing to do the most horrifically evil acts is a way of keeping you moral? The only way I can read this is that your knowledge of what God will do to the utterly blameless makes you simply too terrified to sin “If god will kill a toddler, what will he do to me?”

    Therefore, not only are his acts good by a deities standards but also from a human standard.

    Wait, aren’t our standards supposed to be the same? And anyway, even if you suppose that every murdered child didn’t suffer, how does that make their murder good?

    While it may appear that the babies are suffering, in fact, god has already spirited their souls away, and only an empty shell of a body is writhing in pain (or suffering while drowning)

    So according to you none of those young children were screaming for their mothers, or saying “please daddy save me!”? Presumably all the babies and children were turned into brain-dead shells just before it started raining in earnest? If they were truly innocent couldn’t god have spared then, I don’t know, a boat? And again, where are you getting this information from? Where is it in your Bible? Or is it your rationalization based on the fact you can’t accept babies as evil and you can’t accept mass murder of infants by god as evil either?

  • Claudia,

    You’re logic is flawless, but only to those to whom logic and reality hold sway, and who see wholesale infanticide as irreconcilable with goodness.

    Your comment is going to do nothing more than invite additional perverse non-scriptural apologetic inventions in defense of the indefensible.

    Frankly, his last one bordered on pornographic in its glorification and acceptence of child murder at the hands of bronze age warriors who invoke “god’s will” as justification for genocide.

    But I guess from time to time it is good to be reminded of why theists like him disgust me.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Claudia, why are you arguing with Brian Macker pretending to be a simulation of Nathan? Yes, I know Poe’s law and all, but when someone announces that they’re doing a Poe, as they’re doing it, that should probably set off some warning flags. 🙂

  • Claudia

    Claudia, why are you arguing with Brian Macker pretending to be a simulation of Nathan? Yes, I know Poe’s law and all, but when someone announces that they’re doing a Poe, as they’re doing it, that should probably set off some warning flags. 🙂

    Simple, it’s because I don’t pay close enough attention to the comments thread. I totally missed his announcement of his future simulation, and also completely missed that “Nathan’s” surname was simulaiton LMAO. All I saw was “nathan” (who I’ve never interacted with) and a paragraph indistinguishable from others I’ve seen by (theoretically) real theists.

    I fell for a self-described Poe, I’ll now go bang my head against the wall, excuse me.

  • Oh shit… I’m confused. I was dissing “simulation”.

  • Yeah. I was a bit bemused that I was being attacked when I had yet to open my mouth on this thread.

    Thanks Brian.

    “God does indeed kill innocent children, but he spirits them away to heaven. Your belief that he is willing to kill even babies serves to keep you on a moral path. Therefore, not only are his acts good by a deities standards but also from a human standard. While it may appear that the babies are suffering, in fact, god has already spirited their souls away, and only an empty shell of a body is writhing in pain (or suffering while drowning).”

    That’s certainly not like anything I’ve said. Babies that die certainly suffer. The Bible is mostly silent on the issue of what happens to babies when they die (except to say a) God is merciful and just, and b) Babies are born sinful.

    Thanks Jesse for your kind words.

    I certainly am not here as a troll – the worst that could be said about me is that I’m here to convince you of the error of your ways in order to save your souls.

    Or that I find intelligent discussions like this enjoyable.

    Muggle – you keep calling me names and making judgments about my character on the basis of a strawman you’ve erected on the basis of my answer to what I suggested was a purely speculative hypothetical situation.

    I suggest you either address the points you are so vehemently opposed to in a civilised way or leave the discussion to people who are actually interested in it as it unfolds.

    Standing on the sidelines saying “I can’t believe you’re all discussing this with the troll” is a bit of a cop out. You don’t have to click through to the meta on posts you aren’t interested in.

    But feel free to keep calling me names. I’m keeping them (and posting them on my website) as testimonials to my character.

  • Oh, and regarding the original post – I’d say that Jesse has summed up the different philosophical null hypothesis of the believer v the atheist.

    We think humans are born guilty and God makes us innocent. You think we’re born innocent and belief in God makes us guilty.

  • “I have debated with Nathan before, and it simply devolved into him wondering why atheists have such a problem with circular reasoning. For theists, it would seem, circular reasoning is A-OK. “I believe the bible’s true, because the bible says the bible is true.” But if you can’t get past that, then you’re never going to get anywhere else.”

    Perhaps rather than seeing the Bible as self referential you should see it as it was originally presented – 66 documents written over thousands of years (in a culture where truths were spoken more often than written) backing up the teachings of thousands of years of people claiming to be witnesses to acts of God.

    It only (as you know) became “one book” filled with circular reasoning (and treated the way it is) much later. Someone else did the research that linked them – we modern believers enjoy the fruits of their labour.

  • Nathan, what does ‘guilty’ mean to you? HOW can a person be guilty before even performing a single action?

  • Edmond

    Perhaps rather than seeing the Bible as self referential you should see it as it was originally presented – 66 documents written over thousands of years (in a culture where truths were spoken more often than written) backing up the teachings of thousands of years of people claiming to be witnesses to acts of God.

    Actually, Nathan, I think most of us here are hoping you’ll see the bible this way, which only emphasizes how unreliable the whole thing is, and how unlikely the supernatural parts of the stories really are. As I’m sure you’ve been told often, there are other books on this planet making just as strong claims of truth, with just as unlikely supernatural elements. It’s just human nature to invent religions, in all cultures all over the world. The universe is as science has described it, and the things we don’t know yet, well, we just don’t know them yet. There’s no good reason to go filling in the gaps with all this contradictory mythology.

  • It’s just human nature to invent religions, in all cultures all over the world.

    I don’t disagree. I just happen to believe that one of these religions is true.

    At this point I have a question for the atheists in the room…

    Of all the religious claims made which do you think is most feasible?

    I know you will see this as an exercise in hypotheticals – but from my study of world religions I have no difficulty suggesting that Christianity is the most realistic explanation of why the world is the way it is…

    Which brings me to my next point.

    The universe is as science has described it, and the things we don’t know yet, well, we just don’t know them yet. There’s no good reason to go filling in the gaps with all this contradictory mythology.

    I wonder if you are creating an unhelpful dichotomy here. Religion and science are not opposites (unless you worship science).

    I have no problem agreeing that science describes the workings of the world beautifully.

    I just don’t think it does away with someone orchestrating the “science” nor does it explain the world.

    Science does “how” brilliantly, it just doesn’t do “why” – that’s the realm of philosophy and theology.

    I had an atheist friend tell me that he sees no point asking the question “why” with regards to the world.

    Without wanting to make this a general principle all atheists adhere to – I wonder how many of you this is true for?

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Of all the religious claims made which do you think is most feasible?

    Assuming that by “feasible” you mean “plausible”, they all seem so incredibly unlikely that I’m unable to meaningfully compare their likelihoods.

    I had an atheist friend tell me that he sees no point asking the question “why” with regards to the world. . . I wonder how many of you this is true for?

    Interpreting “why” in this context as referring to “purpose,” this is true for me.

  • “By definition an infant cannot be guilty or complicit in acts offensive to a god.”

    By whose definition? Most monotheistic religions teach that we are. So this would be a minority view – I’m not arguing that this makes it right or wrong – just suggesting that your definition is assumed rather than proved.

    They can not be complicit in acts offensive to the courts – but they most certainly can reject God’s rule. Which is what sin is. Unless you’re arguing that all babies are born Christian?

  • Jeff Dale

    I had an atheist friend tell me that he sees no point asking the question “why” with regards to the world.

    Without wanting to make this a general principle all atheists adhere to – I wonder how many of you this is true for?

    Teleological questions are not inherently uninteresting. You just have to give me some reason to think there’s anything teleological to talk about. Science reveals a natural world in which phenomena can be explained without a prime mover, and in fact become harder to explain on that hypothesis. And even where scientific explanations are still incomplete, the supernatural arguments offered to fill those gaps are demonstrably unsound. And besides that, the Christian god, as variously conceived by Christians from biblical times to the modern day, evidently isn’t even consistent with his own alleged self from era to era or from moment to moment. But perhaps there’s something I don’t know. From what I’ve seen, though, purpose and meaning are only part of the world insofar as our minds determine them.

  • Brian Macker

    “Of all the religious claims made which do you think is most feasible?”

    Of the major ones I’m familiar with it would have to be Confucianism.

  • Brian Macker

    BTW, Nathan the simulation was not suppose to be reflection your actual positions. It was an example of the ability to make up rationalizations to excuse anything.

    The simulation was actually far superior to the real deal. That rationalization was better than your actual rationalizations, which are bizarre. If you are going to posit a magical being you should take advantage of that magic to remove the contradictions, and shocking assumptions.

    No rational person who understands the words guilty and rejects would think a baby is guilty for rejecting god.

  • Brian Macker

    Also in the other thread you were talking about the two different levels of good and bad, human and god. I don’t mind if you make such distinctions but you are not allowed to equivocate between the definitions. Therefore when god slaughters a bunch of people we get to call him bad because we deal in human definitions.

    From an exterminators point of view the spraying of some ants the have gotten into the kitchen is good, but from the ants point of view that’s a bad thing.

  • Jeff Dale

    “By definition an infant cannot be guilty or complicit in acts offensive to a god.”

    By whose definition? Most monotheistic religions teach that we are. So this would be a minority view – I’m not arguing that this makes it right or wrong – just suggesting that your definition is assumed rather than proved.

    They can not be complicit in acts offensive to the courts – but they most certainly can reject God’s rule. Which is what sin is. Unless you’re arguing that all babies are born Christian?

    Babies are born with the potential to develop reasoning, but they haven’t developed it yet, nor had time to do anything that could be weighed in moral terms. Thus, they are innocent by definition. That is the basis on which I conclude that a baby cannot be guilty of or complicit in anything. So it seems to me there are, perhaps, four ways to think about a god’s reported sanctioning of, or participation in, infanticide:

    [1] We could say that this god is simply malicious, or at least callous. I don’t think any Christian actually thinks he’s worshiping a god like this.

    [2] We could say that this god has a higher goal or purpose that outweighs and justifies the horror of infanticide. This seems extremely unlikely for an omnipotent god. And even in the unlikely event that this were true for an omnipotent god, it seems still more unlikely that a perfectly moral god would not seek to comfort and reassure those who had to endure the tragedy, or to explain it to the multitudes who came later and read about it, or at least leave some unambiguous sign of his love. And even if all of this were true in spite of the compounded improbabilities, one would be left to wonder what reasons this god could possibly have, first to cause the slaughter, then to deny us any understanding of it. Nobody seems able to think of any such reasons, even as wild conjecture. And yet it’s easy to come up with plausible alternatives that an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god could and would have chosen instead of infanticide.

    [3] We could say that this god is simply inscrutable. There’s no way we could ever understand why he does what he does. Or, similarly, he can’t be judged by our standards. But if we’re merely supposed to accept what he purportedly says and does, then religion is nothing more than obedience to authority, without any pretensions of morality. Our only sources of info on what he says and does are the bible and the church authorities, and for kids, their parents, and whoever else these authorities may happen to recommend to us. Thus, we have no basis for challenging any of these authorities, no matter what they do, since we could never be sure that their actions weren’t consistent with the will of this god. Indeed, on the notion of this god’s inscrutability, why would his followers think they know him at all? Many followers claim to have a personal relationship with him. Yet if he’s utterly inscrutable, everything we think we know about him could be wrong. The bible could be complete fabrication, if it suited his purposes to inflict such a fabrication on us. Perhaps the only route to salvation is atheism, or Buddhism, or tree worship, or stamp collecting, because who knows what this god actually wants? If he can allow infanticide and be inexplicable to us, anything is equally possible. Moreover, if something like infanticide that would be one of the worst evils for us to commit is some kind of good when done by this god, then we just don’t have any definitions for anything. Good is evil, up is down, yes is no, anything is possible. At its core, this approach to theology posits a god that is exactly whatever is needed to conform to any given set of facts, regardless of what that might look like to us. Thus, this theology explains nothing, and has only such content as its adherents put there, and a Christian idea of that content has no more justification than any other.

    [4] What’s left? We could say that this god doesn’t exist. I don’t see any reason not to take this position that doesn’t start with a preexisting “faith” inculcated with long habit of construing evidence to fit.

  • “If you are going to posit a magical being you should take advantage of that magic to remove the contradictions, and shocking assumptions.

    No rational person who understands the words guilty and rejects would think a baby is guilty for rejecting god.”

    Which would be all well and good if a) I was the one positing the magical being (as a figment of my imagination) or b) It depends if your understanding of guilty is based on the Bible’s. Which it is for the Christian…

    Since I am a Christian, and believe in a “magical being” it’s not up to me to change what that magical being does to make him/her/it more to your liking.

  • AxeGrrl

    To me, it just comes down to this:

    If the character ‘God’ does some things we humans would classify as ‘evil’ and some things we humans would classify as ‘good’, how can such a character be an ‘example-to-look-to’ when it comes to morality at all?

  • AxeGrrl

    MikeTheInfidel wrote:

    HOW can a person be guilty before even performing a single action?

    Great question.

    If I were to find out that my great, great grandfather was a grand wizard of the KKK, I wouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed in the least ~ because that person’s actions have absolutely nothing to do with me. That we’re related by blood is completely irrelevant when it comes to my ‘moral culpability’.

    It’s one of the most ridiculous (and offensive) concepts that have arisen out of Christianity as far as I’m concerned.

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan wrote:

    Science does “how” brilliantly, it just doesn’t do “why” – that’s the realm of philosophy and theology.

    But just because you feel the need to ask ‘why’ doesn’t mean that it’s a relevant question.

    Why do you think that there’s a ‘why’ behind all of this? whatever your answer is, it’s an assumption.

  • “Why do you think that there’s a ‘why’ behind all of this? whatever your answer is, it’s an assumption.”

    Of course. All null hypothesis are assumptions.

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan wrote:

    Of course. All null hypothesis are assumptions.

    If your entire belief system could be resting on that assumption, how do you justify dismissing reason-based human ‘morality’ in favour of it?

  • Claudia

    @Nathan. First of all, hello. I’m glad to be interacting now with the real you and not a simulation you lol. You certainly don’t appear to be anything like a troll.

    Onwards…

    At this point I have a question for the atheists in the room…

    Of all the religious claims made which do you think is most feasible?

    I think that’s highly dependent on how you define “feasible”. If you mean which religious claims are best in line with the world as it is presented, I suppose I’d have to vote for what I know of Taoism, since it appears to place humans as mere parts of a Universe that is governed in ways that are more reflective of equilibrium and cycles than monarchy structures. Still, this is only the “winner” insofar as it is the supernatural belief that seems to most closely reflect the natural world out of a list of increasingly ridiculous claims. I still don’t believe it because it still lacks evidence.

    I wonder if you are creating an unhelpful dichotomy here. Religion and science are not opposites (unless you worship science).

    I can agree to a certain point with this. I think it’s essential for those of us who wish to promote scientific understanding to not demand the frontal rejection of religious belief as a pre-requisite for accepting science. Many many religious people accept science (including the fact of evolution, the age of the Earth etc.) and leave their religion to give them meaning or motivation. This needs to be encouraged, not discouraged. What is true however is that there is a definite confrontation between how science and religion seek to define truth. Truth in religion is through revelation and faith, while truth in science is through demonstration and logic. I believe one of those two is vastly superior.

    I have no problem agreeing that science describes the workings of the world beautifully.

    I just don’t think it does away with someone orchestrating the “science” nor does it explain the world.

    Science does “how” brilliantly, it just doesn’t do “why” – that’s the realm of philosophy and theology.

    “Why”, when it ventures outside the “what caused it” (which is scientific question) is a question about meaning that is dependent on minds. The Universe has no use for a why, only beings with minds have that need, and hence the why can be left to the philosophers certainly. I’ve yet to see a scientist insist that “why” questions can be answered by science beyond the very concrete causal explanations i.e “Why do whales have hipbones”.

    However it’s not true that religion seeks only to give why answers. If it were, religion and science would rarely have to quarrel. When religion tries to insist that the world is an age that it demonstrably isn’t, that humans and animals have an origin they demonstrably don’t, or that women are lesser to men when they demonstrably aren’t, then religion is stepping into the sphere of science, by making assertions that can be checked through the scientific method. When this happens, almost invariably religious claims turn out to be false.

    I had an atheist friend tell me that he sees no point asking the question “why” with regards to the world.

    Without wanting to make this a general principle all atheists adhere to – I wonder how many of you this is true for?

    First off, thank you for not assuming this is a generalized view, because it’s a very common prejudice about atheists. I can’t fully know what your friend meant, but I can give my opinion. It’s true that there is no objective “point” to asking “why” because meaning is created by us, and the world exists independently of our wish to place meaning to it. I do not believe that there is an inherent purpose to our existence because I do not believe there is a mind that made us. However that does not mean I disregard our need for meaning. We make our own purpose but that to me doesn’t make the purpose false or meaningless. We are here, and extraordinarily lucky to be here at that. We should make the best of it and try to take care of one another and our home (our planet). That’s meaning enough for me.

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan, could you respond to this question of mine? I’m really interested in what you have to say about it:

    If the character ‘God’ does some things we humans would classify as ‘evil’ and some things we humans would classify as ‘good’, how can such a character be an ‘example-we-can-look-to’ when it comes to morality at all?

  • “If the character ‘God’ does some things we humans would classify as ‘evil’ and some things we humans would classify as ‘good’, how can such a character be an ‘example-we-can-look-to’ when it comes to morality at all?”

    It’s a question that requires me to suspend my belief that God is incapable of evil…

    But supposing Cthulhu is real, and is God, for a moment – I would say you can’t look to a God who defines themselves as evil or terrible and use them as the basis for morality.

    If Cthulhu (or similar) was demonstrably God – then I – Like Mike – would probably oppose him.

    I don’t think YHWH is evil – despite your opinion to the contrary.

    I guess if you’re convinced of the existence of god(s) then you need to decide whether to stand with them or against them.

    While I sympathise with your desire to see no innocents killed (particularly children) – can I point out that all people die. The death of any innocent is regrettable.

    I believe God is omnipotent – which means I must believe that any death of an innocent is a death that God allows. Not just those deaths that happen in the flood or in Egypt.

    Do I think God is evil because he allows people to die? No. That would be an odd position to take.

    This is a roundabout sort of answer to your question.

    We couldn’t look to an evil God for an example for morality.

    But I don’t believe the Christian God is evil. I believe that’s the way people with an anti-religious agenda interpret his actions in order to berate believers.

  • “What is true however is that there is a definite confrontation between how science and religion seek to define truth. Truth in religion is through revelation and faith, while truth in science is through demonstration and logic. I believe one of those two is vastly superior. “

    I think, if I may disagree, that you are taking a characteristic of some religious people and applying it to all “religion”… truth in religion should not feel threatened by demonstration and logic. When I read science and publications of scientific breakthroughs I think “oh, so that’s how God set it up”, I don’t think “oh, how do I cram this into my worldview”… if the science is later improved – which happens – I think “oh, maybe this is how God did it.”

    I think coming at science with religious preconceptions is dangerous. You end up burning brilliant minds at the stake. It’s a form of scientific eisegesis. It probably annoys the scientifically minded as much as the approach some within this forum take to parts of the Bible when they remove context from the equation and interpret the passages based on prejudice.

    “When religion tries to insist that the world is an age that it demonstrably isn’t, that humans and animals have an origin they demonstrably don’t, or that women are lesser to men when they demonstrably aren’t, then religion is stepping into the sphere of science, by making assertions that can be checked through the scientific method.”

    At the risk of committing (or being accused of committing) the no true Scotsman fallacy – I would like to point out that all the examples you’ve given are on the basis of people bringing their own agendas to the text of the Bible.

    The issue of what to do with Genesis is complicated for the believer. If you do believe in God then it becomes a feasible option that all the world’s scientists are liars and deceivers – I DON’T PERSONALLY BELIEVE THIS TO BE THE CASE. Capitalised for clarification.

    But the issues of gender equality are separate from the issues of gender roles (which the Bible does talk about – Men are to love and serve their wives as Christ loved the church, Wives (not all women) are to “obey” their husbands). This says nothing about the status of either. Both are to live like Jesus.

    I’m interested about the origins you don’t think humans have that religious people claim – are you talking about dust? Or about claims like the ones the Mormons make about a thirteenth tribe of Israel? Or both.

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan wrote:

    We couldn’t look to an evil God for an example for morality.

    But I don’t believe the Christian God is evil. I believe that’s the way people with an anti-religious agenda interpret his actions in order to berate believers.

    I didn’t ask you about an ‘evil God’, I asked you about a morally contradictory ‘God’.

    That was my entire point.

    The God of the bible does some things that we would categorize as ‘good’ and some things we’d categorize as ‘evil’.

    My question was basically: how can you invest in an entity that exhibits such fluctuating and/or contradictory ‘morality’?

    Could you answer that question Nathan?

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan wrote:

    While I sympathise with your desire to see no innocents killed (particularly children) – can I point out that all people die.

    Dying and ‘being killed’ are different things Nathan.

  • Claudia

    I think, if I may disagree, that you are taking a characteristic of some religious people and applying it to all “religion”… truth in religion should not feel threatened by demonstration and logic. When I read science and publications of scientific breakthroughs I think “oh, so that’s how God set it up”, I don’t think “oh, how do I cram this into my worldview”… if the science is later improved – which happens – I think “oh, maybe this is how God did it.”

    Actually I wasn’t necessarily talking about how individuals approach truth as much as how the disciplines themselves do. That is, there is a definite methodology in science to distinguishing truth claims from non-truth claims; the scientific method. Insofar as I can tell, religions generally depend on faith as the basis of belief in their truth claims. That doesn’t mean that the religious disregard evidence based methods by any means, but it does mean that the claims of the religion are considered except from such analysis. The existence of a god has not been demonstrated in the slightest on scientific terms, and yet you believe in it. This means that you apply a different standard for truth in your religion than you do in all other aspects of your life. However let me stress that though I think the standards for truth are different in science than in religion, I by no means think that means that the religious necessarily reject evidence based knowledge as a matter of course.

    But the issues of gender equality are separate from the issues of gender roles (which the Bible does talk about – Men are to love and serve their wives as Christ loved the church, Wives (not all women) are to “obey” their husbands). This says nothing about the status of either. Both are to live like Jesus.

    I would argue that when you are putting a woman in the subservient position you are implicitly saying that she is lesser. There are many other places in the Bible where there is evidence that female transgressions are considered worse than male ones and are punished more harshly. Still, let me clarify that I wasn’t talking about Christianity (though I could have) when I made that comment, but had Islam in mind. I included it because I am aware that Christianity is far from the only religion to have made demonstrably false truth-claims.

    I’m interested about the origins you don’t think humans have that religious people claim – are you talking about dust? Or about claims like the ones the Mormons make about a thirteenth tribe of Israel? Or both.

    I was talking about the dust, though the 13th tribe of Israel is even more entertaining in its way. Creationism is probably the very best example of religion stepping into a place where science can demonstrate how wrong it is. I appreciate that not all religious people are creationists of course, but millions upon millions are, enough that it can fairly be said that religious beliefs intrude upon the territory of the scientific often enough to make it far from an isolated incident.

  • Johann

    So the full-time evil of Cthulhu would “probably” compel you to oppose him, but the part-time evil of ordering or single-handedly enacting genocide as described in the Bible is not sufficient, Nathan?

    Interesting. Could you tell us more about where you draw this hypothetical dividing line between the two?

  • Jeff Dale

    But I don’t believe the Christian God is evil. I believe that’s the way people with an anti-religious agenda interpret his actions in order to berate believers.

    It’s not about berating believers, but questioning the belief. You still haven’t explained how a being who is supposed to be omnipotent and infinitely good can allow the slaughter of innocents for no plausible, let alone justifiable, reason. Or, if we somehow must accept that such a being can do this because he is inscrutable, why we should act in any other context as though we have any knowledge of his nature or what he wants of us, when he seems so arbitrary as to be effectively empty of content.

    While I sympathise with your desire to see no innocents killed (particularly children) – can I point out that all people die. The death of any innocent is regrettable.

    This is evading the point. Just because everyone dies eventually doesn’t mean that it makes no difference whether they live to old age or get killed during their infancy. Unless you want to argue that our lives have no value except as a way station en route to an eternal life, in which case why would your god not simply have brought us directly to the eternal life without the pointless way station?

    The death of an innocent is “regrettable”: thus, it should be avoided, and we’d expect a pretty big justification before we’d withhold our condemnation. But we’re supposed to believe that an omnipotent and supremely moral being had to cause the slaughter of huge numbers of innocents and we’re to be satisfied with no justification? And we’re not even to consider it “evil”? Do our words mean nothing?

    You have said that religion is about the “why” questions that are not answered by science. Well, I’ve asked several “why” questions here that religion doesn’t seem to answer either. If you really care about “why,” then why do you accept only the answers that affirm your god, and ignore the ones that deny him? Your comments here have convinced me that you’re too smart for that. Are you prepared to believe anything, anything at all, even that mass infanticide can be justified, for no other reason than that your god must’ve willed it? Is there nothing that would shake your certainty of his existence?

  • AxeGrrl

    Nathan wrote:

    When I read science and publications of scientific breakthroughs I think “oh, so that’s how God set it up”, I don’t think “oh, how do I cram this into my worldview”

    Could you explain what the difference is between those 2 statements?

  • Jeff Dale

    I would like to point out that all the examples you’ve given are on the basis of people bringing their own agendas to the text of the Bible.

    We’re just reading the plain wording of the bible. So I guess our agenda is truth. Mass slaughter of innocents is said to occur with this god’s blessing. On the face of it, we can simply say that’s evil. That’s not prejudice, that’s applying consistent standards, which is the opposite of prejudice. To assert that this event must be justified because your god willed it, THAT requires an agenda, THAT is a prejudice, of assuming that this god’s existence and morality are unquestionable, and bending the facts to fit that assumption.

  • Nathan,

    To better understand your stance on the subject of good and evil as applied to both humans and God I’d like to develop the analogy of these topics as applied to lower life forms and humans since that is something we can better understand.

    1st, if this analogy is to be applicable, what scale should we consider as being analogous to human-God? yeast-man? ant-man? fish-man? dog-man? chimp-man? “slave race”-“master race”?

    2nd, are you saying that there are always separate moral standards between the levels? I.E. the lower life-form will have its own good vs. evil standard. The higher life-form will have a separate and different standard of good vs. evil.

    3rd, are you saying that the higher life form has the right to dictate the moral standard to the lower life-form and then that the lower life-form should be held accountable for following that dictated moral standard?

    4th, how can the lower life form know that the higher life form is “good” as defined by the moral standard applicable to the higher life form? Isn’t it possible that the higher life form is evil (for the higher life form) and merely dictated instructions that said the higher life form was good? How can the lower life form trust any communication at all from the higher life form if they don’t share a common standard of morality?

    5th, I can understand the higher life form killing the lower life form if the lower life form becomes a nuisance (like us killing ants in the kitchen or wiping down the counter with bleach killing bacteria), but I can’t wrap my mind around eternally rewarding or punishing the lower life forms after they die for not following moral dictations from the higher life form (or believing in the dictations). Or is the purpose of Heaven and Hell something only understood by the higher life form in the specific human-God relationship?

    Jeff

  • monkeymind

    Nathan:

    In the other thread, I brought up Abraham’s appeal to Yahweh (“Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?) not to say anything about the justice or injustice of the destruction of Sodom, but as an example of one place in the bible where a human stood up to Yahweh and dared to imply that there was a standard of “right” by which his actions could be judged.

  • muggle

    Urbandictionary.com: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.

    Dictionary.com’s slang dictionary: an internet user who sends inflammatory or provocative messages designed to elicit negative responses or start a flame-war

    Um, frankly, that’s how I’m seeing Nathan. And, frankly, one worse: he’s crashed here several times now and has been forthright in stating that he mines quotes for his site. Or does anyone think they’re not being taken out of context over there? (No, I can’t be frigging bothered; he’s asshole enough here.) Or hasn’t anyone noticed that he’s extremely prolific with post after post when he slams this board. He breaks up into six answers instead of one and they’re all incredibly long. Whenever he participates, it’s to excess. He’s not merely disagreeing. He’s trying to take over and start in-fighting. Thank you for helping him.

    Bottom line: I calls them as I see them.

    Your mileage may vary. In any case, Hemant’s board, Hemant’s call. So far, he’s allowing these rants. But I must say, it’s taking the blog down a notch. Strictly my opinion.

  • They can not be complicit in acts offensive to the courts – but they most certainly can reject God’s rule. Which is what sin is. Unless you’re arguing that all babies are born Christian?

    No, I’m saying that all babies are born without the capacity for reason. Babies can’t reject anything. The concept of acceptance and rejection is meaningless to them. To say that they’re born rejecting God is to ignore the fact that their brains aren’t even finished yet.

    When I read science and publications of scientific breakthroughs I think “oh, so that’s how God set it up”, I don’t think “oh, how do I cram this into my worldview”… if the science is later improved – which happens – I think “oh, maybe this is how God did it.”

    Don’t you see that an idea that explains everything actually explains nothing? It has no predictive power, only retrodictive. You may as well replace the word ‘God’ with just about anything in that sentence.

    It probably annoys the scientifically minded as much as the approach some within this forum take to parts of the Bible when they remove context from the equation and interpret the passages based on prejudice.

    In my opinion, there are some passages in the Bible that would remain morally offensive no matter how much context you gave them.

    At the risk of committing (or being accused of committing) the no true Scotsman fallacy – I would like to point out that all the examples you’ve given are on the basis of people bringing their own agendas to the text of the Bible.

    There isn’t a single Christian who doesn’t do this. Everyone has their own interpretation of the Bible and applies it to support their position – even you. The Bible doesn’t speak for itself. People have to figure out what it means.

    Both are to live like Jesus.

    And what does that actually mean to you? Because I never see Christians doing this. The guy told people they’re supposed to sell their possessions and give their money to the poor. Have you done that?

  • Jeff Dale

    @muggle:

    he mines quotes for his site

    What is his site? I’d be interested to see it, both for its own sake (opposition research?) and to see if I recognize anything from these recent threads. I appreciate your words of warning. Anyone here who does engage someone doing that ought to know about it. And of course, it’s always a good idea to measure one’s words. Thanks…

  • Brian Macker

    Nathan,

    “Since I am a Christian, and believe in a “magical being” it’s not up to me to change what that magical being does to make him/her/it more to your liking.”

    This isn’t about what I like or don’t. It’s about objective understanding of what it means to be innocent and the purpose of punishment.

    You’ve proposed a god who shakes babies and expects results. Babies can’t even comprehend the concept of god so how could they possibly be guilty of not believing in god. On top of that a baby could not connect any punishment to any bad behavior.

    Punishment is supposed to be negative reinforcement in order to prevent a repeat of bad behavior. In order for it to be effective there needs to be a connection in the mind of the person being punished with the actual behavior. Babies cannot do that.

    Furthermore if the problem is a lack in the belief of god then there is a far more effective way to change behavior. All god needs to do is show himself. There is no need for eternal hell fire to change that belief.

    The only possible other purpose of punishment is as a deterrent to others. To be effective however it has to be clear that someone is being punished for a behavior, and that they are guilty. If it is clear that the wrong person gets punished then the deterrent effect disappears. Bank robbers are not going to be frightened of being caught if the law is grabbing random people off the street to punish. Their odds of getting away with it go up.

    Since a baby is innocent then any punishment by god of the baby will not serve as a deterent to others because they’ll think, “Hey, god doesn’t even know who the guilty are.”

    Deterence of others is also dependent on publicity. If you punish the guilty in secret so no one is aware then it looks like people are getting away with the crimes. Since hell is completely private, no one sees the babies being tortured in hell fire, then we don’t even get that effect.

    I might even like seeing babies being roasted on a open fire, jack frost nipping at my nose. [How do you know. My reasoning skills might be in opposition to my base desires.] That still does not make babies guilty or the punishment of babies rational.

    Objectively it makes no sense to talk about guilty babies, and makes no sense to punish them.

    There is also a moral concept of proportion that this baby torturing violates. The punishment is not proportional to any possible crime one could commit on earth. Human capability to commit crime is finite, whereas hell is a punishment of infinite proportions. That’s why some think pascal’s wager works, because they think that this imagined punishment outweighs any possible alternatives.

    Your sects view on gods behavior portrays him in a very poor light. He plays hide and seek with a baby. Obviously an all powerful god is going to be able to hide where no adult let alone baby can find him. The baby just lays there and drools and wets itself. God gets mad about having to wait so long in his hiding place, so he sends the devil to roast the baby in an oven. Worse yet he expects this to improve the babies ability to play hide and seek, and charges the baby with the crime of not seeking.

    Meanwhile you in fact are guilty of something. You are guilty of shirking your responsiblity to think for yourself when you assume that your bible and your sect have already figured things out for you. Obviously they haven’t.

  • Brian Macker

    Nathan,
    “When I read science and publications of scientific breakthroughs I think ‘oh, so that’s how God set it up’, …”

    Yeah, and some Hindu thinks, “oh, so that’s how Vishnu set it up”, some Viking, “oh, so that’s how Thor set it up”, and some Wiccan, “”oh, so that’s how the earth Goddess set it up.”

    God did it fits every conceivable situation and therefore explains nothing.

    Also science does give a lot of why answers, and has pushed religion out of many domains. The answer to why the sky is blue is no longer “God did it”.

    Some why questions make sense and some to not. All of the why questions that religion claims to answer, that science can’t, should in fact be answered “I don’t know”.

    Why is there a universe? I don’t know. Try it.

  • Claudia

    @muggle, I really don’t see how your attitude towards Nathan is at all called for. He has been unfailingly polite, even in the face of your aggression. He certainly has views that differ from ours, but he expresses them with civility and actually writes some interesting stuff, even if I disagree with it wholeheartedly. There is no sign of trolling or crashing and the fact that we disagree with you on this point certainly does not make him guilty of division.

    Perhaps you can link to some obvious acts of trolling and provocation? I’m not seeing them. I’ve been on his site, and on a cursory glance its actually pretty cool (I love the lego Bible, it’s a riot). Can you show where exactly he is quote mining to misrepresent views that were expressed to him with civility and good faith?

    In this as in all things, evidence is key, and I find evidence lacking for the moment.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    @muggle, I really don’t see how your attitude towards Nathan is at all called for.

    Ditto to this. I disagree with Nathan’s comments, but there’s absolutely no reason to call him a troll. Other people (myself included) are clearly enjoying talking with him. If you’re not, fine, just skip over these threads. Don’t just create completely baseless accusations about how he’s quote mining out of context, or engage in childish name-calling.

    Jeff Dale, if you want to see Nathan’s site, you can click on his name (at the heading of any of his comments). This works for any poster who chooses to link to their site.

  • Jeff Dale

    Jeff Dale, if you want to see Nathan’s site, you can click on his name (at the heading of any of his comments). This works for any poster who chooses to link to their site.

    Haha, soon after I posted, I remembered to check for this, so I did go to Nathan’s site. Thanks!

    On his site, I noted one recent thread in which Revyloution (who we’ve seen here frequently) responded to a point made by Nathan. Some other folks here might be interested in joining in such discussions with Nathan’s readership.

  • “My question was basically: how can you invest in an entity that exhibits such fluctuating and/or contradictory ‘morality’?”

    I disagree with your fundamental assessment of God. Sure, he punishes – sometimes capitally – but that’s entirely consistent with his character. I suspect we understand God’s actions differently (well, obviously – but when it comes to morality specifically).

    “Dying and ‘being killed’ are different things Nathan.”

    Well obviously, on one level, all people who are killed die, but not all people who die are “killed”. Well, they’re not all said to be killed by God anyway. But when we hear that someone died our response is often “what killed them?”… all death has cause.

    My question was more: why do you care so much about the ones taken in direct actions from God and not the ones from direct inaction?

    It seems to be an odd distinction to make. Philosophically once an omnipotent God allows death at all it’s the inevitable outcome of all life. In the scale of eternity what difference does it make to the individual if their death happens at birth or of old age?

    This just seems an odd hang up to have with the Christian God. You could go a step further.

    Christians struggle to understand how a loving God could allow pain, death and suffering – and how he could inflict those things on people. Ultimately though it’s a question of trust – once you believe in God that is.

    Claudia,

    The existence of a god has not been demonstrated in the slightest on scientific terms, and yet you believe in it. This means that you apply a different standard for truth in your religion than you do in all other aspects of your life.

    This is not true either. There are plenty of other areas of my life that I don’t apply the scientific method – choosing friends, appreciating literature, in fact, any area of subjectivity.

    I think, as I may have said elsewhere, that science tells us how things work and helps us to predict how things might work together and in the future – I’m happy to apply “faith” to any accounts of history, to anything my friends tell me about their experiences etc. You can’t test and measure the abstract. You can test elements of the abstract though…

    “There are many other places in the Bible where there is evidence that female transgressions are considered worse than male ones and are punished more harshly.”

    I disagree. Though the creationist would no doubt blame Eve for that.

    Johann,

    So the full-time evil of Cthulhu would “probably” compel you to oppose him, but the part-time evil of ordering or single-handedly enacting genocide as described in the Bible is not sufficient, Nathan?

    Interesting. Could you tell us more about where you draw this hypothetical dividing line between the two?

    The genocides committed were not without purpose, nor were they, by necessity, evil. You can argue that they are – certainly – but I think the fundamental difference is that I believe people are born evil and from God’s perspective marked for death – and you believe they are born innocent and their deaths are a travesty of justice. I believe that their deaths are actually justice being carried out…

    Jeff Dale,

    Hopefully I’ve addressed some of your queries in the above rationale…

    “Or, if we somehow must accept that such a being can do this because he is inscrutable”

    That’s not why I think we should accept this. I think God is scrutable. He gives reasons for his actions (assuming again that the Bible is the word of God).

    why we should act in any other context as though we have any knowledge of his nature or what he wants of us, when he seems so arbitrary as to be effectively empty of content.

    Again, assuming that the Bible is the word of God (a discussion for another thread) we have knowledge of his nature and what he wants of us.

    Most of the rest of your comments make perfect sense from your perspective – but are to do with points where we fundamentally disagree on ground we’ve already covered.

    Unless you want to argue that our lives have no value except as a way station en route to an eternal life, in which case why would your god not simply have brought us directly to the eternal life without the pointless way station?

    That’s not the only argument regarding the “value of our life” – the actual theological argument is that all things happen for God’s glory. This would open God up to charges of narcissistic brutality though – so I’m hesitant to bring it up here. Except to say that I think it’s likely that God is more complex than your reductionistic interpretations of his actions.

    In answer to your last question – I don’t know. Ask God. It may be one of Rumsfeld’s known unknowns. I’m happy not to know some things.

    The death of an innocent is “regrettable”: thus, it should be avoided.”

    Why must we avoid regrettable things? Perhaps some regret is helpful.

    “But we’re supposed to believe that an omnipotent and supremely moral being had to cause the slaughter of huge numbers of innocents”

    This, as I’ve already argued, is a misrepresentation of what you’re “supposed to believe”. The fundamental starting point (for the Christian) of tackling this issue is that people are not innocent.

    “and we’re to be satisfied with no justification? And we’re not even to consider it “evil”? Do our words mean nothing?

    That depends if they are our words or God’s words.

    “Is there nothing that would shake your certainty of his existence?”

    Yes. Find Jesus’ body, or failing that, prove to me that he never existed. Or just provide an adequate social science like explanation of the emergence of Christianity.

    AxeGrrl,

    When I read science and publications of scientific breakthroughs I think “oh, so that’s how God set it up”, I don’t think “oh, how do I cram this into my worldview”…

    Could you explain what the difference is between those 2 statements?

    I don’t feel that my faith is threatened by scientific discovery. I don’t think science proves or disproves God’s existence. That’s a non-sequiter popularised by the work of men like Dawkins.

    To use an analogy – which I like doing.

    Say a child is playing in a sandpit. He sits outside the sandpit and builds a sandcastle using a bucket.

    You could take a photo of just the sandpit and study it later. A scientific study of the castle (and the sandpit) would most naturally exclude the child. He or she is not there to be observed.

    Because the study excludes the child and focuses on the sand pit it actually says nothing about the child’s existence.

    I’m not going to explore the case for a designer when looking at the sandcastle – ultimately it’s just a pile of crushed rock.

    But science can tell us what type of sand is involved, it can tell us why the sand clumps together, it can measure the impact of the surrounding environment on the sand castle.

    Understanding why the child built the castle in the first place is a matter of speculation and philosophy – and unless he throws a note down into the sandpit (that we capture in our photo) – we can’t know any of his thinking.

    Psychologists could speculate based on the jagged edges or the application of careful planning and engineering – this would depend on the complexity of the castle…

    Anyway. I’ve gone too far on that analogy. Mostly because I like it. I don’t know if I answered your question. Basically I don’t feel like science is ever likely to contradict my faith. Not because my faith is a movable feast but because I think the Bible is a book of theology not a book of science.

    Jeff Dale,

    We’re just reading the plain wording of the bible.

    The plain wording – yes. But no legitimate textual criticism pays no regard to context (the original audience, the surrounding passages, the intended meaning, the stated purpose of the author)?

    The plain wording is usually different to the plain meaning. Let me give you an example.

    Jeff Dale said “this god’s existence and morality are unquestionable”

    Wow. Thanks Jeff. And you’re an atheist.

    Other Jeff,

    I love analogies…

    1. single cell to man (though probably far greater).

    2. Yes. If the man walks around and inevitably kills many cells is it immoral? Is it immoral to slap a mosquito biting his arm – killing the mosquito and many skin cells? What if sometimes he catches the mosquito and puts it in the storage room of the blood bank (where magical synthetic blood has been developed – the stuff Blade drinks)? The mosquito will always think his death at the hands of this God was immoral. It’s in the mosquito’s nature to crave blood.

    3. No, but if the higher form of life says “live this way or I will do this” and you live a different way then you’re asking for trouble. Especially if the higher form of life created the lower form of life for a purpose and the lower form of life purposefully deviates from that purpose.

    4.

    Isn’t it possible that the higher life form is evil (for the higher life form) and merely dictated instructions that said the higher life form was good? How can the lower life form trust any communication at all from the higher life form if they don’t share a common standard of morality?

    Yes. Yes. Faith.

    5. See 2.

    Or is the purpose of Heaven and Hell something only understood by the higher life form in the specific human-God relationship?

    Yes. Perhaps.

    MonkeyMind,

    Yes, you did bring this point up in the other thread – and I responded there.

    I brought up Abraham’s appeal to Yahweh (“Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?) not to say anything about the justice or injustice of the destruction of Sodom, but as an example of one place in the bible where a human stood up to Yahweh and dared to imply that there was a standard of “right” by which his actions could be judged.

    God said to Abraham – Yes. I will do right. And he allowed Abraham to try to find a righteous person in Sodom. And Abraham couldn’t. And God wiped Sodom out. If you’re going to use a story from the Bible to make your case at least read to the end of the story.

    God wiped out two cities and was said to be right (by Abraham’s standards) for doing so – even though it first appeared (by Abraham’s standards) to be unjust.

    MikeTheInfidel,

    “To say that they’re born rejecting God is to ignore the fact that their brains aren’t even finished yet.”

    You are arguing from science. And I agree. I am arguing from theology.

    “Don’t you see that an idea that explains everything actually explains nothing? It has no predictive power, only retrodictive.”

    Depending on your view of the Bible (and the theology therein) there are demonstrable circumstances where God employs predictive power. They’re called prophecies. The arguments of their merits when applied to Jesus are obviously a matter for another thread – but I find the accounts/prophecies convincing and you clearly don’t. That’s fine. We disagree.

    Everyone has their own interpretation of the Bible and applies it to support their position – even you. The Bible doesn’t speak for itself. People have to figure out what it means.

    Indeed. And some interpretations are really dumb. And many of them are clearly wrong. I’m sure I’m wrong about certain things. If it was “How to understand God for Dummies” or the “Beginners guide to God” how long would that keep believer’s attention for? Theology would be pointless.

    And what does that actually mean to you? Because I never see Christians doing this. The guy told people they’re supposed to sell their possessions and give their money to the poor. Have you done that?

    Selling your possessions and giving money to the poor is only part of the picture – the “make disciples in my name” imperative is probably greater.

    It means loving my neighbour – which ultimately means trying to keep my neighbours out of Hell – howdy neighbour.

    Jeff Dale,

    What is his site?

    I thought you’d never ask – http://st-eutychus.com and here’s the post where I quoted Muggle. And a couple of others.

    Brian,

    Meanwhile you in fact are guilty of something. You are guilty of shirking your responsiblity to think for yourself when you assume that your bible and your sect have already figured things out for you. Obviously they haven’t.

    And I repent. What are you guilty of?

    Herod also killed lots of babies in the Bible, as did Pharoah. Are you angry at them too?

    Pharoah’s decision to stop Israel breeding and to kill their young babies would suggest that there’s a type of narrative justice at play with the passover would it not?

    God did it fits every conceivable situation and therefore explains nothing.

    Also science does give a lot of why answers, and has pushed religion out of many domains. The answer to why the sky is blue is no longer “God did it”.

    Why? I know that the scientific answer has to do with the refraction of light – but if that’s the case it doesn’t render “God did it” irrelevant. For the believer it’s “God did it this way”.

    Science is not actually capable of pushing religion from any domains unless you hold to truths that are contrary to science. And plenty of religious people do. I know that I’ve just given an example of the point you are trying to make – but I’ve got to wonder why you tried to make the point knowing what my response would be.

    Some why questions make sense and some to not. All of the why questions that religion claims to answer, that science can’t, should in fact be answered “I don’t know”.

    Why is there a universe? I don’t know. Try it.

    It works. I’m free… no wait. I feel so empty and unfulfilled. And I’ve got this nagging feeling that I’m missing something far greater than I could test or imagine.

    Sorry, this is a long comment. Sarcasm is starting to creep in.

    Claudia,

    I’ve been on his site, and on a cursory glance its actually pretty cool

    Can I quote you on that…

  • Muggle,

    As you’ve pointed out we’re both guests here. And I don’t want to go rearranging the furniture or anything… but quite frankly your comments are out of line. And your decision to take umbrage with me is based on some sort of prejudice.

    I used your comments on my blog because I found them to be incredibly amusing. And people who know me will too.

    You leapt to a judgment that is just not supported by the facts (as other people keep pointing out) and your treatment of me has been far from objective.

    I’m sorry if what I think and what I say offends you – but for you to be crying out for censorship just seems hypocritical. I’m sure if I dug back through the archives I would find you decrying the censorship of atheist ads and suggesting that these actions by Christians in a position of power are a gross abuse of that power and an injustice.

    You are just as culpable. In this forum the atheists are in the position of power and my views are the minority view.

    I’m not here as a troll. I’m here because I enjoy this sort of dialogue and think both parties should be more open and familiar with the philosophies of the other.

    You have made several accusations about me, my character and my intentions that are just not true and would only require a cursory glance.

    He’s crashed here several times now and has been forthright in stating that he mines quotes for his site. Or does anyone think they’re not being taken out of context over there?

    Would you prefer that I mined quotes surreptitiously? I told you that I was using them in a bid to be open and transparent.

    I think some of the things you’ve said about me and accused me of are worthy of scorn.

    Here, so that you can decide if an injustice has been perpetrated (and to save you the trouble of clicking on a link you are so obviously offended by) is what I said.

    Here are some of the things the “friendly” atheists at that site had to say about me during the discussion…

    “The man’s an ass. A potentially dangerous ass who seems to admire Hitler.”

    “Your view is just asinine.”

    “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.”

    “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.”

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

    Reading back through the thread there were plenty of things that I said that I probably wouldn’t in hindsight. The stuff about Hitler was dumb. And I probably strayed off message a little too much.

    (No, I can’t be frigging bothered; he’s asshole enough here.)

    That is an indictment on your character and prejudice. You can’t be bothered? That’s not my problem. You certainly seem bothered by my comments and by the fact that a civil conversation is taking place where people disagree with you. You know who else is big on censoring disagreement? (INSERT DICTATOR’S NAME HERE)

    Or hasn’t anyone noticed that he’s extremely prolific with post after post when he slams this board. He breaks up into six answers instead of one and they’re all incredibly long. Whenever he participates, it’s to excess.

    Again, this is a misrepresentation of what is occuring.

    I have posted long comments multiple times. But I have done so because people have taken the time to ask me questions and I have taken the time to respond. In some cases I missed questions and they were re-asked. In some cases I was asked to provide clarification. I have done that.

    I have not “broken my responses into six answers”. I have in fact tried to answer multiple enquiries in individual comments. This is why the comments are long. It sounds to me like you haven’t actually bothered to read anything I’ve said. This again is called prejudice. Clearly you have made up your mind about me without considering the evidence. I’m sure your fellow atheists would see the irony in this position as I do.

    This is a blog that discusses atheism is it not? You’re clearly here (and still reading the thread) because you are interested in the discussion. I don’t really understand your problem.

    He’s not merely disagreeing. He’s trying to take over and start in-fighting. Thank you for helping him.

    Again – that’s not what I’m doing at all. I’m just here disagreeing and making a defence for my beliefs. Sorry that you find them offensive.

    You’ve made a lot of bold and baseless assertions about me – and every time I, and others, have asked you for clarification you have obfuscated or absconded.

    I am yet to have my attention drawn to any particularly offensive instance and other commenters have taken my side in these accusations not yours.

    I believe your actions are far closer to trolling than mine. Perhaps you should reconsider?

    Bottom line: I calls them as I see them.

    Bottom line: open your eyes.

  • monkeymind

    Nathan, darling: I know my Bible.

    You’re missing the point I’m trying to make with Genesis 18:23-33. When I brought it up in the other thread, I said the actual destruction of Sodom had nothing to do with my point.
    I brought it us as an example of a human challenging Yahweh to do “right,” and Yahweh does not immediately reject that he can be held to this standard of “right”. He could have said “Whatever I do is right, because I’m the boss,” but he doesn’t. He makes a bargain with Abraham about the fate of Sodom.

  • MonkeyMind,

    I suggest you apply hindsight to the conversation with Abraham. The actual destruction of Sodom shows that what God was going was right (even if it was just right in his mind).

    He doesn’t make a bargain with Abraham – he demonstrates through his agreement that his original plan was “right”… by any definition.

  • Johann

    The genocides committed were not without purpose, nor were they, by necessity, evil. You can argue that they are – certainly – but I think the fundamental difference is that I believe people are born evil and from God’s perspective marked for death – and you believe they are born innocent and their deaths are a travesty of justice. I believe that their deaths are actually justice being carried out…

    The genocides committed were not without purpose, nor were they, by necessity, evil. You can argue that they are – certainly – but I think the fundamental difference is that I believe Tutsis are born evil and from God’s perspective marked for death – and you believe they are born innocent and their deaths are a travesty of justice. I believe that their deaths are actually justice being carried out…

    Change just one word, and you have a statement that would be condemned by people around the world, and that you yourself probably would condemn without reservations in the mouth of another.

    But changing it back to apply it to all people makes it a statement of incredible, all-encompassing misanthropy – and simultaneously a respectable statement of religious opinion.

    Could you clarify this miraculous transsubstantiation for us, Nathan? I can’t quite reconcile these two aspects – it seems to me that there’s only room enough for the first.

  • monkeymind

    Nathan you said:

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

    It appears to me that Abraham does not share your view – he feels that there is a standard of “right” external to God.

  • “Could you clarify this miraculous transsubstantiation for us, Nathan? I can’t quite reconcile these two aspects – it seems to me that there’s only room enough for the first.”

    Or the second.

    Certainly if you reject the premise of God there is only room for the first.

    You clearly can’t hold to both. You’d be an idiot to try.

  • “Could you clarify this miraculous transsubstantiation for us, Nathan? I can’t quite reconcile these two aspects – it seems to me that there’s only room enough for the first.”

    Or the second.

    Certainly if you reject the premise of God there is only room for the first.

    You clearly can’t hold to both. You’d be an idiot to try.

  • “It appears to me that Abraham does not share your view – he feels that there is a standard of “right” external to God.”

    Alternatively he expects God’s actions to be consistent with his goodness.

  • monkeymind

    Alternatively he expects God’s actions to be consistent with his goodness.

    But in your view, goodness is defined by God – how can the question of consistency or inconsistency even arise.

  • Johann

    Or the second.

    The first or both, if you ask me. Never the second by itself.

    Certainly if you reject the premise of God there is only room for the first.

    You clearly can’t hold to both. You’d be an idiot to try.

    That’s why I’m asking for your perspective. To me, your words and my small alteration are, if not morally equivalent, then very close indeed. And I don’t think believing in any gods changes that.

    It seems you do think that such belief makes a difference, and I’m hoping you can explain that in more detail.

    From my perspective, this kind of misanthropy and contempt for human achievements, knowledge and even life itself are not any more dignified or respectable because they are rooted in religion than they would be in the mouth of a nonreligious genocidaire. I realize that many, many people would disagree with me on this point. This baffles me, and I’m hoping you can shed some light on the other side of this disagreement for me.

  • “It seems you do think that such belief makes a difference, and I’m hoping you can explain that in more detail.”

    In order to avoid repeating myself unnecessarily can I suggest you read through the comments on that earlier post (where this has been discussed at length).

    I don’t expect you to agree with me. But I believe that part of being “God” is setting the standards of behaviour and definition of morality.

    There are two useful analogies – the fish tank (in the other thread I think) and the cells v man analogy above that probably explain my thinking.

    Again, I suspect we’ll disagree.

  • Brian Macker

    Nathan,

    Does you non-responsiveness to my analysis of the morality of torturing innocent babies mean that you haven’t come up with a better rationalization yet. God the baby shaker isn’t really working here.

    Seems like your god is objectively immoral in his treatment of babies.

    Nathan Simulation came up with a much better magical rationalization, and I could have continued along those lines. I could have claimed that god places demon souls in the babies to animate them as they drowned during the great flood. What better way to torture the guilty parents. They would think their own babies were suffering. All without actually having to torture any babies.

  • Brian Macker

    “Herod also killed lots of babies in the Bible, as did Pharoah. Are you angry at them too?”

    There is no one here claiming Herod and Pharaoh are moral exemplars, or determiners of what is right and good. Someone shows up in the thread claiming I should worship them and I’ll deal with it. In the meantime you are the only one here claiming I should worship a baby killer and torturer.

  • muggle

    I don’t care about disagreement. I care about people abhorrent enough to actually say they’d kill for “God”. That’s the thing that truly pissed me off. Gee, how unreasonable of me.

    Go ahead and reprint that on your page. Incompletely like you did the other one. This is the internet after all and I fully realize that anything I type may be cut and pasted dishonestly and without my permission by any nutjob reading the words.

    Frankly, I’m not one of those who crash Christian sites to argue with them where they live. Out of respect. I don’t go to church either.

    But, given your lack of intelligence, and your incomplete quotes of us posted above, you are exactly what I thought you were.

    Just because others here like you doesn’t mean I have to.

    But, yeah, I admit I just can’t be open-minded towards someone who says they’d shoot babies if “God” ask them to. I’m perfectly willing to discuss theism with reasonable theists but you crossed the line for me personally.

    To me, it doesn’t matter how polite and civil someone is who says they would kill for God. They are truly fucked up and have a screw or two loose. End of discussion. It frankly amazes me that you’re so popular with people just because they think you’re polite and civil but that’s how they feel and that’s their right. As far as I’m concerned, you’re uncivilized as long as you hold this twisted mindset of being willing to kill for “God”.

  • “As far as I’m concerned, you’re uncivilized as long as you hold this twisted mindset of being willing to kill for “God”.”

    Well, because neither us believe that this hypothetical situation is likely to arise I fail to see how it’s a legitimate measure of my humanity.

    This could perhaps be why Christians dodge the questions put forward them by atheists.

    We get asked a stupid hypothetical. We answer it. We get crucified.

    I don’t know many Christians who would honestly answer that question differently. The moment one stops obeying God one stops being a Christian…

    “But, given your lack of intelligence, and your incomplete quotes of us posted above, you are exactly what I thought you were.”

    On what basis are you suggesting I lack intelligence? Where is your evidence.

    Do you feel like I misrepresented you?

  • Brian Macker

    Muggle,

    “Just because others here like you doesn’t mean I have to.”

    Strange deduction.

    “It frankly amazes me that you’re so popular with people …”

    Very strange deduction.

    Just because someone isn’t acting like a troll doesn’t mean they are Mr. Popularity. Not a single commenter here was agreeing with him.

    Being intellectually dishonest is not the same thing as being a troll. That’s one thing that’s got you upset.

    Being insensitive to the history of a abused minority is also not being the same thing as a troll. Of course he doesn’t understand why you are getting upset. He thinks it’s some impossible hypothetical, forgetting the history of Christianity.

  • Brian Macker

    “Well, because neither us believe that this hypothetical situation is likely to arise …”

    Speak for yourself. There is a long history of Christians killing others in the name of God.

    “I fail to see how it’s a legitimate measure of my humanity.”

    I don’t think she is measuring whether you are human, as this sentence implies. She’s measuring your compassion, and you do seem to be all for going on a murderous rampage if instructed to do so. Such rampages have been quite numerous in Christian history so it’s kinda insensitive to talk this way.

    Think of yourself as a member of an organization like the KKK that has committed numerous lynchings. Now imagine that the dead founder of the KKK had personally murdered innocent victims. Don’t you think it’s insensitive to talk about “If The Founder was here today to instruct me to lynch some blacks I would have to do it.” That despite the fact that since the founder is dead there is no possibility that he would instruct anyone to do anything.

    “This could perhaps be why Christians dodge the questions put forward them by atheists.We get asked a stupid hypothetical. We answer it. We get crucified.”

    It’s not a stupid hypothetical. It goes to the core of your belief system. There is an atheist, Ayn Rand, who claims that all of morality can be deduced from some axioms. Other atheists, and non-atheists would present hypothetical that disproved this conjecture. It showed her wrong, but she had the same response as you, “Don’t bother me with stupid hypotheticals.”

    In her case the hypotheticals were moral dilemmas. Since she had claimed to have found this method of deduction they were just testing her ability to solve the known problems. She failed.

    You are failing here.

    Stop with the crucifix references, there is nothing unjust about the way you are getting nailed.

    “I don’t know many Christians who would honestly answer that question differently. The moment one stops obeying God one stops being a Christian…”

    You have a lower opinion of Christians than I do. I at least know that some Christians would not answer this way. They would find some other excuse for god that didn’t admit to the fact that he had murdered innocents, that creation of a living being means you are allowed to torture it, that blatantly evil instructions from god should be obeyed.

    Here, try these:

    “God would never give such instructions, and if he did then I would not obey them.”

    “No, god didn’t kill innocent babies during the flood. He took them into heaven”.

    Saying that if Hitler won then he’d get to write the rules isn’t exactly good moral reasoning, nor a good response.

    I don’t think you understand morals at all. You haven’t been thinking for yourself, and don’t understand the repercussions of the moral framework you have inherited. It is fraught with dangerous pitfalls which many in the past have stepped into and committed heinous atrocities because of. There are contradictions and you need to be aware of them. One false step in resolving such and you end up sounding like, or acting like, a monster.

  • Nathan says:

    I don’t know many Christians who would honestly answer that question differently. The moment one stops obeying God one stops being a Christian…

    Interestingly, the (American) fundamentalist evangelical Christians that I personally know (and have formally been in bible study with) would take a different perspective on that hypothetical. I’m sure they would say that if they “heard God telling them to kill babies or small children” then it would actually be the devil trying to trick them into doing the evil deed. (The devil posing as God). They would therefore not do it. In this case, their belief in a devil would act to moderate their behavior.

    Of course it is an interesting question on how they base their decision of whether the communication came from God or the devil. I would perhaps say they are using secular human moral judgments. They may say it’s the Holy Spirit communicating to their subconscious. They have also been known to ask “if it is scriptural” but that is problematic since the Old Testament has stories about God telling people to do these kinds of things. Perhaps these people from the biblical stories were also tricked by the devil and the stories got included in the bible by mistake. 🙂

  • It’s not a stupid hypothetical. It goes to the core of your belief system.

    It’s a loaded question. It assumes as a premise that the thing God is asking is immoral, and so assumes that God might ask us to do something immoral, which is a bit like asking for a square triangle.

    @muggle
    It’s rather ironic that you lambast Nathan for taking quotes out of context and do that very thing. Your caricature is disingenuous, and your indignation self-serving.

  • Brian Macker

    If it’s like asking for a squared triangle then that is what the biblical god is. God asks many different characters in the bible to do the immoral. Genocide being one example, and child sacrifice another.

  • Genocide being one example, and child sacrifice another.

    Careful reading shows that God’s judgement against wickedness was not genocide. And I don’t think there is one example of a person sacrificing their child because ‘God told them to’, unless you want to twist the Abraham and Isaac scenario.
    But then why let good exegesis get in the way of eisegesis?