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Arguments against (or for) Xianity
cheshiredragon
Indeed, Seattle is a fantastic town. There is a lot to do . I have only been during the Summer months from age 13-17. Went to Vancouver a few times as well. The parks are beautiful there.
That's right, I said it...
 
Robert
Hi Photon,

We both undoubtedly have not read the entire book of Job for quite a while, so I just wanted to point out that Job’s wife was not one of the casualties. It’s easy to accidentally throw her in with the tragedies that overtook all of his children.

All right, moving on to the debate:

Photon wrote: “If this story were just about Job, you might have a point. It isn't just Job that suffers, in fact, Job comes out pretty good in the whole deal all things being equal. However, God allows Satan to kill Job's wife and children, who had nothing to do with the bet in the first place. It shows a distinct lack of moral fortitude on behalf of god to, while ostensibly in the spirit of testing the faith of a believer, allow the pain and suffering of innocent victims to the whole bet. The whole scenario, from the point of view of Job's first wife and family, is decidedly unjust. And, what was god's decision regarding the reward for Job's faithfulness? He got riches, and a new wife, and new kids, an "upgrade" of his earlier condition.

If a modern person conspired with another to commit murder on some guy's wife in order to bet on the outcome of the effect on the husband, would we consider it merciful or just to let the perpetrators go free, as long as they paid the widower some money, and found him another (better) wife and another (better) set of kids? I don't think so, in fact, it would be considered a miscarriage of justice that the crimes against the victims would go unpunished.

The fact that an allegedly moral god would commit such an act, then compensate Job with a new wife and kids, like they were unimportant chattel, shows a serious lack of judgement on behalf of this god, and it never fails to amaze me that someone could read this story and not see the inherent injustice contained therein.

Now, it's pretty clear to me that Hebrew culture at the time didn't place much of a value upon wives and children beyond that of other assets like goats and sheep and land. It's pretty clear that the story is designed to show a person of faith that by having faith in god, that god will be true to you in return. It's clear that it is a parable, and not a real event that is being described, but in any case, regardless of rewarding the suffering Job for the transgressions against him and for his continued faithfulness, an act of unmitigated injustice has occurred. And the only way to rescue it, is to insert suppositions into the story (oh, god took Job's wife and kids to a better place, blah, blah)."


Let me start with your last sentence first. It is true that the only way to “rescue” the story is “to insert suppositions.” If the book of Job is read in isolation, there is actually little that can be inferred about the characteristics of the deity that we are dealing with. Is this deity capricious? Does this deity care about ostensibly innocent victims like Job’s sons and daughters? Does this deity raise the dead into an afterlife? We don’t know. Our analysis of the book leads to more questions than answers. It is my belief, however, that you would prefer that I not end the discussion about Job on this note. Accordingly, I will incorporate the book into my Christian world-view and give you my opinion regarding the attributes and personality of God.

One of the central lessons to be derived from the book of Job is not to question God on the topic of why a particular person or group of persons is singled out for suffering or death. We simply do not know why one individual lives to be ninety-nine and another dies homeless at age twenty-seven. Christians who claim to know all the answers generally look pretty stupid when they insist that, for example, the World Trade Center towers fell because America is in rapid moral decline. While they may be correct, they have arrived at their conclusion with absolutely no scriptural data to support their assertion. This way of thinking is actually rather harmful.

The best that I can do is to look at the reasons the Bible gives for the afflictions and deaths of various individuals listed throughout the Old and New Testaments:

Let’s take the example of Herod Agrippa first. Herod was punished and killed for the sin of not repudiating the crowd who had been hailing him as a god in the theater at Caesarea. This is a clear-cut case of God punishing an immoral sinner.

A second example involves the “man born blind” and Jesus’ subsequent healing of this individual. Jesus relates to his disciples that this particular man had suffered blindness from birth through no fault of his own. Rather, God had intended to use this person to display his healing power so that many other Israelites would believe in Christ and be saved. The man was to serve an extraordinary purpose.

A third example of suffering would be that withstood by our old friend Job: God simply tested him to see if he would remain true in the face of adversity. We have already talked rather extensively about Job.

A fourth example concerns the torture and murder of many of the Apostles. Through their pain and suffering, these men were to learn patience and endurance with the goal of becoming more like Christ. They were to be awarded with eternal life, great treasures in heaven, and the gift of becoming “one” with God. In fact, the Apostles rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” Acts 5:41

The above is not intended to function as an “all-inclusive” list as to why people suffer. It simply demonstrates that various reasons exist for suffering other than divine retribution.

Changing gears, it is true that all men die and that the life of an individual cannot be taken away without God’s consent. It is the prerogative of an omniscient and omnipotent being to make the decision on when to create human life and when to end it. The human being, of course, does not truly die since he or she will live on in Paradise if so desired. This is why the New Testament often substitutes the word “asleep” for “death” when an individual passes away. One may argue that it is immoral for a Supreme Being to create a universe in which living things perish. I would argue instead that it is foolish to even attempt to find fault with a supernatural entity that is infinitely more intelligent than what it has created. We will lose every argument through sheer lack of knowledge and wisdom.

Photon wrote: “I am aware of the various interpretations of the passage. Even if you allow disaster or calamity, you are laying directly in the hands of god the responsibility for uncounted millions of deaths that have occurred in earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters. And in these calamities, the righteous are not selected out for removal from suffering. The good die with the bad, the just suffer as much as the unjust.

If god brings the hurricane that kills the good indiscriminately with the bad, how is the act just? Why would it happen in the first place, really, if god is the cause of such things? How do you square the idea of a just god, full of mercy, with the events that allegedly occur by his hand or approval? Most atheists do not see a conflict here: indiscriminate nature inflicts damage indiscriminately, much like every other aspect of life. Divine intervention is either capricious and unjust, or it doesn't exist.”


It looks like I accidentally blended what should have been two responses into one. Please see my reply above.

Photon wrote: “This is a good question. It certainly isn't because god rewards those who are good in this life and punishes the bad in any tangible, measured, real way. So why would one choose wisdom over folly? I think you'll find that wisdom is synonymous with obedience in the Bible, and therein lies the problem when an unjust overlord proclaims obedience equals wisdom.”

I agree with you that God doesn’t always reward the righteous and punish the wicked in a tangible way that can be measured by humans. This doesn’t mean that retribution and rewards are absent, however. Look at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man led a comfortable and lavish life on this earth as Lazarus miserably begged at his table and dogs licked his wounds. The roles were essentially reversed when both men died and entered the next world.

Photon wrote: “Why does god require retribution and sacrifice directed towards him as a means of abdicating the wages of sin? Can he not make the rules?”

Why did God list murder, stealing and adultery as wrong? Can he not make the rules? These things are wrong because an omniscient supernatural being (who is synonymous with love in the Bible) declares them to be wrong. Similarly, God has insisted that the only way to salvation is through the sacrifice of his Son. Who am I to argue? I don’t have the ability to make immutable moral laws or even criticize them. By the way, no sarcasm is intended above—I’m simply trying to make a point.

Photon wrote: “If there were even one undisputed instance of a Biblical prophecy coming true, that isn't retrodicted or plain made up, I'd like to see it. Gospel writers are famous for referring back to OT stories, and then placing a convoluted interpretation on them to shoehorn Jesus into the mould. And, considering the gospel writers likely did not personally know Jesus, but did have a vested interest in legitimizing their religion, there's a very good reason why Jesus is claimed to fit the bill.

Too bad the prophecies aren't corroborated by any external independent source. You don't have to go beyond Genesis 2:7 to find the first failed prophecy.

< I hope this doesn't get into how Bethlehem Ephratah tribe becomes Bethlehem the town, or how Tyre still stands, or how Jesus is "called out of Egypt", or how Jesus incorrectly predicts, like Harold Camping, the end of the world in the lifetimes of his followers, or about how Jesus didn't fit any of the requirements for a Messiah according to the Jews, or into convoluted graspings like Jesus' animal of locomotion, or the lack of broken legs at the crucifixion, but whatever, knock yourself out!>”


Prophecies delivered to your unique specifications, Photon. I’ll leave out anything having to do with Jesus or any other Biblical figure! Smile
 
Photon
Robert wrote:

Hi Photon,

We both undoubtedly have not read the entire book of Job for quite a while, so I just wanted to point out that Job’s wife was not one of the casualties. It’s easy to accidentally throw her in with the tragedies that overtook all of his children.


Yes, you are right. When he got his new wife, I had assumed he lost his old one, but instead, she's made to suffer through the indignity of Job getting a new wife and kids, while she watches her children die and her husband bed the new (albeit fertile) wench. Although, it can also be interpreted that it was one and the same wife (depends which sources we trust), but even if it is the same woman, her punishment for questioning god was to have a whole gaggle more of kids for Job's reward.

It is true that the only way to “rescue” the story is “to insert suppositions. If the book of Job is read in isolation, there is actually little that can be inferred about the characteristics of the deity that we are dealing with. Is this deity capricious? Does this deity care about ostensibly innocent victims like Job’s sons and daughters? Does this deity raise the dead into an afterlife? We don’t know. Our analysis of the book leads to more questions than answers. It is my belief, however, that you would prefer that I not end the discussion about Job on this note. Accordingly, I will incorporate the book into my Christian world-view and give you my opinion regarding the attributes and personality of God.


Then if you are allowed to add personal suppositions about the character of god, then you are really inventing the deity you would like to worship; i.e. you aren't worshipping the god of the Bible, but rather the god you wish was in the Bible, the god you wish actually existed. I don't blame you for rejecting the Bible-god. Now just reject the fantasy you've developed, and we're in complete agreement! (I realize this paragraph was probably needlessly trite, dismissive, and offensive. But it isn't far from the way I actually feel about religionists).

One of the central lessons to be derived from the book of Job is not to question God on the topic of why a particular person or group of persons is singled out for suffering or death.



I know, the central message of the OT is to have faith, trust in God, and obey. Do not question. This is not a good message, it inhibits free thought, it inhibits moral development, and prevents individuals from rightfully questioning their treatment.

Christians who claim to know all the answers generally look pretty stupid when they insist that, for example, the World Trade Center towers fell because America is in rapid moral decline. While they may be correct, they have arrived at their conclusion with absolutely no scriptural data to support their assertion. This way of thinking is actually rather harmful.


This thinking is harmful regardless of scriptural support. Blaming a tragedy on some segment of society that you disagree with without corroborating evidence of guilt is immoral, whether the Bible tells you it is OK or not. Treating non-believers as swine because they don't believe the pearls of Biblical wisdom ain't too nice either, but there is direct scriptural support for that. It is also OK to burn witches, consider homosexuals to be abominations, and to keep women silent and without power in church, all directly from scripture. That does not make it right. That's the whole point.

From your list, God punishes/inflicts suffering upon:
1. Immoral Sinners
2. Those he uses as examples to others.
3. His Flock to test their faith.
4. His devoted followers to make the sufferers more Christ-like.

1. As is with most cases in the Bible, and the OT is rife with this, when Yahwist writers disavow themselves from an administration of a previous King that is tolerant of the entire pantheon being worshiped by the nation of Israel, regardless of accomplishments made by that administration, just because they WANT to show its moral debasement. The idea that someone is immoral need only be justified by the claim in itself in the Bible. If it ain't YHWH, it's the highway. And that isn't a declaration of immorality, it's a declaration of religious prejudice. So, whether or not God punishes immoral sinners (in the Bible or in real-life) is sort of moot, since there are plenty of examples of people who are not moral that flourish in both cases. In fact, his "punishments" are indistinguishable from random happenstance. If his punishment of the immoral were real, surely we'd have detected a statistical correlation by now.

2,3,4 are immoral actions in and of themselves, and an entity who engages in them is not worthy of worship. I would not allow my son to torture a worm to serve as an example to all the other worms, nor do I teach him to glorify in the suffering of others. Mother Teresa may have withheld treatment from fatally ill patients in order to make them more Christ-like through suffering, but I find such actions abhorrent.


Changing gears, it is true that all men die and that the life of an individual cannot be taken away without God’s consent. It is the prerogative of an omniscient and omnipotent being to make the decision on when to create human life and when to end it.


Might does not make right, no matter how powerful the entity, nor how much it knows. If I made a society of intelligent teacups, imbued with the breath of life straight from my kiln, and they have the capacity to learn, and live, to reason, and suffer, I am not within my moral rights to begin dashing those teacups to the ground, even if I say I am testing the teacups, or making a demonstration as a warning to the other teacups to fly right.

The human being, of course, does not truly die since he or she will live on in Paradise if so desired.


A conjecture, an hypothesis, for which no positive objective evidence has ever been obtained. It is part of the internally consistent fantasy to gain converts, not a statement about what is real.

One may argue that it is immoral for a Supreme Being to create a universe in which living things perish. I would argue instead that it is foolish to even attempt to find fault with a supernatural entity that is infinitely more intelligent than what it has created. We will lose every argument through sheer lack of knowledge and wisdom.


Appealing to the imaginary wisdom of the creator does not excuse it from its immoral conduct. Citing fallible human reasoning and suggesting we as a species cease questioning is to deny what humanity is. In fact, not only is it anti-humanistic, it is decidedly dangerous to hold such an opinion. If god must be held faultless, by definition, it gives him blanket protection to commit or support any heinous act. It's like a divine diplomatic immunity. If god were truly moral, there would be no need for this, just like if diplomats were actually concerned about public safety they wouldn't need "get out of jail free" stickers on their cars. Defining god to be good, whether he is or not, abdicates reason.

Why did God list murder, stealing and adultery as wrong? Can he not make the rules? These things are wrong because an omniscient supernatural being (who is synonymous with love in the Bible) declares them to be wrong.


These things are not wrong because a "god" decrees them to be so. These rules are present in virtually every human society with or without the benefit of the Abrahamic God. This shows that the "moral compass" is inherent in man, developed through interactions as a social species. If only the Abrahamic religionists had such rules you would have a point, but thankfully they do not.


Similarly, God has insisted that the only way to salvation is through the sacrifice of his Son. Who am I to argue?


You are a thinking, breathing, suffering entity cognizant of its own mortality and one that worries for its future. That gives you the right to argue. That gives you the right to question. Blind obedience to a law-giver that extolls "might makes right" is a direct path to folly, wherein any action can be justified because god decrees it so. Why is this so hard to understand?

I don’t have the ability to make immutable moral laws or even criticize them.


If you can't criticize them, how do you know they are moral? Because of divine declaration? You CAN criticize them, you just choose not to because an outdated book indicates such behaviour might displease some vague entity that doesn't show itself or care to participate in existence. There are no such things as immutable moral laws. Morality does change over time, and if we can help our fellow humans to learn compassion, tolerance, peaceful conduct, and cooperation, we'll be a hell of a lot better off than if everyone suddenly became a Christian. The god of the Bible also allows slavery, even provides instructions on how to beat them properly. Jesus is silent on the issue of slavery, lending tacit approval to it. Are we to believe that human slavery is an acceptable mode of conduct under "immutable moral law"? We live in a time where in a lot of places on the planet, women have rights, and no thanks to the religionists. We live in a time where humans can forge their own destiny rather than being slaves to a king/priest class, no thanks to the moral laws of the religious. People who are different from the divine scriptures through no choice of their own need not always live in fear of their subjugation, suffering, or ostracization by the religious majority.

These are good things, not bad. And they all follow directly from being able to reason, and question, and criticize moral laws from tradition.

Prophecies delivered to your unique specifications, Photon. I’ll leave out anything having to do with Jesus or any other Biblical figure! Smile


No, I'm just saying that Biblical prophecy is a field bereft of any corroborating objective evidence. It is a field fraught with failure and wishful thinking, and if you think something exists that can withstand scrutiny, please, let's talk about it.
Edited by Photon on 11/21/2011 02:12
 
JDHURF
What an argument.
[img]http://www.atheists.org/images/headerLogo.png[/img] is not a valid Image.
 
Bob of QF
That was pretty amazing, Photon.

Love it!
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
 
catman
I agree. I thought it was devastating. Bravissimo, Photon!
 
Photon
I just want those damned teacups to fly right.

There are a lot of things in my post that one could reasonably object to, especially since I didn't establish Robert's opinion on what constitutes morality. However, I'm not trying to have a debate wherein I trap my opponent, it's more a pontification of my own views, in a friendly discussion. I mean, I didn't even want a discussion of two, since I'm here so irregularly. I'm just verbose and get attention that way. Smile

But thanks for the kudos. I think Robert does a great job arguing his points too (the Bible is a handicap not of his making, ha ha), and should this turn to history, he'll kick my ass, were we in a competition. Which is why I'll try to keep the topic on moral cacophonies, and maybe guide it to discussion of science if possible. Smile
 
seeker
Nice job Photon. As you said you have the advantage of being able to argue without the weight of the bible around your neck.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
Robert
Hi Photon,

Photon wrote: “I just want those damned teacups to fly right.”

LOL.

Photon wrote: “There are a lot of things in my post that one could reasonably object to, especially since I didn't establish Robert's opinion on what constitutes morality.”

Although I admit that I will be doing quite a bit of objecting, I will also try to address the issues on which we agree—which are more than you might imagine.

Photon wrote: “However, I'm not trying to have a debate wherein I trap my opponent, it's more a pontification of my own views, in a friendly discussion. I mean, I didn't even want a discussion of two, since I'm here so irregularly. I'm just verbose and get attention that way.”

I’m glad that our discussion is friendly. Just because two people debate a certain topic doesn’t mean that there has to be the slightest bit of bad blood. This may sound a bit ridiculous, but if you ever visited So Cal I would have absolutely no objection to handing you a set of spare keys to my home. I believe that one of my strong points is correctly picking out people that I can trust.

By the way, believe it or not, I actually do prefer that you attempt to “trap” me. I expect nothing less than full guns blazing. Eviscerate me if I say something stupid. I will apologize if a flaw is pointed out in my reasoning. Conversely, I will show absolutely no mercy to you either if you make the slightest logical misstep lol. Bottom line: please don’t take anything that I say personally.

Photon wrote: “I think Robert does a great job arguing his points too…and should this turn to history, he'll kick my ass, were we in a competition.”

Thanks for the compliments.

Photon wrote: “Which is why I'll try to keep the topic on moral cacophonies, and maybe guide it to discussion of science if possible.”

You know far more about science than I do. In fact, I only partially understood what you were talking about when addressing all that “Espinoza” nonsense. I would like to point out, however, that I’m not likely to disagree with you on anything that science has demonstrated to likely be true. Do I believe in Evolution? Check. Global warming? Check. The Big Bang? Check. Relativity? Check. Quantum Mechanics? Check.

Well, the Thanksgiving holidays are almost upon us here south of your border. I won’t have any reply available to give you until at least Saturday. See you within a week or so!
 
Photon
Robert wrote:

Hi Photon,

Photon wrote: “I just want those damned teacups to fly right.”

LOL.


Notice how they were damned? I think I need to cut my wrist to assuage their damnation. Makes sense, right? ha ha

Although I admit that I will be doing quite a bit of objecting, I will also try to address the issues on which we agree—which are more than you might imagine.


I'll bet we agree on almost everything when it comes to morality. The strange thing is I don't get my morality from the Bible, and I contend that neither do you. I contend that your morality is developed from social interactions within your species, both from evolutionary strategies of behaviour that are inherent to the human animal and to learned behaviour from those around you. I think the Bible is shoehorned into "agreeing" with your pre-existing morality judgements, because you want the inspiration for morality to be sourced from that document, and hence from god. However, objective analysis of Biblical morality will show much that will disagree with your conceptions of morality, and that is a good thing! It shows that you can discern, and judge, separately from that document written and cobbled together over about 1000 years (800 BCE to 200 CE approximately).

I’m glad that our discussion is friendly. Just because two people debate a certain topic doesn’t mean that there has to be the slightest bit of bad blood.


I wholeheartedly agree. You are one of the few religionists I've interacted with that doesn't seem to react emotionally over criticism of emotionally-held beliefs. And that's a statement about your good character.

This may sound a bit ridiculous, but if you ever visited So Cal I would have absolutely no objection to handing you a set of spare keys to my home. I believe that one of my strong points is correctly picking out people that I can trust.


I appreciate the trust. I'll be visiting So Cal in Feb 2012, so watch out, I might drop by for some coffee (which I don't drink) and some keys! ha ha

Well, the Thanksgiving holidays are almost upon us here south of your border. I won’t have any reply available to give you until at least Saturday. See you within a week or so!


No problem! Go ahead and celebrate your "Thanksgiving". The official and more accurate Canadian one took place about a month ago. Wink
Edited by Photon on 11/23/2011 13:43
 
Robert
Hi Photon,

You have attempted in many of your posts to demonstrate that God has committed numerous immoral acts that human beings should without fail find detestable. I honestly appreciate what you are doing. In fact, any laws or actions that a supernatural being creates that goes against my personal moral compass should raise numerous red flags. When such red flags are raised, I believe that it is incumbent upon me to thoroughly investigate whether or not I have adequately assessed my reasons for believing in such a deity. At the time of this writing, my belief in the Christian God has not wavered. The reason that I have not wavered in my belief is that not one individual has ever produced the slightest bit of evidence to dismantle the fact that God has successfully predicted the future.

You may be thinking to yourself that Robert has an a priori commitment to God because of an emotional attachment to the concept of an afterlife. I honestly wish that you could peer inside my mind to discover that this is absolutely not the case. Instead, the number one goal in my life has always been to find and capture that elusive concept that we call “truth.” This is all that I care about. If truth dictates that God exists, then I will be a Christian. If truth dictates that God does not exist, then I will be an atheist. I have no horse in this race. I have no dog in this fight. I simply want to discover in which direction truth leads me.

Photon wrote: “Might does not make right, no matter how powerful the entity, nor how much it knows. If I made a society of intelligent teacups, imbued with the breath of life straight from my kiln, and they have the capacity to learn, and live, to reason, and suffer, I am not within my moral rights to begin dashing those teacups to the ground, even if I say I am testing the teacups, or making a demonstration as a warning to the other teacups to fly right…Appealing to the imaginary wisdom of the creator does not excuse it from its immoral conduct. Citing fallible human reasoning and suggesting we as a species cease questioning is to deny what humanity is. In fact, not only is it anti-humanistic, it is decidedly dangerous to hold such an opinion. If god must be held faultless, by definition, it gives him blanket protection to commit or support any heinous act. It's like a divine diplomatic immunity. If god were truly moral, there would be no need for this, just like if diplomats were actually concerned about public safety they wouldn't need "get out of jail free" stickers on their cars. Defining god to be good, whether he is or not, abdicates reason…These things are not wrong because a "god" decrees them to be so. These rules are present in virtually every human society with or without the benefit of the Abrahamic God. This shows that the "moral compass" is inherent in man, developed through interactions as a social species. If only the Abrahamic religionists had such rules you would have a point, but thankfully they do not.”

Although your views are very well written and at first glance appear to be unassailable, I would actually argue that an Achilles heel becomes apparent upon closer inspection. Namely, what or who actually has the authority to determine what is good or bad? As Richard Dawkins points out, for example, natural selection is only interested in saving the individual. It does not care who else lives or dies. Let me quote verbatim from The Greatest Show on Earth: “In so far as natural selection can be said to ‘want’ anything, natural selection doesn’t want individuals to sacrifice themselves for the love of a country, or for the sake of an ideology or a party or a group or a species.” What this means, of course, is that an individual’s first inclination is to save oneself in order to reproduce--to hell with everybody else. It appears that we’re already getting off on the wrong foot ethically, so to speak, doesn’t it?

Well, what happens when seemingly intelligent human beings decide to strive for a higher ideal (Dawkins would approve) than natural selection’s incessant call for selfishness? I would argue that literally billions upon billions of different interpretations of what is morally correct and morally bankrupt results. The Greeks and Spartans, for example, would insist that homosexual pedophilia is a very loving and acceptable activity (as does International Planned Parenthood, by the way). The ancient Romans and modern Chinese would offer infanticide as a solution for all those nasty unwanted girls that pop out of mommy’s tummy at the most inopportune moments. The Indians of the subcontinent would implore anyone willing to listen that it is proper to immolate a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre. Our Russian friends would laud the virtues of abortion, that is, if they hadn’t recently awoken to the fact that they had literally aborted themselves into a population decline that was spiraling toward eventual extinction.

The neo-pagan lunatic Hitler (he was neither Christian nor atheist as internal Nazi documents reveal) drew on Social Darwinism and certain tenets of Nietzsche to create the idea of the “master race.” His idea of what was ethical would eventually result directly or indirectly in approximately 50,000,000 deaths. The ancient Aztecs possibly murdered tens of thousands of their neighbors annually toward the end of the fifteenth century. The Mongol Empire destroyed millions of people to satisfy their bloodlust. The Vikings often fought ruthlessly; Alexander the Great conquered vast territories; the Spanish Inquisition reared its ugly head; and Julius Caesar slaughtered staggering numbers of Celts and Germans.

Where shall we look for moral guidance? Did the atheists do any better during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries? Apparently they did not. Atheist regimes snuffed out approximately 150,000,000 lives between 1917 and 2007 in their quest for heaven on earth. They did their butchering with the best of intentions and a clear conscience too. The body count amassed by fifty-two atheist leaders during ninety years surpassed the carnage of World War II three times over. Ouch! In fact, world history informs us that 58% of the leaders of atheistic governments eventually committed mass murder upon their own citizens. The above is not meant to single out atheists for anything, of course. I am positive that Catman, Seeker and Photon would do a much better job of governing a country than their predecessors did. Indeed, they would possibly even make superb leaders. I am simply attempting to demonstrate the fact that the history books are overflowing with theft, rape, child abuse, cheating, lies, murders and wars. One individual’s values are obviously quite different from another individual’s values. The question thus remains: whose values are correct?

Let’s briefly take a look at what happens when the social mores of two civilizations collide. We’ll return to the example of the Indians who, prior to the intervention of the British Empire, practiced “suttee” (the ritual of burning a widow alive). General Sir Charles Napier addressed the situation by declaring the following: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.” Therefore, Photon, did the Indians have the right to follow this particular custom which they considered good and beneficial? Or, instead, was it incumbent upon the British to put a stop to this ancient practice which they considered morally reprehensible?

In short, here is my point:

If God is omniscient, it necessarily follows that He knows whether or not good and evil exists. If good and evil do exist, it necessarily follows that God knows the precise difference between them. If God knows the precise difference between them, it necessarily follows that no human mind can argue that He does not.

Okay, I now wish to make one last thing perfectly clear. Basically, I am uneasy with the fact that this universe contains even the slightest amount of suffering or death. I honestly wish that it did not. The overriding reason that God gives in the Bible for creating the universe in this present condition revolves around the fact that He tests human hearts to observe whether or not they remain true when trials arrive. He is seeking to know which men and women are worthy of eternal life. Some may wish to contend that this is immoral. Others may wish to contend that this is acceptable. I only care whether or not an omniscient God truly exists who is capable of determining what is right and wrong. If this God exists, then I will definitely follow Him since it would be absurd not to.

Photon wrote: “I know, the central message of the OT is to have faith, trust in God, and obey. Do not question. This is not a good message, it inhibits free thought, it inhibits moral development, and prevents individuals from rightfully questioning their treatment.”

There are certainly a few occasions in the Bible when God informs people that it is better not to even ask a question. One particular instance that we have already discussed is the time that God admonished Job to stop looking for answers about why one person suffers at a given moment and another person does not. God essentially tells Job that not even a quantum computer could begin to tackle this question and that every time you stub a toe God won’t be there to explain exactly why it occurred. It is time to move on to better questions. One interesting aspect of this story is that, although Job’s friends must offer sacrifices to atone for their sins, Job is not directed to offer a sacrifice for questioning God. He is simply admonished.

Does being a Christian really inhibit free thought? I strongly do not believe that this is the case. There are no limitations or restrictions set for discovering the numerous ways in which our universe operates. Knowledge and wisdom are considered good things. Similarly, God challenges all human beings to discover for themselves whether or not he successfully predicts the future and proves his existence (the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not offer this courtesy). Indeed, Isaiah 44:7 relates: “Who is like me? Let him speak up; let him declare his proof and set it out for me: let him announce beforehand things to come, let him foretell what is yet to be.” God does not ask us to believe in him blindly. I agree with the atheist that Pascal’s Wager should be rejected. I need proof that God exists. I believe that I possess that proof, but I’m open to any objections that may uncover my potential error.

Okay, I was about to launch into the issue of slavery, but I feel that I have already written an extremely long-winded post. Sorry that I didn’t address even half of the topics that I had intended to!

By the way, I don’t drink coffee either and the spare key is under the mat. Smile

P.S. Did you see the highlights from the record-setting hockey brawl in Finland? Penalty minutes: 439. I guess they don’t screw around when the puck hits the ice.
Edited by Robert on 11/28/2011 00:26
 
seeker
Robert wrote:

If God is omniscient, it necessarily follows that He knows whether or not good and evil exists. If good and evil do exist, it necessarily follows that God knows the precise difference between them. If God knows the precise difference between them, it necessarily follows that no human mind can argue that He does not.


The strength of any logical syllogism is in the assumptions it makes. Your stated assumption, that God is omnipotent, is clearly the subject of this debate so its use is questionable but there is yet another tacit assumption you have made yet failed to consider.

Given your argument you still have yet to show that God is not evil, you have only suggested he knows the difference. Clearly being cognizant of the difference between good and evil does not mean one would choose to be good.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
Robert
Hi Seeker,

Seeker wrote: "The strength of any logical syllogism is in the assumptions it makes. Your stated assumption, that God is omnipotent, is clearly the subject of this debate so its use is questionable but there is yet another tacit assumption you have made yet failed to consider."

1. My stated assumption in the above post was that God is omniscient--not omnipotent.
2. Although I do use the term "omnipotent" in other posts to describe God in order to make conversation flow more easily, I acknowledge that God does not fit the precise dictionary term for omnipotence. God himself states that he cannot sin. I would also argue that he cannot make a circular square since this would violate the very definition of what being a square is.

Seeker wrote: "Given your argument you still have yet to show that God is not evil, you have only suggested he knows the difference. Clearly being cognizant of the difference between good and evil does not mean one would choose to be good."

You are absolutely correct. I choose to believe that God is not evil or only pretending to be good. I have no evidence to support my assumption. If God actually is evil, I'm screwed.
 
seeker
Robert wrote:

Hi Seeker,

Seeker wrote: "The strength of any logical syllogism is in the assumptions it makes. Your stated assumption, that God is omnipotent, is clearly the subject of this debate so its use is questionable but there is yet another tacit assumption you have made yet failed to consider."

1. My stated assumption in the above post was that God is omniscient--not omnipotent.
2. Although I do use the term "omnipotent" in other posts to describe God in order to make conversation flow more easily, I acknowledge that God does not fit the precise dictionary term for omnipotence. God himself states that he cannot sin. I would also argue that he cannot make a circular square since this would violate the very definition of what being a square is.


I seem to have thought omniscient whilst typing omnipotent. In either case, how is this assumption warranted? Omniscience is an incredible assumption.

Robert wrote:Seeker wrote: "Given your argument you still have yet to show that God is not evil, you have only suggested he knows the difference. Clearly being cognizant of the difference between good and evil does not mean one would choose to be good."

You are absolutely correct. I choose to believe that God is not evil or only pretending to be good. I have no evidence to support my assumption. If God actually is evil, I'm screwed.

Actually one might argue you have plenty of evidence to support the assumption that God is in fact evil.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
Robert
Hi Seeker,

Since I’m debating Photon at the moment and wish to keep my attention focused there, I think it would be best if I only responded to you one last time.

Seeker wrote: “I seem to have thought omniscient whilst typing omnipotent. In either case, how is this assumption warranted? Omniscience is an incredible assumption.”

I assume omniscience only if God can successfully predict complex events in the future numerous times. I believe that God has demonstrated that he can do this in the Bible.

You may wish to reply that even if God could predict the future, it does not necessarily indicate omniscience in the fullest sense of the word. This may be true. God would have to let you into his mind to prove complete and total omniscience. I would nevertheless argue that understanding how the future unfolds dramatically illustrates that God knows quite a bit more than mortals. In my opinion, and I won’t sugarcoat it, a person would need to be insane not to follow a God who could tell you exactly what will befall every living creature fifty years from now.

Seeker wrote: “Actually one might argue you have plenty of evidence to support the assumption that God is in fact evil.”


What is evil? Whose definition defines evil? See my post to Photon above.

If we strictly adhere to the definition of good and evil as defined by our genes (which only desire to replicate), it becomes apparent that cowardice, selfishness, greed and lust are the ultimate virtues. Gangsters, in fact, thrive on these virtues.
 
seeker
Robert wrote:
I assume omniscience only if God can successfully predict complex events in the future numerous times. I believe that God has demonstrated that he can do this in the Bible.

You may wish to reply that even if God could predict the future, it does not necessarily indicate omniscience in the fullest sense of the word. This may be true. God would have to let you into his mind to prove complete and total omniscience. I would nevertheless argue that understanding how the future unfolds dramatically illustrates that God knows quite a bit more than mortals. In my opinion, and I won’t sugarcoat it, a person would need to be insane not to follow a God who could tell you exactly what will befall every living creature fifty years from now.

Once again though you have no basis for this claim. Considering how far after the events described the bible was written the 'predictions' are all not only questionable but some are still completely wrong.

God is even portrayed as regretting his acts after the flood, clear evidence that he isn't omniscient as he could not regret an act that he knew when he began the whole process that he would have to commit.

The truly comical part of this is that some of the 'prophesies' are even based on misreadings of texts. The comical notion of a virgin birth is a good example. Add in the ridiculous contortions the biblical authors had to make in order to try to shoehorn Jesus into the 'prophecies' and its pretty difficult to take this very seriously

Robert wrote:
What is evil? Whose definition defines evil? See my post to Photon above.

If we strictly adhere to the definition of good and evil as defined by our genes (which only desire to replicate), it becomes apparent that cowardice, selfishness, greed and lust are the ultimate virtues. Gangsters, in fact, thrive on these virtues.
Interesting that now you suggest evil has no definition. I actually agree. Unfortunately that doesn't let you off the hook though.

Your problem is that the bible portrays God as an ultimate purveyor of morality even while he is promoting an agenda that includes things like genocide, slavery and rape. Our genes may give us an absolute morality but we can certainly do better than that.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
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