Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Problem of Evil Atheism

From antiquity to today, the evil in the world has always been a powerful mandate for evolutionary thinking. God would not have designed or created this evil world, so it must have originated by the blind play of natural law. For centuries this solution has fueled atheism, but from where did evil-ness come?

The evil in the world is obvious and upsetting. Atheists, no less than others and perhaps even more so, are exercised by creation's terrors. Earthquakes and tsunamis kill thousands, diseases terrorize, floods destroy and droughts starve. Then there is the seemingly unending narrative of predation in the biological world. Nature is red in tooth and claw, as Lord Tennyson put it.

Atheists often proclaim this problem of evil as a justification for their beliefs but ironically this evil is as much a problem for atheism as it is a motivation. The problem is that atheism fails to explain the existence of evil.

Atheists say that we are able to identify evil as evil because the knowledge of what is evil evolved in our brains. But if that is true then there is no such thing as objective evil. Instead, evil is subjective. We may generally agree that something is evil, but that is only because of similar molecular interactions in our brains that happened to evolve, not because that thing is itself evil. There is no immaterial, objective standard which defines evil-ness.

One might think that atheists could agree with all this, but it is not so simple. Atheists could dispose of objective evil, but then they lose their raison d' etre. God is no longer responsible for creating or allowing evil because there is no such thing as true, objective evil. It is all just in our heads.

In fact, atheists very much do believe there is an objective standard. And they very much hold God to that standard. As PZ Myers wrote:

We go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We're pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.

This is religion and it is the driving issue. It is no different than what David Hume and thousands of other atheists have been saying for centuries. God wouldn't do it that way and so our only option is atheism. This is what animates atheists. They cannot then turn around and drop their weapon, as though they never used it.

87 comments:

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  4. "Atheists, no less than others and perhaps even more so, are exercised by creation's terrors." - Why would you think 'perhaps even more so'? I find most atheists have no problem assimilating them into stuff that happens because of natural forces. True, they are as moved by human tragedy as anyone, but don't overplay the event itself.

    "Atheists often proclaim this problem of evil as a justification for their beliefs" - No they don't. see below.

    "Atheists could dispose of objective evil, but then they lose their raison d' etre." - You are mistaking atheists for thinking like theists. Many atheists would say there is no raison d' etre for anyone.

    "In fact, atheists very much do believe there is an objective standard." - I think you'll find most don't; at least not using the same meaning of absolute objective moral codes (i.e. God given) as you do. When an atheist talks about objective moral standards it is objective to the extent that it is objectively observable within the human species that there is much common ground, probably determined by evolutionary and cultural history; but with personal and cultural subjectivity that causes variation from any mean. This is observable to the extent that most individuals, cultures, and religions, will give you variation if asked to provide details for a moral code. It's a little easier to remain on-message for those religions that happen to have accumulated books containing the subjective views of some ancient guy or other.

    On top of the subjectivity, our moral codes are arbitrary. A different evolutionary path could have caused us to have different moral values. When a male lion finds a mate that already has cubs he kills the cubs; which brings the female on heat and makes her ready to conceive the new male's cubs. If this characteristic had been part of man's evolutionary past then in second marriages a man would be inclined, biologically, maybe as part of his sex drive, to kill the second wife's previous children. How would ancient second marriage infanticide, had it evolved, be perceived today? One would hope it might only occupy a ceremonial role, rather than being an actual act. Does this sound preposterous and grotesque? Stoning adulterers to death doesn't sound too hot either. And the cannibalism that is eating the real body of Christ, as the Roman Catholics would have it, isn't too cool. Give it a theological twist and any evolutionary characteristic can be accommodated in a modern loving religion.

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  5. Back to your general point...

    You are criticising a point atheists make to some theists who claim God is all good. Basically the atheist you criticise is saying, "IF God exists, and IF he is all good, and IF evil exists, as you claim, then it's a problem for you.", using the theists' own claims to challenge some aspect of the theists' case. But of course atheists don't think God exists in the first place, and many (not necessarily all) think there is no objective good or evil, pretty much as your paragraph 4 portraits; so atheists aren't claiming evil as a justification for their beliefs, they are saying that it's a problem for your beliefs. So there's no contradiction.

    Now I'm not here to justify claims by some theists that there is objective good and evil, just as I'm sure wouldn't attempt to justify religious views that differ from you own.

    Personally, I don't think evil need be a problem for theists. I've seen some wild theological arguments, and it appears that theists can prove any damn thing that suits them. Well, to their own satisfaction at least.

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  6. Cornelius: "God wouldn't do it that way and so our only option is atheism."

    Strictly speaking of course, atheism simply means "a lack of belief in gods". Just that. In fact atheism has no obligation to explain evil.

    For myself, I'm an atheist not because of what the universe should or should not look like.

    I'm an atheist (and former Christian) simply because I have yet to find satisfactory evidence that the Christian God (or any other for that matter) actually exists. Does that mean I have an answer for everything? Of course not, and that isn't the point of atheism.

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  7. Timcol62 - "Strictly speaking of course, atheism simply means "a lack of belief in gods". ..In fact atheism has no obligation to explain evil."

    How wrong can you be!

    Does a turtle "believe"? No? Is it then an atheist? Of course not.

    Atheism is a choice. Everyone knows this.

    It claims there is no sufficient evidence for the existence of God.

    Of course this claim is itself, utterly inane.
    In deliberately choosing to "disbelieve" they show that atheism is more than a mere lack of belief.

    Atheists deceive themselves even more in this denial of the reality of what atheism is.

    tim- "... I'm an atheist (and former Christian) [ya right] simply because I have yet to find satisfactory evidence that the Christian God (or any other for that matter) actually exists....Of course not, and that isn't the point of atheism."

    The real problem is that you have no answers for anything at all.
    Indeed, atheism intrinsically assumes there is in fact NO real QUESTION!

    Atheism is denial of evidence. Atheism itself has NO evidence whatsoever of the non-existence of God.
    Cue: this is where the atheist brings in such stupidities as FSM's, invisible pink unicorns, leprechauns, fairies and such...

    So, this is where we need to help the blind atheist open his eyes, if at all possible.

    The atheist says, "can't prove a negative".

    So here we have a presumably intelligent person who admits he can never disprove the existence of a supreme being and yet still claims there is none! All this based on evidence for his view that he himself claims doesn't exist! Duh!

    In pretending to yourself there is no God, you are thus either an agnostic who doesn't get it, or you are insane or severely deluded.

    Atheism is thus logically impossible. So how does it work?
    All atheists necessarily live in constant cognitive dissonance. Most never figure it out though because cognitive dissonance, by definition, cripples the mind from seeing clearly!

    Atheists stick their heads in opaque bags, then go around shouting, "I see no evidence for God!"

    Worse is that even Dawkins can't claim to be a real atheist yet does so anyway!
    He writes on city buses, "there probably is no god..."
    Probably?
    My my my, Dick, you are really agnostic and not an atheist as you claim?
    If you don't know then you are merely agnostic.

    Talk about self-contradiction!!

    A huge company of deists, theists and Christians have come from the ranks of atheism precisely BECAUSE of science! Its very existence is support to theism!

    There is a good reason why atheists have always been a very small minority. Contrary to their own foolish pretenses, that reason is NOT because they are "smarter" than all the rest -on the contrary. Its all about insecurity, fear, sexual behavior, dislike of accountability, etc.

    "Only in Atheism does the spring rise higher than the source, the effect exist without the cause, life come from a stone, blood from a turnip, a silk purse from a sow's ear, a Beethoven Symphony or a Bach Fugue from a kitten walking across the keys....."
    James M. Gillis

    "The atheists are for the most part imprudent and misguided scholars who reason badly who, not being able to understand the Creation, the origin of evil, and other difficulties, have recourse to the hypothesis the eternity of things and of inevitability....." - Voltaire

    It takes an enormous amount of blind faith in "nothing + chance", to be a real atheist.

    The universe came from nothing. It was made by nothing, for no reason. It has no purpose. It will end in utter oblivion.

    Thus, if true, all arguments FOR it are also vain nothings and it is the most useless, futile life position of all.

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  8. If there is no objective standard for evil, why do atheists make moral arguements against religion? What basis do they have for saying that religion encourages imorality? They do this all the time.

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  9. The problem of evil doesn't mandate atheism. There are other potential solutions, such as a creator who is indifferent to the suffering of humans, or one who is himself evil.

    PZ is correct to say that

    if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.

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  10. keiths:

    ===
    The problem of evil doesn't mandate atheism. There are other potential solutions, such as a creator who is indifferent to the suffering of humans, or one who is himself evil.

    PZ is correct to say that

    if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.
    ===

    All religious claims.

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  11. The first sentence of Dr Hunter's initial post:

    From antiquity to today, the evil in the world has always been a powerful mandate for evolutionary thinking.

    I would like to see some evidence to support this claim. (Not to question Dr Hunter's scholarship, but because I am curious to learn the sources from which he has derived this belief. Aside from Darwin's squeamishness about certain parasitic wasps.)

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  12. I am a sucker for antiquity.

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  13. Hitch: "Its all about insecurity, fear, sexual behavior, dislike of accountability, etc."

    No. This is a strawman. It most certainly does not describe my own situation or any of my atheist friends. Rather than try to respond to your unpleasant and vitriolic spiel, I recommend you seek out some atheists to engage with in the real world. You might just learn something that contradicts your stereotypical views.

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  14. Hitch: I don't think you've made your statement emphatic enough. Perhaps it would help to use more caps and exclamation marks.

    But in all seriousness, I will NOT have you disparaging the FSM (bless His noodley Appendage). You've provided absolutely NO evidence for the existence of your God, who is fake, and you CAN'T EVEN COME CLOSE to proving that my FSM isn't real!! Duh!!!

    Cue: This is where you make disparaging remarks about the order of R'Amen and tell us how stupid and delusional we all are. Fine. But until you can show me one SHRED of evidence that your Christian sky man is real and my FSM is fake, you had better back off.

    Fact: noodles have been present in many cultures since the dawn of agriculture. Human ingenuity? I think not. Try divine subconscious revelation about the nature of His blessed Noodley Appendage. Check.

    Fact: many aspects of the human body resemble noodles, which is obviously a reflection of His Pastafarian image manifest in our bodies. Our blood vessels, hair, nerve axons, and digestive tract--all noodley! Check!

    Fact: lots of people believe in the FSM, and they are intelligent and telling the truth! Check MATE!!

    There are so many things your religion can't explain, like where your God comes from. If the Christian God created a universe that is full of such astonishing complexity, than your sky-man must be pretty darn complex itself--so how did it get there? Oh, I see! It's ALWAYS been there, because it's outside the laws of nature!! Oh, that clears it up...NOT! Why does your God get to be outside the laws of nature and nothing else in the universe is? Oh, I remember...your God is magic. Haha, sure...like that's even a better explanation than the one those crazy atheists come up with!

    The truth is, you don't KNOW how your God came to be. This causes so much cognitive dissonance for you Christians! While YOU still can't even explain how your God got here, WE Pastafarians KNOW the answer: the FSM created you AND your God using His Noodley Appendage and Tomato Basil Recipe, which accounts for the complexity of your God and the universe too!

    So go ahead and try to disprove my FSM...it always makes me chuckle when people try to deny His Noodley Appendage.

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  15. ouch2112:

    Why does God have to be more complex than the universe? To the best of my knowledge, there is no law that says that complexity has to come from more complexity. It just has to come from somewhere. And the laws of chemistry + time + randomness might not be a good enough somewhere.

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  16. And conventional theology holds that God has always been there. He didn't come from anywhere.

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  17. David:

    ===
    From antiquity to today, the evil in the world has always been a powerful mandate for evolutionary thinking.

    I would like to see some evidence to support this claim. (Not to question Dr Hunter's scholarship, but because I am curious to learn the sources from which he has derived this belief. Aside from Darwin's squeamishness about certain parasitic wasps.)
    ===

    For antiquity, Epicurus' atomism and Lucretius' De Rerum Natura are obvious starting points. For example:

    ---
    Unless, by the ploughshare turning the fruitful clods
    And kneading the mould, we quicken into birth,
    [The crops] spontaneously could not come up
    Into the free bright air. Even then sometimes,
    When things acquired by the sternest toil
    Are now in leaf, are now in blossom all,
    Either the skiey sun with baneful heats
    Parches, or sudden rains or chilling rime
    Destroys, or flaws of winds with furious whirl
    Torment and twist. Beside these matters, why
    Doth nature feed and foster on land and sea
    The dreadful breed of savage beasts, the foes
    Of the human clan? Why do the seasons bring
    Distempers with them? Wherefore stalks at large
    Death, so untimely? Then, again, the babe,
    Like to the castaway of the raging surf,
    Lies naked on the ground, speechless, in want
    Of every help for life, when nature first
    Hath poured him forth upon the shores of light
    With birth-pangs from within the mother's womb,
    And with a plaintive wail he fills the place,--
    As well befitting one for whom remains
    In life a journey through so many ills.
    But all the flocks and herds and all wild beasts
    Come forth and grow, nor need the little rattles,
    Nor must be treated to the humouring nurse's
    Dear, broken chatter; nor seek they divers clothes
    To suit the changing skies; nor need, in fine,
    Nor arms, nor lofty ramparts, wherewithal
    Their own to guard--because the earth herself
    And nature, artificer of the world, bring forth
    Aboundingly all things for all.
    [...]
    But in what modes that conflux of first-stuff
    Did found the multitudinous universe
    Of earth, and sky, and the unfathomed deeps
    Of ocean, and courses of the sun and moon,
    I'll now in order tell. For of a truth
    Neither by counsel did the primal germs
    'Stablish themselves, as by keen act of mind,
    Each in its proper place;
    ---

    More recently, Malebranche and Leibniz are good starting points in modern times.

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  18. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that your right in your belief that theistic metaethics works better than one that does not rely on theism (in fact, I think the attempt to base right and wrong on God suffers is MORE problematic---for each theistic metaethic there is some version of the Euthyphro dilemma it can't overcome--but that's another discussion).

    Let's suppose instead that one doesn't believe in God or that there are such things as moral truths. The POE is no less a difficulty for theism--it just takes a slightly different form:

    Instead of the objection being that God would be immoral to allow such suffering as exists in the world it's that allowing such suffering is inconsistent with the idea that God is a caring being (one need not make a moral judgment about the rightness or wrongness of love or caring for others to recognize the contradiction between God's supposed disposition and his allowing such extreme and almost certainly pointless suffering).

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  19. David B. E:

    ===
    Let's suppose instead that one doesn't believe in God or that there are such things as moral truths.
    ===

    That presents an internal contradiction everytime we base our judgments on such moral truths. We cannot say the KC bomber, the priest, Bush, Hitler, etc, was wrong or evil. We may only say he violated our personal sentiment which arose somehow from some unknown, contingent, random process we label as "evolution." But we never do that.


    ===
    The POE is no less a difficulty for theism--it just takes a slightly different form:

    Instead of the objection being that God would be immoral to allow such suffering as exists in the world it's that allowing such suffering is inconsistent with the idea that God is a caring being (one need not make a moral judgment about the rightness or wrongness of love or caring for others to recognize the contradiction between God's supposed disposition and his allowing such extreme and almost certainly pointless suffering).
    ===

    I'm glad you recognized your lack of omniscience when you said "almost certainly," but OTH I wonder how you have attained that level of knowledge? Why not "perhaps" or "possibly"?

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  20. Excellent article Dr Hunter...it highlights the illogicality and hypocrisy of atheists and their religion.

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  21. Cornelius says "The evil in the world is obvious and upsetting. Atheists, no less than others and perhaps even more so, are exercised by creation's terrors. Earthquakes and tsunamis kill thousands, diseases terrorize, floods destroy and droughts starve. Then there is the seemingly unending narrative of predation in the biological world. Nature is red in tooth and claw, as Lord Tennyson put it."

    Despite the topic sentence, I do not see any examples of "evil" in this paragraph. Earthquakes and disease are not evil, are they? They only could be interpreted as evil if we assume that an all powerful God wants the world to be this way.

    Despite this you go on to say "Atheists often proclaim this problem of evil as a justification for their beliefs but ironically this evil is as much a problem for atheism as it is a motivation. The problem is that atheism fails to explain the existence of evil."

    This is only ironic in the Alanis Morrisette sense. You haven't given any examples of evil that atheists struggle to explain. Your examples are evils only if there is a God willing them, and anthropocentrically unfortunate natural facts if there is not. They pose not a jot of a problem for atheism.

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  22. Good Grief! You people just don't get it do you. Atheism isn't so much 'disbelief' as it is 'non-belief', there is a subtle difference.
    'Evil' is subjective. What you and I may see as evil is not at all evil in another culture, or in another time.
    It's the same old story, the more science clearly demonstrates the reality of evolution, the more some people cling tenuously to archaic beliefs.
    And here's the main point - I have no problem with people holding such beliefs on a personal level. The problem occurs when believers think they are the only ones who are right and try to live in a world that adheres purely to their viewpoint.
    Some questions for you:
    If I need to bow before god, which one? Every religion has the same strength of trust that theirs is the way, the truth and the light.
    Do you adhere to what the scriptures say? Really? Which bits? The bit that says kill your child if they give you lip? The bit that says don't work on Sundays? Have you seen how busy McDonalds gets after church on Sundays?
    I'm not attacking you, I'm asking you to be honest. I would never force you to have sex against your will. I would never demand that you have an abortion. I will not force you to become homosexual. So what gives you the right to demand the other side of these coins from others.
    Yes, you say 'the bible tells me so' - ok, for you. Not for me. You can live your personal life by your rules and beliefs but what in all honesty and reason gives you the right to try to force others to do so.

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  23. That presents an internal contradiction everytime we base our judgments on such moral truths. We cannot say the KC bomber, the priest, Bush, Hitler, etc, was wrong or evil. We may only say he violated our personal sentiment which arose somehow from some unknown, contingent, random process we label as "evolution." But we never do that.


    There, in fact, ARE people who think there is no such thing as moral truth. I leave it to people who hold that position to defend it since I don't share that view. I was simply pointing out that even they can consistently argue that the POE is a devastating objection to theism.


    I'm glad you recognized your lack of omniscience when you said "almost certainly," but OTH I wonder how you have attained that level of knowledge? Why not "perhaps" or "possibly"?


    The claim that a child must be allowed to be raped for some "higher purpose" to be served (or to serve any of the other explanations proposed in theodicies) is utterly ridiculous. It can't be absolutely disproven (nor can most ridiculous claims). But that doesn't make it any the less obviously absurd to anyone not trying desperately to hold onto a cherished belief which admitting it would contradiction.

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  24. And I'll also point out that you have not argued for the validity of any theistic metaethical theory nor given an argument as to why one not based on a God wouldn't work. Since your argument depends on this assumption (and since it's far from obvious---especially given the Euthyphro dilemma), I don't see that argument has any particular force.

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  25. Atheists say that we are able to identify evil as evil because the knowledge of what is evil evolved in our brains.


    That position on moral epistemology is in the minority among atheists and certainly not my view.

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  26. Dr Hunter,

    Thank you for the lovely excerpt from Book V of that epic work by Lucretius.

    However, much as I revel in his poetry, I don't put much stock in his hypotheses, and to me his ideas about "evolution" are even farther off the mark than his ideas about "atoms." We've learned much more about nature in the past twenty centuries.

    Moreover, I don't see that Lucretius is making an evolutionary argument in this passage. What am I missing?

    Malebranche and Leibniz as "starting points" --- for what? For theodicy? For evolutionary thought? I don't understand.

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  27. Timcol62 said...

    " No. This is a strawman."

    You wish.

    " It most certainly does not describe my own situation or any of my atheist friends."

    Same. Be honest with yourself at least.


    " Rather than try to respond to your unpleasant and vitriolic spiel, "

    ROTFL.

    Why are so many atheists such insufferable sucks?
    Always giving it out in four letter words but never able to take even the slightest rebuke, such as my rather calm and reasoned post, without resorting to accusations of meanness.

    If this blog was called "Pandas Thumb" or a hundred others I've debated with atheists on and received nothing but REAL vitriol, it would be largely unreadable by any decent person.

    And my money would be on you and your friends for being on the front lines of the truly nasty.

    "I recommend you seek out some atheists to engage with in the real world. You might just learn something that contradicts your stereotypical views."

    Ya right. Stereotypical huh?
    I've debated hundreds of atheists in many different forums and in person over the last 40 years.
    Funny thing is, I can only remember one or two instances wherein the atheist was honest and respectful.

    You people think your own insults and snide insinuations go unnoticed? Get real.

    The most "vitriolic" debate forums on the entire web are those wherein the atheists rule.
    Its like visiting the outskirts of hell.

    You would admit this if you had any honesty.
    But you don't.

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  28. ouch2112 said...
    ... ...

    Uhm, well gee, it was long and inane so it isn't worth repeating.

    Lame and lamer - that's you and your asinine FSM.

    Now here's how one dismantles the FSM "god":

    What is spaghetti?

    Well gee, we humans invented it. We know where it comes from and we know it neither flies (unless I throw it at you) nor is a monster.

    We eat it. Tastes good.

    Now please go get a brain.

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  29. Hitch:

    Sarcasm.

    (I'm saying something absurd to illustrate how absurd it is to posit a magical being as the creator of the universe as a way of explaining it.)

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  31. Hitch: "Same. Be honest with yourself at least."

    Sure Hitch, whatever you say. You clearly have me all figured out! Amazing that.

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  32. Natchuster,

    Why doesn't God have to have been created? Why can the Christian God create something more complex than himself in a closed system, while nothing else in the world can do that? (of course humans create things more complex than ourselves all the time, but the important difference is obviously that we're not in a closed system--we have access to lots other stuff outside of us: each other, the world, chemicals, plants, the ecosystem, etc. God would have had just himself because he would have been the first thing, so any complexity or anything at all would have to be generated directly by him and nothing else)

    Is the Christian God just magic? Is that how come he doesn't have to have been created and/or can create something out of nothing?

    This is a common maneuver that I don't think most Christians are aware that they're doing:

    1. First, they say everything has to have a beginning, and the astonishingly complex universe before us couldn't have come from nothing. And it couldn't have always been there, either, because that's impossible. Every effect must have a cause.

    2. Then they say, so God must have done it! He is the cause!

    2a. Skeptic asks the question: Okay, so then how did God get here? What is the cause of God?

    2b. Christian gives response like: He was always there! God is the alpha and omega, and that means he doesn't need a beginning.

    2c. Skeptic's reaction: okay, well then why not just say the universe was always there? Why not say that the universe doesn't need a beginning?(see item 1, above)

    As long as we're saying whatever we want, why not say that a flying spaghetti monster created God and the spaghetti monster is magic so we don't need to explain how that happened, even though it obviously seems completely absurd. Does that feel like cheating to you? It certainly does to Mr. Hitch.

    This is why I use the flying spaghetti monster analogy: it helps one to see why saying "God did it" sounds so ridiculous to people who don't already believe in a god. Saying that a spaghetti monster created God doesn't explain anything: we still don't know what created the spaghetti monster! Or, if nothing created the spaghetti monster, why is it exempt from the laws that apply to everything else? Why does God have to come from somewhere and the spaghetti monster doesn't have to? Is it true just because I say the spaghetti monster is magic? Of course not.

    Just saying that something is outside the laws of nature is kind of like cheating in an argument. Not to say that Christians are cheaters or that you or anybody else is trying to cheat, because I'm sure you/they aren't (most Christians I know are kind, thoughtful, and intelligent, and genuinely desire truth--they're not just trying to show off or win an argument), but you can't just say something is exempt from the laws of nature as a way of avoiding having to explain it. Otherwise we're just talking about flying spaghetti monsters.

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  33. you people are delusional. I would really like to know how you can choose to believe in something so irrational and dis-proven. Is it fun to live your life in ignorance of reality? What's it like having to stick your fingers in your ears and go 'la, la, la la, la' everytime you are faced with the truth. 'god' does not exist, never did, never will. Why live your life in adherence to a fantasy which causes more harm than good? What a deplorable state of mind to exist within. I truly feel sorry for your weakness and need for a crutch.

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  34. ouch2112:

    We know that the universe had a creation event. Y'know, the Big Bang. And since a firecracker doesn't go off unless somebody lights the fuse, then somebody must have lit the fuse of the Big Bang.

    And the FSM created God, then the FSM is God. Two infinite beings re equivalent to one infinite being.

    And magic is only cheating if you decide that that is the rule. But who getsto make the rules? My rules are as good as your's.

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  35. I don't think you're understanding what I'm saying. You asked who makes the rules. The rules that I'm abiding are determined by reality, not by you or me. If we're just making things up, then you're right, either one of us can say whatever we want to and none of it has to be true. You can say your God is magic, and I can say my spaghetti monster is magic, and neither one of us can be proven wrong.

    But if we want to say only things that are true, then they must be true in reality. Your God is impossible according to everything we know about reality (as is my spaghetti monster). If you want to show that your God exists in reality (and not just in your speech or imagination), then you must show real evidence that your God exists and explain how God fits in with everything else we know about reality, and "he's magic" is not a valid answer.

    Of course you are free to do this if you want to, but then I would advise you not to expect to be taken seriously by anyone who doesn't already share your faith.

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  36. We know that the universe had a creation event.


    We do not, in fact, know that physical reality had a beginning. What preceded the big bang may, for all you or I know, have been just more physical reality (and this would be the more parsimonious hypothesis---after all, we already know that physical realities can and do exist; we don't know that spirits or disembodied intelligences can or do).

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  37. The claim that a child must be allowed to be raped for some "higher purpose" to be served (or to serve any of the other explanations proposed in theodicies) is utterly ridiculous. It can't be absolutely disproven (nor can most ridiculous claims).

    Similarly the claim that God sent his child to be beaten, tortured and killed will seem ridiculous to many, yet it is central to Christianity.

    It seems to me that the existence of evil is central to all redemption. We all seem to want perfectly good things like mercy, grace and redemption without evil "really" being evil.

    Ironically atheists may be right, if only we did not hate each other, lust and rape, etc.etc., then we might know that God existed. It may be that knowledge of a good God is obscured as evil typically builds upon evil. Why not build upon the good and then try deal with evil? It's not as if it is a simple thing.

    Another irony, notice how atheists have built creation myths in which it is said that evil things like destroying other species, rape, elimination of the weak, etc., generally created and constructed everything good in life as we know it. (Including their supposed knowledge of right and wrong.) Yet they're generally the same people who say that evil can never be used as fertilizer to grow good things in?

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  38. There are two issues. First of all, suppose that God does not exist,
    can we prove that this is the case if it is in fact true? In other words,
    does it make a difference if God exists or God does not exist?

    The apparent answer to those questions is that it appears to make
    no difference at all if God exists or not. It is not the existence of
    "good" or of "evil" but it is the supreme indifference to "good" and
    "evil" exhibited by the our experience.

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  39. Why doesn't God have to have been created?

    This has actually been specified for millenia based on what was claimed to be direct revelation to the Jews. It was also spelled out by Aristotle based on reason alone.

    Why can the Christian God create something more complex than himself in a closed system, while nothing else in the world can do that?

    Again, it's been specified for millenia that the God of the Jews transcends nature. It was also pointed out by Greek philosophers that something must sustain nature. This was not made up yesterday by the village idiot or the village atheist, as was the FSM, pink unicorns, etc.

    Is the Christian God just magic?

    What is magic? History shows that as monotheism advances superstition and belief in having magical powers over spirits and so on decreases. Atheists seem to want things both ways when it comes to "witch hunts." Witches are martyrs and so on but the elimination of superstition, magick is such a good thing that the very word magic is now a stigma word?

    Is that how come he doesn't have to have been created and/or can create something out of nothing?

    What is causing you to think about it at this moment? One might say neural nets, which are caused by atoms, which are caused by something else and so on until we reach something which is its own cause. It was Aristotle who said that an unmoved Mover existed, not the Jewish prophets.

    A thought echoed by others:

    Avicenna: In God alone, essence, what he
    is, and existence, that he is, coincide. God’s essence is to exist.

    Maimonides: “His existence is identical with his essence and his true reality, and his essence is his existence.”

    Aquinas: “There is a being, God, whose essence is His very act of existing.”

    Madhvacharya (Commentary on verse 17 of the Isavaya Upanishad Basya): “’SO AHAM ASMI.’ This is the great ineffable name of God, ‘I am that I AM’ ‘That Supreme Being (asau) which indwells in Asu is the I AM.’” Link


    This was not made up yesterday by the village idiot or the village atheist. The ancient Jews claimed that it was revealed to them directly and others claimed it was true based on reason after thinking about it. Many people make claims about the truth after reasoning about it and perhaps even meditating on it yet most atheists I've talked to make claims about the truth based on what they can imagine. This is true of their creation myths as well. That seems to be what you're projecting on others, yet others are not simply imagining things.

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  40. But if we want to say only things that are true, then they must be true in reality. Your God is impossible according to everything we know about reality...

    How so? After all, many people who thought about the subject for some time came to the exact opposite conclusion. A summary:The point of departure for these thinkers, let’s call
    them the Four, was simply that things exist. From this bare fact their minds
    soared to the greatest insight possible to the human mind – the realization
    that things exist only because there exists One who cannot not-exist, who exists
    without beginning or end or any conceivable limitation. The very essence of
    this Being is to BE – there is no question of was or will be for It always
    IS. Thus we speak of “It” as “He who IS”, the “I
    AM.”


    If you want to show that your God exists in reality (and not just in your speech or imagination), then you must show real evidence...

    What sort of evidence are you imagining?


    ...."he's magic" is not a valid answer.

    What do you mean by magic? What most people perceive as magic comes about as a result of their ignorance.

    Of course you are free to do this if you want to, but then I would advise you not to expect to be taken seriously by anyone who doesn't already share your faith.

    If it's the sort of faith that builds civilization, technology and science then why should anyone care what those who disagree think? In other words, you know it by its fruits.

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  41. Mynym: The identities of people who made up Judeo-Christian theology is irrelevant to evaluating whether Christian theology is true.

    I also think it's fine if you want to believe in magic. I happen to prefer facts and falsifiable hypotheses. Let me know if you find out how to use your unexplainable, supernatural magic build a computer or an MRI machine.

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  42. An excellent discussion on the same material as this post is the Warren-Flew Debate from 1976 which can be viewed at http://www.thebible1.net/video/warrenflewdebate/

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  43. Ouch2112:

    If you define reality as only what yuo have scene yourslef, then you are right. But there may be more to the universe than you can see.

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  44. Similarly the claim that God sent his child to be beaten, tortured and killed will seem ridiculous to many, yet it is central to Christianity.


    Not merely ridiculous but perverse.


    It seems to me that the existence of evil is central to all redemption. We all seem to want perfectly good things like mercy, grace and redemption without evil "really" being evil.


    So you're saying that allowing children to be raped is a necessary evil? That it DOES serve some higher purpose? That humans couldn't be redeemed if child rapes were prevented?

    Really?


    Ironically atheists may be right, if only we did not hate each other, lust and rape, etc.etc., then we might know that God existed. It may be that knowledge of a good God is obscured as evil typically builds upon evil.


    This is not an answer to why God allows such terrible suffering---nor why he, in fact, orders the world in such a way that terrible suffering is an inevitable part of the world for all too many (birth defects, disease, etc).


    Why not build upon the good and then try deal with evil?


    No one is suggesting we not work to improve the lives and well-being of others. Again, the question is why God is allowing (and causing) such extreme suffering---assuming he actually exists.


    Another irony, notice how atheists have built creation myths in which it is said that evil things like destroying other species, rape, elimination of the weak, etc., generally created and constructed everything good in life as we know it.


    Evolution is a blind natural process. Not a god. The argument we're making isn't that good things can't result from things that cause a great deal of suffering. It's that an omnipotent being doesn't have to resort to making the world a torture chamber for many of the beings born into it to bring about good effects.


    Including their supposed knowledge of right and wrong.


    Few of us atheists think the knowledge of right and wrong is a form of innate knowledge written into us by evolution. In fact, almost none do (at most, we'd argue that some of thing things we think worth valuing, like empathy, are to at least some degree part of the way we're "wired"). Otherwise there would be no disagreement on morality---which there obviously is.


    Avicenna: In God alone, essence, what he
    is, and existence, that he is, coincide. God’s essence is to exist.


    And your argument in support of that assertion is? I've yet to see a good version of the ontological argument. It's such a bad argument it's even frequently criticized by theologians---not just us atheists.

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  45. I also think it's fine if you want to believe in magic. I happen to prefer facts and falsifiable hypotheses. Let me know if you find out how to use your unexplainable, supernatural magic build a computer or an MRI machine.

    It's been said that ID is creationism and apparently creationism is the equivalent of magic in the minds of those who enjoy imagining mythologies of progress rather than dealing with actual historical progress. Yet note that the Founders of America believed in ID and treated the idea that mind has an identifiable impact on matter as a reality in patent law and established the concept of intellectual property. This has much more to do with progress in technology and science than the imaginary mythologies of progress typical to evolutionists, yet it is the very sort of thing that they imagine away. Take Ken Miller for example, who has demonstrated that he is capable of imagining technology like a mouse trap evolving with no sentience or knowledge involved. This only demonstrates that imbeciles are capable of imagining that simple technology which we already know is designed with a purpose in mind, is not designed. That's merely simple technology that we understand, one can only wonder how far wrong people of that sort could be with respect to technology of any other sort.

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
    --Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of The Future

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  46. Not merely ridiculous but perverse.

    What is it a perversion of?

    So you're saying that allowing children to be raped is a necessary evil? That it DOES serve some higher purpose? That humans couldn't be redeemed if child rapes were prevented?

    Really?


    I don't know the answer to every question but I would suggest that we do not have a total knowledge of good and evil. Also, it seems that you've never debated someone from NAMBLA. You need a little more than "Really?" and your own personal sense of morality and outrage to establish a knowledge of good and evil in that case.

    No one is suggesting we not work to improve the lives and well-being of others.

    Actually many people do suggest that and have entirely different ideas about what well-being is.

    Again, the question is why God is allowing (and causing) such extreme suffering---assuming he actually exists.

    Given the centrality of the crucifixion of Christ the answer for many theists, i.e. Christians, is redemption. You find that ridiculous and perverse. So what is it a perversion of?

    Evolution is a blind natural process.

    And you are not?

    The argument we're making isn't that good things can't result from things that cause a great deal of suffering. It's that an omnipotent being doesn't have to resort to making the world a torture chamber for many of the beings born into it to bring about good effects.

    I don't claim a total knowledge of good and evil and what must or must not happen for everything to reach an ultimate state of being Good or God. It seems to me that if an infinitely good God did exist and thing like mercy and redemption are good, then from our perspective infinite evil would also have to exist. In both cases, if we actually understood all of it then we would be as gods and wouldn't actually be what it is. You seem to be claiming total or godly knowledge but I will not follow you in doing so.

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  47. I don't know the answer to every question but I would suggest that we do not have a total knowledge of good and evil.




    No, we don't. But we do know that allowing children to be raped when you can easily prevent it is evil. Or do you disagree?


    Also, it seems that you've never debated someone from NAMBLA.


    The existence of child rapists is not evidence against the evilness of raping children.

    If any NAMBLA members want to defend their claim that having sex with children is morally acceptable they're welcome to try. Presumably, though, you already know it's wrong and I don't need to prove it to you.


    Actually many people do suggest that and have entirely different ideas about what well-being is.


    No one in this discussion is defending that position. I'm certainly not going to.


    Given the centrality of the crucifixion of Christ the answer for many theists, i.e. Christians, is redemption. You find that ridiculous and perverse. So what is it a perversion of?


    It is a perversion of the concept of justice to say that God cannot forgive human beings unless his own innocent son is tortured to death. It is a sick holdover from the days when barbaric peoples cut the hearts out of goats and sheep (and sometimes other human beings) to appease the god or gods they worshipped.


    And you are not?


    I have consciousness.


    It seems to me that if an infinitely good God did exist and thing like mercy and redemption are good, then from our perspective infinite evil would also have to exist.


    Why should the existence of an infinitely good God require the existence of infinite evil?


    In both cases, if we actually understood all of it then we would be as gods and wouldn't actually be what it is. You seem to be claiming total or godly knowledge but I will not follow you in doing so.


    You are presenting a false dilemma. We are not limited to the twin options of total clueless or omniscience.

    We are more than capable of judging, quite reasonably and rightly, that a man who claims that God requires us to perform daily human sacrifices is a nut and a moral imbecile---even without being omniscient.

    And, equally so, we're quite capable of understanding that it's ridiculously implausible to claim that there is some morally significant purpose that an omnipotent being can only achieve by allowing children to by raped by the thousands (more likely millions over the course of human history---and that's only one example of many evils to be found in our world).

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  48. Yet note that the Founders of America believed in ID and treated the idea that mind has an identifiable impact on matter as a reality in patent law and established the concept of intellectual property.


    The idea of the supernatural is a necessary underpinning of patent law and the concept of intellectual property? I've heard some, let's just say "interesting", comments in debate with religious people but that's a new one on me.

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  49. David B. Ellis:

    How do you know it is wrong to rape children? Hwo do you know anything is wrong, or that wrong even exists?

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  50. "For centuries this solution has fueled atheism, but from where did evil-ness come?"

    Where does goodness come from? That's the real problem to be explained ... and which fact cannot be reconciled with atheism.

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  51. How do you know it is wrong to rape children? Hwo do you know anything is wrong, or that wrong even exists?


    Morality is not mathematics. No one in all of human history, not the greatest philosopher or theologian, not even Jesus Christ himself, has ever proved a moral proposition.

    So forgive me if I have no expectation of doing so either.

    But that isn't to say there aren't things we can say about knowing right from wrong. I know, for example, that love is one of the most precious and most to be valued things in all of human experience. I know this the only way anyone can know it---by experiencing love and reflecting on it's implications for how I ought to live my life. And it takes no genius to recognize that raping children is contrary to love and is therefore wrong. Anyone who has experienced love with any depth and whose emotional life is not warped recognizes that being contrary to love makes a thing wrong.

    Can I prove this? Of course not. One gains this moral knowledge through experiencing love; not through listening to syllogisms.

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  52. So David it seems to me that you have just said that you determine what is good and evil by feeling. After all love is just a feeling is it not?

    I agree that when one has love one will recognise that certain things go against that but from where did love come? For me as a Christian it comes from God. Where does love come from for you? In fact where do any of your feelings come from?

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  53. So David it seems to me that you have just said that you determine what is good and evil by feeling. After all love is just a feeling is it not?


    It's more complicated than that. Notice that I referred not just to the experience of love but reflection on that experience and to not having psychological damage sufficient to mar one's judgment in evaluating the worth of love.

    Essentially, in moral epistemology, my position is a version of ideal observer theory. If you're unfamiliar with IO theory here are a couple of basic introductions to the subject:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_observer_theory

    http://www.bookrags.com/research/ideal-observer-theories-of-ethics-eoph/


    I agree that when one has love one will recognise that certain things go against that but from where did love come? For me as a Christian it comes from God. Where does love come from for you? In fact where do any of your feelings come from?


    Love is a state of consciousness. Goodness is, in large part, the set of dispositions that result from being motivated by love. As to where love and other states of consciousness, emotional and otherwise, come from, I don't claim to know with any precision. Why and how brain activity results in consciousness is an open question.

    I ask you now to tell us what response you'd give to the question you asked me:

    "How do you know it is wrong to rape children? How do you know anything is wrong, or that wrong even exists?"

    I'm already aware that you base it somehow on your theism but could you go into a bit more detail on the subject?

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  54. George: "So David it seems to me that you have just said that you determine what is good and evil by feeling. After all love is just a feeling is it not?"

    Love is not a feeling.

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  55. Where does goodness come from? That's the real problem to be explained ... and which fact cannot be reconciled with atheism.


    Could you elaborate a bit? Why would goodness not exist if there is no God? For starters, you should probably define "goodness" as you're using it here since we may not be understanding the meaning of the word in quite the same way.

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  56. Done did, David (not that I expect you to even know about the post linked below).

    Wicked! (more could be said, of course, than I said in that post).

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  57. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  58. NatSchuster: "How do you know it is wrong to rape children? Hwo do you know anything is wrong, or that wrong even exists?"

    David: "Morality is not mathematics. No one in all of human history, not the greatest philosopher or theologian, not even Jesus Christ himself, has ever proved a moral proposition.

    So forgive me if I have no expectation of doing so either.
    "

    ALL proofs -- including those in mathematics -- depend upon truths which cannot be proven.

    So, this cute little attempted evasion actually undermines your atheistic position. But then, truth has a way of doing that.

    [Also, the claim that "No one in all of human history, not the greatest philosopher or theologian, not even Jesus Christ himself, has ever proved a moral proposition" is not actually true. Moral propositions, being propositions are proven all the time. It's the moral axioms that cannot be proven ... it being the nature of all axioms to be non-provable.]

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  59. natchuster,

    If there is stuff in the universe that is beyond what we have scene [sic] directly, and beyond what anybody else can verifiably see directly, and beyond what is seeable, then what good does it do us to believe in it? In fact, my spaghetti monster meets all of those criteria. So if we're going to open the door to believing anything we can dream up without verifying its existence in reality, then we should believe in God, gods, spaghetti monsters, unicorns, and anything else that we can explain through "magic" and that by all known metrics isn't real.

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  60. NatSchuster: "If you define reality as only what yuo have scene yourslef, then you are right. But there may be more to the universe than you can see."

    Ouch2112: "If there is stuff in the universe that is beyond what we have scene [sic] directly, and beyond what anybody else can verifiably see directly, and beyond what is seeable, then what good does it do us to believe in it?"

    But, of course, Mr Schuster did not say "the universe," he said reality. "The universe" is merely the physical stuff -- matter/energy moving in time-space -- and is the least interesting aspect of reality.

    And, of couse, Mr Ouch is attempting the standard atheistic/materialistic ploy of pretending that reality is limited to what can be seen.

    But, being intellectually dishonest (for, intellectual dishonesty/hypocrisy goes with the territory of atheism), Mr Ouch cannot, and will not, stick with his pretense. As the merest example of what I mean, an example which we see directly in what he has written without need of extrapolation (*), Mr Ouch is attempting, amusingly, to emply reason -- but what is reason made of? what color is it? what are its physical dimensions? where in space is it located? what does it weigh? does it taste like chicken?


    (*) To extrapolate: the odds are that Mr Ouch has no problem at all with "dark matter" and "dark energy." The odds are that Mr Ouch has no problem at all with "the multiverse," despite that, and by definition, no one can ever so much as observe anything about any hypothetical "other universe."


    Ouch2112: "In fact, my spaghetti monster meets all of those criteria. So if we're going to open the door to believing anything we can dream up without verifying its existence in reality, then we should believe in God, gods, spaghetti monsters, unicorns, and anything else that we can explain through "magic" and that by all known metrics isn't real."

    Are these people not simply amazing in their willful ignorance? in their self-chosen deception? in their intellectual dishonesty/hypocrisy?

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  61. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  62. Hello again David

    Essentially, in moral epistemology, my position is a version of ideal observer theory. If you're unfamiliar with IO theory here are a couple of basic introductions to the subject:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_observer_theory


    Hmm. You may wish to take a look at this one . This article suggests that there is such an ideal observer. But I'll humor you and start poking around. Tipler spoke of the implication of such a person and there are some who are preparing to discard the science in an effort to rid themselves of the possibility of the existence of the almighty.

    The second proposition put forward in your first link is Some such propositions are true.
    My question is – who or what gets to decide what is truth. Is it true that the world as perceived through our five senses is all that there is of the universe or can would it be valid to assert that there is something out there beyond our perceptions? A supernatural domain if you wish? If you say only the natural realm exists then how do you know given that you don't have the senses to perceive beyond it? If there is a realm beyond the natural then how do we determine its existence or lack thereof?


    Why and how brain activity results in consciousness is an open question.

    Great to see someone with an open mind on the subject. Given my supernaturalistic leanings the answer to me is obvious.

    I ask you now to tell us what response you'd give to the question you asked me:

    "How do you know it is wrong to rape children? How do you know anything is wrong, or that wrong even exists?"

    I'm already aware that you base it somehow on your theism but could you go into a bit more detail on the subject?


    Sure thing. As you must surely know the Holy Bible is my manual of instruction. First the specific question on raping children. The bible presents the first man and woman of being nearly the same age. The bible by saying this is implying that we should ideally marry someone around our own age. Second is that the ten commandments tell us not to commit adultery which is to say that any sexual relations outside the heterosexual marriage are a sin and we will have to give account to God for what we have done.

    To answer the more general question of wrong we need to go back to the claims of the bible. It claims that God created us and because He created us He gets to decide what the rules are. Now one could say that God could change the rules and from a logical perspective it is possible. However the bible also tells us that God does not change. If any rules were to be changed then it would mean that God's nature would change as the rules that we have now are a reflection of His own nature. This would mean that the bible is no longer true and also that God's claims of being perfect were either false previously or would certainly be false after the fact.

    So let me bounce the second question back to you. How do you know anything is wrong, or that wrong even exists?

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  63. Hello Ilion,

    George: "So David it seems to me that you have just said that you determine what is good and evil by feeling. After all love is just a feeling is it not?"

    Love is not a feeling.


    Some cultures love their neighbours, others love to eat them. Do you have a personal preference?

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  64. natchuster,
    If there is stuff in the universe that is beyond what we have scene [sic] directly, and beyond what anybody else can verifiably see directly, and beyond what is seeable, then what good does it do us to believe in it? In fact, my spaghetti monster meets all of those criteria. So if we're going to open the door to believing anything we can dream up without verifying its existence in reality, then we should believe in God, gods, spaghetti monsters, unicorns, and anything else that we can explain through "magic" and that by all known metrics isn't real.


    "All known metrics" I'm glad you qualified your statement. Of the metrics that you don't know about which of them would you allow as proof that there is something beyond the natural realm?

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  65. George: "So David it seems to me that you have just said that you determine what is good and evil by feeling. After all love is just a feeling is it not?"

    Ilíon: "Love is not a feeling."

    George: "Some cultures love their neighbours, others love to eat them. Do you have a personal preference?"

    My preference is to avoid equivocation, or to eliminate it, whichever is appropriate.

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  66. ALL proofs -- including those in mathematics -- depend upon truths which cannot be proven.

    So, this cute little attempted evasion actually undermines your atheistic position. But then, truth has a way of doing that.


    If you think moral propositions can be proven then I invite you to do so. I cannot nor do I believe one ever has been proven but if I'm wrong I'd be happy to see it done.


    The second proposition put forward in your first link is Some such propositions are true.
    My question is – who or what gets to decide what is truth.


    No one has to decide that a proposition is true for it to be true. As to who gets to make a judgment about what is or isn't true the answer is: all of us. Whether our individual judgments are correct or not is another question.


    Is it true that the world as perceived through our five senses is all that there is of the universe or can would it be valid to assert that there is something out there beyond our perceptions? A supernatural domain if you wish?


    If the supernatural domain has direct and tangible impacts on the natural world then it's existence can be reasonably inferred. This is what people are doing when they, for example, claim that we know God exists because we have good evidence for the resurrection of Jesus (would that we did) or that the Koran anticipates scientific discoveries in a way not possible to a human of Mohammad's time (we probably both agree this one isn't true).

    Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any good evidence from which we can infer the existence of a supernatural realm. But if you know of any (or of any other means of knowing one exists) I'd be interested in hearing about it.


    First the specific question on raping children. The bible presents the first man and woman of being nearly the same age. The bible by saying this is implying that we should ideally marry someone around our own age.


    That seems a bit of a stretch. Just because the first man and woman were near the same age doesn't imply that God wants only people who are near the same age to marry. There's nothing in the Bible I can recall, for example, that suggests the belief that it's wrong for a 45 year old and a 25 year old to marry.


    Second is that the ten commandments tell us not to commit adultery which is to say that any sexual relations outside the heterosexual marriage are a sin and we will have to give account to God for what we have done.


    I was just reading the other day about protests against the practice of child marriage (the article told of the horrible case of a nine year old girl who was taken to the hospital for genital injuries after her husband, I think he was 25, raped her).

    Nothing in your comment indicates that the Bible even addresses the topic of pedophilia. And even if it had, you still haven't given an argument as to how you know that child rape is wrong unless you pare it with a good basis for thinking that the Bible is right in it's moral claims. Which seems a rather tall order. Have you actually read some of the atrocious laws supposedly laid down by God in the Bible? The death penalty for people who leave Judaism. Slavery, instead of being prohibited, is merely regulated (and with only minimal concern for the rights of the slave). One could go on and on.


    So let me bounce the second question back to you. How do you know anything is wrong, or that wrong even exists?


    I already said that I think ideal observer theory is the position I take on that.

    How do YOU know something is wrong? Beyond just "the Bible says so".

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  67. If any rules were to be changed then it would mean that God's nature would change as the rules that we have now are a reflection of His own nature.


    So is it still OK to own slaves:

    "However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way." (Leviticus 25:44-46)

    What about this gem:

    "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." (Exodus 21:20-21 NIV)

    Or to stone apostates? How about stoning disobedient and unruly sons (Deut. 21:18-21)?

    How about this one:

    "Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee" (Leviticus 19:19).

    Do you think it immoral to wear something whose fabric mixes linen and wool?

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  68. So is it still OK to own slaves:

    "However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way." (Leviticus 25:44-46)


    Before I commit myself to a position on the question of whether it is ok to own slaves let me remind of what the US Government committed itself to just a few years after Charles Darwin came out with Origin of the Species. Dred Scott v. Sandford The US Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford 1857 that it is ok to own slaves and that slaves were not citizens of the US. In other words they were effectively not human and were property just like horses and cattle. Do you agree with this ruling by the top court in your country? (I'm assuming you're a US citizen)

    There are obviously a number of people in the world today who view slavery a lot different to what you apparently do. Eg Trafficking. Would you deny the traffickers a living by preventing them from trading in humanity in today's world? If you were going to do so how would you convince them that they are wrong?


    What about this gem:

    "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." (Exodus 21:20-21 NIV)

    Or to stone apostates? How about stoning disobedient and unruly sons (Deut. 21:18-21)?

    How about this one:

    "Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee" (Leviticus 19:19).

    Do you think it immoral to wear something whose fabric mixes linen and wool?


    All the above questions presuppose that there is some kind of absolute standard by which we can render judgement against what the bible is telling us. Can you tell me where this absolute standard comes from? Is it a standard that both you and I can accept?

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  69. David I think you've conflated my post with someone elses. The first paragraph is not my kind of way of talking so I'll ignore it and deal with the rest which I'll plead guilty to asserting.

    Breaking this answer into two parts

    Part one.

    No one has to decide that a proposition is true for it to be true. As to who gets to make a judgment about what is or isn't true the answer is: all of us. Whether our individual judgments are correct or not is another question.

    So it appears to me that you are either stating that truth is that which the majority decides to be correct or that each person decides for himself what truth is. The problem with the majority deciding what truth is, is that over time the majority changes its mind as to what truth is. It is not two centuries ago that the majority were entirely comfortable with slave ownership. What caused the majority to change its mind on the morality of that. If they were wrong about the ownership of slaves then what else are they wrong on? Or is it possible that in some future time the majority may yet decide that slavery ownership is OK? How would you go about preventing human values from going back in that direction.

    If you're saying that each person decides for himself what truth is then what happens when your truth conflicts with my truth. Who then gets to decide that you are right and I am wrong. I might decide that I need to steal your car. It might be right for me. Why would you see it as wrong?

    If the supernatural domain has direct and tangible impacts on the natural world then it's existence can be reasonably inferred. This is what people are doing when they, for example, claim that we know God exists because we have good evidence for the resurrection of Jesus (would that we did)

    Indeed. Now St Paul in the New Testament tells us that if Christ was not raised that we would be the most deluded group of people on the planet. The fact that he was prepared to lay his body on the line (read 2 Corinthian11:23-33) for a list of things he went through because of what he chose to believe. The fact that he and eleven of the twelve apostle were killed for their belief should tell us something. Would you be prepared to die for what you knew to be a lie? Do you know of anyone who would?

    Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any good evidence from which we can infer the existence of a supernatural realm. But if you know of any (or of any other means of knowing one exists) I'd be interested in hearing about it.

    To be able to give evidence we would first have to agree on what you would consider valid evidence. We really couldn't progress any further until that is sorted out.

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  70. Part two

    I was just reading the other day about protests against the practice of child marriage (the article told of the horrible case of a nine year old girl who was taken to the hospital for genital injuries after her husband, I think he was 25, raped her).

    Nothing in your comment indicates that the Bible even addresses the topic of pedophilia. And even if it had, you still haven't given an argument as to how you know that child rape is wrong unless you pare it with a good basis for thinking that the Bible is right in it's moral claims.


    You seem to have missed the point that any sexual acts outside of marriage are regarded by the bible as wrong. That includes all forms of rape. If you take a look at Leviticus 18 your will see all manner of human relationships that are not allowed included the denial of sex with the daughter of a woman you are having sex with or your daughter-in-law etc. So we can see in this passage an allusion to the immorality of such an act. No specific directive admittedly but then the bible does not specifically forbid smoking yet when we see the damage that smoking does to the body and the bible claims that our bodies are God's temple and that we are to treat our bodies with respect then it is not hard to make the connection.

    To expect God to spell out everything that is wrong is akin to telling the mathematician that you won't accept that four is the correct answer to 2+2 until you've had him spell out for you all the possible wrong answers for that arithmetic statement.

    Which seems a rather tall order. Have you actually read some of the atrocious laws supposedly laid down by God in the Bible? The death penalty for people who leave Judaism. Slavery, instead of being prohibited, is merely regulated (and with only minimal concern for the rights of the slave). One could go on and on.

    Yes they could go on and on but then I would ask of you, by what standard are you able to claim that these laws are as bad as you claim them to be. As I said before the US Government through its courts said it was fine to have slavery. Humans have all sorts of other interesting laws that in the past were seen as correct but “We know better now”. And just exactly how do we know better?

    So let me bounce the second question back to you. How do you know anything is wrong, or that wrong even exists?

    I already said that I think ideal observer theory is the position I take on that.


    The flaw in that position as I've already pointed out is that it presupposes that one knows what truth is. Can you demonstrate clearly that something is provably true getting away from the incompleteness theory of Kurt Godel?

    How do YOU know something is wrong? Beyond just "the Bible says so".

    I don't. The bible is my measure of what is right and wrong. I use the bible to tell me what is right. Like maths if it doesn't measure up to the correct answer then by default it is wrong.

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  71. In other words they were effectively not human and were property just like horses and cattle. Do you agree with this ruling by the top court in your country? (I'm assuming you're a US citizen)


    Of course not. Which involves no contradiction in my views since I don't consider the supreme court an infallible moral authority---quite unlike the sentiment expressed in this statement about God and the rules set forth in the Bible:

    "If any rules were to be changed then it would mean that God's nature would change as the rules that we have now are a reflection of His own nature."


    There are obviously a number of people in the world today who view slavery a lot different to what you apparently do.


    So what? It is not my position on metaethics that human beings have an innate knowledge of moral truth. We humans are capable of error---that position is fundamental to ideal observer theory. So it's difficult to see why you would think your statement presents facts which contradict or present explanatory difficulties for my views on metaethics or moral epistemology.


    If you were going to do so how would you convince them that they are wrong?


    I don't assume that I could. Human beings are often obstinate in both their irrationality and their greed. Which is, again, no problem for my position. I don't hold that all people will recognize moral truths In fact, probably all of us make at least some errors in our moral judgment---again, part and parcel of ideal observer theory. Perhaps you should read at least one of those short articles on the subject before trying to criticize my views---nothing you've said indicates the slightest awareness of what my position actually is.


    All the above questions presuppose that there is some kind of absolute standard by which we can render judgement against what the bible is telling us.


    Yes, I think there are moral truths. Again, I suggest you read the short article on ideal observer theory I linked to.

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  72. So it appears to me that you are either stating that truth is that which the majority decides to be correct or that each person decides for himself what truth is.


    My position is that human beings can and inevitably must make their own judgments about moral questions (even when they submit to someone or something elses authority on the subject, like the Bible, it is they themselves who is deciding that they think the Bible a sound and true moral guide). And my position is that those judgments can be mistaken. We can be mistaken about moral questions as much as we can anything else. What ideal observer theory states is that there are characteristics that are most apt to allow us to judge correctly on moral questions. That a person is likely to make sound moral judgments to the degree that he embodies the "ideal observer". And, of course, no one embodies it perfectly (or even close to perfectly) so all of us are fallible in our judgment.


    Indeed. Now St Paul in the New Testament tells us that if Christ was not raised that we would be the most deluded group of people on the planet.


    I wouldn't go that far. The Mormons and Scientologists (just to name a couple of many) are giving you a good run for the money.


    The fact that he was prepared to lay his body on the line (read 2 Corinthian11:23-33) for a list of things he went through because of what he chose to believe. The fact that he and eleven of the twelve apostle were killed for their belief should tell us something. Would you be prepared to die for what you knew to be a lie? Do you know of anyone who would?


    Joseph Smith (founder of Mormonism) died for his religion too. And he was pretty clearly a con artist and fraud rather than just self-deluded.

    Regarding the early Christian martyrs:

    A. We don't actually have anything approaching good historical evidence that any (much less eleven) of the apostles were martyred. And:

    B. As pointed out with the Joseph Smith counter-examples, religious frauds can and do get martyred. When someone is arrested or grabbed by a mob they generally aren't likely to just let the guy go because he says "My bad, you're right, I made it all up."


    To be able to give evidence we would first have to agree on what you would consider valid evidence. We really couldn't progress any further until that is sorted out.


    You can state what you consider the best examples of evidence of the supernatural AND WHY you consider it good evidence. If I disagree with your statements as to why it constitutes good evidence you can be sure I'll let you know and explain why. It is not necessarily that we first carry on a lengthy discussion about the nature of evidence in abstract terms before doing so. Your statement above, frankly, smacks of being a stalling tactic.

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  73. You seem to have missed the point that any sexual acts outside of marriage are regarded by the bible as wrong. That includes all forms of rape.


    You seem to have missed the fact that I referred to child MARRIAGE. Pedophilia can in institutionalized in the custom of child marriage and rape can occur within marriage.


    If you take a look at Leviticus 18 your will see all manner of human relationships that are not allowed included the denial of sex with the daughter of a woman you are having sex with or your daughter-in-law etc.


    Which is not a prohibition against pedophilia. It presumably applies even when the daughter-in-law is adult. Not to mention that pedophilia does not necessarily involve sex with daughters or daughters-in-law.


    No specific directive admittedly but then the bible does not specifically forbid smoking yet when we see the damage that smoking does to the body and the bible claims that our bodies are God's temple and that we are to treat our bodies with respect then it is not hard to make the connection.


    I don't expect the Bible to make rules on every possible immoral act (though pedophilia is a rather major one---if the bible is going to make rules about things like wearing wool and linen together you'd think it could make one on an issue as important as a prohibition against sex with children and against child marriage).

    Regardless, my main issue is the question I asked earlier and you have yet to answer: why think the Bible is authoritative on morality---especially in light of the Biblical quotes I mentioned.


    Yes they could go on and on but then I would ask of you, by what standard are you able to claim that these laws are as bad as you claim them to be.


    You're trying to dodge the question. Even if you were right about there being no basis for morality apart from theism the Bible might still not be the word of God and some of the commands it attributes to God could be utterly immoral (as certainly appears to be the case with those quotes).


    I don't. The bible is my measure of what is right and wrong.


    So you consider slavery morally acceptable? You think we should stone apostates and unruly sons? You think it immoral to wear wool and linen together?

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  74. It is not my position on metaethics that human beings have an innate knowledge of moral truth. We humans are capable of error---that position is fundamental to ideal observer theory. So it's difficult to see why you would think your statement presents facts which contradict or present explanatory difficulties for my views on metaethics or moral epistemology.

    The difficulty I have is in trying to understand how you think the Ideal Observer would agree with you that slavery is wrong?

    I think there are moral truths.

    Do you know what those moral truths are? How can you be sure that the moral truths you believe in would be in line with what the Ideal Observer thinks. After all the IO as defined is something that only exists in the imagination of some and the definition is loaded with value judgements such as “fully informed and vividly imaginative, impartial, in a calm frame of mind and otherwise normal”. All of these are value judgements and work on the premise of majority rule.

    a person is likely to make sound moral judgments to the degree that he embodies the "ideal observer". And, of course, no one embodies it perfectly (or even close to perfectly) so all of us are fallible in our judgment.

    Good, we are getting somewhere. Yes we are all fallible so doesn't that necessitate a source of moral values that is infallible?

    I wouldn't go that far. The Mormons and Scientologists (just to name a couple of many) are giving you a good run for the money.

    Why not? We've been at it for nearly two thousand years longer than those guys. And we've got the martyrs to prove it.

    As pointed out with the Joseph Smith counter-examples, religious frauds can and do get martyred.

    In the same kind of numbers as the Christian Martyrs? Even now in places such as North Korea it is a death sentence for a Christian if they are found out to be one.

    You can state what you consider the best examples of evidence of the supernatural

    OK I'll jump first then. I'll give you two. Resurrection from the dead. By this I mean someone who has not just been dead three days but someone who has been put through a crematorium and exists only as a pile of ashes in an urn. Forecasting the future 100% accurately. How about like predicting that someone is going to have a baby boy and what his name will be but the mother and father haven't been born yet.

    some of the commands it(bible) attributes to God could be utterly immoral (as certainly appears to be the case with those quotes).

    Could be? On what grounds?

    So you consider slavery morally acceptable? You think we should stone apostates and unruly sons? You think it immoral to wear wool and linen together?
    For the sake of this discussion I will say yes,yes and yes. Now what?

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  75. The difficulty I have is in trying to understand how you think the Ideal Observer would agree with you that slavery is wrong?


    I conclude that by making an honest, long-term effort to approximate to the best of my ability the characteristics of the IO and reflecting, over the course of my life, on moral questions.


    Do you know what those moral truths are? How can you be sure that the moral truths you believe in would be in line with what the Ideal Observer thinks.


    I don't claim infallibility in moral questions (nor any other kind of question). Since I'm not infallible, obviously, absolute certainty is not reasonable.

    But isn't that true of almost everything in life? I can't prove, for example, that vampires don't exist but I'm none the less extremely confident (and reasonably so) that I'm right in thinking them fictional. We are not limited to the two extremes of absolute moral certitude or total moral cluelessness. The suggestion that we are would be a false dilemma.


    After all the IO as defined is something that only exists in the imagination of some and the definition is loaded with value judgements such as “fully informed and vividly imaginative, impartial, in a calm frame of mind and otherwise normal”.


    Being, for example, vividly imaginative is not a value judgment. It's an ability. The proposal is not that these qualities are morally right (one might or might not argue that) but rather that these qualities are the ones that allow us to understand what is and isn't right---to make accurate moral judgments.

    In order, for example, to understand whether love is intrinsically worthwhile one has to have the ability to experience love. A sociopath is unable to weigh this question reliably because he lacks the ability to experience the thing being evaluated.


    All of these are value judgements and work on the premise of majority rule.


    You keep throwing out this absurd idea that IO theory comes down to majority rule. In fact, it's just the opposite. The opinion of the majority, if that majority lacks the qualities necessary to make correct moral judgments, is bound to be frequently mistaken according to IO theory and the person desiring to improve his moral insight will have to be willing to go against majority opinion in the pursuit of that aim.


    Good, we are getting somewhere. Yes we are all fallible so doesn't that necessitate a source of moral values that is infallible?


    The fact that you and I and every other human being is fallible in his moral judgment does not entail the existence of a person or being whose moral judgment is not fallible. At least, I see no logical entailment of the one from the other. If you think otherwise I'd like to hear an argument in support of such a claim.

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  76. Why not? We've been at it for nearly two thousand years longer than those guys.


    That one irrational belief system has been around longer than another does not entail that it's more irrational (assuming here, that the two belief systems actually are irrational---something we probably aren't in agreement on).


    In the same kind of numbers as the Christian Martyrs? Even now in places such as North Korea it is a death sentence for a Christian if they are found out to be one.


    The argument for the truth of a religion based on martyrs only pertains to martyrs that would have had first-hand knowledge that the thing they were being martyred for is false. Surely this is obvious. The fact that a modern Muslim, for example, might be willing to die for his religion is only evidence of the sincerity of his faith in his religion---not evidence for the truth of the Koran or Islam.


    OK I'll jump first then. I'll give you two. Resurrection from the dead. By this I mean someone who has not just been dead three days but someone who has been put through a crematorium and exists only as a pile of ashes in an urn. Forecasting the future 100% accurately. How about like predicting that someone is going to have a baby boy and what his name will be but the mother and father haven't been born yet.


    The first claim sounds like a good start---I'd certainly agree that my non-belief in the supernatural would no longer be tenable if we have good reason to think that has occurred. What evidence is there for the claim?

    As to the second, I agree that foreknowledge of the future is a good one. But predicting the birth of a baby boy, even to someone who hadn't been born yet, is not terribly impressive. After all, most people have at least one child in their lifetimes and there are, after all, only two sexes to choose from---and the odds aren't even as low as 50% since many have multiple children. Guessing the name of the child accurately is better. But still not terribly impressive. I've heard more impressive claims of prophetic foreknowledge than that from Christians---pick your best example. I don't want to be shooting fish in a barrel.


    some of the commands it(bible) attributes to God could be utterly immoral (as certainly appears to be the case with those quotes).

    ---Could be? On what grounds?


    I've already discussed my views about metaethics and moral epistemology. I've yet to hear yours other than "the bible says so".


    So you consider slavery morally acceptable? You think we should stone apostates and unruly sons? You think it immoral to wear wool and linen together?
    For the sake of this discussion I will say yes,yes and yes. Now what?


    I'm asking your honest opinion. Do you consider these things morally acceptable? And if not, must you not revise the statement which my pointing out of these Biblical quotes was in response to?

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  77. David,

    So you consider slavery morally acceptable? You think we should stone apostates and unruly sons? You think it immoral to wear wool and linen together?
    For the sake of this discussion I will say yes,yes and yes. Now what?


    I'm asking your honest opinion. Do you consider these things morally acceptable? And if not, must you not revise the statement which my pointing out of these Biblical quotes was in response to?


    I've had to spend some time thinking about your questions and the potential consequences of supporting or not supporting what the bible has told us to do. In the end I'll have to admit that the short answer is that I honestly do support the kinds of rulings that you've outlined in the bible.

    In other words I do support slavery, The stoning of rebellious sons and God's ruling on the kind of fabric mixes that He rules against.

    Can you tell me if there is any reason why I should not?

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  78. Because it (the first two anyway) is at odds with the thing a lifetime of experience and reflection on that experience tells me (and should tell you) is the precious thing in existence:

    Love.

    But I don't expect a concern for others to penetrate the shell of dogma some people muffle their hearts with. Some would rather the totem of a clearly unjust God depicted in an old book. If there is a loving God I suspect he would be ashamed of the words you wrote above coming from someone who claims to be his follower.

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  79. I left out a few qualifications because I wanted to see how you viewed slavery. You response tells me that you have the modern day view of slavery that looks back to the time of the civil war and what slavery was like in those days. If you take a look at the kind of slavery that was on the go in Old Testament times then you will find that the slavery of the last 200 odd years certainly does not follow the biblical model.

    You may wish to look at some biblical precedents which refer to things that were allowed in those times that Jesus spoke against in the New Testament. For example divorce. He made it clear that the only reason that it was allowed at the time was because of the “hardness of your hearts”. In other words there were a group who were so dead set on having divorce that God decided to set some rules to manage the problem.

    It would be very easy to conclude from this that God was more than likely dead set against slavery but obviously there were a group that were so strongly opposed to the idea of no slaves that He set some rules by which slaves could be had.

    If you take a look at the overall conditions under which slaves were had in those days you see that they were very different to modern times. In addition God gives the reason for these kinds of rules. He wanted them to remember how it felt when they were slaves in Egypt.

    If you think about it you will probably realise that you may be in support of slavery in some form in today's society. What about those criminals who as part of their sentence are sent off to hard labour. Would you be in support of that? And what about the millions of illegal immigrants that come into your country and work virtual slave wages? Would you rather have them do that or have them sent back home?

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  80. George -

    I'm curious, what is you position on genocide? That is sanctioned in the Bible. God specifically orders the utter annihilation of the Caananites (and others):

    "When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them." (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

    There are many examples of God ordering or enacting despicable evils, but this is perhaps one of the most famous - and grievous.

    To any sensible person I would imagine genocide counts as one of the blackest of crimes. And yet God orders it in the Bible. What are we to make of this? Are we to conclude that there are indeed atrocities sanctioned in the Bible, that it is morally backward or flawed, that it is not in fact inerrant? Or are we to start of with the ASSUMPTION that the Bible is completely good, true and infallible, and therefore work to defend absolutely anything it says, no matter how heinous?

    You apparently favour the latter. This is exemplified in your willingness to defend slavery rather than acknowledge the Bible as morally flawed. Slavery may well have been different in practise in Biblical times to the slavery of America 200 years ago, but it was still slavery - ownership of human beings. You truly believe this is morally defencible?

    Let us turn to the Bible to discover exactly how slaves could be treated:

    "When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, for the slave is his own property." (Exodus 21:20-21)

    So it's okay to beat your slave to death - as long as they linger a day or two before dying? Do you honestly not find this deplorable?

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  81. I'm curious, what is you position on genocide? That is sanctioned in the Bible. God specifically orders the utter annihilation of the Caananites (and others):

    "When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them." (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)


    God not only sanctioned genocide, He actually carried out some himself. Consider Noah's flood where a whole world of people were wiped out save eight. Then later on the cities of the plain of Sodom were wiped out with fire and brimstone. Then of course He does command them to wipe out these nations that you list. When you look at all the times that mass destruction of nations occurs you will also notice that reasons are given. The same occurs when one looks at the passage you quote. If one keeps reading one also finds a reason that God commands this to be done.

    If you were to think about it you would probably be in favour of genocide yourself under the right conditions. Eg. If you were to come across a nation full of active Nazi type people or a nation full of pedophiles and child abusers. You probably wouldn't bat an eyelid if someone were to go in and wipe them off the face of the earth. You might even volunteer to join in the fun. If it were a nation full of slaves and slave owners you would probably happily wipe out all the slave owners. And if you are in favour of abortion you are then saying that you want the right to be able to terminate an innocent life while denying God the right to do the same.

    There are many examples of God ordering or enacting despicable evils, but this is perhaps one of the most famous - and grievous.

    If you are in favour of any of the above examples then it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    To any sensible person I would imagine genocide counts as one of the blackest of crimes. And yet God orders it in the Bible. What are we to make of this?

    To answer this question you would need to consider under what conditions you would be prepared to wipe out a whole group of people. Maybe you would be prepared to wipe out a nation of people who think like myself, then what?

    Are we to conclude that there are indeed atrocities sanctioned in the Bible, that it is morally backward or flawed, that it is not in fact inerrant?

    By what standard do you claim that these are in fact actually atrocities? Especially when reasons are given as to why they are carried out? Could it be that your inability to accept what is done in the bible is an example of moral backwardness on your part?

    Or are we to start of with the ASSUMPTION that the Bible is completely good, true and infallible, and therefore work to defend absolutely anything it says, no matter how heinous?

    And who will be the adjudicator that determines whether what occurred in the bible is heinous?

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  82. Ritchie said

    You apparently favour the latter. This is exemplified in your willingness to defend slavery rather than acknowledge the Bible as morally flawed. Slavery may well have been different in practise in Biblical times to the slavery of America 200 years ago, but it was still slavery - ownership of human beings. You truly believe this is morally defencible?

    You have only looked at the fact of slavery but you have not researched the conditions of slavery except for the one where the slave is beaten within an inch of his life. Take a look at the rest of the conditions if you really want a serious discussion on whether it can be supported or not.

    So it's okay to beat your slave to death - as long as they linger a day or two before dying? Do you honestly not find this deplorable?

    Where did you get the idea from that we shouldn't be allowed to have slaves? Is it a moral thing? A cultural thing? Have you ever researched the history behind the abolition of slavery? I get the impression that you haven't.

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  83. George -

    "God not only sanctioned genocide, He actually carried out some himself. Consider Noah's flood where a whole world of people were wiped out save eight."

    Good point. But it seem you are adding fuel to MY argument here...

    "If you were to think about it you would probably be in favour of genocide yourself under the right conditions."

    I find it hard to believe that I am actually having to make this claim, but no, I do not approve of genocide under any circumstances.

    "Eg. If you were to come across a nation full of active Nazi type people or a nation full of pedophiles and child abusers."

    You are talking about capital punishment, which is a totally different subject. Executing a large number of people for heinous crimes of which they are guilty is ethically miles apart from cold-bloodedly killing people just because they happen to belong to a particular race, tribe, family, or political or religious group. It is bizarre and perverse to morally equate the two.

    If all the Canaanites et al were slaughtered (as it says they were), then that includes children and babies too. What crimes could they possibly have committed which merited a death sentence?

    It is ironic you mention the Nazis and apparently deem them worth of hate - wasn't genocide their chief crime? Why does it suddenly become morally acceptable when God does it?

    "To answer this question you would need to consider under what conditions you would be prepared to wipe out a whole group of people. Maybe you would be prepared to wipe out a nation of people who think like myself, then what?"

    I cannot imagine ever approving of genocide - unless for some bizarre reason I would save the lives of a greater number of people by doing it. How that would work exactly, I really can't imagine.

    Can this excuse be given to God in this case? Well the only reason He appears to want the Canaanites dead is that they happen to be living on land which He had in mind for His chosen people. That certinaly doesn't seem very good grounds to me. Besides which, He is God - He is all-knowing and all-powerful. Was he really incapable of removing the residents without slaughtering them all? Was there really no better solution for an omnipotent being? That, frankly, beggars belief. The only conclusion we can draw is that God approved of their slaughter and of sanctioning genocide. What does that say about Him? At the very least, it certainly sets a very dangerous precedent for his precious chosen people.

    "By what standard do you claim that these are in fact actually atrocities?"

    I try to follow a rather simple moralistic ethic - I try to do what will cause the least harm and greatest joy. Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you. It seems a worthy principle, and rarely steers me wrong. And it screams at me that genocide is a truly awful, despicable wrong. Imagine all the suffering it causes. I would not want to be murdered just because of my race, family or nationality. Would you?

    "Especially when reasons are given as to why they are carried out?"

    What kind of a reason is 'I want my people to live where you are living'?

    "And who will be the adjudicator that determines whether what occurred in the bible is heinous? "

    If you are playing that game, then we have no grounds to judge anything in the Bible as RIGHT either.

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  84. "You have only looked at the fact of slavery but you have not researched the conditions of slavery except for the one where the slave is beaten within an inch of his life. Take a look at the rest of the conditions if you really want a serious discussion on whether it can be supported or not."

    Exactly what is it about slavery in Biblical times which leads to you believe it is morally acceptable?

    "Where did you get the idea from that we shouldn't be allowed to have slaves? Is it a moral thing? A cultural thing?"

    Well our modern culture certainly does disapprove of it. The concept of freedom from oppression certainly does pervade western culture. But I disapprove of it personally too.

    I would not want to be a slave. I would have no (or extremely few) human rights, and my owner would be free to do with me exactly as he wished. My potential, my dreams, my future, my suffering, my whole life and even my death, would all count for nothing.

    "Have you ever researched the history behind the abolition of slavery? I get the impression that you haven't. "

    I don't pretend to be an expert, but I imagine I know more than you think I do.

    As a final point, I'd just like to ask - does it really not bother you at all that you are defending slavery and genocide as morally acceptable? If I ever found myself doing that, it'd be a big red flashing warning sign for me. It really should be a clue that you've gone wrong somewhere, surely? Frankly, with all due respect, I find it hard to accept that you truly believe the position you are taking here...

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  85. Ritchie

    Besides which, He is God - He is all-knowing and all-powerful. Was he really incapable of removing the residents without slaughtering them all? Was there really no better solution for an omnipotent being? That, frankly, beggars belief.

    I sure that he could have removed those people another way. The fact that He chose to do it the way He did for someone who is all knowing and all – powerful as you state tells us then that the way He did it was the best possible way.

    The only conclusion we can draw is that God approved of their slaughter and of sanctioning genocide. What does that say about Him?

    It says that He obviously knows something that we do not.

    I try to follow a rather simple moralistic ethic - I try to do what will cause the least harm and greatest joy. Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you. It seems a worthy principle, and rarely steers me wrong. And it screams at me that genocide is a truly awful, despicable wrong. Imagine all the suffering it causes. I would not want to be murdered just because of my race, family or nationality. Would you?

    I'm certain that God follows a similar kind of ethic. i.e. maximise the number of people that will come to Him and avoid destruction. The fact that He carries out these deeds tells me that He has determined that this is the best way to minimise harm to the rest of the people in the world. If you had a cancer in your body how many of those cancer cells would you be prepared to slaughter to ensure that it would not kill you?

    What kind of a reason is 'I want my people to live where you are living'?

    Certainly not the reason given in the bible for their removal.

    "And who will be the adjudicator that determines whether what occurred in the bible is heinous? "

    If you are playing that game, then we have no grounds to judge anything in the Bible as RIGHT either.


    You are more correct than you realise. The bible explicitly tells us that the scriptures are not for private interpretation. If we are to work out from the scriptures what is right and wrong we need directions from God Himself.

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  86. "I sure that he could have removed those people another way. The fact that He chose to do it the way He did for someone who is all knowing and all – powerful as you state tells us then that the way He did it was the best possible way."

    By slaughtering them all and setting a precedent for genocide? What could POSSIBLY have been a WORSE way?

    "It says that He obviously knows something that we do not."

    So God gives us a moral sense and the ability to judge actions as right or wrong, and then acts in a way which we would deem wrong? Isn't that like creating flawed beings and then punishing them for being flawed? Besides, if we really are ill-equipped/unable/unworthy to judge his actions as bad, then we must also be ill-equipeed/unable/unworthy to judge his actions as good and worthy of praise too.

    "I'm certain that God follows a similar kind of ethic. i.e. maximise the number of people that will come to Him and avoid destruction."

    That's not the same. God's goal here is to have everyone worship him and to ruthlessly kill anyone who doesn't. That's called bullying! And it's not much of a moral ethic.

    "The fact that He carries out these deeds tells me that He has determined that this is the best way to minimise harm to the rest of the people in the world."

    If He sanctions genocide, He clearly does not care very much about minimizing suffering at all.

    "If you had a cancer in your body how many of those cancer cells would you be prepared to slaughter to ensure that it would not kill you?"

    Unbelievers are a cancer on humanity? This is exactly the kind of hate that religion breeds - nurturing a sense of superiority over 'heathens' to the point where they are dehumanised and may even be killed. 9/11 anyone? It is genuinely frightening.

    Every human being's life has value - the same value. We are all human, and our lives are of equal worth. We are all capable of love, compassion, empathy - as well as the darker emotions. We may sometimes decide that certain individuals need to be removed from society - individuals who have proven by their own actions that they are a tangible danger to others around them. But to divide people up into in-groups and out-groups over something as arbitrary as lineage, religion or race and then decide certain groups are simply more worthy than others - and that certain groups may be slaughtered, is immoral, barbaric and wrong. And it does not help to then invoke the Nuremberg defence of 'We were just following orders', no matter who you think those orders come from.

    Were the Nazis right to purge the Jews like a cancer? It seems to me that if you truly believe what you are saying here, then you have no grounds on which to condemn the holocaust.

    "Certainly not the reason given in the bible for their removal."

    Really? Okay. If I've got that wrong, then please enlighten me. What reason does God give which justifies the genocide of the Canaanites et al?

    "The bible explicitly tells us that the scriptures are not for private interpretation. If we are to work out from the scriptures what is right and wrong we need directions from God Himself."

    But if we cannot judge God or his actions, then why should we follow his instruction? We might be following instructions to do evil. If we do not judge God, we would never know if we were. We are simply blindly obeying. Obeying an enitity we have no reason to believe is a good one.

    Effectively your argument boils down to 'God is good because He says He is'. It is a circular argument. An evil deity might lie and make the same claim.

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