CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Understanding that the Problem of Evil has already been addressed on the CADRE, I thought I would do a short exposition on the problem and how it proves to be more a problem for skeptics than for Theists.

Skeptics, often invoke this problem known as the “Problem of Evil”, as source of rejection of a divine being. The argument goes as so:

1.) The Divine Being is claimed to be All-Powerful (Omnipotent) and All-Good (Omnibenevolent).
2.) If the Divine Being is Omnipotent, It has the power to stop Evil.
3.) If the Divine Being is Omnibenevolent, then It wishes the greatest good for all creation.
4.) Evil exists
5.) Therefore, God does not have the power to stop evil and is not Omnipotent or God has the power to stop evil, but is not Omnibenevolent.


Though it does not follow from this argument that “God does not exist”, many skeptics tend to take that very route when using this argument. The question that remains is if this argument is truly sound. In the course of this article, I will be tackling this problem from multiple angles. Rationally and emotionally, this problem requires several different arguments together in order to provide an adequate rebuttal to the skeptics’ dilemma. This comprehensive argument will be presented as followed: (1) The Epistemological Necessity of Evil, (2) The Need for an Objective Standard of Morality, (3) The Afterlife Gives Meaning to the Concept of Justice, and (4) Free Will is Required.




(1) The Epistemological Necessity of Evil

First, it needs to be understood what “evil” actually is. Many people tend to give different answers to what they understand to be “evil”; however, most people tend to agree on what constitutes evil; Needless death, suffering, and pain tend to all be the first things mentioned when describing evil. While I may be partial to describing evil as those things that are opposed to God’s Will, this is not the universal definition accepted by all person’s, even if it includes the former things mentioned. For the sake of the argument, whenever I state the word “evil”, I only mean the three things mentioned earlier: Needless death, suffering, and pain. It should also go without saying that anyone who creates any of the following is performing an evil action.

So when a skeptic states that there is evil in this world or that there is too much evil in this world, and presents that as a case against a personal Deity (or any for that matter), how do they know evil exists? Does one need to be a rocket scientist to understand that there is evil in this world? Of course not, but the difficulty that I am about to present for the skeptic has nothing to do with intelligence, rather it has to do with opposites and a matter of realization and appreciation,. How does a person know or appreciate an object without knowing the properties that exist opposed to it? For instance, how could I know what heat was if I didn’t know cold? A skeptic might scoff at this idea and say, “Of course you can know what cold or heat was without experiencing the other!”, but to that I would disagree. Let us draw out a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say, that our planet only experienced a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit and that we humans never knew any other temperature below or above said degrees, would we then really believe there were such things as “cold” or “heat”? There would be no possible distinction, neither would there be any need to mention the degree of temperature at all, because there is nothing else to compare it to. Of course, this analogy can be challenged by merely stating that there are in fact differences in degrees on all parts of the planet, but as I stated earlier, this is purely a hypothetical situation and not reflective of reality. There are in fact distinctions in degrees, which allow us to measure and to also think things to either be cold or hot.

Now, let us change the analogy and mention God and creation. Let’s imagine for once that God created a world without any possibility of evil and that we humans never experienced or even knew what evil truly was. Would we then know what good was? Without an opposite, there would be no realization that what we are experiencing, in any way, good,. We would have no realization of good, all it would be would be a feeling that we have inherent within us just like the beating of our hearts or our intake of oxygen; completely and utterly ignored. Though it is a stretch to say that the beating of our hearts or oxygen intake are ignored, because often times they are not , in fear that it is beating too much or too little or that we are in-taking too much or too little, but this merely solidifies my point: even the slightest differences help to provide us with realization and appreciation of what we know.

The skeptic, hopefully not denying this obvious truth, may go on to say that distinctions are necessary, but that there is in fact too much evil in this world. While I can sympathize emotionally with this claim, I cannot take it very seriously because it is a rather empty statement. How do we truly know there is too much evil in this world or even just a little more than good? How do we measure that? Maybe there is too much evil in this world, but even then, how is that an argument against God? We have already concluded that evil is necessary epistemologically, so the claim that there is even a fraction of evil in this world, which disproves a Deity, falls flat on it’s face. For the irony is, in order to percieve and wish for good (a matter of appreciation), one must be able to perceive evil. So those that wish for a “perfect” world, would not recognize that it is perfect without first having experienced a world that is not perfect.

(2) The Need for an Objective Standard of Morality

Secondly, in order to claim that something is truly evil a person must be able to state so objectively. What I mean by objective is: Something that is outside of mere opinion and not self-affirmed. So when someone claims that something is “wrong” or “right”, it is wrong or right independent of that person thinking so. Subjectivism is contrary to objectivism in that it is purely within the limits of human opinion and nothing more. So when a skeptic believes that there is evil in this world (or too much of it), they must appeal to something outside of themselves in order for their beliefs to be true. Their feelings alone do not amount to a proper justification for these claims. If they were, my tastes in ice cream could very well amount to a moral choice no less good or bad than the Cambodian Killing Fields. So in order for a skeptic to say and believe there is “evil” in this world and have that be a truthful statement, he or she must believe that good and evil exists independently of his or her own feelings and are grounded in something beyond themselves. This standard, I would argue, is God: an immutable, personable Being that is beyond the Universe. Now, a skeptic may say that the ultimate standard need not be a Deity, but then I would question what else there possibly could be. The skeptic may go on to say something along the lines of a purely naturalistic source as being responsible for our existence and moral order. To this, I would believe raises more problems than it answers. The most common toted mechanism for morality among non-believers in God is evolutionary theory, which is used to argue that our morality (ordered behavior) adapted over time for the sake of our survival. The problems with this theory are numerous. For one, the claim that our morality is for the sake of survival is in and of itself a moral judgment. What is morally good about survival? It does not even seem to be ingrained within our biology, as many people seem to value more than their own survival, the survival of other people. Of course, an objection could be raised that biologically, we try to help the entire species survive and not simply ourselves. But wait, are we not too part of the species? So when a person kills another person, say, for money, how is that not part of survival of the species? We detest stealing so much, but we seem to believe that property itself it independent of human appeal. Similarly, we think the same way of human rights. We treat these special rules and conditions as being independent of human invention all together. How then, can they be part of this great scheme of survival?

Another problem is that there is no real value or purpose behind the morality we have if it is independent of a great mind or the product of indifferent motions working throughout the universe. If in fact, we are the product of this ‘chance machine”, then there is no true value or meaning behind even the slightest notion of differences between one behavior and the next. So when a skeptic says that something is wrong, he only means to say, “I don’t like it” or better yet, “I am genetically programmed to not like it.”

Another issue is that evolution does not provide us with an immutable standard of morality. If our morals changed over time, then they can change again. There is no law governing the status of these moral laws. Something that is considered morally good one day could very well be morally bad another day. Rape could be considered a good way to spread genes in the future, as it may have been in the past. Murder may be excusable for those that hold higher authority, etc (if it isn’t already). These naturalistic explanations are pitiless, purposeless, and ultimately indifferent to everything. It is a by-chance, arbitrary mechanism. It is not immutable.

Perhaps the greatest objection that a skeptic could give regarding appeal to a Deity is that such a Deity must also appeal to an objective standard in order to have any authority at all, but this is stretching the limits of what objectivity actually entails. Let us consider for a moment that God is subjective; would it follow logically that human morality is subjective? No. Human being are still appealing to something outside of themselves, therefore their morality is still objectively based. But if God is subjective, does this make our objective morality ultimately on a whim? I would argue that it does not. First, there is a difference between something being arbitrary and something being subjective. Humans tend to be both, in that they change their minds and morals constantly and only wish to appeal to their own intuitions. To be arbitrary, God would have to one day consider something like murder wrong and then the next, change it. This would ultimately destroy the status of a standard. In order for God to be a standard, He must be immutable. Could He be arbitrary and ultimately morality ceases to be anything valuable at all? Yes, it is a possibility, but not one conceded by a Theists, but it is conceded by a skeptic that morality is utlimately arbitrary.

Getting back to God’s subjectivity, does this imply there is no objective standard of morality? It has already been claimed that humans do not lose the objectivity, but it must be addressed that at some point, there can only be one ultimate standard. There has to be a point that cannot be superceded in order for standards to exist at all. If there were an infinite regress then there would never be any real standards because there would be an infinite chain of causation and infinite appeals to authority. So ultimately, there must be a final stopping point; a necessary thing or Being. This, I argue is God. How can the standard appeal to anything other than itself? It cannot if it is the ultimate standard. At some point, justifications must end in order for there to be any sort of justification at all. This is only rational.

So in order for the skeptic to rationally believe there to be an absolute evil or an absolute good, he or she must appeal to an objective standard that makes these two things possible: a personal, immutable Being.


(3) The Afterlife Gives Meaning to the Concept of Justice

Thirdly, for there to be any concept of justice in this world, one must believe in an ultimate Law Giver, Judge, and ability for that Justice to be given. What I mean by justice is: the proper ordering of rewards and punishments for good doings and wrong doings.

When people do evil or experience evil, they believe to have been done an injustice. In fact, evil and injustice are two concepts that go hand in hand. No one thinks evil to be a good thing, for it would be a contradiction in terms and ideas. When people are dealt evil, they do not consider the action or the experience a justified one, for that too would be a contradiction of the term “evil”. Justice, by its very nature, is a requirement against evil; it is the remedy of evil and is identical in many ways to what we consider good. I would argue, that the very concept of justice relies on the idea that there is an objective standard of morality, which is founded in an Ultimate Being as argued previously. Not only that, but an afterlife is also required for the concept to even mean anything at all. When a skeptic rejects an afterlife, saying that in the end there is nothing, but death, he or she also rejects the concept of justice. Let us take for instance, the act of murder. How is murder an unjust act towards the victim? The skeptic might say that it is unjust in that it was not the victims’ choice to die so soon or to have his or her life robbed of them. But isn’t this assuming that the victim actually realizes or cares that this is an injustice? If the person is dead and there is nothing left of them, how do they perceive this as anything at all? It doesn’t seem possible to have this be an injustice if personal identity has been stripped away from them at death. Further, it doesn’t seem possible to have justice without appeal to a standard that is not simply within the opinions of human beings. One could say that it is more of an injustice to the living persons of humanity as a whole and not the victim themselves, but then human value is no longer intrinsic. Human rights are merely something people agree on and hope that another group of humans doesn’t take away by force. If someone didn’t love the poor old beggar that was murdered under the bridge, then his or her life means absolutely nothing. And even if one person loved that beggar it really is all still meaningless because that person’s life really had no value at all; it is based on the mere feelings of another person, which is no different than every other person’s feeling on the planet, especially those of the person that kills the old beggar under the bridge.

The Afterlife, then, gives the opportunity for ultimate justice to prevail. It allows for there to be yet another time where evil will be dealt with and the murdered to be recompensed. It gives value to human life and true meaning to death and suffering.


(4) Free Will is Required

Fourth, Free Will is necessary for there to be any significance between the choices of good and evil at all, as well as for there to be any acts of justice or injustice. Free Will is defined as: The ability to choose freely between one choice or the other. Naturally, previous things cause all of our choices. Our choices, however, are not forced by these causes. The causes themselves, whether they be upbringing, environment, etc. are all free agents in and of themselves that can be opposed. In some sense, there is no complete free will. We are limited to the choices we make and to some extent, how we make those choices, but the point is that we can still make choices. In order to combat a purely deterministic point of view, I would bring up the fact that at some point in our ability to make choices, there is always a state of limbo. This “limbo”, is the state of hesitation. Arguably, if our choices were all determined, it would appear that this state of limbo would not exists, as one choice would already been predetermined over the other before that choice was made. It would be needless, to say in the least, for there to be a point of hesitation at all. And what a determinists cannot have in their world are needless choices. Every choice, must in fact be a necessity of a previous cause that cannot be undermined or even considered to be undermined if it is already stronger than any cause that preceded it. Now, one would be hopeful that a skeptic would believe that we have Free Will, but it seems difficult to assume that we have Free Will in a purposelessly determined universe, as exemplified in the appeal to evolutionary ethics. In essence, our genes rule who we are, and there are no “good” or “bad” genes. Our actions are ultimately determined by our biological makeup and our natural surroundings. Free will, much like human rights and a Deity to a hard line skeptics’ eye, are mere illusions. Without the ability to choose freely between one choice and the other, however, evil and good lose their significance as well. If we cannot choose between two things, then have we really committed any good or evil decisions and actions? Is a criminal truly responsible for their crimes of injustice if they did not choose to do so freely, and does justice even still carry any such meaning after the individual has been robbed of their choice to commit it?




In Conclusion


I feel that these issues are far more troublesome for the skeptic than they are for any Theists. If a skeptic is to affirm that there is evil in this world and that it is a problem for belief in God, then they must, ironically, confess that there is a necessity to know that evil in order for them to even ever consider it a problem. Likewise, they must know evil to truly appreciate what good is. Further, I feel that morality expressed by most non-Theists is ultimately self refuting, if not, completely meaningless. Perhaps the Problem of Evil is indeed a problem, but for those that do not affirm a Theistic worldview, the problem of evil is no problem at all, much less anything worth caring about. It could be argued there is no Problem of Good either.

47 comments:

'The Afterlife, then, gives the opportunity for ultimate justice to prevail.'

Thank God I am going to Heaven because some people have been nasty to me and God will even out that injustice.

It always amazes me how Steven can say things like the foregoing which so obviously misses the point while not adding anything substantial to the conversation. I mean, is he trying to throw out non-sensical non-sequiturs?

Yeah, I don't understand what Steven was even trying to get at with that comment...

The author was claiming that the afterlife gives opportunity for justice to prevail.

In other words, everybody will be punished for their sins, and Christians will not be let off scotfree.

In other words, everybody will be punished for their sins, and Christians will not be let off scotfree.

Um . . . I don't see how anyone with a basic understanding of Christianity could say such a thing. I mean, you have heard of the whole substitutionary sacrifice thing, haven't you?

So, if not everybody will be punished for their sins...how is that justice? It's merciful, perhaps, but it's not just. Gandhi boiling in hell for being a good person who heard and didn't have faith that Jesus was his lord and savior, while a faith-filled, righteous and thoroughly abhorent person like Jerry Falwell (who I've was told by a Christian on another blog, with a sigh, did get the good ending) basks in the heavenly glow of the one true version of the one true god...is neither just nor merciful. It grossly distorts and tears out the very heart of words like justice and mercy. Indeed, it makes them the antithesis of what they are.

So, if not everybody will be punished for their sins...how is that justice? It's merciful, perhaps, but it's not just. Gandhi boiling in hell for being a good person who heard and didn't have faith that Jesus was his lord and savior, while a faith-filled, righteous and thoroughly abhorent person like Jerry Falwell (who I've was told by a Christian on another blog, with a sigh, did get the good ending) basks in the heavenly glow of the one true version of the one true god...is neither just nor merciful. It grossly distorts and tears out the very heart of words like justice and mercy. Indeed, it makes them the antithesis of what they are.


First, I just want to comment that there is more to my article here than merely the portion about the Afterlife and Justice. The primary context of this entire article was to point out difficulties for the skeptic, not to give a full argument for the Problem of Evil and it's solution. Perhaps I should have made that more clear, but I thought I did.

Secondly, in regards to your statements, I feel you are being overly simplistic or are distorting the message of Christianity and it's interpretation of justice. You seem to believe that people like Ghandi will be getting a sort of punishment for not believing, whereas, Jerry Falwell, a very hateful man will not be simply because he professed to believe in Christ.

The message of Christianity does not simply say "believe" and you're off to Heaven. The Biblical Documents very explicitly, through the records of Jesus own speeches etc., state that there will always be hypocrites in the faith; people who profess His name, but do otherwise. Anyone can call themselves a Christian, but whether they are or not is a totally different story. Likewise, people who do not call themselves Christian may be granted the mercy of God.

I believe that God is a perfect Judge, therefore people like Ghandi will make His favor. His heart was witness to this. I may be wrong, but this is my opinion, much like my opinion is that Jerry Falwell will not be making it.

Another part of the Christian message is that we are not to judge in respect to people's destinations. I do not know if person A will make it or person B will not. I cannot make that decision. I don't know. So I can only guess and keep it to myself.

Further, the Christian message is fully of justice and mercy, in that by redeeming oneself through the sacrifice of Christ, the punishments afforded to them are relinquished, for Christ has already taken the punishment for us. Justice is still served and so is its outcome.

What is Justice also without it's redeeming qualities? But that is a totally different question all-together and may lead us to other discussions, like what actually happens in or after Hell. That is not the point of this article, though, which I hope you see.

"The skeptic...may go on to say that distinctions are necessary, but that there is in fact too much evil in this world."
Not necessary. One baby with half a brain or one three year-old with cancer is enough. The POE (more a problem of suffering, really) doesn't disprove a deity, IMO, it just casts doubt on its 3-O'd nature. And, no, "He works in mysterious ways" is not an answer. It's "I don't know, but I'm going to assume that there's a good reason why God wants my child to suffer", wrapped in language that doesn't make it sound so empty.

"If they were, my tastes in ice cream could very well amount to a moral choice no less good or bad than the Cambodian Killing Fields."
If you honestly believe that, then for God's sake keep your religion. While we (and I use the term loosely) believe that morality has and does vary (and potentially, therefore, could take a step back, depending on environmental and social pressures), that doesn't mean that I'd wake up tomorrow and start cracking heads. The morality of 5th century BC in Palestine was very different from ours, as was 7th century AD Arabia different compared to, say, feudal Japan. That being said, however, I don't consider myself a moral relativist. I believe that the best morality causes the least harm (and that what worked "then" doesn't necessarily work "now"). Sharia, for instance, actively disenfranchises women and leads to their abuse and suffering. As such, it is wrong. Some of the Ten Commandments (the first four), if that version of theonomy were to take hold (Biblical law is such a plastic concept: some see the big ten, others, most of the mitzvahs, others still, just use Jesus' compressed ten of love God and love thine neighbour) would also actively disenfranchise a significant minority of the population (which is why they don't belong on the courthouse steps), and, therefore, is wrong (however well intentioned its advocates may be).

"It does not even seem to be ingrained within our biology, as many people seem to value more than their own survival, the survival of other people."
It's not my survival, nor is it yours. It's our survival. Our recent ancestors, lacking tooth and claw, needed to band together to survive. Thanks to our beefy brains and and thumbs, we were the first to both make and improve tools, an pass complicated instructions to each other via language. The tribe was (and is) important because the man you help today will do the same for you in return tomorrow. Your pain is their's and their's, your's. Your spear protects more than just you.

"These naturalistic explanations are pitiless, purposeless, and ultimately indifferent to everything. It is a by-chance, arbitrary mechanism. It is not immutable."
Hardly. Nature is "pitiless, purposeless, and ultimately indifferent to everything", man isn't. Neither is morality by-chance nor arbitrary (again, different pressure result in different concepts of morality. This can be problematic, as societal morality lags behind environmental changes, hence Sharia and "quiverfull" families in the 21st century).

''"To be arbitrary, God would have to one day consider something like murder wrong and then the next, change it"''
How about "Thou shall not kill", except for those Canaanites, and those guys worshiping a Golden Calf, and that guy picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Even writ with murder instead of kill, these are all murders. How about Deut24:16 vs Isa14:21, et al? I realize that apologists are at an advantage here, having had several thousand years to make the text not say what it says, but when Moses says "Thou shalt not kill", then some 3,000 people are killed at his command...well, something's up, there (yes, I have heard that earlier commandments supercede later ones, so "Do not worship any other Gods" takes precedence over "Stop stabbing that guy", it doesn't make the odd juxtaposition between His love and His wrath any less severe). How about telling the Pharaoh that he can't keep Jewish slaves, then giving the Hebrews rules on how to treat theirs?

"First, I just want to comment that there is more to my article here than merely the portion about the Afterlife and Justice."
But if ultimate justice isn't just, what is it? That it appears you don't believe that Falwell is in heaven is a step in the right direction ("by his fruits", as it were), but the scriptural support for Gandhi burning in hell is far stronger that the support for the opposite of that (John3:18 is pretty clear, I think. Also, the numerous passages that indicate that good works without faith is not enough).

"Likewise, people who do not call themselves Christian may be granted the mercy of God."
Yes, if they didn't hear God's word, they get judged based on works (the relevant passage escapes me at the moment). Gandhi, like Einstein and the deist member of the Fathers of Confederation, however, heard and did not follow.

"Another part of the Christian message is that we are not to judge in respect to people's destinations."
Can you spread the word? If I hear Pascal's wager (modified to "when you die you'll see how right I was", or somesuch) one more time...

"...in that by redeeming oneself through the sacrifice of Christ, the punishments afforded to them are relinquished, for Christ has already taken the punishment for us. Justice is still served and so is its outcome."
So, if you kill a guy, and I take your place in jail, is justice served? Is God sacrificing (but not really) himself to protect you from the hell that he made for you mercy, or is it extortion?

M
'Likewise, people who do not call themselves Christian may be granted the mercy of God.'

CARR
This is what I said at the start.

If somebody sins against me, then I will get to Heaven, as God will make sure that justice has prevailed.

It is a one-size-fits-all justice, where you either go to Hell or go to Heaven.

There are only 2 alternatives, and natural justice says I will go to Heaven as I am a good person, who does not deserve Hell.


Not necessary. One baby with half a brain or one three year-old with cancer is enough. The POE (more a problem of suffering, really) doesn't disprove a deity, IMO, it just casts doubt on its 3-O'd nature.


Yes, it does cast doubt, but I don't think it ultimately refutes the three Divine attributes.

And, no, "He works in mysterious ways" is not an answer. It's "I don't know, but I'm going to assume that there's a good reason why God wants my child to suffer", wrapped in language that doesn't make it sound so empty.

I was never thinking of making that an answer to begin with...so I don't even know why you bothered to mention it.


If you honestly believe that, then for God's sake keep your religion. While we (and I use the term loosely) believe that morality has and does vary (and potentially, therefore, could take a step back, depending on environmental and social pressures), that doesn't mean that I'd wake up tomorrow and start cracking heads. The morality of 5th century BC in Palestine was very different from ours, as was 7th century AD Arabia different compared to, say, feudal Japan. That being said, however, I don't consider myself a moral relativist. I believe that the best morality causes the least harm (and that what worked "then" doesn't necessarily work "now"). Sharia, for instance, actively disenfranchises women and leads to their abuse and suffering. As such, it is wrong. Some of the Ten Commandments (the first four), if that version of theonomy were to take hold (Biblical law is such a plastic concept: some see the big ten, others, most of the mitzvahs, others still, just use Jesus' compressed ten of love God and love thine neighbour) would also actively disenfranchise a significant minority of the population (which is why they don't belong on the courthouse steps), and, therefore, is wrong (however well intentioned its advocates may be).


But you see, you really haven't refuted anything I've said. All you've offered is yet another opinion without pointing to any standard other than yourself and current societal consensus (the society you live in). What makes your morality better than 5th century B.C. morality other than the fact that you feel like it's better? While I may agree with you that beating women and torturing small animals is bad, if there is no other way to justify it other than by how we feel, then there really is no justification whatsoever.

Our morals are therefore purely irrational and take no steps forward or backwards. The distinctions are irrelevant. And yes, I do believe as I do because I believe emotional outrage needs a rational basis, not just what you think is icky.


It's not my survival, nor is it yours. It's our survival. Our recent ancestors, lacking tooth and claw, needed to band together to survive. Thanks to our beefy brains and and thumbs, we were the first to both make and improve tools, an pass complicated instructions to each other via language. The tribe was (and is) important because the man you help today will do the same for you in return tomorrow. Your pain is their's and their's, your's. Your spear protects more than just you.


I already addressed this mentality in my article above. Human behavior contradicts this notion at its most basic levels, as there are people that act completely contrary to this ideal and the very nature of altruism does not show any signs of "selfishness for the species". For instance, when I protect someone else from harm, I am endangering myself. Logically then, I am harming the species, especially if my strength to save that weaker individual is sacrificed in the process.

Natural selections primary "purpose" (if you can call it that), is survival of the species on the genetic level. So, the survival of the species ultimately rests on the fact that certain, weaker individuals are killed off and the ones better to adapt survive. This is within and outside of species; the law never changes.

So, by this fact, human beings defy the law of natural selection in that they keep the weak alive. What I mean by "weak"--in a purely Darwinian sense, mind you-- are people that cannot reproduce, people that have birth defects, or disabiling genetic mutations (downs syndrome is a good example). By keeping these people alive and allowing them to reproduce (with the exception of the ones that cannot reproduce) we not only waste our resources, but we allow for more defects in the future.

So in essence, the type of altruism that humans practice seems more detrimental to the species than it does to help it. Let's not even get into other issues, like condom use and abortion either. These are in fact, detrimental to the species as well, or a type in the species. We can already see this in Europe. I'm sure you and others have already mustered up the courage to exchange the idea that all the "inferior" people's (i.e. Muslims) are breeding faster than the superior ones in Europe as it is. I guess contraceptives and the veneration of sexual pleasures hasn't been helping much, has it?


Hardly. Nature is "pitiless, purposeless, and ultimately indifferent to everything", man isn't. Neither is morality by-chance nor arbitrary (again, different pressure result in different concepts of morality. This can be problematic, as societal morality lags behind environmental changes, hence Sharia and "quiverfull" families in the 21st century).

What is your objective standard for this changeless morality? You have yet to provide one.


How about "Thou shall not kill", except for those Canaanites, and those guys worshiping a Golden Calf, and that guy picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Even writ with murder instead of kill, these are all murders.


It's good you made the distinction here. Now, what is the difference between murder and killing? Would you agree that Murder is "unjust killing" while killing is a just way of taking life?

How about Deut24:16 vs Isa14:21, et al? I realize that apologists are at an advantage here, having had several thousand years to make the text not say what it says

Poisoning the Well.

The only reason we have an advantage is because, unlike most skeptics and former Christians, we actually study up on the ancient cultures and the ancient languages behind the text. We don't just look at it in English and go "it says what it says!"


, but when Moses says "Thou shalt not kill", then some 3,000 people are killed at his command...well, something's up, there (yes, I have heard that earlier commandments supercede later ones, so "Do not worship any other Gods" takes precedence over "Stop stabbing that guy", it doesn't make the odd juxtaposition between His love and His wrath any less severe).

Well, I find the explanation you gave rather simplistic and not how I would approach it. Further, I would ask you, how do you believe that Moses command to kill some of these people was not in fact a JUST action?

Can you give me an adequate reason or are you just going to pick parts that make you feel icky inside and say "that's wrong!"?



How about telling the Pharaoh that he can't keep Jewish slaves, then giving the Hebrews rules on how to treat theirs?

I thought you understood these times? I guess not. God was never against slavery in particular contexts. There is nothing wrong with slavery persay. People always hear the word "slavery" and then it automatically triggers a response--"Immoral". The problem is that slavery is merely defined as the forcing or non-forcing of a person to do labor. That's it. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with slavery by definition.

In the Hebrew context, prison would be considered slavery (in fact they used it as such back then as well). Community service, as we have it today, would have been considered "slavery".

The reason people have such a stigma against slavery in general is because they only hear the bad sides of it, such as Southern Slavery in the United States. Much of that slavery, if not all, was rather unjustified and immoral in how it treated people. There were many forms of slavery in the ANE that were not of this sort and were actually welcoming options to many back then, with no harsh consequences involved.

The Pharoah was basically torturing the Israelites and forcing them without any just reason to work under him. The slaves within Israel had many rights: they couldn't be severely beaten (much less flogged without good reason), they couldn't be sold unjustly, they couldn't be forced to work unless if they committed a crime or were prisoners of war, they had to be given rest days, most of them within Israel had to be let go of with no exceptions after a certain period of time, etc. etc.

There were many laws against abuse, period. And I do hope that if you plan to cite incidents of "beating a slave to death" or "sex slavery" that you know what you are getting into. I have seen many skeptics bring up these accusations and particular passages without knowing the background behind them. If you are learned in ANE culture you won't think those passages as you believe. I do hope it isn't your intention. I and many other CADRE members here will only show that we are rather learned on the subject matter.

Of course, though, if you are not interested in learning you will simply say we are making things up to cover the obvious; no doubt this is a common tactic.

Let's hope you prove us otherwise.




But if ultimate justice isn't just, what is it?


It isn't justice. What's the point of this question?

That it appears you don't believe that Falwell is in heaven is a step in the right direction ("by his fruits", as it were), but the scriptural support for Gandhi burning in hell is far stronger that the support for the opposite of that (John3:18 is pretty clear, I think. Also, the numerous passages that indicate that good works without faith is not enough).

"Step in the right direction"? Now, I don't mind that you are skeptical and all that, but I find this a wee bit condescending, moreso than whatever else you have stated thus far. There's no need to speak down to us. Perhaps you have run into some average Christians with very little knowledge of their faith, but I highly suggests you don't come in here with that same attitude.

As for the John passage, it is Jesus speaking to a crowd. I don't think there is anything explicitly pointing out that people all over the world at the time that dont' believe in Him will suffer or something. He even goes on to say: "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

So unless you believe that Jesus is implying that people that are ignorant of Him or ignorant of how to come to Him are haters of Light and do evil deeds, then I think it is you who is reading much more into this passage than myself.


Yes, if they didn't hear God's word, they get judged based on works (the relevant passage escapes me at the moment).


So then you agree with the interpretation of the John passage I gave above? So then why did you challenge me with that passage?

Gandhi, like Einstein and the deist member of the Fathers of Confederation, however, heard and did not follow.

Yes, but is it merely hearing that is enough? I don't think you can gather all of Christian Theology together or any passage to truly back that claim.


Can you spread the word? If I hear Pascal's wager (modified to "when you die you'll see how right I was", or somesuch) one more time...


There are many of us already. Further, Pascal's wager is simply a statistical synopsis of possible benefits or consequences of particular beliefs (more along a practical sense).

It's an interesting wager, but it wasn't Pascal's only way of presuading people. I think that Christian that tend to use this argument don't really think it through very well. It's not a good way for someone to choose the faith, IMO, but it's intention is not really to suppose that you are going to Heaven or Hell automatically simply because you accept the wager.


So, if you kill a guy, and I take your place in jail, is justice served?


Well, considering that you can't go to jail for me (seeing as you are unable to take away my sins or my crimes from me), I would say no. But let us say, hypothetically, just for the sake of speaking about justice here, that you could.

If I stopped killing people and reformed because you sacrificed yourself for me...then yes, I would say that it is just that I am still out on the streets. My debt has been paid through you and I have been forgiven and have reformed.

Had I not...then no, I would not consider it just that I am not in jail.

Is God sacrificing (but not really) himself to protect you from the hell that he made for you mercy, or is it extortion?

Well, I think you're speaking of Hell as some sort of place. I'm Eastern Orthodox, and we don't see Hell as a "place". We see Hell as a situation or a status of a person's Resurrection.

Hell is a state of being where, in the Resurrection, a person has to spend eternity (or perhaps just a long time, depending on the context of the word "aionios") with God, even though they don't want to. When the Resurrection occurs, all of humanity will be rebirthed on Earth, where they will be in the presence of God. Those that chose God and tried to be in His favor will not feel the pain of His presence, whereas the wicked will.

Whatever happens after that...we don't honestly know. Some Eastern Fathers have thought of eternal damnation, some anihilation, and others of unversal salvation. It hasn't been revealed to us.


God coming down to His creation is a natural consequence or benefit for mankind and cannot be avoided, much like death. God sacrificing Himself for the world so that we may not be punished is an act of mercy for the sake of our reformation. We can either accept this act of mercy and reform ourselves, or we can be judged for our crimes.

But since He is the Ultimate Judge, no one else truly has the right to judge us other than Himself (at least in the final judgement).




I hope I've answered your questions and I do hope you bring up some more questions. I also hope you do not believe I or anyone else to be trying to trick you or lying to you. We aren't in that sort of business here. We, here at the CADRE, have studied our faith for some time and we understand issues with our Faith as well as some problems, but through study we have found resolution. That is why we are still Christians. You may believe we have not taken this venture rationally, but I would beg to differ and I feel that would be underestimating the intellectual power of this particular religious movement.

There are many Christians that are ignorant of their Faith and that is not to be denied, but not all of us are like that. I do hope you continue to ask questions with this point in mind and try to take us a bit more seriously.

Thank you and Merry Christmas.

CARR
This is what I said at the start.

If somebody sins against me, then I will get to Heaven, as God will make sure that justice has prevailed.

It is a one-size-fits-all justice, where you either go to Hell or go to Heaven.

There are only 2 alternatives, and natural justice says I will go to Heaven as I am a good person, who does not deserve Hell.


Perhaps, though I do not know whether you will be in God's favor or not Mr. Carr.

But I can say that simply because someone has sinned against you, does not automatically imply that you will be recieving Heaven. I don't think it is that simple.

That's why I don't ever wonder who is really going or not. I have opinions, but I never state them as facts. I very well could be in Hell someday. And the way I view myself, I do believe that is a big possibility.


As I stated before, the primary point of the afterlife objection is that if there is no afterlife, then a person who is murdered ultimately has not recieved an injustice, because they don't realize it is an injustice. And if an injustice is only so because it is percieved by others as being one, then the value of that person's life is souly dependant on those other people, who's feelings are no different than the person who murdered the victim.

Oh, and I would like to see your comments on other portions of my article as well, Mr. Carr.

Merry Christmas.

"I'm sure you and others have already mustered up the courage to exchange the idea that all the "inferior" people's (i.e. Muslims) are breeding faster than the superior ones in Europe as it is. I guess contraceptives and the veneration of sexual pleasures hasn't been helping much, has it?"
That's more a question of poverty, as far as I know. Much as our recent past (as close as our grandparents) generations had larger families, and started them earlier, theirs' are the same. I doubt it helps that there are groups that don't want or try to integrate, and others that don't want "them" to integrate, thus keeping them a separate (and cheap) source of labour.

"What is your objective standard for this changeless morality?"
I don't think there is one. There may be an ideal morality, but our blind spots will always be a hindrance. Jefferson, for example, probably considered himself pretty close to the ideal while he wrote "...all men are created equal" for the Declaration of Independence...then he'd go home to his wife (his property) and his slaves (also his property).

"Would you agree that Murder is "unjust killing" while killing is a just way of taking life?"
Okay. The definitine of "Just", however, has changed.

"Poisoning the Well."
Hardly. "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin." and "Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers" are mutually exclusive. It's one rule for group A, and another for group B.
Whenever I run across a sticky or cryptic passage I generally run to to see how other translations read, and how various commentaries handle it. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, in particular, wanders from excellent commentary to completely avoiding whatever the passage was talking about.

"Well, I find the explanation you gave rather simplistic and not how I would approach it."
I may have misspoke. A googling fails to locate the reference I thought I remembered...my apologies.

"how do you believe that Moses command to kill some of these people was not in fact a JUST action?"
Killing 3,000 people for wandering to the wrong god? No. It helped keep the Israelites as one, if that's what you mean. But why wasn't Aaron, the ringleader, included in that number?

"Can you give me an adequate reason or are you just going to pick parts that make you feel icky inside and say "that's wrong!"
Adequate reason? The absolutes aren't all that absolute. Ones frequently supercede others (with the notable exception of the first commandment, which is paramount).
They don't make me feel icky, just sad that this is the best we could do at the time, and that's God's chosen aren't much better than their neighbours.

"There were many forms of slavery in the ANE that were not of this sort and were actually welcoming options to many back then, with no harsh consequences involved." & "The slaves within Israel had many rights: they couldn't be severely beaten"
Yes and no (or, at best, sort of). While I have no issue with non-generational, voluntary indentured servitude (a necessary social structure at the time), generational slavery is the opposite of that. As for "they could not be severely beaten", that depends on your definition of severely.

"The Pharoah was basically torturing the Israelites and forcing them without any just reason to work under him."
Really? His god, himself, told him to build a pyramid or two, and he, himself, gave himself rules for treating his servants. Okay, my tongue was in-cheek there.
From what little we know about that era, what is believed and what happened could be two quite different things,
Ramses II (scroll down to "Ramses - the Exodus and the canal").

"but I find this a wee bit condescending...There's no need to speak down to us."
Unintended. I'm a bit bitter about Falwell. That someone that spiteful could have the ear of Presidents scares the hell out of me. That anyone listened to him at all makes me sad.

"I don't think there is anything explicitly pointing out that people all over the world at the time that dont' believe in Him will suffer or something"
Indeed, but people all over the world hadn't heard of him at the time (and would be judged on their works). For those who have heard the word, however, deeds are not enough.

My point was, and is, that Gandi, good as he was, heard and did not believe. No faith, no grace.

"Yes, but is it merely hearing that is enough? I don't think you can gather all of Christian Theology together or any passage to truly back that claim."
I don't think I can, either. Several positions can be satisfied with various passages. Even denominations (knowledgeable about these things, I should think) disagree, not to mention the variance between the works/faith of the RC and 'sola fide' of the Protestants.

"It's an interesting wager, but it wasn't Pascal's only way of presuading people."
Yes, it is an interesting tale. Unfortunately the version that most people seem to know so pared down as to bear little resemblance to the original, if memory serves.

"Well, considering that you can't go to jail for me...et al"
Ah, yes, that "reform" part is the critical bit. It's also the bit missing from substitutionary atonement. The whole point is that you aren't better, you're still you.

"We, here at the CADRE, have studied our faith for some time..."
You have no idea how glad I am to hear some one say that. It doesn't work by osmosis, as is illustrated by those to carry a Bible in hand at all times while saying things that would make baby Jesus cry (the Gospel of Prosperity? He'd be spinning in his grave when he heard about that, if he was still there).

"There are many Christians that are ignorant of their Faith and that is not to be denied, but not all of us are like that. I do hope you continue to ask questions with this point in mind and try to take us a bit more seriously."
I'm trying. There are also atheists who are just ignorant. I can't apologize for them, as I'm not their spokesman, but I try not to be a jerk. Keep it mind that we tend to be more literal than the literalists with the Bible (indeed, with any holy text). Take from that what you will.

"Thank you and Merry Christmas."
A Merry Christmas to you, too.

Wups. I forgot to close a link. Darn you, interweb! /me shakes fist at keyboard.

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This comment has been removed by the author.

Modus,

Thanks for waiting for my response. I hope your Christmas went well.

That's more a question of poverty, as far as I know. Much as our recent past (as close as our grandparents) generations had larger families, and started them earlier, theirs' are the same. I doubt it helps that there are groups that don't want or try to integrate, and others that don't want "them" to integrate, thus keeping them a separate (and cheap) source of labour.


It does seem that the less advantage groups are following the Darwinian paradigm far better, though, which is to say in the least, rather contrary to how the species should be acting in general.


I don't think there is one. There may be an ideal morality, but our blind spots will always be a hindrance. Jefferson, for example, probably considered himself pretty close to the ideal while he wrote "...all men are created equal" for the Declaration of Independence...then he'd go home to his wife (his property) and his slaves (also his property).


So you recognize that there may in fact be an objective source for morality?


Okay. The definitine of "Just", however, has changed.


How so?

Hardly. "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin." and "Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers" are mutually exclusive. It's one rule for group A, and another for group B.
Whenever I run across a sticky or cryptic passage I generally run to to see how other translations read, and how various commentaries handle it. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, in particular, wanders from excellent commentary to completely avoiding whatever the passage was talking about.


I usually don't use any popular commentaries like the Matthew Henry. An NASB Study Bible is usually good for explaining passages, however.


I may have misspoke. A googling fails to locate the reference I thought I remembered...my apologies.


No need to apologize.


Killing 3,000 people for wandering to the wrong god? No. It helped keep the Israelites as one, if that's what you mean. But why wasn't Aaron, the ringleader, included in that number?


I think that it was perfectly just in that this God had also just recently led them out of an opressive slavery as well as allowed them to live. The conditions were that they either go along with God in surviving and becoming a great nation or they die by themselves. It doesn't seem unjust to me that God would kill these Israelites because of their blasphemy. Christian theology still views God in that light, but His judgement will not be enacted till later (i.e. Second Coming).

Also note, that God gives and takes life everyday. I don't know how God taking life in general is not a just thing.


Adequate reason? The absolutes aren't all that absolute. Ones frequently supercede others (with the notable exception of the first commandment, which is paramount).
They don't make me feel icky, just sad that this is the best we could do at the time, and that's God's chosen aren't much better than their neighbours.


They weren't much better than their neighbors; you're correct. Only God was good and still is. The Israelites were a very stubborn and very rebelious people, all the way up to the time of Christ. The reason that Israel was chosen was due to a promise (Abram) and for future generations to gain from them. They certainly weren't chosen for being morally superior to anyone. The Law from Mt. Sinai should prove well enough that they needed instructions.

What I'm asking, however, is where you gather your absolutes or "semi" absolutes from.


Yes and no (or, at best, sort of). While I have no issue with non-generational, voluntary indentured servitude (a necessary social structure at the time), generational slavery is the opposite of that. As for "they could not be severely beaten", that depends on your definition of severely.

General slavery was often only practiced to contain criminals of war or common ones. Foreign slaves were an exception in that they were taken from other countries, but it was actually a rarity and mainly constituted house labor. Gentiles were also permitted to become Israelites, which granted them even more rights. I can point you towards some really good articles on the matter if you'd like.

As for not being beaten severely, there were restrictions to how much they could be flogged. The mere busting of a tooth or the injuring of an eye granted slaves freedom. Even free men were beaten for crimes and they could not be similarly abused.

I can also point you to a good article about that as well, if you're interested.


Really? His god, himself, told him to build a pyramid or two, and he, himself, gave himself rules for treating his servants. Okay, my tongue was in-cheek there.


Certainly, but that's if his God actually exist. If we wish to stay in context of the Christian/Judaic concept of God, Pharoah's god did not exist.


From what little we know about that era, what is believed and what happened could be two quite different things, Ramses II (scroll down to "Ramses - the Exodus and the canal").


You are correct. It could be. But I do believe that recent Archeological discoveries have found scrolls that show transactions of slave trade heavy within Eygpt, as well as those perhaps fitting Jewish descent.

I'll have to find that for you as well--once again--if you're interested.


Unintended. I'm a bit bitter about Falwell. That someone that spiteful could have the ear of Presidents scares the hell out of me. That anyone listened to him at all makes me sad.


I feel sad as well and angry, however, we must love our enemies. Hatred for another person hurts us more than it does them. I'm not saying you hated him persay, but anger can lead to such. You don't have to heed my warning, but I do hope it sticks.

That is why many Christians were upset at Christopher Hitchens comments towards Falwell. We understood he was a bad person and all, but all life is sacred.

Though this may sound crazy, even people like Stalin and Hitler deserve our prayers. They need them more than anyone.


Indeed, but people all over the world hadn't heard of him at the time (and would be judged on their works). For those who have heard the word, however, deeds are not enough.

Indeed.

My point was, and is, that Gandi, good as he was, heard and did not believe. No faith, no grace.

But he didn't believe because of how other Christians treated him. Inside, though, I feel that God will be gracious with him.

This is not to say that we shouldn't be spreading the Gospel or anything, but it does say that God chooses whom He wishes.


I don't think I can, either. Several positions can be satisfied with various passages. Even denominations (knowledgeable about these things, I should think) disagree, not to mention the variance between the works/faith of the RC and 'sola fide' of the Protestants.


You forgot the Eastern Orthodox :p

But disagreements aside, truth may still exist.


Yes, it is an interesting tale. Unfortunately the version that most people seem to know so pared down as to bear little resemblance to the original, if memory serves.


Yes, he advanced it rather well for that time. It has been advanced in recent years by other Apologists, though I still don't think it's a good argument.

Well...it is a good argument, but it's not one that is presuasive.


Ah, yes, that "reform" part is the critical bit. It's also the bit missing from substitutionary atonement. The whole point is that you aren't better, you're still you.


But wait...what if I am better? I recall coming from a pretty immoral background and changing quite a bit after accepting Christ. I'm still not perfect, but I'm trying to get there.

You have no idea how glad I am to hear some one say that. It doesn't work by osmosis, as is illustrated by those to carry a Bible in hand at all times while saying things that would make baby Jesus cry (the Gospel of Prosperity? He'd be spinning in his grave when he heard about that, if he was still there).

And you have no idea how glad I am to hear someone accept that there are Christians that actually know about their faith :p


And yes, the Prosperity "gospel" is rather disgusting.


I'm trying.


Thank you very much.

There are also atheists who are just ignorant. I can't apologize for them, as I'm not their spokesman, but I try not to be a jerk. Keep it mind that we tend to be more literal than the literalists with the Bible (indeed, with any holy text). Take from that what you will.

Yes, and that is a great concession. I appreciate it. I do hope you realize that most of us aren't as fanatical with what we consider literal as the small minority that live here in the U.S.

It is always best to take this into account. Too much literalism destroys a text, especially those of antiquity, such as the Bible.


Hope to hear from you soon.

"So you recognize that there may in fact be an objective source for morality?"
Well, I said "ideal", like ideal democracy. Objective, in this case, brings in spiritual matters well outside my jurisdiction.

The ideal has improved (as well as the mean, thankfully) over time.

On this subject you'd best be talking to a biologist or psychologist (they're discovering that higher primates have a wonderful, if primitive, sense of justice). My small brain is too occupied with raising something called "cash", to be exchanged for "food" and "shelter", to do any more than brush the vast gulf of "why" that occupies that empty spot inside man.

"Okay. The definitine of "Just", however, has changed.

How so?"

Well, putting thieves on crosses (I assume, as a warning to others) doesn't pass muster these days (stoning still seems a popular pastime in some parts, sadly).

The death penalty in general appears to be a dying genre. (I punned! My apologies)

"An NASB Study Bible is usually good for explaining passages"
Is there a best version? A cursory Amazon.com'ing lists to many to just pick one at random.

"I think that it was perfectly just in that this God had also just recently led them out of an opressive slavery as well as allowed them to live. The conditions were that they either go along with God in surviving and becoming a great nation or they die by themselves. It doesn't seem unjust to me that God would kill these Israelites because of their blasphemy. Christian theology still views God in that light, but His judgement will not be enacted till later (i.e. Second Coming).

Also note, that God gives and takes life everyday. I don't know how God taking life in general is not a just thing."

...but why not Aaron? (excuse me if I'm misremebering that section, as Exodus makes me sleepy, but Aaron makes the calf, and Aaron tells the people to worship it...but he gets off the charges on a technicality.

"What I'm asking, however, is where you gather your absolutes or "semi" absolutes from."
Exploring the evolutionary roots of human morality is beyond me (whenever I set up an experiment with monkeys, the cops shut me down. Apparently you need a license), but what little research has been done makes for a rational and compelling (if grossly incomplete) view of how we came to be what we are. But, if you want a broad, amateur brush: the same place everyone else gets them from (a combination of instinct, your parents and your society).

"Certainly, but that's if his God actually exist. If we wish to stay in context of the Christian/Judaic concept of God, Pharoah's god did not exist."
I think it's clear at this point that the Pharaoh's god is the one true god. He should know; he was it.

"I'm not saying you hated him persay, but anger can lead to such."
Loathed would be a better term (even that would be a bit extreme, though). Millions thought he spoke for Jesus, unfortunately, and not nearly enough people pointed out that Jerry Falwell spoke only for Jerry Falwell.

"That is why many Christians were upset at Christopher Hitchens comments towards Falwell."
Really? His was acidic, but honest. I much preferred his eulogy to Dinesh D'Souza's hagiography. One was honest, one wasn't.

"Ah, yes, that "reform" part is the critical bit. It's also the bit missing from substitutionary atonement. The whole point is that you aren't better, you're still you.

But wait...what if I am better? I recall coming from a pretty immoral background and changing quite a bit after accepting Christ. I'm still not perfect, but I'm trying to get there."

And the difference between that and anyone else who hits rock bottom and climbs back out, or finds that his life is not going in a good direction (and changes it), or is stunned to find that he's developed a conscience, or takes up meditation (even the accidental kind) and finds that the universe is bigger and more interconnected than he thought, is?

"And yes, the Prosperity "gospel" is rather disgusting."
Faith healing, too. They never show what happens after, when the "healed" are whisked out the back door, their oxygen level rises and the adrenalin drops...then they fall down, crushed that "they" failed, somehow. The few "real" healings, meanwhile, are far too anecdotal to me meaningful.

While I would rather not get into a debate with M on the topic of soteriology, justice and mercy (not in his own comment thread anyway {s!}--good post and comment handling generally M, btw), I thought it might be worth mentioning to Modusoperendi and to Steven (though Steven ought to know already if he’s been paying attention over the years) that there is at least one orthodox universalist in the group, who trusts that yes any injustice even against Steven will be satisfactorily reconciled eventually. (Though that expectation goes the other way, too, Steven. {g})

But as I said, I don’t want to hijack M’s thread on that. (You can pm me about it, Modus, if you care to. Or not, that’s okay, too. {s})

JRP

Thanks for the offer, Jason Pratt, but I'm not a PM person. Live speech is my enemy. I prefer a measured approach. This is more my speed: slow.

Sorry, I meant 'private mail'. You can be as slow as you like there. {s!} (What's the live speech PM?)

JRP

Oh. I thought you meant...the private channel thingy from IRC.

You kids and your internets.

Hey Modus,

Sorry about not getting back to you soon enough; I've been busy.

I'll give you a full response as soon as I can. It shouldn't be long.

If a skeptic is to affirm that there is evil in this world and that it is a problem for belief in God, then they must, ironically, confess that there is a necessity to know that evil in order for them to even ever consider it a problem.

This is an absolutely ignorant argument. The "skeptic argument" doesn't even have to be made by a skeptic. A Christian can pose the same argument as a question. It concerns the internal consistency of what the theist believes, and it needs to be answered even if a skeptic never raised it in the first place.

If you're correct, then we might as well disallow all reductio ad absurdum type arguments. In these type of arguments the critic DOES NOT SHARE THE BELIEFS HE ARGUES AGAINST! He assumes them in order to show that they reduce to absurdity, internally, on their own grounds, not his.

Answer YOUR problem and I'll answer mine.

This is an absolutely ignorant argument. The "skeptic argument" doesn't even have to be made by a skeptic. A Christian can pose the same argument as a question. It concerns the internal consistency of what the theist believes, and it needs to be answered even if a skeptic never raised it in the first place.

If you're correct, then we might as well disallow all reductio ad absurdum type arguments. In these type of arguments the critic DOES NOT SHARE THE BELIEFS HE ARGUES AGAINST! He assumes them in order to show that they reduce to absurdity, internally, on their own grounds, not his.

Answer YOUR problem and I'll answer mine.


You forgot to mention the other portion of my statement, which puts the whole thing into context, Mr. Loftus: If a skeptic is to affirm that there is evil in this world and that it is a problem for belief in God, then they must, ironically, confess that there is a necessity to know that evil in order for them to even ever consider it a problem. Likewise, they must know evil to truly appreciate what good is.

Perhap it was unecessary to put in the first part and I may edit that out later, but the real kick in the pants comes here:

For the irony is, in order to percieve and wish for good (a matter of appreciation), one must be able to perceive evil. So those that wish for a “perfect” world, would not recognize that it is perfect without first having experienced a world that is not perfect.


The fact of the matter is, Mr. Loftus, under these conditions there really is no problem of evil, but a necessity.


Well, I said "ideal", like ideal democracy. Objective, in this case, brings in spiritual matters well outside my jurisdiction.


Interesting. Perhaps we can discuss this further later?

The ideal has improved (as well as the mean, thankfully) over time.

It seems that if there was ever an ideal that it wouldn't need to "improve".



Well, putting thieves on crosses (I assume, as a warning to others) doesn't pass muster these days (stoning still seems a popular pastime in some parts, sadly).

The death penalty in general appears to be a dying genre. (I punned! My apologies)


Yes, but how does this reflect on a true concept of Justice, if there is one?


Is there a best version? A cursory Amazon.com'ing lists to many to just pick one at random.


I think they are all the same, but simply have different covers etc. I use a bonded leather version.

...but why not Aaron? (excuse me if I'm misremebering that section, as Exodus makes me sleepy, but Aaron makes the calf, and Aaron tells the people to worship it...but he gets off the charges on a technicality.

I don't think he "got off" the charges. It's apparent that he knows what he did was wrong when Moses came down to chastise him. Also, it appears that Moses offered an act of repentence before the killing began (Ex. 32:26). It seems Aaron joined in that. Aaron didn't influence these people to Idolatry. It seems they were already prone to it (Ex. 32:1) and Aaron merely succumbed in fear.




Exploring the evolutionary roots of human morality is beyond me (whenever I set up an experiment with monkeys, the cops shut me down. Apparently you need a license),


Heh.

but what little research has been done makes for a rational and compelling (if grossly incomplete) view of how we came to be what we are. But, if you want a broad, amateur brush: the same place everyone else gets them from (a combination of instinct, your parents and your society).

It seems that if Evolutionary Theory is true without God or something that is beyond the physical world, that instinct, parents, and society are not mutually exclusive concepts.




I think it's clear at this point that the Pharaoh's god is the one true god. He should know; he was it.


I don't know what you are intending with this comment.


Loathed would be a better term (even that would be a bit extreme, though). Millions thought he spoke for Jesus, unfortunately, and not nearly enough people pointed out that Jerry Falwell spoke only for Jerry Falwell.


I think many people did go against Jerry Falwell. I just don't think the media likes to report all sides of the story; it doesn't make for good entertainment or smearing.


Really? His was acidic, but honest. I much preferred his eulogy to Dinesh D'Souza's hagiography. One was honest, one wasn't.


I don't agree entirely with D'Souza and I think he is out of his league, but I don't consider him dishonest. Perhaps confused, but not dishonest.
And the difference between that and anyone else who hits rock bottom and climbs back out, or finds that his life is not going in a good direction (and changes it), or is stunned to find that he's developed a conscience, or takes up meditation (even the accidental kind) and finds that the universe is bigger and more interconnected than he thought, is?

Perhaps there is no difference/or a difference, if we can all point to the same cause.



Also, in case you were interested, here was a link to that Slavery article:

http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qnoslave.html

If a skeptic is to affirm that there is evil in this world and that it is a problem for belief in God, then they must, ironically, confess that there is a necessity to know that evil in order for them to even ever consider it a problem.

How does this follow? I already answered this. It's not a skeptic's argument. It arises from within those things which you claim to believe. Process theologians make the same argument, as do Christians who eventually leave the faith.

For the irony is, in order to percieve and wish for good (a matter of appreciation), one must be able to perceive evil. So those that wish for a “perfect” world, would not recognize that it is perfect without first having experienced a world that is not perfect.

Does this apply to God as well? Or Adam and Eve? And why do you think we wish for a "perfect" world? And why is it some people on our planet must experience so much suffering when life is trying enough for me (and you)?

But this is obviously false, since the theist believes in the goodness of a heavenly existence without pain. Even in this world where disease causes suffering, I can still experience the pleasure of good health without knowing disease. Besides, if suffering is needed to experience pleasure, then isn’t pleasure needed to experience suffering? But this too is obviously false, since someone can suffer a horrible short life and then die without any pleasure. And how does this apply to the sufferings of animals? Weisberger argues: “This type of explanation only serves to account for natural evil among beings who can appreciate its absence in some cognitive fashion.” Furthermore, if it’s true that we need some suffering to help us experience pleasure, then why do we need so much suffering? That’s the whole point. Why all of the senseless suffering?

There are so many problems with your argument I don't know where to begin, nor do I have the time to articulate them here.

You'd best read up on the literature. My longest chapter in my book is on the problem of evil (but alas, no one here cares to get it and read it). But if you did you could at least respond intelligently to the problem of evil from then on.

I have read extensively on the problem and can state that my chapter on the problem is probably the best summation in print (at least when I compare it to other single chapters elsewhere).

Cheers.


How does this follow? I already answered this. It's not a skeptic's argument. It arises from within those things which you claim to believe. Process theologians make the same argument, as do Christians who eventually leave the faith.


I understand that it is a pressupositional argument, Mr. Loftus. What I am trying to get at is that the claim that it is a "problem" is a misguided approach for any skeptic, wether they be Atheists, Agnostics, or Theists.


Does this apply to God as well? Or Adam and Eve?

Good question. I'm actually working on a paper about that right at the very moment.


And why do you think we wish for a "perfect" world?


It appears that if the "Problem of Evil" is indeed, a problem persay, and it influences people to leave Theism, that they do, to some degree, see that there is immorality in the world.

If the case is that there should be no evil if there is this sort of God, then it seems perfectly fair for me to assume that these people believe that the world shouldn't be like this or never like this at all (where there is no evil).


And why is it some people on our planet must experience so much suffering when life is trying enough for me (and you)?

I don't personally believe that there are levels of suffering. I do believe that the perception of suffering is ultimately subjective to the person who experiences it. It seems to me that while there may be an objective standard from which to evaluate if certain suffering is justifiable or not (a rich man losing his ferrari vs. a poor person not being able to eat), it doesn't seem evident that some people suffer "more than others".

It also seems evident to me that people who are conditioned in certain environments do not suffer as much as we think them to suffer.

But simply because I believe we cannot measure suffering or that suffering isn't a measurable thing, that I am stating that we shouldn't relieve people of suffering? No.

I think we should relieve people of suffering. I just think that the claim that people "suffer more than others" is actually rather empty.

Perhaps you could say that people do in fact suffer more than others because there are degrees of suffering within our own lives. I have, for instance, suffered more at one point than another, but whether or not I can adequately claim that my worst suffering is less worse or more worse than someone elses, I think is impossible.

But this is obviously false, since the theist believes in the goodness of a heavenly existence without pain.

A simplified interpretation and only semi-correct. The only reason a Theists would recognize this Heavenly existence is because they retain the memory of that existence which was not heavenly.


Even in this world where disease causes suffering, I can still experience the pleasure of good health without knowing disease.

But you are setting up a rather strange argument here. Sure, you can experience the pleasures good health without knowing disease. But can you experience the pleasures of good health without knowing the displeasures of bad health in general?


Besides, if suffering is needed to experience pleasure, then isn’t pleasure needed to experience suffering?

Yes.

But this too is obviously false, since someone can suffer a horrible short life and then die without any pleasure.

If they died without knowing pleasure then how do they know they're suffering?

And how does this apply to the sufferings of animals? Weisberger argues: “This type of explanation only serves to account for natural evil among beings who can appreciate its absence in some cognitive fashion.”

It applies similarly, though it seems that animals are excluded from the concept of morality (good vs. evil), which is really the substance of my claims here.

Furthermore, if it’s true that we need some suffering to help us experience pleasure, then why do we need so much suffering?

How do you quanitify suffering? You speak of suffering as though it can be measured. I have problems with this claim.


There are so many problems with your argument I don't know where to begin, nor do I have the time to articulate them here.


I don't understand why you won't. You seem to have the time to ask me questions so it's at least somewhat apparent that you actually care for what I have to say or believe.

You'd best read up on the literature. My longest chapter in my book is on the problem of evil (but alas, no one here cares to get it and read it). But if you did you could at least respond intelligently to the problem of evil from then on.

I'm amused by this comment. You seem to believe I haven't responded intelligently yet you still ask me for answers to some basic questions.

So do you or do you not want to know what I think in full or are you just asking me these questions so as to bolster your own ego?

I have read extensively on the problem and can state that my chapter on the problem is probably the best summation in print (at least when I compare it to other single chapters elsewhere).

I'll give it a gander.

You'd best read up on the literature. My longest chapter in my book is on the problem of evil (but alas, no one here cares to get it and read it).

For the record, I offered to read and review your whole book, but I simply refused to pay for it. If you want to figure out a way I could get my hands on a copy without having to pay for it, I'd still be willing to read your book.

BK, yes you did, so long as I bought it and paid to send it to you.

No thanks. ;-)

The PB edition will surely be in libraries before too long, then you won't have to waste your money on my book.

Keep in mind that it's not for my sake that I have been telling you about my book. No siree. It's because you are losing Christians every single week because of it. I get an email a week from former Christians who say my book brought them to their senses.

Now surely you'll diagree. But you'd better be prepared to handle the arguments, that's all.

I'll predict you will need to have it in your library. If it sells as well after it's published as it is right now prior to publication, you'll have your hands full.

You do realize there will be a slew of important recommendations on the back cover and inside pages, don't you?

I'm told the best selling atheist book of all time is George Smith's The Case Against God.

Hmmm. ;-)

I've read his book and didn't even find much worth quoting in mine.

;-)

Cheers.

M said......it seems perfectly fair for me to assume that these people believe that the world shouldn't be like this or never like this at all (where there is no evil).

Well, I actually think God could've easily created a perfect existence for all creatures with imperishable bodies in a heavenly bliss, as believers claim he did. But when it comes to this particular world the question is why there is so much intense suffering in it. There would be no problem if all the suffering people experienced in this world compares to that which I've suffered. Do you think I need more suffering or something? Then God hasn't treated me like he treats others. Is God sovereign, or not?

M said...I don't personally believe that there are levels of suffering...I just think that the claim that people "suffer more than others" is actually rather empty.

This is just naive and juvenile.

M said...But can you experience the pleasures of good health without knowing the displeasures of bad health in general?

Of course! This is obvious. Pleasure is what it is, pleasure. And even if I needed to experience pain to know pleasure then why am I so happy? I've never suffered much at all...at all!

M said......animals are excluded from the concept of morality (good vs. evil), which is really the substance of my claims here.

Why did God create them in the first place? They learn no moral lessons from their suffering. They are not rewarded in the afterlife. They didn't do anything wrong. We could all be vegetarians! Or God could've easily miraculously created nutrients inside our bodies such that we didn't need to eat, and we wouldn't know any different. And if this goes against the regular laws of nature, who says an omnipotent God couldn't do this such that we'd conclude it WAS a law of nature in the first place?

M said...I'm amused by this comment. You seem to believe I haven't responded intelligently yet you still ask me for answers to some basic questions.

Hmmm. Then I've provided some snippets to your superficial, and I truly mean superficial answers that even good Christian philosophers would scoff at (sorry).

M said...So do you or do you not want to know what I think in full or are you just asking me these questions so as to bolster your own ego?

Ahhhh, when all else fails....

M said...I'll give it a gander.

Good, at least you will be better prepared to answer the specific problems coming from evil much better than others. Kudos to you!

BK, to wet your appetite here is a summary of the first half of my book.

Please don't assume that if you argue against a summary of an argument that you've argued against the argument itself, okay?

John,

Trust me on this: I don't doubt for a second that your book is leading people away from Christianity. The DaVinci Code also led people away from Christianity, and I expect even you have to acknowledge how misleading that was. You see, it isn't necessarily the strength of your arguments that is moving people, but the mere fact that the argument looks good enough that someone can use it as justification to support the direction that they were heading anyway. As you point out, Smith's book is pretty bad, but atheists site it all the time as supposedly proving Christianity wrong.

But I will read your summary (sometime-- it is awfully long and I am at work).


Well, I actually think God could've easily created a perfect existence for all creatures with imperishable bodies in a heavenly bliss, as believers claim he did.


Who claims this? Because I certainly don't.

And how could God do this without them realizing what they were experiencing was a "heavenly bliss"?


Then God hasn't treated me like he treats others. Is God sovereign, or not?


How does God not treating you like He treats others within this time period qualify as an objection against his sovereignty?



This is just naive and juvenile.


Why, because you say so?

Of course! This is obvious. Pleasure is what it is, pleasure. And even if I needed to experience pain to know pleasure then why am I so happy? I've never suffered much at all...at all!

You can suffer and be happy at the same time. It's not impossible. If my suffering is causing someone else to not suffer, then I can be happy about it.

Futher, you still haven't explained how you can know it's pleasure. I offer an analogy in the original article. If all you experience is pleasure, then how do you know it's pleasure? All it is is just a feeling. There's nothing "good" or "bad" about it.

You may as well be feeling tired and you'd never know it.


Why did God create them in the first place? They learn no moral lessons from their suffering. They are not rewarded in the afterlife. They didn't do anything wrong. We could all be vegetarians! Or God could've easily miraculously created nutrients inside our bodies such that we didn't need to eat, and we wouldn't know any different. And if this goes against the regular laws of nature, who says an omnipotent God couldn't do this such that we'd conclude it WAS a law of nature in the first place?


I think this is a pointless questions to the issues I am raising in my article.

Hmmm. Then I've provided some snippets to your superficial, and I truly mean superficial answers that even good Christian philosophers would scoff at (sorry).

All you've provided are more and more questions with no answers of your own, while all at once telling me how I'm wrong.

I don't see how you've provided adequate "snippets" of my superficiality.

Ahhhh, when all else fails....

Please, don't throw out the "ad hom" fallacy here. For the record, you've already done so twice to me and it doesn't seem to bother you.

Good, at least you will be better prepared to answer the specific problems coming from evil much better than others. Kudos to you!

Maybe, maybe not. I'm still waiting for an actual response to my claims here.

M...Who claims this? Because I certainly don't.

You don't? Hmmm. Okay. What did God create before creating our world then?

M...Maybe, maybe not. I'm still waiting for an actual response to my claims here.

I just responded to everything you wrote that demanded a response. If you don't think so, then that's your judgement to make.

And I don't care much if you refuse to get my book. That's for you to decide. If so, okay. If not okay.

James F. Sennett and Norman Geisler who both recommend it. Geisler said there are many things that Christians and Christian apologists can learn from it.

From the way I see you argue I'm sure you would be one who could learn from it, that's all.

I'm not simply talking about the fact that we disagree here. I'm talking about a basic ignorance that I see in you that Christian thinkers themselves would like to school you on. It's just that because I'm an atheist you don't trust me to teach them to you.
So I won't bother with you anymore.

I'd like to think I can help you better argue for your faith, that's all. And after I do, I can still defeat your arguments. But first you must get up to snuff.

Cheers.

M, I just now saw that you are a contributor to Frank Walton's "Atheism Sucks" Blog.

At least you argue better than he did. At first I was stunned that CADRE has you here, then I got to thining that maybe you will be an improvement over the last regime there.

Good luck to you!

Already it has a few better people. If it gets better and the ad hominems cease in the months to come, I'll link to your blog.

M, I just now saw that you are a contributor to Frank Walton's "Atheism Sucks" Blog.

At least you argue better than he did. At first I was stunned that CADRE has you here, then I got to thining that maybe you will be an improvement over the last regime there.

Good luck to you!

Already it has a few better people. If it gets better and the ad hominems cease in the months to come, I'll link to your blog.


Actually, I was part of the CADRE before I was part of the new AS.


You don't? Hmmm. Okay. What did God create before creating our world then?


Ahhh...I see. I thought you were referring to the First Earth (before the Fall).

He created both at the same time. So I don't understand what you're getting at.



I just responded to everything you wrote that demanded a response. If you don't think so, then that's your judgement to make.


Well, yes it is my judgement, but that doesn't mean that I'm not correct. You've asked more questions than you've answered and your answers towards my primary claims have been that I am either "naive" or "juvenile" or that I'm some how out of my league.

You seem to believe I haven't read up on this issue at all, which I find to be rather insulting simply because you disagree with one portion of my argument. Further, I have yet to see any real argument against my claim that Evil is Epistemologically necessary.

While I may not have my Masters or PhD yet in Philosophy, I am working towards a Bachelors. This doesn't exactly make me credible, but I do feel what I have provided here is a good argument.

If it can be formally defeated then I will re-examine it and admit that I went about it wrong.

So it isn't that I don't want to learn or that I'm being stubborn, just that you have yet to provide for me a good reason to reject it.

And I don't care much if you refuse to get my book. That's for you to decide. If so, okay. If not okay.

Well I haven't refused so, alright.

James F. Sennett and Norman Geisler who both recommend it. Geisler said there are many things that Christians and Christian apologists can learn from it.

I'll look into it, though I would like evidence that both these men state this.

From the way I see you argue I'm sure you would be one who could learn from it, that's all.

Well, first, what I've offered in my little article here was just a synopsis, not a formalized argument. I stated these as problems...not a full and all out apologia.

I don't think you really have that much knowledge of my knowledge or ways of argumentation to make an adequate assessment (as of yet).

I'm not simply talking about the fact that we disagree here. I'm talking about a basic ignorance that I see in you that Christian thinkers themselves would like to school you on. It's just that because I'm an atheist you don't trust me to teach them to you.
So I won't bother with you anymore.


And I think you know too little about me or what I know to be making the claim that I'm "ignorant". I may very well be ignorant on certain issues and I am not ashamed ot admit this, but you have yet to test me any further than just questioning me and calling me naive and juvenile.

I'd like to think I can help you better argue for your faith, that's all. And after I do, I can still defeat your arguments. But first you must get up to snuff.

Well, it's nice you think you can help me, but we'll have to see.

"At first I was stunned that CADRE has you here, t"


what kind of a crack is that? You took umbridge at my comments look at you!

we can work our own personnel matters are we are quite happy with M thank you.

I'd like to think I can help you better argue for your faith, that's all. And after I do, I can still defeat your arguments. But first you must get up to snuff.


Gosh, to think that you are being so nice to all of us. Willing to share your deep knowledge of Christianty with those of us who are sooooooo ignorant of your fine arguments. *sigh*

With all due respect, John, I have read a lot of your stuff, and most of it is not worthy of the high praise that you give it. I agree with M that you are not answering his questions -- merely peddling your book. But don't worry, if it ever does get picked up by a respectable library in my town(and it might since most libraries seem to prefer books that challenge Christianity over books that affirm Christianity), I will read it while (if it is anything like what you post here) thanking God I didn't bother wasting a penny on it.

James F. Sennett and Norman Geisler who both recommend it. Geisler said there are many things that Christians and Christian apologists can learn from it.

From the way I see you argue I'm sure you would be one who could learn from it, that's all.


my book is recommended by Billy Abraham I'd rather have his endorsement than Geisler's any day. O I'm still writing it. Billy likes it already.

I'm not simply talking about the fact that we disagree here. I'm talking about a basic ignorance that I see in you that Christian thinkers themselves would like to school you on. It's just that because I'm an atheist you don't trust me to teach them to you.
So I won't bother with you anymore.


if I spoke that way to one of your guys you would say I was being so insulting.

I'd like to think I can help you better argue for your faith, that's all. And after I do, I can still defeat your arguments. But first you must get up to snuff.

hey thanks man that's big of you. We can handle our own guys thank you.

BK, yes you did, so long as I bought it and paid to send it to you.

No thanks. ;-)

The PB edition will surely be in libraries before too long, then you won't have to waste your money on my book.

Keep in mind that it's not for my sake that I have been telling you about my book. No siree. It's because you are losing Christians every single week because of it. I get an email a week from former Christians who say my book brought them to their senses.

Now surely you'll diagree. But you'd better be prepared to handle the arguments, that's all.

I'll predict you will need to have it in your library. If it sells as well after it's published as it is right now prior to publication, you'll have your hands full.

You do realize there will be a slew of important recommendations on the back cover and inside pages, don't you?

I'm told the best selling atheist book of all time is George Smith's The Case Against God.



sorry John this is the third silliest thing I've ever heard. I explain why in a couple of days. I'm going to use it for a blog thing soon. I have a couple of other projects first.

No offense.

the argument about levels of suffering and why animals; read my deal, the one before the time thing.

how long will it take at the rate of one a week to go through two billion?

do you have any idea what the rate of change has been? I mean the rate of erosion from Christianity? If you are right that means your books is more effective than anything Russell ever wrote. you think that? man that's serious egoism. It's delusional even.

when your book does come out I'll be there to destroy it. I'll grind into the dust and you will have to debate me and I'll make menaced meat out of you..

you will have to buy my book. I'll get rich and I'll have a Villa in Nice. Nothign austentatious mind you, just a modest little spanish style, orange roof. like in it takes a theif. and I'll sit in the cofes every day in Parish and drink expresso and say "I knew John Loftus, tu eay nez Loftus paz.

I need to clarify so you wont think I'm insulting you John. I am not saying it's silly because your book is successful. It may be a fine book and I'm sure it will be successful.

what is silly is the idea that you are actually doing soemthing for these guys and they are all looking to your book. I mean, first of all the idea that atheism is some big valiant crusade. all you are doing is assuring that more people will be depressed, and morel likely to need medication. that's all you are doing. you are not giving them anything.

Most of them are ignorant Christians and they are going to be ignorant atheists. they wont save the planet or be kinder or more enlightened. they may feel a sense of giddy freedom for a while, but in the long run you are only taking away from that which makes life richer and your not replacing it with anything.

religious people are much more likely to have good mental health and be happen. hundreds of studies prove this.

but then on top of all that the idea that you wont even debate me! you think you are write a book and enlighten all these people to Give up Christianity. like it's some kind of competition. all you are doing getting a bunch of dead wood to change pews.

To read where Geisler reviews my book see here.

It is what it is, and that's all. Judge it for what it is.

And if you don't believe me get the journal.

And I don't think you guys understand me at all. I'm serious. I'm a teacher. I love to teach people. And I truly think I can teach M if he'll listen to me. I know how to teach people on both sides of the fence, since that's what I do. But I also think I can do so and then defeat his arguments after being brought up to snuff. I really do.

Meanwhile, I think we understand you perfectly -- we've certainly given you enough rope to explain yourself and anyone can go to your blog where you explain yourself endlessly. Believe it or not, your arguments are simply not as convincing as you like to think.

Finally, I think your attitude is towards M is disrespectful and condescending. You certainly have not established that you are in a position to look down on anyone who posts on this site.

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