Of Trees and Men

Warning! Read this first! What you are about to see is not an internet prank or a hoax, but is very, very real and VERY, VERY disturbing! Prepare yourself!

In 34 years of life, I don't know that I've seen anything that actually outclasses this in terms of producing horribly unsettling feelings. Worse than blood, guts, or violence from a Hollywood horror flick, and worse than anything that's been shown as an alien virus from outer space invading a human body is Dede's (a.k.a. "Tree man's") condition. This poor man suffers from the typical HPV virus that so many of us get and have without even knowing it. But unlike our bodies, Dede’s body doesn’t have the genetic requirements to fight it off. The result is his freakish appearance as the virus hijacks his cells.

This guy was an Indonesian fisherman whose wife left him because of this condition. He lost his job and even sold himself as a circus freak for a while, but the ridicule became too much. And that's not all; the guy can't work, bathe, take care of his teenage daughters, or do anything without the support and assistance of his family.

He's been begging for help – any help – and when the doctors in his homeland could do nothing, he was out of luck. Then, finally, help came in the form of a skin doctor from the U.S. who volunteered to help him. But still, there are no guarantees. He will never have a normal body, even with the help of modern science, though he might be able to use his hands again.

My question is, what can those who believe in a divine Creator possibly say to this? What was God thinking when he created this man? Where was Jesus and his grace? What would this man have done had he been born in a time before modern medicine? How could he have had any quality of life at all, much less a prognosis for improvement?

It's seeing things like this that never fails to reaffirm my atheist convictions. If seeing children dying from cancer is not enough, if seeing gross bone deformities and massive, out-of-control tumors isn’t enough, just getting a gander at this poor guy is a one-way-ticket to heathen-ville U.S.A. Nope, it's safe to say that no compassionate deity would have allowed such a terrible thing. Our bodies would not be so poorly designed that cells go crazy like this had we been created by a heavenly tailor.

But I wonder what kind of quibbling our Christian readers will offer us when they see this? What excuses for the Almighty will they give us for this genetic monstrosity? And the really sad part is, Christians believe that if this man chose to kill himself to get out of a life of misery and ridicule, he would go straight to hell, having his own blood on his hands. So he’d suffer not only in this life, but in the one to come. I really am glad I'm an atheist!



(JH)

89 comments:

Emilio Mejia Jr. said...

Before any Christians comment, the first defense that comes to mind is comparisons to the story of Job, especially considering the similarities. They will say that this man is having his faith tested and that if he has faith he'll be cured by God. Then they'll say if he is not cured, his faith will earn him a spot in Heaven.

Lee Randolph said...

I think you are right, and in my view this ambiguity is how christianity has been so much more successful than Judaism in reconciling the cognitive dissonance created by the Problem of Evil/Suffering.

Brother Crow said...

what amazes me is not so much the poor fellow's condition, but that anybody actually gives a shit. This modern day equivalent of leprosy provoked isolation and execution in ancient biblical times. Not much has changed. I am never amazed at humanity's brutality and insensitivity - it is when humans act decently (yeh, how do we define "decent") that gets my attention. Tree Man is just another animal - as are all of us - with evolved thinking skills, imaginations, and opposable thumbs necessary to operate tools and weapons, which were necessary for our survival back the day. But I also agree that this sort of thing reminds me of why atheism (or at least agnosticism) is preferable to theism or christianity. That God would test Tree Man's faith - which I know is an argument that will occur - is the height of absurdity. Rather not believe at all than try and reconcile belief in a benevolent deity with Tree Man...or a hundred thousand million other horrors.brercrow

Joe E. Holman said...

Brother Crow said...

"what amazes me is not so much the poor fellow's condition, but that anybody actually gives a shit. This modern day equivalent of leprosy provoked isolation and execution in ancient biblical times. Not much has changed."

My reply...

But you're not seeing the shock-value of this; theists need to see ever-more intricate ways the body can go wrong to be "shocked" out of faith. There comes a point when a believer can "see too much." This goes a long way towards that end.

Like I said, if children getting cancer - or like you said, leprosy in ancient times - can't jolt them into realizing there's no divine design, then something like this still might. It's bizarre. But no, we all should and do give a shit. It's human nature to feel hurt when others of our kind are disabled.

Or do you mean, Bro Crow, that you are amazed that theists would isolate someone (like lepers) and now this man, and yet believe in a deity???

(JH)

Anonymous said...

I am so very thankful that I have been lucky to have had good health my entire life. This guy doesn't seem to be in pain, but there are others who have lived with pain everyday of their short lives. The existence of people with diseases like these cries out for an explanation from God.

HeIsSailing said...

Dreadful video. I asked myself many of the same questions that this article asks after watching this video:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=5aBhHfV1dDc

I cannot imagine the horrors the people in this video endured in less civilized and compassionate times, and places.

Try as I might, I just cannot reconcile this with the existence of an all-powerful loving god. If God did form people with these hideous abnormalities, he did it to torture them into conceding their lives into his Kingdom. That is abhorant - and I just cannot see any way around that with Christian mindset.

Gabe said...

I saw this video on either the History or Discovery Channel about two months ago. The same questions were going through my mind at the time. How could anyone possibly blame someone for being an atheist/agnostic if he/she were suffering from such a hideous condition? What would a Christian say, "This is God's will for your life, so that you will learn to rely on his strength rather than your own?" Absurd. It's easy for Christians to offer such answers when their great "test" from their god is having to deal with rising gas prices and inflation.

By the way John, I'm almost finished reading your book, "Why I Rejected Christianity." Phenomenal book!

Rachel said...

This is rather simple, actually. God did not directly create this man, or any of us for that matter. I've discussed this with Lee R. already, see this thread (scroll down till you see my name).

God made Adam and Eve perfect. Then they sinned, which began the decay of all creation (including them). Over time, genetic mistakes and other physical deficiencies have accumulated. Most of us have "normal" problems and sicknesses, but there are some extremes like this man. Not God's fault in the least, as God didn't "make" this man. To reiterate, God made Adam and Eve directly, the rest of us are the natural result of sperm and egg meeting up, not the direct hand of God.

If this man had been born in a time before medicine, he probably would have suffered more and died, just like all the others that were born then with physical difficulties. How is that God's fault exactly? Again, it was our sin that began the decay that led to these kinds of problems. So God should step in and fix it every time we screw up? Not much room for personal responsibility there.

Christians believe that if this man chose to kill himself to get out of a life of misery and ridicule, he would go straight to hell, having his own blood on his hands. So he’d suffer not only in this life, but in the one to come.

Um, "Christians" believe this? Sorry, no. It may be an official Catholic teaching, but it's hardly a "Catholic" belief. And especially if this blog is trying to debunk "evangelical" Christianity, that doesn't usually include Catholics, at least not the Catholic Church. I don't know any Protestant church that teaches that suicide is an automatic ticket to hell. If there is one, it's definitely in the minority by far. As a Christian, I certainly don't believe that.

Brother Crow,

Where does the Bible say that lepers should be executed? But certainly they were isolated, good thing! (aka "quarantine") Otherwise the leprosy would have quickly spread to the whole camp and everyone would have died.

Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg said...

I'm in the middle of reading Bart Ehrman's book "God's Problem." It is disturbing how obtuse I have been to the reality of suffering in this world. For various missions teams I have helped build churches in Haiti and Ecuador. I thought I had seen suffering but what I now realize is that I had only tried to justify what I saw with pat dogmas that had been regurgitated from apologist who themselves were trying to justify the unjustifiable. It is also the reason why I find Rachel's justification for God's indifference so morally repugnant.

Anonymous said...

"What can whose who believe in a devine creator say to this?"

You're asking a question that has no definate answer, like "prove that you love me". Reverse the situation with a video of something incredibly happy with no explaination and ask "what do the athiests say about this?".

Suffering, whether physical, emotional, mentally or any other form are not measurable by any human. We cannot (ultimately) decide how to gage this guy's suffering as compared to what quantifies there is a god. It would look like this:

misery of person
------------------- >= no god
event causing pain

You cannot quantify faith. At no point can something be so bad, or so good that we as humans can decide that it proves there is or is not a god.

Good things look like there is a god, bad things look like there isn't.

Anonymous said...

"What can whose who believe in a devine creator say to this?"

You're asking a question that has no definate answer, like "prove that you love me". Reverse the situation with a video of something incredibly happy with no explaination and ask "what do the athiests say about this?".

Suffering, whether physical, emotional, mentally or any other form are not measurable by any human. We cannot (ultimately) decide how to gage this guy's suffering as compared to what quantifies there is a god. It would look like this:

misery of person
------------------- >= no god
event causing pain

You cannot quantify faith. At no point can something be so bad, or so good that we as humans can decide that it proves there is or is not a god.

Good things look like there is a god, bad things look like there isn't.

emodude1971 said...

Rachel, your house of cards explanation can be knocked over by an ant farting...

Rachel said: This is rather simple, actually

Simple for you, cause you're not tree-man. Do you think this guy is OK with your answer? 'Oh, my condition is because Adam and Eve ate the wrong piece of fruit from the tree that god put in the middle of their lovely garden and said 'No No'. '

I'm curious, Rachel, how long ago Adam and Exe exist? And did horrible diseases for other animals only come into play after Adam and Eve sinned, or were those there all along? For other fun conundrums regarding the original sin fable, see this link.

And even if you go along with your abhorrent explanation, then you still have to concede that god knew and planned for these types of diseases to occur after the fall.

Harry McCall said...

Rachel, I still see you are still peddling your unBiblical “Duel Creation” snake oil theory in order in order gain an apologetic defense for the theodicy question. It did not work with me on my last post and it won’t work here!

Rachel said...

Jean-Baptiste,

It is also the reason why I find Rachel's justification for God's indifference so morally repugnant.

Who said that God was "indifferent" to this man's suffering? If my son robs a bank and gets caught and put in jail for it, am I "indifferent" if I don't bail him out?

Rachel said...

Emodude,

Simple for you, cause you're not tree-man.

I merely meant that it was "simple" to explain intellectually. Joe and the atheist commenters seemed to think that this man's suffering created some major theological/intellectual conundrum that is the death knell of all Christianity. I was just pointing out that it actually has a relatively simple theological/intellectual answer. It was not to demean his suffering in any way.

Do you think this guy is OK with your answer? 'Oh, my condition is because Adam and Eve ate the wrong piece of fruit from the tree that god put in the middle of their lovely garden and said 'No No'. '

Actually, his condition is because of genetic mistakes and physical deficiencies that have accumulated in humans over time. Sin was the ultimate cause of this degeneration, but was certainly far from the direct cause of it.

And when my son wants a PS3 and I tell him we can't get it because we don't have the money for it, do you think he's "OK" with my answer? No, but does it change the truth of the answer? Sin has consequences that often affect many more people than ourselves for much longer. What is the problem exactly?

I'm curious, Rachel, how long ago Adam and Exe exist? And did horrible diseases for other animals only come into play after Adam and Eve sinned, or were those there all along? For other fun conundrums regarding the original sin fable, see this link.

Oh please tell me you did NOT just link me to the amputee site. Should we play the link game, or stick with our own arguments?

And what does it matter to this discussion how long ago Adam & Eve existed? Do you have some sort of solid evidence that says that the problems we see today couldn't possibly have accumulated in 10,000 years or less? The animals began to decay at the same time as the rest of creation. How is this relevant to my point that, according to Christian theology, physical deformities, problems, etc. are the result of genetic and overall physical deterioration that happened when sin entered the world through Adam & Eve?

And even if you go along with your abhorrent explanation, then you still have to concede that god knew and planned for these types of diseases to occur after the fall.

"Knew" about them, sure. "Planned for", in the sense of knowing about them and planning what to do about them, sure. Just like our government "knew" that if they made a law prohibiting stealing, that some would steal and get caught and have to go to jail. They also "planned for" these criminals by building jails and employing various officers to enforce prison rules. What's the problem?

M. Tully said...

Rachel,

Let me ask you a question. Let's say I could trace your ancestry back say, 1000 years. And 1000 years ago your maternal grandfather brutally raped and killed a dozen young school girls. And he got away with it.

If today, a court of law sentenced you to contract and live with the disease in the video, because of the crime of your ancestor, would you call that a moral judgement?

Why or why not?

And yes, I am saying an omniscient god would see Treeman's disease as a logical consequence of his action or inaction.

M. Tully said...

emilio,

On a lighter note. I had a very interesting "aha" coincidence a couple decades ago. I had been reading Job for few nights as part of a class I was taking. The movie "Trading Places" with Eddy Murphy and Dan Akroyd had just come out so me and a couple classmates went to see it.

After seeing the movie, I no longer had to read Job. I could answer all of the homework questions.

Jason said...

I wonder, if you were told this guy would live for eternity in blissful happiness, would you still complain?

Rachel said...

M Tully,

If today, a court of law sentenced you to contract and live with the disease in the video, because of the crime of your ancestor, would you call that a moral judgement?

No, that would not be moral. However, if some ancestor of mine had committed an act that brought him a disease, the predisposition to which was passed on genetically, my getting the same disease wouldn't require a judge handing down any kind of sentence at all. It would be the natural "sentence", i.e. the natural consequences of our actions, and that is not immoral in the least.

My point is that God did not specifically decide that this specific man would suffer this specific disease as a direct result of Adam's sin. No, God simply stayed true to his word and everything began to die. This man's suffering in this age is a natural result/consequence of that degeneration. It did not require God's specific determination or decision.

the dank said...

"Knew" about them, sure. "Planned for", in the sense of knowing about them and planning what to do about them, sure. Just like our government "knew" that if they made a law prohibiting stealing, that some would steal and get caught and have to go to jail. They also "planned for" these criminals by building jails and employing various officers to enforce prison rules. What's the problem?

That's a pretty good analogy, but I think you've made a gross oversight. Our government is not god. They are not all-powerful, all-knowing, or even all-benevolent. They do what they can with the resources available. Is your god handicapped by a lack of resources? Of course not, so while Treeman is suffering for the rest of his life, your god is sitting on his hands. When a starving child prays for food and none is given, your god sits on his hands. When a girl is raped, your god sits on his hands. Your god is so badass that he provides you with shelter, food, clothing, and hey you've even got a computer; but to children that have the misfortune of being born in a 3rd world country, well god isn't so badass then.

Of course to you the answer is simple, it provides a nice explanation where it's nobody's fault. These things just "happen".

Joe E. Holman said...

Rachel said...

"This is rather simple, actually. God did not directly create this man, or any of us for that matter. God made Adam and Eve perfect. Then they sinned, which began the decay of all creation (including them). Over time, genetic mistakes and other physical deficiencies have accumulated. Most of us have "normal" problems and sicknesses, but there are some extremes like this man. Not God's fault in the least, as God didn't "make" this man. To reiterate, God made Adam and Eve directly, the rest of us are the natural result of sperm and egg meeting up, not the direct hand of God.

My reply...

Wrong, simpleton sister. Read Exodus 4:11. It has God saying, "Who hath made the lame and the dumb and the blind? Have not I the Lord?" You don't know what you're talking about.

Besides, God told Jeremiah that before he was even born God knew and formed him in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). That further demands an operational hand in the formation of each individual life.

Rachel said...

"If this man had been born in a time before medicine, he probably would have suffered more and died, just like all the others that were born then with physical difficulties. How is that God's fault exactly?"

My reply...

Because, you insensitive wretch, God has the power to do something about it and won't! That makes him a monster and you are a "yes-woman" of this monster, like a henchman of an organized crime boss who defends every action of the one they serve. You should be ashamed of your words.

Rachel said...

"Again, it was our sin that began the decay that led to these kinds of problems. So God should step in and fix it every time we screw up? Not much room for personal responsibility there."

My reply...

This man didn't screw up, screwball. But you just did. This man's ancestors (according to you) sinned. But how does that make God just in allowing this man to be punished for others' sins? Think about it for a minute.

Rachel said...

"Um, "Christians" believe this? Sorry, no. It may be an official Catholic teaching, but it's hardly a "Catholic" belief. And especially if this blog is trying to debunk "evangelical" Christianity, that doesn't usually include Catholics, at least not the Catholic Church. I don't know any Protestant church that teaches that suicide is an automatic ticket to hell. If there is one, it's definitely in the minority by far. As a Christian, I certainly don't believe that."

My reply...

You truly are uninformed. Suicide is viewed by Protestant and Catholic Christianity as a "sin unto death." When one has their own blood on their hands, they can't repent of killing the life they were given, so their destiny is hell.

Rachel said...

"Brother Crow,

Where does the Bible say that lepers should be executed? But certainly they were isolated, good thing! (aka "quarantine") Otherwise the leprosy would have quickly spread to the whole camp and everyone would have died."

My reply...

I didn't hear him say lepers were commanded by God to be killed, but they were killed by many believers. And historically in different parts of the world, this was true. But why should they be quarantined when they serve a god who can cure them in a mere thought?

Please at least try to reason so you won't appear so intensely stupid.

(JH)

Timothy David said...

Does anyone know what (if any) religious beliefs Dede (Tree Man) holds? I noticed people saying things like, "Do you think your answer is good enough for Tree Man?" I'd like to know, empirically, if it is.

Another thing worth considering is that not every believer loses their faith when they contract a horrible disease (though I might), much less by merely witnessing someone else suffer. In fact, the witness/friend/lover/ what-have-you, might actually lose their faith, though the sufferer him/herself may retain their own faith. (Whether or not they retain it merely out of fear is, of course, open to debate.)

Also, when considering the problem of theodicy, both Christian and non-Christian thinkers should remember that Christianity is a religion which stresses that God suffered (some would say suffers)WITH His creation. And that furthermore, anyone looking for a religion where love means health and happiness during their material existence would probably not want to begin with a religion whose God promised them a future of pain and misery in the current world, and who spoke those haunting words: "Pick up your cross and follow me."

The reason I am a Deist and not a Christian is because I've not been able to solve the problem of theodicy, nor have any of the great theologians I've read. This does not mean, however, that an answer (however strange and unpleasant it may sound to us) does not exist.

Merely saying that the stock Christian answers are repugnant need not mean they're false.

Rotten Arsenal said...

Rachel sez:
And when my son wants a PS3 and I tell him we can't get it because we don't have the money for it, do you think he's "OK" with my answer? No, but does it change the truth of the answer? Sin has consequences that often affect many more people than ourselves for much longer. What is the problem exactly?

You just compared a man whose life is tortuous due to pain and isolation to your son not getting a PS3.

THAT is offensive...

AndreLinoge said...

"So God should step in and fix it every time we screw up? Not much room for personal responsibility there."

God, this is such crap. Just typical, fundy crap.

Yeah, Rachel, it wouldn't be too much to ask your "loving" god to step in and fix this. And what the hell is this shit about personal responsibility?? Did the man in the video do something to deserve his condition?

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

If the sight of this young man standing within the pearly gates of heaven keeps those who are cowardly, lacking compassion and sensitivity, self-righteous and arrogant from entering in, then what can one say? Spiritual viruses render humanity in a much more vulnerable position than any physical ailment.

Brother Crow said...

Joe Holman, great responses to "this is rather simple" Rachel. You beat me to it. While the bible may not specifically command executing lepers, the oral tradition of the Pharisaical community required it. Metaphorically, tell me how isolation is not equivalent of execution. And please, no bullshit answer like "for the medical good of the community." The isolation was rejection from the dynamics of the community.

However, I got the idea of executing lepers from "Life Of Brian", which I trust to be a more reliable conveyance of cultural truth than the Holy Bible. "Alms for an ex-leper?"

Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg said...

Rachel "Who said that God was "indifferent" to this man's suffering? If my son robs a bank and gets caught and put in jail for it, am I "indifferent" if I don't bail him out?"

I was wrong; I only thought that I was obtuse.

emodude1971 said...

Rachel said: This man's suffering in this age is a natural result/consequence of that degeneration. It did not require God's specific determination or decision.

Yes, it would have. If your god created us, then he would have had to determine what it would mean to 'die', as you put it. He would have had to intelligently design what it would mean to be 'full of sin and disease' and 'degenerate', as you put it. And being the omnipotent one that he is, he would instantly know to what conditions this would lead to, including our tree-man friend here.

I can't stand it when christians try to play the 'no blame' game with their god. It is a complete fallacy!

Brother Crow said...

Emodude, absolutely. Rachel is so off base in her thinking, though it reflects the stupidity of so many christians who try to excuse god. The problem is, they use the bible if it fits their argument, and ignore or excuse the bible (using historical criticism or text-proofing) if it does not. Bottom line, their arguments are simply their own subjective "doctrines" - what they believe about god. It is hard to debunk that because it keeps slipping away like a greased watermelon in a swimmin' hole.

If god can take no responsibility or blame for each individual act of creation...if he/she/it (should I refer to god from now on as "shit"?) simply started a process that began then and has followed its own internal rules until now...then why do christians bitch so much about abortion? or mutations like tree man? or try to correct them? did shit - sorry, YHWH - just make the clock, wind it up, and let it go? I think that is intentional misdirection, Rachel...and you know it.

the dank said...

Rachel said...

"If this man had been born in a time before medicine, he probably would have suffered more and died, just like all the others that were born then with physical difficulties. How is that God's fault exactly?"

Joe E. Holman's reply...

Because, you insensitive wretch, God has the power to do something about it and won't! That makes him a monster and you are a "yes-woman" of this monster, like a henchman of an organized crime boss who defends every action of the one they serve. You should be ashamed of your words.

Bingo!

Rachel, if you had the ability to heal Treeman of his illness with a mere thought or breath, would you?

Or would you allow him to suffer for the rest of his life because it isn't your problem nor your responsibility?

And please, spare us from the "I am not God and neither are you and he's mysterious, blah blah blah" bullshit.

the agnostic rationalist said...

Rachel's viewpoints remind me of this Edward Current video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSiv1JXGrfQ&feature=user

Jason said...

the dank, crow and others,

A little more respect is in order. I'm surprised these comments are being posted considering they're within the "disrespectful and "harassing" criteria for removal but I imagine that's the atheist double-standard in play.

My question is, if you found out today this poor man would live for eternity in blissful happiness, healed and well, would you still be using him as your soapbox?

Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg said...

Jason "My question is, if you found out today this poor man would live for eternity in blissful happiness, healed and well, would you still be using him as your soapbox?"

Every five seconds a child dies of starvation in this world, thousands of children were burned alive in the concentration camps of germany, ECt, ECT, Ect... This man is a single example of what has been historically referred to as the Achilles Heel of the Christian Faith. The problem of needless suffering and evil is considered by any sane apologist as a real problem to explain. Most christians, including Rachel and perhaps you, never take in the full horror of the scene because you are to busy reciting dogma and doctrine that has evolved through two millenia.
By definition God is Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibeneficent, however to explain the scale of suffering that is realized in this world christians are required to engage in liquistical contorsionism on the scale that from a neutral observer is unfathomable.

Gabe said...

Jason said,

"My question is, if you found out today this poor man would live for eternity in blissful happiness, healed and well, would you still be using him as your soapbox?"

If I found out today, and knew FOR SURE that this man would live for eternity in blissful happiness, I would not complain as much. However, I would still complain, and with good reason. Why would an omnipotent, benevolent being will for any of his children to suffer such tremendous mental and physical agony?

But Jason you are missing obvious point: The only life this man can be ABSOLUTELY SURE of is this life. And while we can HOPE this man will find relief in an afterlife, the only thing we know for certain is this man will spend the rest of his days in depression and misery. How would you feel if you realized you would most likely never experience the love of a woman, and that others would be disgusted by your very presence? This is what we KNOW FOR SURE, and damn right we will complain about it.

Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg said...

Continued: Suffering cannot be reconciled with God's attributes of character and nature without modifying the meanings of the terms.

Whether you believe in the prescient (foreknowledge) view of predestination or whether you hold the presbyterian view of predestination, both schemas maintain God as knowing who will be objects of his grace and mercy and who will not, before time began.

That means God created man knowing from all eternity who would suffer on this earth, and / or who would be tormented for ever and ever without end in hell. Yet, god instituted this plan.
He could have chosen any plan he wanted, but he chose one that involves unspeakable and capricious suffering.

Since, according to scripture he needs nothing from his creation, it would have been no skin off his nose to have not created us in the first place. In the teaching company's "Philosophy of Religion" Professor James Hall of the University of Richmond states that it is not enough for God to be Omnipotent and Omniscient, if he is not good then ultimately he is not worthy of our worship.

Jason said...

Gabe,

If I found out today, and knew FOR SURE that this man would live for eternity in blissful happiness, I would not complain as much.

Fair enough.

Why would an omnipotent, benevolent being will for any of his children to suffer such tremendous mental and physical agony?

Rom 8:18 "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

The only life this man can be ABSOLUTELY SURE of is this life.

From a Christian standpoint, I couldn't more strongly disagree.

How would you feel if you realized you would most likely never experience the love of a woman, and that others would be disgusted by your very presence?

Not happy, that's for sure. But if I had faith I would be made whole when Christ returns, I would try and keep the Romans reference in the front of my mind.

This is what we KNOW FOR SURE, and damn right we will complain about it.

Fair enough. Just understand that Christians don't share this view.

kb9aln said...

Quoting Jason:

My question is, if you found out today this poor man would live for eternity in blissful happiness, healed and well, would you still be using him as your soapbox?

Others have capably addressed this. But I want to expland on it just a little bit.

Simply put, why is it necessary for a God (as described by believers) put someone through this kind of debilitating condition? As a test?

An all-knowing, all-benevolent God would have no need to test anyone - he would have foreknowledge of someone's motives, the decisions made based on their motives, and the end result.

Taken a bit further, why any of this ("this" meaning life and all that it entails). Again, a truly omnipotent and omniscient god would know how it all turns out anyway.

Perhaps it is to prove his own power? To whom does he need to prove anything?

Why do we, as humble little humans, need to worship him? Of what value are we to an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent god figure? We hold no sway, that is made abundantly clear in the bible. Why does such a being require the worship of (relatively) insignificant humans? Why does he need his ego pumped? Is the omnipotent god insecure? I would think that this is a real contradiction.

And what would this poor "tree man" have to show us? Couldn't God just show us in clear, unambiguous terms, using mass communication and other truly effective means, just what this is man's suferring is supposed to show us?

Now to Rachel. If you accept the concept of original sin and the concept of God's omnipotence, then you will also need to accept that the fall of Adam and Eve, and all of the misery inflicted on humanity since, could have been prevented by the same God. Period. Remember, God created the rules of science we see all around us. Couldn't he forsee them "backfiring" at some point?

I am sure that apologists will talk of divine plans and the mystery of God. This is inconsistent with what we are taught about this God. If he is all powerful, all-knowing and all-benevolent, then it follows that he is also all-logical. That is how our world, which is supposedly designed by this very same God, works. If our world works on logic, and it was crafted by a diety, then the diety must also follow the same rules of logic. They are his rules.

In short, it is not sensible, nor is it logical, for a diety to allow this kind of suffering. There are far more effective ways to make a point.

It all boils down to the problem of evil, which has never been satisfactorily explained by theism. And likely never will.

M. Tully said...

Rachel,

"No, that would not be moral. However, if some ancestor of mine had committed an act that brought him a disease, the predisposition to which was passed on genetically, my getting the same disease wouldn't require a judge handing down any kind of sentence at all."

Well, then would not an omniscient god realize that this was the consequence of his action or inaction?

It really seems to me that your argument switches between divinity and naturalism. The divine sets forth rules to be followed, and sets consequences for violation (these things requiring divine intervention in the natural world). But once set in motion, naturalism takes over and he either cannot or will not intervene no matter what the moral consequences. An interesting god, that one.

Martin Gamble said...

I agree with Jason. Why are people so disrespectful towards Rachel? I thought that this was against the rules.

Anonymous said...

Joe is an administrator here at DC and he is his own boss. I personally don't like it when someone here is disrespectful of others (unprovoked) and yet I'm also pretty sure Joe tries to constrain himself when responding to comments he considers completely ignorant. You should see him when he doesn't even try! He's a fireball...the bad boy at DC. Every site needs one!

the dank said...

I don't think what I said is disrespectful. If Rachel finds it to be so, then I apologize. But she compares our asking why god won't heal this man to not giving her son a Playstation 3. I know this SEEMS like a solid analogy to her, but it is incredibly offensive to think that this man's suffering can be equated to her son's childish anguish over not getting a toy. Now THAT is offensive.

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

First, I don't want to diminish the suffering this man endures as a result of this condition, but it doesn't matter what the specific negative condition is -- this particular one just earns its keep in shock value.

It doesn't matter if we consider this tree-disease, leprosy (which is not the disease so frequently mentioned in the bible, but merely a translator's attempt at identifying the disease based on its descriptions), HIV/AIDS, or even pneumonia.

The argument here is that of the classic problems of evil and suffering, and these have been shown to be the biggest problems for a religionist to overcome (indeed, they cannot "overcome" them -- they must instead ignore them or explain them away).

The two primary Christian apologists in this thread, Rachel and Jason, are apparently getting offended by some of the posts directed toward them, and in some cases I can see why, but surely they, too, can see how offensive their position on the subject is?

Imagine if your doctor were to inform you that you had a particularly nasty cancer, and had as much as a month to live, and that the reason you got cancer was because god is wondrous.

That's exactly what you're saying when you explain away disease, suffering, and evil -- that god is wondrous and his motives and will are much too complex for our puny minds to comprehend, but since he's such a good guy there must be some perfect and wonderful meaning behind it.

Listen, your god is an idiot. My four-year-old can tell me quite easily whether it's a good thing or a bad thing for people to suffer. I suppose that means that he's more worthy of our worship than the Christian god...

Yes, I can explain how suffering is subjective, at least some of the time, and that while getting an injection can hurt, getting immunized against the measles is a good thing, but no Christian can offer a compelling argument as to how this explains how an omnipotent and omniscient being is absolved of all guilt.

We've all most likely heard the nonsense moral dilemmas (offered up on the internet, usually), where one is asked to kill someone, with stipulations which make the whole trivial exercise seem less barbaric. Here's a twist on those:

If you had to choose between non-existence and non-suffering on the one hand, and existence and a surplus of suffering on the other, which would you choose?

If you were omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent, how could you choose the latter? Of course, this isn't the question which the Christian god faced -- or at least these aren't the possible answers.

No, the Christian god faced this question, but with an infinite number of available answers, one of which was the following:

Existence sans suffering

As I said, this is only one possibility of the endless number a truly omnipotent and omniscient creator would have available, but since it is clearly superior to any which include suffering, and since it was deliberately overlooked, then if god is ultimately responsible for creation, then he's also an asshole.

Why anyone would voluntarily worship a blatant asshole like the Christian god is beyond me. Of course, I am convinced that no such god exists, but I have to wonder at what point a Christian looks at the works of his god and says to himself that this god is not worthy of worship, even if he is all-powerful.

--
Stan

Rachel said...

Jason and Martin,

Thanks for your thoughts.

I'm not particularly offended by what's been said to me here. I've debated atheists many times before, I knew it was inevitable. I wouldn't be here if I couldn't take it.

That said, I do much prefer discussions that don't involve name-calling and other insults. But I understand this is an emotional issue, and further I understand that suffering like this is likely the main, bottom-line reason most here have deconverted. Thus it brings out the emotion in people. Unfortunately, emotionalism makes it difficult to have a good discussion. Primarily for that reason, I would hope that future comments would be more thought out rather than emotional knee-jerk responses.

Rachel said...

Sifting through the emotionalism to try to find actual arguments...

Rotten Arsenal,

You just compared a man whose life is tortuous due to pain and isolation to your son not getting a PS3.

No, I didn't. I wasn't equating the level of suffering. Someone (can't remember who now) had asked if I thought tree man would be okay with my answer to his suffering (that it was caused by the overall degeneration of humans as well as the world around us, brought on by Adam's sin). The point was that whether or not someone is okay with an answer doesn't change the truth of the answer. It had nothing to do with comparing the level of suffering.

Rachel said...

Brother Crow,

Metaphorically, tell me how isolation is not equivalent of execution. And please, no bullshit answer like "for the medical good of the community." The isolation was rejection from the dynamics of the community.

I have no idea what would be wrong with quarantining people with terrible, contagious diseases "for the medical good of the community", especially during an age of poor hygiene and little to no real medicine.

Beyond that, I'm not sure how this is relevant to the topic at hand.

Rachel said...

Emodude,

If your god created us, then he would have had to determine what it would mean to 'die', as you put it. He would have had to intelligently design what it would mean to be 'full of sin and disease' and 'degenerate', as you put it.

Even if true, none of this means that God decided specifically that this particular man would have to endure this particular suffering.

And being the omnipotent one that he is, he would instantly know to what conditions this would lead to, including our tree-man friend here.

Omnipotence doesn't mean knowledge, that would be omniscience. Anyway, yes, God knew that the decay and degeneration of humans and the world would lead to tree man. Why does God's knowledge of his suffering make it God's fault?

Rachel said...

kb9aln,

If you accept the concept of original sin and the concept of God's omnipotence, then you will also need to accept that the fall of Adam and Eve, and all of the misery inflicted on humanity since, could have been prevented by the same God. Period.

I disagree. If we stipulate that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, then actually this is the best of all possible worlds. Given those 3 characteristics of God, humans + free will = sin every single time. The only way God could have prevented a world that included suffering is by not creating a world at all (or creating robots, but then what's the point?). It was either all or nothing.

Rachel said...

M Tully,

Well, then would not an omniscient god realize that this was the consequence of his action or inaction?

Actually, it was the direct consequence of our own actions (humanity in general). If an apple falls to the ground from a tree, did it fall because I failed to catch it? You could argue that I could have stopped it from falling, which would be true, but the apple hitting the ground was the consequence of gravity, not my inaction.

Rachel said...

Okay, there were numerous comments directed to me in this thread. I've tried to pick out the unique ones and respond to them. Now I will address Joe's comment, since this is his article, and also his comment had the most to say. Plus, I think his comments sum up the rest. So if anyone said something they think is different, then bring it up again.

Joe,

Re: Exodus 4:11 and God "makes" the deaf, mute, etc.: the word means "appoint, set". It is in context of Moses complaining that he shouldn't be the spokesman to Pharaoah because he couldn't speak well. God's answer is that He has appointed even those with problems for certain purposes. Not that he specifically and directly created them that way.

The point of Jeremiah 1:5 is that God had a specific plan for Jeremiah before he was even born (note the strange comment of God that he knew Jeremiah before he even existed). Note also the parallel of "before I formed you in the womb" with "before you were born" in the next phrase in that verse. There just isn't enough evidence here to say that God specifically and directly creates every human being, especially considering this isn't even close to the point of this passage.

Suicide is viewed by Protestant and Catholic Christianity as a "sin unto death."

Sorry, but I'm not the uninformed one here. See here. Protestants don't generally view any one sin as having the capability of sending one to hell, so whether it's suicide or lying, in general Protestants don't think you automatically go to hell. In any case, such a belief is not the view of conservative denominations (i.e. the "evangelical" kind that you all are trying to debunk here). So to say that "Christians" believe that suicide sends people to hell automatically is a gross overgeneralization, especially for Americans.

Otherwise, your comment (and others) seemed to have 2 main issues. First, that I said that if God intervened in this man's suffering, it would play a part in removing personal responsibility. Several people seemed to think that I meant this man bears personal responsibility for his suffering. This is NOT what I was saying. What I AM saying is that often our sin affects not just ourselves, but others. Saddam's hoarding of all the money coming in affected all the people of his country, which in turn ended up affecting the whole world. That's just one example. Seeing that innocent "others" are affected by our sins maintains the notion of personal responsibility in all of us.

But what if that wasn't true? What if our sin only affected us and no one else? What if a pregnant woman could smoke, get drunk, and do drugs every day of her pregnancy with no ill effects to her baby whatsoever? There'd be lots more smoking, drinking, using pregnant women. Why? Because when we realize that our actions affect others, we (hopefully) do things differently. If someone you despised told you to obey them or they'd kill you, it probably wouldn't be too hard to accept your death. But if that same someone told you to obey them or they'd kill your wife and kids, that's quite a bit different. It's one thing to suffer for your own mistakes or choices. It's quite another to realize that you're causing others to suffer for your mistakes or choices.

So my point is that by allowing people to suffer as a result of other people's sins, this acts as a deterrent to even worse sins. And back to the argument that this is the best of all possible worlds... if true, then the only other options would have included even worse suffering than this, by even more people.

The second issue seemed to basically be that since God could fix this man's suffering, then it follows that he should. First, based on my point above about personal responsibility and deterrents, fixing this man's suffering may actually be worse in the long run. I'm reminded of the movie Frequency, where the character changed the future to stop a tragic event, but that change set up other tragic events that then had to be stopped as well.

Second, would you really be satisfied if God fixed just this one man's suffering? No, you really want God to feed all the hungry people, and cure all the diseases, and stop all the criminals, and so on. Which amounts to, you want God to miraculously fix the problems humanity has brought on itself.

I have argued reasons why God is not to blame for this man's suffering, yet most of the responses boiled down to, "is too!" It would be helpful to the discussion if someone could offer an actual counterpoint to my points, rather than more emotional outbursts.

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

Rachel-

I'm afraid I don't follow your line of reasoning regarding the culpability of an omniscient, omnipresent, and, as you say, omnibenevolent creator in the suffering of any of its creations.

If I were to build a machine which utilized a quantum event to "make decisions", and one of the possible outcomes from those "decisions" was that it might inflict harm on or even kill people, than am I responsible if my machine indeed kills someone? Even a little bit responsible?

Now let's say I remove the quantum decision-making process, and give the machine full autonomy, but that I have complete foreknowledge of the decisions it is going to choose and the consequences of each, cascading ad infinitum. Am I responsible if my machine kills people now?

I think you know the answer, for you alluded to it (accidentally, I'm guessing) when you said:

[T]his is the best of all possible worlds... the only other options would have included even worse suffering than this, by even more people.

Wow. What a guy. If god in his unbounded wisdom couldn't conceive of a better "world" (by which I assume we both mean 'universe') than this, then perhaps he shouldn't have made any of them?

No, just as the Problem of Evil is a major obstacle for any apologist, so too is the Problem of Culpability (if I may be so bold as to capitalize it as such). If god has all the powers we both have mentioned, then he's inept when it comes to using them. Either that or he's reprehensible. Either way, he's not worthy of worship, unless you like ruthless tyrants who just cannot survive without some souls constantly praising him...

Just as god gets the credit for the aesthetically pleasing things in nature, so he must also get the credit for the utterly reprehensible things.

I suppose I can relegate this to a movie analogy, as you did with Frequency:

[S]ince [g]od could fix this man's suffering, then it follows that he should. First... fixing this man's suffering may actually be worse in the long run. I'm reminded of the movie Frequency, where the character changed the future to stop a tragic event, but that change set up other tragic events that then had to be stopped as well.

I, however, am reminded of Disney's Aladdin, specifically the end, when the Sultan (Jasmine's father) says effectively to himself, "Well am I Sultan or am I Sultan?" ...and then he proceeds to change the rules (so that in this example Jasmine can marry the non-prince Aladdin).

Well, is he god or is he god? Clearly, an omnipotent god could zap this man back into a "normal" human, and zap every affected human's memory so that this event is only a reality in god's memory.

Because he could do this, but chooses not to do so, we must conclude that he prefers for this man to suffer in this manner. There is no other alternative in any logical (or sane) reasoning. Just like god prefers for infants and children to be slaughtered in Nazi internment camps, and just like god prefers for women to be raped, etc.

Even in our simple human legal systems, inaction can be considered criminal. If I stand by with my camera and take pictures of someone getting crushed by a piece of machinery, when all I needed to do to stop it was to turn it off (and we assume I knew both of these bits of information), then I can and likely will be charged with criminal negligence, at the least.

The Christian god is equally well convictable on this (and a few choice other) count.

Tell you what, let's return to the story of Job (as suggested by the first reply to this topic).

Was god in any way responsible for the tragedies which befell Job? As you'll recall in the story, Satan had to ask god's permission to do anything. Since Satan was granted permission, is god not at the least an accessory to the murder of Job's family, servants, and livestock?

Sorry, but if god is what you say he is, then he's a murderer. At the very least he's the worst kind of enabler one can imagine, and he doesn't seem to care.

Good riddance to him then.

--
Stan

Anonymous said...

Rachel,

Authority implies responcibility.

If your god is the ultimate authority in this universe then, ultimately he is responcible for everything that happens in it. It doesn't matter whether or not he specifically chose to subject this man with this affliction. If this is his creation then the buck stops with him.

Joe E. Holman said...

Well, Rachel's back, and this time, she's aiming to fight in the heavyweight division.

Kinda cute, actually. It's always entertaining to see a dolt try to be a David to a Goliath. Well, let's get the gloves on and get down to it...

Rachel said...

"Joe,

Re: Exodus 4:11 and God "makes" the deaf, mute, etc.: the word means "appoint, set". It is in context of Moses complaining that he shouldn't be the spokesman to Pharaoah because he couldn't speak well. God's answer is that He has appointed even those with problems for certain purposes. Not that he specifically and directly created them that way."

My reply...

Honey, I can read the context of this verse, thank you very much, and there's no disagreement on the meaning of "make." The same word is used in Genesis 13:16 when God said he would "make" Israel as the sand of the sea in number; God would create, direct, or appoint them unto their destiny--same meaning as we understand the term "make" to have. The word is used over 120 times that way in the scriptures, so stop trying to sound smart. The word means what it means as it is translated here.

You claim to understand the context and yet you won't use logic to consider why God's words make sense. God's telling Moses, "Who has made man's mouth? Who is it that made the deaf or the blind? I made them, and if I made them, then surely what I'm asking of you is not too much for you." That's the obvious meaning here. But that doesn't make sense unless you first concede that God created these flawed beings in accordance with his own purposes.

Suppose a friend of mine says, "These pieces don't fit together. We can't put the model airplane together," but I reply, "Who do you think made the pieces of the model airplane to be put together? I did, so of course, the pieces do fit."

But your understanding has it that God just generally created everyone and not the disabled; if that's the case, then God's argument to Moses makes no sense. It wouldn't follow that because God made everyone and finished with the original, perfect design back in the days of Genesis that the disabled are equipped to the tasks he has for them. It must be shown that God designed all aspects of creation with a purpose in mind. Otherwise, the whole discussion makes no sense. So down goes this sickly little quibble.

Rachel said...

"The point of Jeremiah 1:5 is that God had a specific plan for Jeremiah before he was even born (note the strange comment of God that he knew Jeremiah before he even existed). Note also the parallel of "before I formed you in the womb" with "before you were born" in the next phrase in that verse.

My reply...

Alright, new rule...let's drop the "look at the context" talk because you are at a site where we, as ex-Christians and ex-ministers, spent years studying these passages, and we know very well the contexts of the verses we use. So no more condescending "I truly know the meaning of this passage" bullshit, ok?

Besides, you are so doggedly dense and void of reason that you apparently don't seem to realize that a passage of scripture CAN incidentally and implicationally affirm something. So the scriptures can give us knowledge even though the point of a given selection of verses is different (Ex: I Peter 3:19-21 says 8 souls were saved by water, which means a local flood is impossible given the words of Peter, though that was not Peter's point).

Rachel said...

There just isn't enough evidence here to say that God specifically and directly creates every human being, especially considering this isn't even close to the point of this passage.

My reply...

Really, Rachel? Did you even think about this statement before you made it???

So God doesn't have specific plans for each individual? So God directly forms and creates the destinies of apostles and prophets and maybe Christians, but not the rest of us? We're just un-orchestrated, un-animated matter? How do you square this belief with the belief that every human being has a soul? If we each possess a "divine nature" known as a soul, how can we not be designed and fashioned by God himself?

But I know why you say this, Rachel; you have no problem saying Moses and Elijah and Isaac were formed by God in the womb because they contribute to God's glory, but how about Tree Man? He seems to rob God of glory, so you throw him out with the potato peels and used paper plates. You sicken me, missy.

Rachel said...

"Sorry, but I'm not the uninformed one here. See here. Protestants don't generally view any one sin as having the capability of sending one to hell, so whether it's suicide or lying, in general Protestants don't think you automatically go to hell. In any case, such a belief is not the view of conservative denominations (i.e. the "evangelical" kind that you all are trying to debunk here). So to say that "Christians" believe that suicide sends people to hell automatically is a gross overgeneralization, especially for Americans."

My reply...

I was a minister for nine years, and I can tell you that both Protestant and Catholic mainline believers - along with their church dogmas - teach that suicide will send you straight to hell.

Yes, you'll find the occasional Sally Twotrees and Behind-the-Barn Ben, along with a few other casual Christians who disagree, but generally, this belief is held across the board. The only exception would be in the case of the mentally challenged who couldn't know what they were doing when they took their own lives. So we're not talking about going up to some lax, Sunday-morning-only churchgoers and asking them their personal beliefs. We're talking about what the churches generally teach, and you are really, really uninformed on this point to even mention it. The only Christians who would go easy on suicide are on the very liberal ends, not on the evangelical ends. The average Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Community Church, Church of Christ, Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal, etc. believe suicide is a sin unto death.

Rachel said...

"What I AM saying is that often our sin affects not just ourselves, but others. Saddam's hoarding of all the money coming in affected all the people of his country, which in turn ended up affecting the whole world. That's just one example. Seeing that innocent "others" are affected by our sins maintains the notion of personal responsibility in all of us. But what if that wasn't true? What if our sin only affected us and no one else? What if a pregnant woman could smoke, get drunk, and do drugs every day of her pregnancy with no ill effects to her baby whatsoever? There'd be lots more smoking, drinking, using pregnant women. Why? Because when we realize that our actions affect others, we (hopefully) do things differently. If someone you despised told you to obey them or they'd kill you, it probably wouldn't be too hard to accept your death. But if that same someone told you to obey them or they'd kill your wife and kids, that's quite a bit different. It's one thing to suffer for your own mistakes or choices. It's quite another to realize that you're causing others to suffer for your mistakes or choices.

So my point is that by allowing people to suffer as a result of other people's sins, this acts as a deterrent to even worse sins."

My reply...

Yes, telling someone that if they don't make a 100 on a test, this will cause a virus to be released that will cripple a thousand children for life is a BIG motivator for personal responsibility! No argument there. When a South African tribesman decides he wants others off his territory, it would make sense for him to find a tresspasser and disembowel him in the most public and brutal way imaginable and hang his rotting corpse on a pole so that all can see what happens to any future trespassers who dare to invade his territory. We have a word for that, Rachel. It's called Guerilla Warfare! And your God does use this tactic on almost every page of holy writ.

The question is, is hurting others because of someone else's wrongs reasonably JUSTIFIED! It's not and can never be in the eyes of anyone who regards a reason-based morality. That doesn't include you and your tribal war-god, obviously.

Besides, Rachel, you're logic doesn't carry over like it should; if wrongs get us and others in greater hurt, then shouldn't righteousness reverse this? Shouldn't obedience to God make right the sinful consequences experienced by fallen mankind? But instead, we see everyone suffering the same, so your ridiculous reasoning is inexcusable.

Rachel said...

"And back to the argument that this is the best of all possible worlds...if true, then the only other options would have included even worse suffering than this, by even more people."

My reply...

This isn't the best of all possible worlds, Rachel. A retarded, OCD third-grader on Valium could have done a far better job at creating a world.

Rachel said...

"The second issue seemed to basically be that since God could fix this man's suffering, then it follows that he should. First, based on my point above about personal responsibility and deterrents, fixing this man's suffering may actually be worse in the long run. I'm reminded of the movie Frequency, where the character changed the future to stop a tragic event, but that change set up other tragic events that then had to be stopped as well."

My reply...

But would this always be the case, Rachel? Even if I grant this distorted and dishonest reasoning of yours (which I don't), would it still be necessary to conclude that EVERY person going through unbelievably painful, embarrassing, and crippling ailments has to experience them to keep them from messing up more in the future?

You and I both know that this isn't so. It can't be the case that everyone who is suffering (which is to say, all of humanity) HAS to suffer to keep them from experiencing worse lives and making worse mistakes down the road.

Your reasoning is as phony as a $3 bill, Rachel, and I wanna think you know it.

Rachel said...

"Second, would you really be satisfied if God fixed just this one man's suffering? No, you really want God to feed all the hungry people, and cure all the diseases, and stop all the criminals, and so on. Which amounts to, you want God to miraculously fix the problems humanity has brought on itself."

My reply...

First, justice would have it (if I grant your theistic reasoning for the sake of argument) that whoever sins suffers. But that shouldn't apply to everyone UNTIL they sin, which would mean that babies and animals didn't suffer. But that's not the case, is it?

Second, your belief system is a poor explanation for suffering; in reality, people suffer because they are products of a cold and cruel world of survival of the fittest. People don't suffer because of curses. No one has sinned.

Third, yes, we want God to fix EVERY problem because he's infinite in power and it would cost him NOTHING to make and maintain a perfect world. So why doesn't he do that? Why doesn't he run a creation that perfectly provides his ideal life for us? I'll buy you a new Mercedes if you can answer that. But of course, you can't and never will.

Rachel said...

"I have argued reasons why God is not to blame for this man's suffering, yet most of the responses boiled down to, "is too!" It would be helpful to the discussion if someone could offer an actual counterpoint to my points, rather than more emotional outbursts."

My reply...

Oh, there, there, little fighter! You're getting plenty of reasoning thrown at you here, but with Jeebus on your side, it just doesn't hit home. You'll only consider answers that bring your deity glory in the first place, so it's no wonder no amount of reason can reach you.

But for now, I'd work on having MORE emotion, Rachel, instead of LESS. The staggeringly little amount you have causes me to pity you like an orphan from Senegal. Truthfully, I not only pity you, I wish you and Dede could switch ailments and these growths could consume you. Maybe then your views on God's "goodness" would get knocked down a few notches.

(JH)

emodude1971 said...

While Stan and Joe have already more than thoroughly dealt with Rachel's responses, I can't help but comment on this comment:

Rachel said: The only way God could have prevented a world that included suffering is by not creating a world at all (or creating robots, but then what's the point?). It was either all or nothing.

I just can't believe this statement was made. First off, you have just undercut god's omnipotence by indicating that he cannot create a world without sin. And then you indicate that if he DID create such a world, they would've been robots. In this one statement, you seen to have contradicted everything you've been arguing against for weeks. I've seen you here arguing AGAINST the fact that Adam was a robot, and yet didn't you just call him one? Didn't your god create a world without sin??? And it was man's fault for introducing it??? The number of contradictions in your statement is going to make my head explode!

I would actually like to propose to Joe or John another blog topic to take this conversation in another direction. How did God intend for our world to be? I think we can all agree that God did not WANT Adam and Eve to sin. So what would our world be like if they didn't, and presumably, this would be the state that god wanted the world to be in. Would we all be a bunch of naked, sinless, not knowing good and evil living in a wonderful garden happy go lucky skipping child-like clowns? Did god intend on Adam and Eve reproducing before the fall, or was it just going to be those two? What would life be like, right now in the year 2008 (some 6000 years later :))if Adam and Eve had never sinned? I'm actually very curious to get some christian opinions on this.

George Hasara said...

Christians claim suffering is the natural byproduct of freewill. Without freewill we would be mindless automatons - so what's the point? Though I reject this premise - lets run with it anyway. What happens when believers go to heaven? Is there freewill there and the ensuing suffering or is everyone on auto(god)pilot? If so – what's the point?

Gabe S said...

Joe Holman: You have successfully rebutted everything that Rachel has said. However, I think you would have made more of an impact had you avoided the name-calling and personal criticism. Rachel is probably a good person, but she has been programmed to believe these things. She will not see the truth overnight. Arguments like the ones you have made may eventually have an impact on her, but because of your angry tone, I think you do more harm than good. You have only confirmed her belief in the stereotypical “angry atheist.”

Rachel: I could agree with almost everything you have said if you would admit that you believe in a Deistic God, as opposed to the Bible God. The God you have described basically set everything in motion, but is unable to intervene. The Bible God supposedly intervenes regularly to answer prayers, help people, create babies, etc. The God you describe does not. Based on your logic, prayer is totally pointless. The bottom line is that you must choose one of the following: 1) There is no God; 2) There is a Nature/Creator God that does not intervene, or 3) God is capable of intervening, but chooses not to. Option 3 would mean that there is a God, but he is bad, which I find unlikely. I have chosen option 1.

kb9aln said...

Rachel said, in response to my comment:

I disagree. If we stipulate that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, then actually this is the best of all possible worlds. Given those 3 characteristics of God, humans + free will = sin every single time.

I am sorry, but this does not make any sense to me. "The best of both worlds" doesn't fit in there, you may want to re-think that.

Moving on, let's define our terms, first.

Ominpotent = Having unlimited or universal power, authority, or force; all-powerful (from The Free Dictionary).

Omnibenevolent = unlimited or infinite benevolence (Oxford English Dictionary).

Benevolent = Characterized by or suggestive of doing good. (The Free Dictionary).

Therefore, Omnibenevolent = Unlimited doing good, or the unlimited characterization or unlimited suggestion of doing good.

Omiscient = Having total knowledge; knowing everything (The Free Dictionary).

Your comment suggests that your definitions may vary. From my reading of these definitions, an omiscient god would know of suffering and know how to fix it, an omnibenevolent god would not want it to happen, and an omnipotent god would have the ability to stop it.

How can you say that the addition of free will and humans makes sin every time? That seems to be a statement pulled out of thin air. And I think that it is wrong.

You mean to tell me that free will and humans cannot be responsible for good (ie, non-sinning) behavior? That's in direct conflict with my experience, and I suspect a lot of other peoples' experiences. This blanket statement that you have made is clearly incorrect.

You further state that:

The only way God could have prevented a world that included suffering is by not creating a world at all (or creating robots, but then what's the point?). It was either all or nothing.

You mean to say that an all-knowing and all-powerful god is not capable of creating such a world without making us robots?

And let's turn that around. If God is all-knowing, he would know of any sin in advance. He would know the results of free will-based decisions. So your robot analogy does not hold - we're already robots in a sense. Good or bad, right or wrong, God is supposed to know all of this stuff in advance.

Truly, what is the point of theologically-centered human existence? An ego excersize for a really powerful and inconsistent (as defined by you) being?

Your comment suggests selectivity and/or limitation when it comes to omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence. The very definition of these terms says that can't happen.

Sorry, I don't think your added comment has cleared anything up at all. It is still apparent, at least to me and a fair number of others commenting so far, that if a god with the traits and characteristics commonly ascribed to him would not allow this kind and other kinds of suffering to happen.

M. Tully said...

Rachel,

“Actually, it was the direct consequence of our own actions (humanity in general).”

This appears to me to be a form of equivocation. Earlier I asked you to morally justify a “sins of the father” approach to punishment and you argued that it was not punishment it was a natural consequence. Now you use the word “our” to mean both Adam and Eve and all of humanity. Humanity did not eat of the wrong tree, humanity’s ancestor did. Can I get a straight yes or no? Is it moral to inflict punishment (or fail to prevent punishment) of someone because of the sins of an ancestor?

You also wrote, “If an apple falls to the ground from a tree, did it fall because I failed to catch it? “

Speaking of apples… and oranges. I don’t consider letting an apple hit the ground a moral choice. How about if an infant falls from a balcony, you’re standing below and have the ability to catch the infant and save its life or let gravity take its course and have the infant die from the fall. If you decide to let the infant die, are you deserving of moral blame?

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

Apples and oranges, indeed.

Of course, the gravity analogy, even the augmented version with the infant falling from the balcony, leaves out the fact that in our thought experiment, the person deciding whether or not to catch the object falling did not create gravity, or any of the objects involved.

In fact, while watching the movie S.W.A.T. a moment ago, I noticed a sign in the background of one of the sets, which referenced an apparent law regarding loaded firearms and where we leave them.

Divorcing this concept from the movie now, I pose the following questions:

1. If I leave a loaded firearm -- safety off -- in the presence of a toddler, and that toddler manages to shoot himself or someone else as a result, am I responsible?

2. If I leave the same firearm in the presence of a 12-year-old, and tell that child not to play with it, but the child does anyway and shoots either himself or someone else, am I responsible?

3. If I leave the same firearm in the presence of either of these children, with the full knowledge that the one with whom I leave it will take up the firearm and shoot himself in the face, and it indeed comes to pass, am I responsible?


Before the Christians attempt to answer, I have some answers from contemporary American law at the ready: YES, YES, and YES. In fact, in the third case, prescience is unnecessary -- I would be guilty with or without foreknowledge. In fact, selling a firearm to a person who the seller has probable cause to believe will commit a crime with it is also illegal.

Of course, these laws, and these questions, involve mere humans, not omnimax deities. If we're culpable in these events, then how much more so is a being who is a) ultimately responsible for it all, and b) completely aware of what will come?


Oh, and before the Christians spout out their drivel regarding how suffering/evil are necessary by-products of sin, or that free will is the reason for suffering/evil...

Remember that god didn't have to make anything -- he chose to, in your view.

Also, remember Matthew 10:29-31 :

(Jesus speaking) Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Yes, god is why sparrows fall from the sky, and his knowledge is so complete that your hairs are numbered. It's too bad all this knowledge didn't come along with the will to stop some of us from suffering untold atrocities... being that we are more valuable than sparrows, after all.

--
Stan

Rachel said...

I'm just posting to let you all know that I've read your comments and plan to respond. But I've got a lot going on this week so I won't be able to respond till later tomorrow or Friday. Just so you know I'm still here. :-)

Joe E. Holman said...

Gabe S said...

"Joe Holman: You have successfully rebutted everything that Rachel has said. However, I think you would have made more of an impact had you avoided the name-calling and personal criticism. Rachel is probably a good person, but she has been programmed to believe these things. She will not see the truth overnight. Arguments like the ones you have made may eventually have an impact on her, but because of your angry tone, I think you do more harm than good. You have only confirmed her belief in the stereotypical “angry atheist.”

My reply...

I hear ya. Point taken. I don't dislike Rachel, or any other theist, generally. And I am usually more civil, but seeing this poor man and hearing the utter nonsense that is being offered in support of a God who would allow such a thing is just too much.

That is why I am admittedly a little hot under the collar on this topic. There are some things that are quite actually "too much" to reply to, and yet people like Rachel are always there, not knowing when to shut up, and not realizing that no argument can be offered to smooth this freakish tragedy over.

(JH)

Pseudo said...

Does Tree Man share everyone's feelings about how shitty his life is? It seems he has had plenty of time to kill himself if it was that bad. Is any existence better than no existence?

Anyone here think his situation is so bad that you would put a bullet in his head, whether he wanted you to or not?

Also, what is the guy's real name? Does he refer to himself as Tree Man?

M. Tully said...

Pseudo,

That is an interesting question. I'd have to answer that I don't know for sure.

The worse thing I could imagine is that I woke up on a desolate sand blown place, with knowledge amounting to metaphysical certitude, that I would never encounter another living thing again.

In the above (obviously extreme hypothetical) situation, I imagine that I might consider suicide.

But, even then, I would have to overcome 3.5 billion years of Darwinian heritage urging me to live on (good thing my ancestors had those genes or I wouldn't be here today).

Hard to say how that would turn out. Same thing with other potentials such as being in a severe fire with the absolute certainty that there was no escape.

Would the avoid excruciating pain or the survive instinct win? I don't know. Luckily, I've never been a position to find out.

Rachel said...

Tigg,

If your god is the ultimate authority in this universe then, ultimately he is responcible for everything that happens in it.

I'm good with that, as long as "responsible" means that he takes care of everything and makes sure that justice is done.

Otherwise, good luck trying to prove that whoever is in authority over others is actually at fault for their choices. God's authority over us means it's his job to do something about our sin (which he has, continues to, and will in the future). But his authority over us doesn't mean that he is somehow to blame for the choices we make, or that he has to prevent us from exercising our free will, even if the consequences are disastrous.

Rachel said...

Emodude,

I said,

The only way God could have prevented a world that included suffering is by not creating a world at all (or creating robots, but then what's the point?). It was either all or nothing.

Then you said,

First off, you have just undercut god's omnipotence by indicating that he cannot create a world without sin.

Two errors here. First, you seem to have misunderstood what has historically been meant by theologians when they speak of God being "omnipotent". This does NOT mean that God can just do anything at all. Simplistically, God can do anything that doesn't contradict his nature. This makes perfect sense, for if he did something against his nature, then he wouldn't be who he is (God). So in this sense, God has several "limitations": God can't not be God, he can't sin, he can't make a rock so big he couldn't lift it, he can't make square circles, he can't make 2+2=5, and so on. IOW, God cannot violate his own "rules" (i.e. his own nature). For since God IS truth, then all truth is God's truth. Thus, 2+2=4 is true because it comes from God. Therefore, for God to make 2+2=5 would be to violate his own nature, making him not God anymore. And what I'm saying here is that, given God's omnis, it must be that for every possible creation of humans with free will, they would always choose sin. So this doesn't undercut God's actual omnipotence in any way, indeed it stays true to it.

Second, I didn't say God couldn't have created a world without sin at all, I said he couldn't have a created a world that didn't include sin/suffering, i.e. as a result of the sin chosen by humans with free will. Of course God could create a world that was free from sin in the beginning, that is in fact what I am maintaining.

And then you indicate that if he DID create such a world, they would've been robots. In this one statement, you seen to have contradicted everything you've been arguing against for weeks. I've seen you here arguing AGAINST the fact that Adam was a robot, and yet didn't you just call him one?

No, I didn't call Adam a robot in any statement I made, let alone the one above. I don't know how you got that. What I said was, the only way that God could have created a world with humans who would never choose sin would be to make those humans robots. And since sin exists, apparently we were given free will and are NOT robots.

The number of contradictions in your statement is going to make my head explode!

Or maybe it's all those question marks you used, instead of reading what I said a little closer. ;-)

Rachel said...

M Tully,

Humanity did not eat of the wrong tree, humanity’s ancestor did. Can I get a straight yes or no? Is it moral to inflict punishment (or fail to prevent punishment) of someone because of the sins of an ancestor?

I would say, rather than "ancestor", that humanity's "representative" committed the first sin, which is why I phrased my earlier comment in that way. I see nothing immoral about allowing the natural consequences of someone's sin to happen, even if it affects their progeny. In fact, I have been arguing that such lasting consequences can be great deterrents from future sins. If we simply theorized that perhaps a pregnant woman that smoked might be harming her baby, that probably wouldn't do much to prevent pregnant women from smoking (maybe a little). But when we KNOW smoking while pg affects the baby negatively because we've actually seen these babies, then moms-to-be are MUCH more likely to try not to smoke while pg. It's much more motivating to stop smoking if you realize it's harming your baby than it is if you're only harming yourself.

I don’t consider letting an apple hit the ground a moral choice. How about if an infant falls from a balcony, you’re standing below and have the ability to catch the infant and save its life or let gravity take its course and have the infant die from the fall. If you decide to let the infant die, are you deserving of moral blame?

You had said that a descendant suffering as a natural result of something the ancestor had done was the "consequence" of God's inaction. My point was that the suffering was not the "consequence" of anything of God's, it was totally the consequence of the action done by the ancestor. I acknowledged that God could have changed things, but that still doesn't make the final outcome a consequence of his inaction. Even in your analogy of the baby falling, such an event would be the consequence of any number of things (stupidity a la Michael Jackson, mental problems on the part of the caregiver, ineptitude, negligence, infant curiosity, etc. etc.), and ultimately gravity. But it would NOT be the consequence of my inaction.

Your last question about moral blame is different than consequence. Interestingly, your question assumes that letting the infant die is worthy of "blame". I'm sure we could all imagine scenarios in which letting the infant die is better than the alternative. Such scenarios might be rare, but then so is the initial scenario of a baby falling off a balcony.

Let's get to the heart of the matter instead. I gather that you are implying that God should at least stop bad things from happening to innocent people, or at least, people who don't deserve those things. I think you are looking at this microscopically. Letting one baby die sounds terrible. But what if your only choice was letting one baby die or 100 babies die? What if by letting this one baby die you prevented 100 other babies from dying, but if you catch this one baby, then 100 others will die? Similarly, I hold that God allows natural consequences of sin that often affect others to actually affect those others, to serve as a deterrent for us not to sin. It also evidences to us just how bad sin is, and that we should not take it lightly.

Rachel said...

Gabe,

The God you have described basically set everything in motion, but is unable to intervene.

The first part is right, but NOT "unable to intervene". I never said that. He is certainly ABLE to intervene in any way. But I do maintain that he does not generally intervene in ways that prohibit the exercise of our free will, nor does he generally intervene to stop the natural consequences (good or bad) of the choices we make with our free will. Just because he doesn't intervene in those ways doesn't mean he can't.

Based on your logic, prayer is totally pointless.

Not at all, in fact I just discussed this very thing not too long ago here. Scroll back for a couple articles by Evan about prayer for the sick if you're interested. But I do acknowledge that it is unlikely that prayer actually causes God to change something he was going to do.

The bottom line is that you must choose one of the following: 1) There is no God; 2) There is a Nature/Creator God that does not intervene, or 3) God is capable of intervening, but chooses not to. Option 3 would mean that there is a God, but he is bad, which I find unlikely.

I guess it depends on what you mean by "intervene". I would argue that God has indeed intervened, in fact many times, e.g. the Flood, the Law, prophets, and ultimately Jesus. But ultimately he will not intervene by forcing us to make a choice (like robots), and he often does not intervene to stop natural consequences of our choices. I don't see how that makes him "bad".

Rachel said...

kb9aln,

I said,

If we stipulate that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, then actually this is the best of all possible worlds. Given those 3 characteristics of God, humans + free will = sin every single time.

Then you said,

I am sorry, but this does not make any sense to me. "The best of both worlds" doesn't fit in there, you may want to re-think that.

I didn't say "best of both worlds", I said "best of all possible worlds". Is that what you meant? You didn't explain how that doesn't fit, so I don't really know what you mean here.

Then you said (regarding the same quote of mine),

How can you say that the addition of free will and humans makes sin every time? That seems to be a statement pulled out of thin air. And I think that it is wrong. You mean to tell me that free will and humans cannot be responsible for good (ie, non-sinning) behavior? That's in direct conflict with my experience, and I suspect a lot of other peoples' experiences. This blanket statement that you have made is clearly incorrect.

I believe you have misunderstood my statement. When I say, "humans + free will = sin every single time", the "every single time" does NOT mean every single action. I can understand your confusion. I mean that every single initial act of creation that includes giving humans free will would result in sin at some point. Not that every human with free will always sins. I hope that clears things up for you.

Truly, what is the point of theologically-centered human existence?

Among other things, betterment of ourselves and acknowledgement of truth. Read this for some more detailed info.

Regarding the issue of free will being incompatible with God's omniscience, I've discussed that one here too, scroll back not quite so far as before to an article by John Loftus ("Victor Reppert against Calvinism"), where I argued that it doesn't matter who knows what choice I'll make as long as I'm the one who makes it.

And on the issue of what is meant by omnipotence, see my latest comment to Emodude.

Rachel said...

I think I got to everybody except Stan and Joe, whose comments are lengthier and so require a lengthier response. But I'm going to bed now, so you'll have to wait. :-)

Zabimaru said...

Oh dear something-or-another.

Much of this discussion has had an ample amount of arguments, but I would still like to butt in a bit.

I am so curios about Rachel’s statement that this is the best possible world for us. I don’t know if I misunderstood something, but it really feels like a strange statement to make.

I fully understand that if there is a god, she couldn’t make this an absolute paradise, with everything perfect, and still give us free will and meaning in our life (much like I feel that heaven would be the worst place to spend an eternity…), but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a better world.

I’ll go on a long rant now, because brevity is not my forte, but hopefully I’ll come to a relevant point at the end. Feel free to ignore me if I’m being all too long-winded though :)

Just off the top of my head, I could for instance imagine a supreme being (that doesn’t even have to be perfect) designing a wonderful crop for us.

Imagine that this crop would bear fruits or seeds that contain all the nutrients we need; there would be all the proteins, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and so on, in a healthy mix.

The crop would be so wondrous that it grows in abundance in all climates, without the aid of any harmful pesticides or artificial fertilizers. It would be immune to common blights and harmful insects; it would not deplete the soil nor would it have any parts that are poisonous.

Now, imagine what effect that crop would have on the world. Imagine that its makeup is so unique that all animals can eat of it and find all they need.

And now let’s say that god designed everything so that after the, apparently inevitable, fall, various animals did not resort to killing other animals for food. All animals would eat of this wondrous crop and live together in peace and harmony. I can not believe that it would be hard for a supreme being capable of flinging literally billions of billions of stars into existence to create an ecological system working that way.

Would this in any way harm our free will? Or harm anything else? Rachel seems bent on saying that whatever changes god might do would just make everything worse, but I can’t see any problem for god to start out with a world like this, designing it so that it works.

People might still go to war, kill and destroy over many issues, disagree and discuss. But maybe everyone could then do it on a full stomach, without millions dying each year in the frightful agony of starvation.

People could no longer look point to nature and say “See, animals are killing each other all the time, in needlessly cruel ways nonetheless, so we’re not that bad. It’s just the way nature is; there’s no problem with us killing animals and people for our own personal gain.”

Everyone could be vegetarian and killing wouldn’t have to look natural for anyone. We would never, ever have known a world where we have to harm another just for the sake of food.

So, what is my point? My point is that any god I can think of could make this world a better place without sacrificing our free will, or anything else. To me, saying that “all the ills of the world are our fault because Adam and Eve were stupid enough to disobey a direct order from god almighty” is such a cop-out.

Rachel talks about all of it being the “natural consequence” of that one sin (that’s a whole lot of suffering for a snack), but I still don’t know why that would be. Why would we assume that a sin must lead to all those ills? Couldn’t god have let us off easy, it being a first offense and all, and god just having created us to be just that way? Why are you so certain that this is the only possible way that things can be?

I am certain that this is the only way things can be, because this is the way things are. But that’s only because I don’t believe in any supreme being. If I did believe in a supreme being I think it obvious that this being could change things. If the being could not, or would not, change things, then it is a being with no interest in mankind, and then it is obviously not the god of the bible. I don’t mind entertaining the possibility that there is a supreme being out there; there might well be. But the notion of the god of Abraham being that god… Is just way too far-fetched.

On a side note: I too think there have been too many personal attacks in these comments. I would prefer if we could rise above that, since we have many sound, logical arguments to use. I however do understand the source of the attacks. I get angry too when someone comes in here and seemingly trivializes people’s suffering.

emodude1971 said...

Rachel said:I mean that every single initial act of creation that includes giving humans free will would result in sin at some point.

This is based on nothing other than your opinion, and thus it is inadmissible as evidence. Why would you want to worship a god, who is only capable of creating a world in which there will inevitably be sin, pain and suffering, which then causes him to provide several more plagues and deaths to apparently teach us stupid humans some lessons, and ultimately he must kill himself in human form to try and provide some form of salvation? If this is your god, then he is clearly a lunatic who shouldn't be allowed to create a sandcastle must less entire universes.

And if this is the only type of world he could create, then why would he WANT to?

At what point Rachel does any of this begin to sound a little strange to you? Step outside of your christian bubble of influence for a second, and try and look at this as an unbiased, third-party observer. Would any of your explanations make sense to such an observer?

Rachel said...

Stan,

First I do want to thank you for doing a good job of distinguishing between attacks on a person's arguments and attacks on a person. Actually most of the commenters here have done pretty well at that, and I just wanted to acknowledge that.

If god in his unbounded wisdom couldn't conceive of a better "world" (by which I assume we both mean 'universe') than this, then perhaps he shouldn't have made any of them?

It's not a matter of "conceiving" of a better world, it's a matter of a better world even being possible. Perhaps you see those as one and the same, but I wanted to make that clear.

As to why should God make this world, if this is the best it could be... I would argue that while there certainly is bad/evil in the world, there is MUCH more good than bad throughout the world, throughout history. We make these kinds of decisions all the time. Having kids, for instance. We know that they will be some trouble. We'll have to spend our money on them (quite a bit!), they'll take up a lot of our time, we'll have to put up with their crappy attitudes at times (as well as try to teach them to have better ones), and we'll spend lots of time cleaning up pee, poop, and puke. If someone were to focus in on me during some of those "worse" times, it would be easy to say, "why even bother having kids if this is what it takes?" Heck, all parents have probably said that themselves at one time or another. We also know that if we give birth to a child, that child will go through difficult times in his life. But does any of this make us decide it's not worth it? No, primarily because the good of life far outweighs the bad. It's not so hard to spend that money when you see your kid's face light up at Christmas. The grossness of cleaning up puke is worth the joy of holding my own child and helping him get better and grow up.

Similarly, it is not immoral or cruel or bad of God to create this world, despite knowing of the suffering that would be included as a result of sin. Seeing that there is by far more good than bad in the world altogether, I see no reason for God not to create.

If god has all the powers we both have mentioned, then he's inept when it comes to using them. Either that or he's reprehensible. Either way, he's not worthy of worship, unless you like ruthless tyrants who just cannot survive without some souls constantly praising him...

Regarding the last part of your comment that God "needs" people praising him all the time, please note my response above to kb9aln, as well as the link. The rest of your comment there is merely restating your position.

Just as god gets the credit for the aesthetically pleasing things in nature, so he must also get the credit for the utterly reprehensible things.

If there were any utterly reprehensible things that God actually created, this would be true. But none of those things were part of the initial creation, they are natural consequences of the introduction of sin to the world. God created everything good ("aesthetically pleasing"), if anything is reprehensible it does not come from him.

I, however, am reminded of Disney's Aladdin, specifically the end, when the Sultan (Jasmine's father) says effectively to himself, "Well am I Sultan or am I Sultan?" ...and then he proceeds to change the rules (so that in this example Jasmine can marry the non-prince Aladdin).

Your movie analogy fails because the Sultan must change the rules. As I pointed out in a comment earlier (actually more than one now), God can't just change the rules because then he would be violating his nature. The "rules" exist, not because God picked them through eeny meeny miney mo, but because they emanate from God himself. Asking God to "change the rules" is asking God to stop being God.

Well, is he god or is he god? Clearly, an omnipotent god could zap this man back into a "normal" human, and zap every affected human's memory so that this event is only a reality in god's memory.

Of course God "could" do that, but why should he? Why should he step in and prevent natural consequences from happening? I refer back to my point of consequences to ourselves and others being a natural (and good) deterrent to future sins. And in such a rare case as this man, we are likely able to learn more and better understand what happened to him, and thus will likely be able to better help others, perhaps even catch something like this earlier or even prevent it.

(btw, not to minimize his suffering or difficulties, but if you've read up on him you'll know that he's had surgery now and is getting better - he doesn't seem to be in much physical pain, and is relatively upbeat about his condition and prognosis)

Your position is that there is NO good reason for God to allow this to happen, therefore God either isn't real or is really bad. All I need to do is give plausible reasons (just one, even) for God to allow this suffering, and your position becomes untenable. In this thread I have offered at least 3 such reasons: 1. this is part of the natural consequences of sin and decay in this world which God is not obligated to stop 2. seeing that other people suffer innocently for something we did wrong is a strong deterrent to future sins 3. other good is likely to come from this, such as better understanding of the problem/solution, which can bring better understanding of other aspects of human physiology (i.e. ripple effect) in order to help or prevent other similar situations. Continuing to simply say that God should just fix this man's problem without addressing my points above will bring this discussion to a stand still.

Because he could do this, but chooses not to do so, we must conclude that he prefers for this man to suffer in this manner. There is no other alternative in any logical (or sane) reasoning. Just like god prefers for infants and children to be slaughtered in Nazi internment camps, and just like god prefers for women to be raped, etc.

This reasoning is quite fallacious. Since I could protect my child from many viruses by never letting him leave the house, but I choose not to do so, does that mean that I prefer that he get sick with colds and the flu? The fact that God allows bad things to happen does not mean at all that he inherently prefers those things, it is simply that they are natural consequences of sinful human actions. It is one thing to allow something to happen because it is for the best. This does not mean that it is the most preferred. And, considering again that the world consists of vastly more good than bad, it is obvious that God actually prefers good over bad. If this were not the case, then the Holocaust would have no shock value as the world would be full of such examples. Seriously, think about what you just said. If God, the all-powerful Creator, truly "prefers" for women to be raped and children to die in Nazi internment camps, why has there only been one Holocaust? Why isn't every woman raped? If we are to accept your claim that God prefers these things, than not only should there be much more evil happening, but the actual statistics of these things happening is astoundingly low. If the god who made this world prefers such evil things as you claim, then based on the relatively low amount of evil in this world, I will agree: THAT is an inept god.

Even in our simple human legal systems, inaction can be considered criminal. If I stand by with my camera and take pictures of someone getting crushed by a piece of machinery, when all I needed to do to stop it was to turn it off (and we assume I knew both of these bits of information), then I can and likely will be charged with criminal negligence, at the least.

Folks here keep bringing up these scenarios, but more scenarios doesn't refute my answer. Removing the "taking pictures" bit, what if by letting that one man get crushed you save 100 other lives? What if by saving that one man, you kill 100 others? Changes the picture drastically doesn't it, as now saving that one man becomes more likely to be "criminally negligent" than letting him die.

As an aside, have any of you read Glenn Miller's take on this (of Christian ThinkTank, one of the Christian sites linked to by this blog)? He goes into much more detail than is feasible here, and I don't agree with all he says, but some of my views have come from reading his stuff. In any case, I think it is good reading for those who are serious about this issue. At the minimum, it should help you understand "the other side" better.

Was god in any way responsible for the tragedies which befell Job? As you'll recall in the story, Satan had to ask god's permission to do anything. Since Satan was granted permission, is god not at the least an accessory to the murder of Job's family, servants, and livestock?

I don't see how Job's story is any different than any other evil or bad thing happening to "innocent" people. God allowed bad things to happen to Job just as he does the rest of us (at varying levels, of course). You'll note also at the end of the story that, due to Job's righteous response to the trials, God "paid him back" with even more than he had to begin with. Job's story doesn't help your position any more than tree man's story.

A final point here. Everyone demands that God step in and stop the natural consequences that are "negative" in our eyes, but I don't hear anyone complaining about the natural consequences that are "positive" that we benefit from, such as freedom, medicine, air conditioning, etc. It seems that you all want to have your cake and eat it too - you want God to stop all the "bad" natural consequences but not the "good" natural consequences. If everyone should only get what they've earned themselves, we'd all be in loads of trouble.

Rachel said...

Stan,

Regarding your most recent post on this thread, most of your points there are different versions of points you've already made, which I answered in my last post to you. Your 3 questions are just more scenarios like babies falling and people getting crushed by machinery, which again I've already answered.

I suppose though that if you are comparing the "leaving the loaded gun" to the initial act of creation with the forbidden tree, then that is a bit different. I would say that it is not comparable to your scenarios of leaving the loaded gun with children, as there is no reason to assume that Adam & Eve had the mantal abilities of children (seems to be a common atheist assumption). Your comparison to the adult about whom it was known that he would commit a crime is a bit better, but still misplaced. If we consider that God creating humans with free will and "testing" their obedience in the garden (knowing that they will sin) is akin to selling the foreknown murderer a gun, then the analogy would be that all adults will always murder, thus the gun couldn't be sold unless it was sold to an adult who would murder. The analogy also fails because of the point of "more good than bad" in the world that I brought up earlier. The effects of the Fall can't quite be compared with the one-time finality of a murder.

Regarding Matthew 10:29, for now let's take your Bible version here as correct, that each sparrow dies because of God's "will". There is no reason to assume that this means that God forces each sparrow to die at a certain time. As I'm sure you're aware, theologians recognize various aspects of God's "will", including his permissive will. And the next phrase in the verse about how even the hairs of your head are numbered is much more "permissive" or "passive". If Jesus was saying what you claim about the sparrows, then the equivalent statement about hairs would have been something like, "and God causes even the hairs of your head to fall out". Instead, Jesus mentions that God simply knows all the hairs on your head in great detail. So if "will" is actually the correct translation, it must refer merely to God's permissive will, i.e. what God allows to happen, rather than what God specifically causes to happen.

But there actually isn't any reason to think that God's "will" is the correct translation here anyway. Here is a list of 5 different translations of that verse. Only one of them uses the word "will" (probably the one you used). Some say simply "apart from your Father", which is too vague for our purposes. Others say apart from the knowledge or consent of your Father. This seems to be the best translation, considering the parallel of this same story in Luke 12:6. This also makes the best sense considering the context, which is Jesus reassuring his disciples that, despite the adversities and persecution they would soon be experiencing, that God would not forget them and was intimately concerned with even the smallest details of their lives.

What this verse does NOT say is that it's God fault that sparrows (or people) die.

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

Rachel,

First, bravo for at least attempting to answer every barrage -- even if we find your answers lacking, the effort is worth noting.

Now then, have I let the cat out of the bag? I suppose so... I do indeed find your answers lacking -- at least some of them.

:)

So...

First, you assert that there has been more good than bad in the world throughout history. Clearly, this is mere conjecture, but even if we allow it for the sake of the argument, do you also propose that the majority of humans throughout history have found themselves judged worthy of heaven?

I'd say, based on the teachings of the major Christian denominations, that by far the majority of humans will end up in hell. I'd also say that this is not something I'd expect to find on the résumé of an omnimax deity.

Of course, it doesn't matter if the majority makes it into heaven or not -- if even one human suffers in hell, then it is by god's decree. We can hem and haw about the blame and/or fault all we want, but just as with the legal examples I tossed out, god would be an accessory at the least. His act of creation is the ultimate cause for eternal torment. Had he instead abstained, then he would have averted the disaster which is eternal suffering.

How can a benevolent being desire this?

You say:

[I]t is not immoral or cruel or bad of [g]od to create this world, despite knowing of the suffering that would be included as a result of sin. Seeing that there is by far more good than bad in the world altogether, I see no reason for [g]od not to create.

How wrong this is! Given the options to a) create a world with some suffering, b) create a world with a majority of bliss, but some suffering, or c) abstain from creating at all, clearly choice (c) is the most moral decision. The first two options are clearly immoral, in that they implicitly condone suffering, whether by the many or by the few.

I keep finding myself appalled at the abhorrent view that sin is our fault, and that the suffering that results is also our fault, and that god is not to blame for placing us into a situation in which he knew we would fail.

You suggested at one point or another that sin is a natural by-product of free will, and that god appropriately chose to allow us our free will, but this, too, is patently false. Surely you can imagine a world in which humans had "limited" free will...

-- For posterity's sake I shall explain the term "limited" here before continuing. Our free will is already limited. I can only choose to do things that I am capable of doing. I cannot, no matter what my will might say, breathe underwater, or fly, or turn invisible. Now back to the argument...

As I was saying, you can surely imagine a world wherein humans had more limited free will, whereby our options to choose were limited in scope to include only competing forms of "good" things (read: no sin, just variations of "goodness"). Had this all-knowing god chosen this sort of world, then suffering would be unnecessary, and sin would be non-existent (like it was before god waved his magic wand).

I guess I still don't see how god is absolved of his crime -- having created, quite intentionally, however indirectly, all of the following:

-- Evil
-- Suffering
-- Sin
-- The capacity to harm

(I guess all of my other examples are just off-shoots of these)

Either he is god or he isn't. Either he is omniscient or he isn't. I don't see how this can be made simpler.

As to Job, you said:

You'll note also at the end of the story that, due to Job's righteous response to the trials, [g]od "paid him back" with even more than he had to begin with. Job's story doesn't help your position any more than tree man's story.

I couldn't disagree more. So Job was "paid back" with more than he had to begin with. I suppose I will concede the point if you will likewise concede that if god allowed, as a [pointless] contest, for your child to be killed, and then after the ordeal gave you a new child, that you'd be pleased as punch.

Seriously -- if your first set of offspring were suddenly killed, and you learned that this was part of a divine wager, and after the trial had ended, you were given a new set of offspring, would you mourn your initial children the less? Would your bitterness evaporate with the new children?

I think not. The book of Job is by far the most interesting and entertaining book in the bible, and it is because it so easily convicts god of being a capricious tyrant.

Here are the reasons Job suffered, and they are precisely the reasons I would say that anyone suffers:

1. Satan was dealt a pair of aces (hearts and diamonds)

2. Queen-king of spades were dealt to god

3. Satan bets non-invasive woe upon Job; god calls

4. The flop comes ace, ten, ace -- spades, spades, clubs

5. Satan checks, slow-playing his quads; god checks behind him

6. The turn comes king of diamonds

7. Satan goes all-in, betting invasive-but-not-lethal woe upon Job; god calls

8. The river comes jack of spades


Is this parody truly that different than the original? Does this not help my case that god is capricious, disingenuous, and reprehensible?


Regarding my questions/scenarios, you dismissed them initially, then recognized their value, then dismissed them again, and I am confused as to why:

Your 3 questions are... already answered.

I would say that [leaving the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the midst of Adam and Eve] is not comparable to your scenarios of leaving the loaded gun with children, as there is no reason to assume that Adam & Eve had the mantal
(sic) abilities of children (seems to be a common atheist assumption).

It's not so much an assumption as it is a deduction based on the explicit text. If Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good or evil prior to eating the fruit, then they were children, mentally. In fact, my three questions/scenarios dealt specifically with this sort of defense by first assuming they were no wiser than a toddler, and then increasing their abilities to that of a 12-year-old.

They were naïve. They let a talking snake convince them it was a worthwhile disobedience. Unless talking animals were commonplace, then they should absolutely be considered children. Even a 12-year-old would suspect a talking snake enough to ask, "Why are you the only animal that talks?"

Also, if they were "mentally perfect", as many apologists like to assert, then shouldn't their perfect memories have reminded them of what god had actually said, instead of allowing the talking snake to so easily deceive them?

No, the point here is that god set them up to fail. That this seems acceptable to anyone is beyond me. My scenarios were merely human examples of how wanton negligence (the nicest way of putting it) is criminal.

As if to illustrate the point, you then defend Matthew 10:29 by suggesting that "consent" is a better translation than "will" -- I will tacitly agree by saying that this change bears no difference. The statement is, explicitly, that even a lowly sparrow's fate is by god's decree only.

I also agree that "Jesus [was] reassuring his disciples that... [g]od... was intimately concerned with even the smallest details of their lives."

The difference in our stances on this is that I take the definition of concerned as 2b from Merriam-Webster online to be authoritative:

culpably involved : implicated

This is in fact exactly in line with the context and our agreed meaning behind either "will" or "consent"...

...And this is the point.

If god is omniscient, then he's evil -- at least to somebody. I submit that you have not made a case that god is absolved of his culpability in any sin, or any amount of suffering, or any manifestation of evil. I further submit that I have made an arresting case (pun intended) that god is indeed guilty at the least of being an accessory to evil, suffering, etc., and that as such he is unworthy of worship or exaltation.

Note: I recognize that I'm a bit long-winded, and I apologize, but to shorten things would be to do the topic a disservice.

--
Stan

Rachel said...

Fair warning: I think this is the longest post I've ever written! So I apologize in advance for the length, but I wanted to provide thorough answers.

Joe,

there's no disagreement on the meaning of "make." The same word is used in Genesis 13:16 when God said he would "make" Israel as the sand of the sea in number; God would create, direct, or appoint them unto their destiny--same meaning as we understand the term "make" to have. The word is used over 120 times that way in the scriptures, so stop trying to sound smart. The word means what it means as it is translated here.

I don't know about "disagreement" necessarily, but the word for "make" in that verse is translated in over 50 different ways in the NASB, most of which do NOT include the idea of "create". Indeed, the very definition of the word includes the following: to put, place, set, appoint, make, ordain, establish, found, constitute, determine, fix. Even 2 out of the 3 definitions YOU gave included "direct" and "appoint", which is exactly what I am saying the word means, as opposed to actually and directly "creating". Your attempt to have the word mean only one thing is rebuffed by not only the fact that often Hebrew words have much larger ranges of defintion than English words, but also by your very own words.

You claim to understand the context and yet you won't use logic to consider why God's words make sense. God's telling Moses, "Who has made man's mouth? Who is it that made the deaf or the blind? I made them, and if I made them, then surely what I'm asking of you is not too much for you." That's the obvious meaning here.

Okay, so you think that God is telling Moses that since he (God) made people with disabilities, then surely Moses ought to be able to handle what God is asking. You're right: I don't see the logic in that at all. How would Moses be inspired to do something he didn't think he could do by pondering God's ability to create people with problems?

What IS logical is for God to say, "Moe, I can shut mouths and open them, I can shut eyes and open them. I can do the same for you. Your poor natural speaking ability is no hindrance for me." God is not speaking of directly creating people a certain way, but more of "changing" them for his purposes, i.e. "appointing". THIS is what makes perfect sense with the context.

Suppose a friend of mine says, "These pieces don't fit together. We can't put the model airplane together," but I reply, "Who do you think made the pieces of the model airplane to be put together? I did, so of course, the pieces do fit."

This analogy is flawed, because it doesn't accurately compare with what Moses said. To keep with your model airplane analogy, a more accurate version would be:

Friend: This airplane can't win a race, it's the slowest plane ever!

Me: Haven't you seen slow planes go fast and fast planes go slow? I'm the one that made them change like that, so trust me, we can win with this plane.

Alright, new rule...let's drop the "look at the context" talk because you are at a site where we, as ex-Christians and ex-ministers, spent years studying these passages, and we know very well the contexts of the verses we use. So no more condescending "I truly know the meaning of this passage" bullshit, ok?

Since when did being a minister mean you automatically understand perfectly the context of any verse that is brought up? Hmm, sounds quite a bit like a fallacious appeal to authority. "Some of us atheists used to be Christians, ministers even! So obviously we know all contexts of all verses perfectly and can't possibly be wrong." In fact I've seen many atheists have no clue of the correct contextual understanding of a verse. In any case, I wasn't being condescending, I was simply using the context to explain why my answer differs from yours. Would you prefer I not bother explaining my view of the context and just say "you're wrong" and leave it at that? I can't possibly explain why I think you're wrong without using the context. It would be a lot easier and less time-consuming to simply make assertions about verses without explanations, but that wouldn't make for a very good discussion.

Besides, you are so doggedly dense and void of reason that you apparently don't seem to realize that a passage of scripture CAN incidentally and implicationally affirm something. So the scriptures can give us knowledge even though the point of a given selection of verses is different (Ex: I Peter 3:19-21 says 8 souls were saved by water, which means a local flood is impossible given the words of Peter, though that was not Peter's point).

Funny, I don't remember saying that a verse couldn't incidentally affirm something other than its main point. But if it's an "incidental" that isn't the main point, it needs to be corroborated by other Scriptures, and even then the "incidental" verse would NOT play a part in determining the truth of something. If anything, it would help us know that our view of other "major" Scriptures related to a certain teaching is likely on the right track. For instance, your example of 1 Peter and the Flood does not contradict a worldwide Flood. But it doesn't contradict a local flood either, because it could easily be that God saved 8 of the people in the affected area by the ark. So while it's interesting, it doesn't really make or break either argument.

In addition, with your use of the argument that direct creation is being taught here only "incidentally" or by "implication", you seem to be agreeing with me that it is NOT the main point. So that makes it suspect from the get-go as to determining a doctrine dogmatically from this "implicational" reference.

But beyond that, the word for "formed" is almost always used in connection with pottery. A potter can form the clay for any use he desires. This dovetails perfectly with the context that God "formed" Jeremiah into the prophet he wanted him to be, even from the womb. IOW, that God was influencing and shaping Jeremiah to be what he had called him to be from his very beginning. NOT that God directly created Jeremiah. And we don't have any indication that God "forms" everyone like this. Indeed, the fact that God mentioned it about Jeremiah seems to highlight its uniqueness.

And even IF we were to take your view that God is saying he directly created Jeremiah, the same applies... there is no reason to apply this to every other person. The context indicates that God was doing something unique, specific, and direct with Jeremiah. So even if I grant you your definition (which I don't), we still don't end up with God directly creating every individual who has ever lived.

I said,

There just isn't enough evidence here to say that God specifically and directly creates every human being, especially considering this isn't even close to the point of this passage.

Then you said,

So God doesn't have specific plans for each individual?

Ah... "specific plans" is hardly the same thing as "specifically and directly creating". Of course God has specific plans, desires, etc. for everyone. That doesn't mean he directly created them.

How do you square this belief with the belief that every human being has a soul? If we each possess a "divine nature" known as a soul, how can we not be designed and fashioned by God himself?

I'm sure you're asking these questions merely to draw out my personal explanation, because as an ex-Christian and/or ex-minister, I'm sure you are well aware of the 3 main views of soul creation. Obviously by my words I don't hold to the pre-existence or creation theories, I hold to the traducian theory of soul existence. Again, I'm sure you and the others here are already well-informed on this issue, but in case any readers need a refresher, try this (beginning at page 40 of the document). I believe the soul is created at the same time as the body at the moment of conception by the parents. This is in perfect keeping with the sin nature being passed down through the human parents (specifically the father, thus Jesus is free from such a nature, being born of a virgin).

So we're not talking about going up to some lax, Sunday-morning-only churchgoers and asking them their personal beliefs. We're talking about what the churches generally teach, and you are really, really uninformed on this point to even mention it. The only Christians who would go easy on suicide are on the very liberal ends, not on the evangelical ends. The average Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Community Church, Church of Christ, Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal, etc. believe suicide is a sin unto death.

Well, sorry, but the only one who is "really, really uninformed" here is you. Did you even read the link I gave you? It would seem you didn't, or else you wouldn't have continued to make such an obvious error.

Let's find out what exactly "Christians" believe about suicide:

1. My previous link to a Google book by Rodney Stark which indicates that Protestants don't hold to even the concept of a "sin unto death" (other than unbelief), so clearly suicide wouldn't send someone to hell in a Protestant's view.

2. An article here written 8 years ago (so this isn't even "new") said this about the Episcopalians: "The Episcopal Church's General Convention passed a resolution calling for the church to 'minister more appropriately to those ... especially at risk of suicide as well as those ... impacted by the suicide of others' at its meeting in Denver this month. The resolution also urges 'all levels of the Episcopal Church' to 'accord high priority to the prevention of suicide in prayers and programming.'

The article goes on to say (regarding a man who helped draft the resolution), "He said that as people learn not to judge those who attempt suicide, people are 'less likely to hide it if they've tried to kill themselves or lost a family member to suicide. We need to let them know that they will not be cut off from the love of God.'"

3. In the same year (2000), the United Methodist Church added a statement on suicide to its "Book of Discipline" which says, "A Christian perspective on suicide begins with an affirmation of faith that nothing, including suicide, separates us from the love of God. ... We deplore the condemnation of people who take their own lives, and ... the stigma that so often falls on surviving family and friends."

4. The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America adopted a "message" about suicide in 1999, which says in part, "Funerals are not occasions either to condemn or idealize an act of suicide, but times to proclaim that suicide and death itself do not place one beyond the communion of saints. Because of Christ's death and resurrection for us, we entrust a troubled person to God's love and mercy with the promise that 'whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's' (Romans 14:7)."

5. Bible.com has an article about suicide, and while I don't agree with much of it, it nevertheless says, "Murder and suicide are not unpardonable sins."

6. A Reformed theology website has this view of suicide: "Actually, the Bible does not teach that people who commit suicide necessarily go to hell. At various times, some people have argued that suicide sends you to hell because you don't have the opportunity to repent of it. However, failure to repent of a particular sin before you die will not send you to hell. Christians are kept securely in Christ; they do not slip out of and into salvation as they sin and repent. Suicide is also not the unforgiveable sin..."

7. Here is an article that appeared in the magazine Christianity Today back in 2000. The author states, "Will Jesus welcome home a believer who died at her own hands? I believe he will, tenderly and lovingly."

8. Ironically, this website DOES think suicide sends people to hell, but actually thinks that the opposing view (that it doesn't) is what is "typically taught". The rest of these quotes come from this website.

9. John Piper, well-known Calvinist author and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church: "No single sin, not even suicide, evicts a person from heaven into hell."

10. Charles Stanley, well-known author and pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, wrote in one of his books, "Whoever believes will be saved. Nowhere in the Bible does God compartmentalize sin and reserve grace only for those who commit 'acceptable' sins. There is no such thing. Does God forgive suicide? Yes, He does. If the person who committed suicide at some time accepted Jesus' death on the cross as payment for his sin debt and asked Him into his life, he is forgiven."

11. David Jeremiah, well-known author and pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, said, "And it is possible, I believe, for a person who has gone through some terrible stress in their life and in a moment of not thinking clearly has ended their life that person very easily might find his place in heaven; especially because he could have given his heart to Christ in this life; and even to take one's life does not undue what God does in the inward act of salvation."

12. Billy Graham said, "Suicide is always a tragedy - but in itself it is not the unpardonable sin."

13. John MacArthur, well-known author, originator of "lordship salvation" teachings, and pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church, said, "Suicide is a grave sin equivalent to murder (Exodus 20:13; 21:23), but it can be forgiven like any other sin. And Scripture says clearly that those redeemed by God have been forgiven for all their sins--past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14). Paul says in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus."

I posted all of these quotes in order to show the broad spectrum of agreement among Christians, especially Protestants, that suicide does NOT automatically take one to hell. The vast majority of these people are not on the "very liberal ends", in fact most of them are quite conservative. These are not lax, Sunday morning church-goers or the personal beliefs of a few casual Christians. These are the official teachings of denominations and teachings from highly respected and well-known conservate Christian leaders.

So I'll be looking for your retraction on this point.

The question is, is hurting others because of someone else's wrongs reasonably JUSTIFIED! It's not and can never be in the eyes of anyone who regards a reason-based morality. That doesn't include you and your tribal war-god, obviously.

Where did I say that God intentionally hurts others because of someone else's wrongs? I'm saying that God allows the natural consequences to take place. God didn't "do" anything, he allowed us to make our own choices and to experience the consequences, good or bad.

Beyond this, the culture of the ANE (and many modern cultures around the world) was group-oriented, rather than individualistic like ours. The idea of a group (including innocents) suffering for the wrongs of one of them (i.e. the leader) was perfectly acceptable. We actually do have some examples of this concept, such as the people of a country being affected by the decision of the leader(s) to go to war, the employees of a company being affected by litigation against the CEO, etc.

And as I noted in my comment to Stan, I don't see anyone arguing about how unjustified it is that we benefit from others' "rights". If it's not justifiable for people to suffer for wrongs they didn't do, then it's not justifiable for people to benefit for rights they didn't do either. I haven't fought a single day in service to my country, yet I benefit from the good actions of others who have. I have no clue how air conditioning works, but I benefit from the good actions of others who did and do. You can't take one without the other.

if wrongs get us and others in greater hurt, then shouldn't righteousness reverse this? Shouldn't obedience to God make right the sinful consequences experienced by fallen mankind?

We can't erase sin completely, but absolutely our righteous acts can and do make right some of our sinful consequences. Consider the person who breaks the cycle of alcoholism, or abuse, or lying, etc. If someone is an alcoholic, one natural consequence is that their child is more likely to be one, for a variety of reasons. But if the child grows up and is NOT an alcoholic, then THEIR child is somewhat LESS likely to be one.

Now, does every righteous act bring good consequences to others? No, just like not every sinful act brings bad consequences to others. And righteous acts don't necessarily keep people from having to deal with general (i.e. natural) suffering in the world. This is because once sin was introduced and the entire creation began to decay, the process cannot be stopped except by God. The overall process of degeneration is not constantly being slowed and sped up based on what kind of acts are being done at this very moment. So there is some suffering that indeed is spread across the board, because we all live in the same world. But we do have some control over a great many specific aspects of that degeneration process.

This isn't the best of all possible worlds, Rachel.

Is there an argument here, or just assertion?

I said,

The second issue seemed to basically be that since God could fix this man's suffering, then it follows that he should. First, based on my point above about personal responsibility and deterrents, fixing this man's suffering may actually be worse in the long run. I'm reminded of the movie Frequency, where the character changed the future to stop a tragic event, but that change set up other tragic events that then had to be stopped as well.

Then you said,

It can't be the case that everyone who is suffering (which is to say, all of humanity) HAS to suffer to keep them from experiencing worse lives and making worse mistakes down the road.

I wasn't saying that every person's suffering necessarily helps to keep THEMSELVES from experiencing worse future lives. It may very well do that too, but I was saying that other people's suffering can be a strong deterrent to all of us because it shows us that others can and do suffer for sins that we do, thus (hopefully) keeping many of us from experiencing even worse lives.

First, justice would have it (if I grant your theistic reasoning for the sake of argument) that whoever sins suffers. But that shouldn't apply to everyone UNTIL they sin, which would mean that babies and animals didn't suffer. But that's not the case, is it?

I've covered this already in this comment, but just to reiterate, it is perfectly acceptable for innocents to suffer because of the wrongs of others, considering the "group" mentality of ANE culture and even examples from our own culture. Plus the fact that everyone seems perfectly happy to allow innocents to accept benefits for good things they didn't do, but don't want them to have to accept suffering for bad things they didn't do. You can't get one without the other.

Second, your belief system is a poor explanation for suffering; in reality, people suffer because they are products of a cold and cruel world of survival of the fittest. People don't suffer because of curses. No one has sinned.

I don't see an argument here either, merely assertion of your position.

Third, yes, we want God to fix EVERY problem because he's infinite in power and it would cost him NOTHING to make and maintain a perfect world. So why doesn't he do that? Why doesn't he run a creation that perfectly provides his ideal life for us?

Because then we would be robots with no free will.

M. Tully said...

Rachel,

You wrote, "Similarly, I hold that God allows natural consequences of sin that often affect others to actually affect those others, to serve as a deterrent for us not to sin."

I have two comments.

One, how does seeing other people suffer deter sin? Especially if we are in a "the die is already cast" scenario. I mean if I don't sin it doesn't mean that future suffering will be reduced, because your god won't interfere in nature (that could be an interesting topic in itself). After millennia of witnessing human suffering it appears not to have had a substantial effect on deterring immoral behavior.

Two, Why is it that an omniscient, omni-benevolent god couldn't come up with a better deterrent than the suffering of innocents. I mean why not deter sin through transparent signs of his benevolence?

I'll say it again, some god, that one.

Joe E. Holman said...

Rachel, I'll reply to you in a day or so as I'm right smack dab in the middle of a 15 hour shift.

(JH)

Rachel said...

Joe,

It's no rush. As you know, I'm not always able to respond immediately either.

Rachel said...

Zabimaru,

And now let’s say that god designed everything so that after the, apparently inevitable, fall, various animals did not resort to killing other animals for food. All animals would eat of this wondrous crop and live together in peace and harmony. I can not believe that it would be hard for a supreme being capable of flinging literally billions of billions of stars into existence to create an ecological system working that way.

I think you have essentially described the world the way God initially created it, except that there was a variety of "vegetarian" ways of meeting nutritional needs, rather than just one crop. The eating of meat was not allowed until after the Flood, so it was a result of sin and the degradation it caused in the world. Thus, again we have the omnipotence issue that I covered in an earlier comment (I think to emodude, I'm losing track now), that since all "rules" come from God and are part of Him (since He IS truth), then he cannot simply change the rules because that would require him to go against his own nature, which is impossible. Therefore, he could not design an ecological system that would stay perfect even after sin was introduced to it. Sin causes things to break down, that simply cannot be changed.

Besides this, even if what you propose were possible, I think the evidence of human history shows that there are those who are greedy enough and evil enough to capture large quantities of land and force people to do their bidding or starve.

People could no longer look point to nature and say “See, animals are killing each other all the time, in needlessly cruel ways nonetheless, so we’re not that bad. It’s just the way nature is; there’s no problem with us killing animals and people for our own personal gain.”

Do people really say that (aside from those with severe mental problems)? Do sane people really think that it's okay to kill animals and other people too just because animals do it? This sounds similar to what anti-evolutionists say about the logical end of evolution... are you sure you want to say that this is really what people think? I seriously don't think I've ever heard any murderer point to animals killing each other as the reason they killed. I don't think I've ever heard any meat-loving human say that it's just fine to kill animals because animals kill each other. But I suppose it's possible, so if you have some quotes or sources, please share them and I'll check them out.

But even if people really do think that, again the whole meat-eating thing only came about AFTER the Fall (i.e. sin), so it simply could not be changed.

To me, saying that “all the ills of the world are our fault because Adam and Eve were stupid enough to disobey a direct order from god almighty” is such a cop-out. Rachel talks about all of it being the “natural consequence” of that one sin (that’s a whole lot of suffering for a snack)...

That's not quite what I'm saying (close though). I'm saying that all the ills of the world are the fault of humanity in general, because they are the result of the effects of sin, which Adam & Eve introduced and the rest of us have continued to perpetuate. It's not like everything immediately went from perfect to terrible. If you still think that's a cop-out, you'll need to explain why.

Why would we assume that a sin must lead to all those ills? Couldn’t god have let us off easy, it being a first offense and all, and god just having created us to be just that way?

Sin leads to ills because sin always has consequences. Sin can't NOT have consequences, that is connected to God's character of being holy and just (referring back to my point that God can't stop being God/who he is). Same goes for God "letting us off easy".

Beyond that, what "way" are you talking about that you think God created us that would cause him to let us off easy? If you're trying to say that God should have made us so that we wouldn't have sinned, then I refer back to the "best of all possible worlds" argument and the point that humans + free will = sin. God made Adam & Eve perfect (w/o sin, in his image, and "very good") and gave them free will, yet they chose to sin. What about this situation would cause God to let us off easy?

Why are you so certain that this is the only possible way that things can be?

I don't think this is the only possible way things could be, I think it is the best possible way things could be. I think this because of God's omnis.

If I did believe in a supreme being I think it obvious that this being could change things. If the being could not, or would not, change things, then it is a being with no interest in mankind, and then it is obviously not the god of the bible.

What "things" exactly do you want God to change? As I've argued, evil and suffering are the results of the sin that we chose/choose. As I've also said previously, God did introduce a variety of potential changes, but he has left the ultimate choice up to us. Why does that mean that he has "no interest" in mankind?

Rachel said...

Emodude,

I said,

I mean that every single initial act of creation that includes giving humans free will would result in sin at some point.

Then you said,

This is based on nothing other than your opinion, and thus it is inadmissible as evidence.

Actually, it's based on logic and the points of Christian theology under discussion, as I noted in my last comment to Zabimaru.

Why would you want to worship a god, who is only capable of creating a world in which there will inevitably be sin, pain and suffering,

Omnipotence issue, see my earlier comments explaining this. God is "only capable" of being true to himself, which means that he created everything and everyone perfectly, but even perfect humans with free will will inevitably sin, which brings pain and suffering. The problem is not with God not being capable enough.

which then causes him to provide several more plagues and deaths to apparently teach us stupid humans some lessons,

I don't know about "stupid" humans, I don't think God sees us as stupid. And again, God is not directly sending specific plagues, deaths, etc. He is allowing them as the natural consequences of our actions.

Once again I will point out here that nobody seems to be complaining about how "unjust" God is for allowing us to learn lessons or benefit from good things done by people before us. You all seem to want your cake and eat it too. You can't have one without the other.

and ultimately he must kill himself in human form to try and provide some form of salvation?

"Kill himself" isn't quite right, you seem to have a misunderstanding of the Trinity. But either way, why is this bad? Would you not allow yourself to be killed if it meant saving someone(s) you loved? Most people consider self-sacrifice to be quite noble. But for the Creator to sacrifice himself for the creatures, after they'd already rejected him initially, in order to give them "another chance" and rescue them from themselves? That is beyond "noble", and absolutely worthy of gratitude and worship.

And if this is the only type of world he could create, then why would he WANT to?

I answered this in my last comment to Stan... essentially because there would be more good than bad, so it was worth it.

Step outside of your christian bubble of influence for a second, and try and look at this as an unbiased, third-party observer.

That's why I'm here. Not because I think anyone here is unbiased, or even third-party, especially since most of you are ex-Christians and thus have an emotional investment in seeing Christianity appear wrong. But you do help me examine my beliefs from the opposing view, helping me refine my beliefs and my defense of them. So yes, I think if someone were truly objective and third-party, they would agree with my arguments.

Rachel said...

Stan,

I do indeed find your answers lacking -- at least some of them.
:)


Thanks... I think. :-)

Of course, it doesn't matter if the majority makes it into heaven or not -- if even one human suffers in hell, then it is by god's decree.

What do you base this on? Why must God have decided to force someone to do something? God allowing something is significantly different than God deciding or decreeing something.

His act of creation is the ultimate cause for eternal torment. Had he instead abstained, then he would have averted the disaster which is eternal suffering.

I'm guessing by "torment" and "suffering" that you mean eternal fire, so I want to make clear that I don't believe that's what hell is.

But to summarize (correctly I hope), your point seems to be that if more people go to hell than go to heaven (as the Bible would seem to teach, although we can't know that for sure, but assuming so for the sake of argument), then there would eventually and ultimately be more bad than good. It may not be feasible to counter that on this blog. This link goes in to great detail. At the link is the following quote from a book by Habermas & Moreland called Immortality: The Other Side of Death: "Remember, hell is not a torture chamber, and people in hell are not howling like dogs in mind-numbing pain. There are degrees of anguish in hell. But the endlessness of existence in hell at least dignifies the people there by continuing to respect their autonomy and their intrinsic value as persons."

Then that same link has this quote from Walls' Hell: The Logic of Damnation: "What all these cases show us, I want to emphasize, is that hell may afford its inhabitants a kind of gratification which motivates the choice to go there. In each case the choice of evil is somehow justified or rationalized. In each case there is an echo of Satan's claim that hell is better than heaven. This belief is what finally justifies and makes intelligible the choice of hell...So conceived, we can say hell is a sort of distorted mirror image of heaven. There is no place in it for the strength of real moral character, but an imitation of this can be had by those who deliberately achieve consistency in evil. It can offer no true righteousness, but it does offer the alternative attraction of self-righteousness. It holds no genuine happiness, but those who prefer it to heaven may savor a deformed sense of satisfaction which faintly resembles real happiness. Hell cannot truly be heaven, or be better than heaven, any more than evil can be good. But this lesson may be finally lost on those who persist in justifying their choice of evil by calling it good."

When we combine the idea of all humans having intrinsic value from the first quote, with the idea that those in hell have a "form" of happiness, we can see that those in hell in effect have a "low-quality life", but it is still better than not existing at all (due to intrinsic value and honoring personal choice), thus their existence is still "more good than bad". Restated, if we look at the possibilities on a scale, with annhilation being 0 and heaven being 10, hell is somewhat greater than 0, so is still relatively more good than bad. If all that is confusing, I'd really suggest you read the link. Perhaps we are beginning to get beyond the scope of this blog.

Given the options to a) create a world with some suffering, b) create a world with a majority of bliss, but some suffering, or c) abstain from creating at all, clearly choice (c) is the most moral decision. The first two options are clearly immoral, in that they implicitly condone suffering, whether by the many or by the few.

How could it possibly be immoral to create something that would have some bad, as long as the good outweighs the bad? In my last comment to you I related this to our decision to have children, but you didn't address that. When people decide to have a child, they know that child will experience at least some difficulties in life. In fact, we know that having a child will in some senses make life more difficult for us. But we do it anyway, because we believe the good will outweigh the bad for both of us. But according to your logic it would be immoral for people to have children. This does not make sense.

As I was saying, you can surely imagine a world wherein humans had more limited free will, whereby our options to choose were limited in scope to include only competing forms of "good" things (read: no sin, just variations of "goodness").

Might as well be robots then. How could we truly say we loved God because we wanted to when we couldn't NOT love him? It's like telling someone they can choose to drive in red car with me or the blue car with me, then laud them for choosing to be with me.

Either he is god or he isn't. Either he is omniscient or he isn't. I don't see how this can be made simpler.

It's not a matter of greater simplicity. The problem is your argument is illogical. I've explained the issue of God's omnipotence and how he couldn't have made us so that we wouldn't sin. I've explained the issue of omniscience and that God's knowledge of our actions doesn't make them any less our choice or our fault. Here you've just sort of shrugged your shoulders and said you don't know what else to say to explain your view. Perhaps we have reached an impasse then.

Seriously -- if your first set of offspring were suddenly killed, and you learned that this was part of a divine wager, and after the trial had ended, you were given a new set of offspring, would you mourn your initial children the less? Would your bitterness evaporate with the new children?

I don't know about "wager" exactly, but I don't see anything wrong with God testing our faith at times. But to the question, the "payback" of more children wouldn't cause me to mourn the first set any less, but absolutely there would be a sense of recompense and filling of an emptiness with the new set. This is precisely why some (I think many) people who lose children (whether through miscarriage or later) want to have another child. Every child is different, so it's not a one-to-one ratio, but there is definitely a sense of replacement, or that things are much better or more fulfilled when another child comes along. And especially once I gained a perspective beyond my temporal one and saw that my story would affect the lives of literally millions and millions of people? Yes, I would be quite satisfied with that.

Here are the reasons Job suffered, and they are precisely the reasons I would say that anyone suffers:

The story of Job offers no such frivolity or triviality on God's part. And there is certainly no basis for extending this testing out to every single case of suffering.

Regarding my questions/scenarios, you dismissed them initially, then recognized their value, then dismissed them again, and I am confused as to why:

I "dismissed" them initially by saying that they were the same as others you'd already brought forth that I had answered. Then I thought of a different way you might have meant them, so I answered that way (which apparently you took as a "dismissal"). I could have deleted the first part, but I left it in since I wasn't sure which way you meant those scenarios.

Also, if they were "mentally perfect", as many apologists like to assert, then shouldn't their perfect memories have reminded them of what god had actually said, instead of allowing the talking snake to so easily deceive them?

Who said anything about "easily"? Who knows how long they were in the garden before they sinned, and so who knows how many times the snake (or Satan in some other form) would have tried to deceive them? Granted, this could have been the first time, but we don't know that, so for you to assume that in order to make a point is fallacious.

Just to be clear, "they" weren't deceived... Eve was, but Adam knew exactly what he was doing and chose to do it anyway.

Regarding your idea that their perfect memories should have kept them from sinning, haven't you ever done something that was wrong, all the while knowing exactly what you were doing? We've all justified wrongdoing, either to others or ourselves, and it's likely that's exactly what Eve did.

If Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good or evil prior to eating the fruit, then they were children, mentally.

Well, they'd never actually experienced evil, but it's illogical to say they knew nothing of good OR evil prior to eating the fruit. Clearly they knew God, who was good. And God had told them they would die if they ate of that one tree, and I'm sure they realized that was bad. So it's obvious that they knew about good and evil, the point was that they hadn't experienced it, i.e. didn't know it thoroughly. This cannot be accurately compared to a childish mentality of not really "getting" that something they do would be bad.

No, the point here is that god set them up to fail. That this seems acceptable to anyone is beyond me.

I don't know of anyone to whom such a conclusion would be acceptable. On what basis do you say that God set us up to fail? He made us perfect, gave us free will and a choice. We chose sin, despite all the good we knew with and about him. Where is the setup for failure here?

My scenarios were merely human examples of how wanton negligence (the nicest way of putting it) is criminal.

And I suggested plausible ways in which the action you noted would no longer be considered "negligence" or "criminal".

As if to illustrate the point, you then defend Matthew 10:29 by suggesting that "consent" is a better translation than "will" -- I will tacitly agree by saying that this change bears no difference. The statement is, explicitly, that even a lowly sparrow's fate is by god's decree only.

As I said earlier, allowing something is far different than forcing it to happen. Consent/knowledge of is not at all the same thing as "will" and makes quite a difference in our understanding of the text, especially IRT this discussion.

I also agree that "Jesus [was] reassuring his disciples that... [g]od... was intimately concerned with even the smallest details of their lives." The difference in our stances on this is that I take the definition of concerned as 2b from Merriam-Webster online to be authoritative: culpably involved : implicated

This is a strange comment, for your dictionary link gave several definitions, all of them similar to the way I was using the word "concerned" (e.g. anxious, worried, interested, interestedly engaged) except the one that you chose. Why is the last definition any more "authoritative" than the first 3? All are valid uses of the word, but you know I wasn't using "concerned" in that way, I was clearly saying that Jesus was reminding his disciples that as they went out to preach the kingdom and were faced with persecution, that God still cared about them and was "paying attention" to them. That is what I meant by "concerned", and it is just as authoritative a use of the word as your version.

This is in fact exactly in line with the context and our agreed meaning behind either "will" or "consent"...

I'm quite sure we have NOT agreed upon the meaning, as I define "consent" or "knowledge" as vastly different than "will" or "decree" or "choice".

Rachel said...

M Tully,

One, how does seeing other people suffer deter sin?

? I thought this was fairly obvious. I've also mentioned several ways already. Many women choose to stop smoking while pregnant because they've seen how it can cause babies to suffer. Many people choose not to drink and drive because they've seen the suffering that often happens as a result of drunk driving. Also, seeing other people suffer as a result of sin/wrongdoing reminds us generally that our actions often affect other people besides ourselves.

I mean if I don't sin it doesn't mean that future suffering will be reduced, because your god won't interfere in nature (that could be an interesting topic in itself)

It may not be able to stop the overall degeneration process of the physical world, but it does reduce the suffering in your own life and likely in the lives of others affected by you. This certainly does contribute to a reduced level of suffering.

After millennia of witnessing human suffering it appears not to have had a substantial effect on deterring immoral behavior.

Oh contraire. Story after story can be and has been told of people who made better choices as a result of seeing suffering in others. If God miraculously protected every baby growing inside a mom on drugs so that it was perfectly healthy, how many moms do you think would stop using? If God miraculously stopped every drunk driver from hitting anyone else, how many people would use a designated driver?

Two, Why is it that an omniscient, omni-benevolent god couldn't come up with a better deterrent than the suffering of innocents. I mean why not deter sin through transparent signs of his benevolence?

You mean, like walking and talking with us every day in a perfect world that he made just for us? Didn't work. What kind of "transparent signs" are you thinking of that would seriously stop people from immoral behavior?

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

Why must [g]od have decided to force someone to do something? [g]od allowing something is significantly different than [g]od deciding or decreeing something.

Again and again, you miss the point, but I'm beginning to understand why.

Did god allow me to exist (implying that I might exist due to some choice of my own), or did he decide for me to exist?

In the case of the latter, noticing that it also would apply to everything in the universe, we must recognize the necessary lack of choice in the subject being created.

Let's call this Main Point 1: We had no choice in our own creation.

You then divorce your concept of Hell from the traditional view, by siting an [extremely long] article which is effectively trying to do what you are currently trying to do, but without dialog, and with an intended audience being Christians who are unable to stomach the implicit everlasting suffering described in the bible.

I wonder why you deny that "Hell" (call it what you want, I suppose) is not a place of eternal suffering and/or torment?

Revelation 20:

Verse 10: And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Verse 15: If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Matthew 5:

Verse 22 (Jesus speaking): "...But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

Verse 29 (Jesus speaking): "...It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."

Verse 30 (Jesus speaking): "...It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

Matthew 23:

Verse 33 (Jesus speaking about speakers of the law and Pharisees): "...How will you escape being condemned to hell?"

Isaiah 33:

Verse 14: The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?"

Matthew 25:

Verse 41 (Jesus describing the judgment of the "goats"): "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

...Tormented for ever and ever... into the lake of fire... the fire of hell... thrown into hell... go into hell... condemned to hell... with everlasting burning... into the eternal fire...

Really, you sound a bit like George W. Bush, or even Bill Clinton, when trying to claim that this isn't really so bad as to be called "torture". I guess it depends on what the definition of "is" is...

By 'virtue' of the passages above, corroborating one another, and with additional support elsewhere in the bible, it seems pretty clear that in the "traditional view of hell" (I wanted to include a directed link to the section in the link you provided, but there are none, so I shall instead quote) "will indeed be everlasting, conscious, mental and physical torment in various degrees".

So what if this doesn't fit your conveniently loose definitions of "torture", "suffering", or "torment"?

(Incidentally, the terms torture, torment, anguish, and agony are all synonymous, per Merriam-Webster online -- they didn't have "suffering" demarcated, but since it is cited in each of these definitions...)

Hell, or "the place the non-righteous go after judgment", is clearly a place of eternal suffering -- which clearly includes a predominant theme of fire.

Next, you make the assertion that hell "is still relatively more good than bad", based on a logically fallacious scale which considers annihilation being the worst case.

Rather, my whole point, which in fact comes next in my original chronology, was that annihilation (or, more precisely, non-existence) is the "zero" point, and that "heaven" should be at 10, but "hell" should be at -10. Adjust the scale as you see fit, but non-existence is quite clearly the center for any individual as well as for "all possible worlds".

You go on to "address" this point by asking the following:

How could it possibly be immoral to create something that would have some bad, as long as the good outweighs the bad?

What?! How could it possibly be immoral to develop a medically inclined robot which successfully performs surgery most of the time, but occasionally, and randomly, kills an otherwise recovering patient after subjecting him to excruciating pain?

The good outweighs the bad, yes?

Let's call this Main Point 2: Zero bad is greater than any bad.

(Or were you talking about absolute value?)

You then decide that we don't have free will unless we can choose whether or not we love god:

How could we truly say we loved [g]od because we wanted to when we couldn't NOT love him? It's like telling someone they can choose to drive in red car with me or the blue car with me, then laud them for choosing to be with me.

The problem is that I never mentioned loving god. I was talking only about free will, and describing, as you quite clearly understood in your car analogy, a version of free will in which "red" and "blue" were neither good nor bad. I just left out the lauding them part.

In essence, you missed the point by getting the point, and ignored the argument that there are different sets of "free will" in which "good" and "bad" need not have any meaning.

Tell you what -- I'll return to this point later (in Main Point 3). Right now, I want to focus on the following string of incorrect statements:

I've explained the issue of [g]od's omnipotence and how he couldn't have made us so that we wouldn't sin. I've explained the issue of omniscience and that [g]od's knowledge of our actions doesn't make them any less our choice or our fault.

No, you haven't. In fact, I've explained that god could have made us so that we wouldn't sin, BY NOT MAKING US IN THE FIRST PLACE. And while we agree that god's foreknowledge of our actions does not remove our responsibility for those actions, you also fail to recognize that it implicates god such that he is at least partially responsible.

Skipping ahead a little to revisit my three questions, you dismissed them because you find no reason to assume that Adam and Eve were limited to the mental capacity of a child.

Read the preceding paragraph. The question is perfectly valid, and the disparity between the mental capacity of the adult placing the loaded gun and the child (of whatever age) is far greater if the "adult" is an omnimax god, and the "child" is a naïve human adult who has no knowledge of good and evil.

If you don't get this, then we may really be at an impasse.

You then go on to quibble about the insertion of the word "easily" regarding a talking snake deceiving a woman with what is assumed to be perfect mental capacity. Fine. So it was difficult. You "easily" dismissed this, but it "hardly" had any impact on the argument... Unless their mental abilities diminished over time before they had sinned.

As to why you think they had knowledge of either good or evil, well, this is pretty easy to argue, though I also admit my own error regarding the story, which I shall get to in time:

1. The tree is called "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil", not "the tree of the experience of good and evil", or "the tree of the knowledge of evil".

2. The other tree in the center of the garden was called "the tree of life", and after "The Fall", god specifically noted that it was a good thing they didn't "take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever".

3. The statement by god that "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil" is pretty explicit.

4. Prior to "The Fall", "the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame", but immediately afterward, "they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." Surely, if it is so obvious that they knew about good and evil, then why did their perceptions of nakedness change?

No, the bible is quite explicit on this point: Adam and Eve had knowledge neither of good nor of evil until "The Fall". They knew god, but they did not know that god was good. Knowing a good thing is not the same as knowing a thing is good. The latter implies a judgment.

As to my error, it is that Eve was in fact not deceived -- instead, she had not been created from Adam's rib when the decree not to eat of that tree was given. We must therefore make the assumption that either god directly forbade her also, that Adam told her what god had said, or that a different talking animal told her (we can safely dismiss the snake, since he asked her what god had said). In any of these scenarios, either the informer is imperfect by virtue of an imperfect rendering of god's initial command, or Eve is imperfect by virtue of an imperfect memory of the command.

All of this regarding Adam and Eve's mental capacities, and of their knowledge of good and evil, both prior to and following "The Fall", is to reinforce the argument that god did indeed set them up to fail.

This is pretty simple, but I'll reiterate it and restate it to attempt to clarify and solidify the principle:

1. Omniscience implies foreknowledge, which means that an omnimax god knew precisely what his creation would do. Every minute detail.

2. Omnipotence implies the ability to abstain from creation, which means that an omnimax god chose to create things as they are. Every minute detail.

3. Omnibenevolence implies a judgment which promotes only good, which means that an omnimax god would only choose good.

These I submit as indisputible facts. What follows next is an assertion based on biblical evidence (outlined above):

4. Adam and Eve had no knowledge either of good or of evil, which means that while they may have experienced either of these, they were incapable of judging them as being one or the other.

So, using the quite appropriate analogy of the adult placing a loaded weapon in the presence of an unwitting child, god is the culpable adult, and Adam and Eve are the unwitting children. The gun is the tree, and despite the fact that any sane person would agree that an adult doing this is at least partially responsible, we would also agree that the adult does not in fact have foreknowledge regarding the child's actions. We would also agree that the adult did not create either the gun or the children.

Yet you would acquit god.

Not only would you acquit god, but you suggest that because the gun may instead have been a bazooka, or a ticking bomb, or a tank, or whatever, that the action is somehow praiseworthy.

In fact, my sarcastic depiction of the Job account can be used to more effectively illustrate this concept.

In my depiction, Satan ended up with four aces, whereas god ended up with a royal flush. This was, in the game of poker, inevitable. No matter the betting or posturing, with that deck and those players, unless someone folded, Satan was going to lose.

Perhaps a better card game analogy would be the game of "War", which children enjoy playing, but whose outcome is a foregone conclusion, depending only on the order of the cards from shuffling, and the number of players involved.

So then, we'll call this Main Point 3: It is not the player's fault for losing the game of "War".

Your god, the omnimax, created the cards, created the players, shuffled the deck, cut, and dealt, and after the created players lost, he condemned a great many of their descendents to eternal torment.

As to what the three main points discover, well:

1. We had no choice in our creation

2. Zero bad is greater than any bad

3. It is not the player's fault for losing the game of "War"

Your god made us as players in a game of war that only he, or his son, will win, and has the audacity to judge us eternally responsible when we lose. Apparently, he thinks this is better than playing a game of "Solitaire", or of Freeze Frame.

You seem to think that god is not responsible for the actions of his creation which he knew would be made if he created it. You seem to think that there is a fundamental difference between "allowing" and "forcing" when considering an omnimax. Of course, I was being fecitious when choosing the most damning definition of "concerned" listed, but the point is no less valid -- that verse clearly states that god is where the buck stops, and the Job account serves only to reinforce this concept all the more. Call Job's account as serious as you wish, but the text tells a different story, which supports my interpretation of the Matthew verse.

Job 1:

Verses 6-12: One day the angels came to present themselves before the [[lord]], and Satan also came with them. The [[lord]] said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"

Satan answered the [lord], "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

Then the [lord] said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears [g]od and shuns evil."

"Does Job fear [g]od for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

The [lord] said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger."

Then Satan went out from the presence of the [lord].


The whole thing seems pretty arbitrary, frivolous, and it is explicitly clear that god is responsible for Job's woes, just as Matthew (and the correlary in Mark) is clear regarding the fate of sparrows.

This god prefers evil, prefers suffering, and prefers them eternally. There is no escaping his culpability in all evil that exists, and no denying that as such he is not omnibenevolent, unless we also limit his other omnimax attributes, in which case he fails to merit worship.

I will not worship such a thing. Why do you?

--
Stan

M. Tully said...

Rachel,

You wrote, “Oh contraire. Story after story can be and has been told of people who made better choices as a result of seeing suffering in others.”

O.K., first of all, anecdotal evidence doesn’t carry any weight with me. So let’s look at DUI through some real empirical data. For years it the possible adverse (human suffering) consequences of driving drunk were known. Yet, people still continued to do it. Why? Well, I don’t think they really wanted to be splattered all over a highway somewhere, but instead that they didn’t feel that it would ever happen to them (that’s what happens when your internal probability vs. consequence meter was calibrated on the savannah and not in modern civilization). But, since the 1980’s, when more aggressive enforcement was implemented, the percentage of DUI deaths has decreased (scholarly and government studies confirming this can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/drving.htm). Why? Human society created conditions in which the probability of an adverse consequence was raised to a level our instinctual hunter-gatherer risk assessment calculator could relate to.

Secondly, how do you rationalize things like flesh-eating bacteria causing moral behavior? Unless of course one wanted to argue for microbe free will.

“What kind of "transparent signs" are you thinking of that would seriously stop people from immoral behavior?”

Well, I’m not omniscient, but how about this one. I commit a random act of kindness, and suddenly someone feeling deep depression about the loss of a loved one figures out how to cope. But, beyond that, he has vision of the act of kindness. He describes it including the date, time, street name and a complete description of the actors involved. A city security camera catches it on tape. It’s on the six o’clock news. Similar events are happening all the time. Every time someone faces a dilemma and makes a “good” moral choice it is transparently and verifiable multiplied. Like I said, I’m not omniscient just a first go around at encouraging moral behavior without inflicting pain and suffering.

Joe E. Holman said...

Ok, Rachel…here it is! *sighing, rolling eyes...*

Rachel said...

“I don't know about "disagreement" necessarily, but the word for "make" in that verse is translated in over 50 different ways in the NASB, most of which do NOT include the idea of "create". Indeed, the very definition of the word includes the following: to put, place, set, appoint, make, ordain, establish, found, constitute, determine, fix. Even 2 out of the 3 definitions YOU gave included "direct" and "appoint", which is exactly what I am saying the word means, as opposed to actually and directly "creating". Your attempt to have the word mean only one thing is rebuffed by not only the fact that often Hebrew words have much larger ranges of defintion than English words, but also by your very own words."

My reply…

I do not attempt to have the word mean “only one thing,” but in this context, it CAN ONLY mean one thing, dearest—to create. The word is also used by God to Jacob in Genesis 46:3, “for I will make of thee a great nation.” But it didn’t exist then, did it? Those people had to be born and the nation assembled, yes? They had to be "created," no? So while the word means just what I (and you) have said it means, it can include creation as it does here and in Exodus."


Rachel said…

“Okay, so you think that God is telling Moses that since he (God) made people with disabilities, then surely Moses ought to be able to handle what God is asking. You're right: I don't see the logic in that at all. How would Moses be inspired to do something he didn't think he could do by pondering God's ability to create people with problems?

What IS logical is for God to say, "Moe, I can shut mouths and open them, I can shut eyes and open them. I can do the same for you. Your poor natural speaking ability is no hindrance for me." God is not speaking of directly creating people a certain way, but more of "changing" them for his purposes, i.e. "appointing". THIS is what makes perfect sense with the context.”

My reply…

The only problem is, Rachel, you’ve got to let the text speak and tell us what it is saying, not what you want it to say. Moses says, “But God, I can’t speak well! How can you appoint me for this task?” What does God reply?? He says, “Who do you think MADE the dumb and the deaf and the blind?” Yes, appointment is being spoken of in the context, but that meaning isn’t found right in this phrase. The context bears that out. God hasn’t “appointed” the dumb or the blind yet, but he “made” them, and as creator, will do with them according to his purposes. But that’s a separate matter from their being created or “made”; God says, in effect, “You, Moses, are inept at speaking? Do you think I don’t know that? What do you think I am, Moses? Don’t you know I create those who have problems speaking, and if I create them, I wouldn’t give them something that is above them, now would I? So go, let Aaron speak for you! That’s how I had in mind to help you to get around this problem.”

But again, it doesn’t follow to say that since God created the pure Abrahamic stock (humans with normal abilities), and generally created EVERYONE like he did by way of nature, that he created the handicapped with special needs, and at the same time, had destinies for them all. That’s why, out of sheer human weakness, Moses feared God had given him a task that was suited only for people of normal or greater talents. So God told Moses, “Who do you think made the handicapped?” The meaning is, God created them and oversaw their formation like he did the “normal” of us, and if he created them, he can “appoint” (ah, there’s your word again!) them to get around their difficulties. The Big Man's got a plan no matter what. That's the meaning here.

So, no, God isn’t talking about general creation of all men in nature here, but about creating “special” people for “special” purposes. The whole discussion to Moses makes no sense unless we proceed with this understanding.


Rachel said…

"This analogy is flawed, because it doesn't accurately compare with what Moses said. To keep with your model airplane analogy, a more accurate version would be:

Friend: This airplane can't win a race, it's the slowest plane ever!

Me: Haven't you seen slow planes go fast and fast planes go slow? I'm the one that made them change like that, so trust me, we can win with this plane."

My reply…

Way to go, Mrs. Dense-fire, on throwing out a truly dumb analogy! My analogy was spot-on. As I explained, it goes “I created the handicapped, so therefore, they are useful,” not “I appointed the handicapped to be successful” because that doesn’t work in the conversation between God and Moses. God created the handicapped, so they logically have a purpose, as God will manifest it to them. And God created absolutely EVERYTHING for a purpose…

“The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Proverbs 16:4)

So again, “These model airplane pieces don’t fit together.” The creator of the model airplane product line says, “Who do you think MADE these different model airplane pieces? Have not I, the designer? And if I made them, obviously then, they CAN go together, or else you’re saying I’m stupid, which I’m not. So let me show you how these pieces fit together…” Please read the context of Exodus 4 again, Rachel, and I think you’ll find your “God only created everything perfectly once” position is wanting badly.

“The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.” (Proverbs 27:6)


Rachel said…

“Since when did being a minister mean you automatically understand perfectly the context of any verse that is brought up? Hmm, sounds quite a bit like a fallacious appeal to authority.”

My reply…

Ok, fine then. Go ahead, look even more like an on-fire, arrogant Campus Crusade for Christ-er who think she’s gonna set the world on fire with Bible knowledge that she has a monopoly on. Knock yourself out, sister! We’ll just keep shaking our heads in disgust.


Rachel said…

"In fact I've seen many atheists have no clue of the correct contextual understanding of a verse. In any case, I wasn't being condescending, I was simply using the context to explain why my answer differs from yours. Would you prefer I not bother explaining my view of the context and just say "you're wrong" and leave it at that? I can't possibly explain why I think you're wrong without using the context. It would be a lot easier and less time-consuming to simply make assertions about verses without explanations, but that wouldn't make for a very good discussion."

My reply…

How about, instead of saying you have an understanding of the context, you just demonstrate that you do by arguing from it? But you haven’t done that. As I’ve shown, you make alternative explanations for things to get your god off the hook of being a wretched designer, so no, you have no “correct contextual understanding” and haven’t been able to demonstrate so.


Rachel said…

"Funny, I don't remember saying that a verse couldn't incidentally affirm something other than its main point. But if it's an "incidental" that isn't the main point, it needs to be corroborated by other Scriptures, and even then the "incidental" verse would NOT play a part in determining the truth of something. If anything, it would help us know that our view of other "major" Scriptures related to a certain teaching is likely on the right track. For instance, your example of 1 Peter and the Flood does not contradict a worldwide Flood. But it doesn't contradict a local flood either, because it could easily be that God saved 8 of the people in the affected area by the ark. So while it's interesting, it doesn't really make or break either argument."

My reply…

First, the reason I brought up “incidental” truths was because you seemed to be saying as much when you said, "The point of Jeremiah 1:5 is that God had a specific plan for Jeremiah before he was even born.” And it seemed as though you are like so many newfangled theologians of today who are on this bandwagon of “can’t prove anything from a bible passage unless that is the whole point of the passage” thinking. If that doesn’t describe you, then disregard this.

I really don’t care anyway. But yes, “eight souls were saved by water” in I Peter 3:21 does incidentally refute a local flood theory because Peter’s concept of the Noahic flood was, “The world that then was being overflowed by water perish.” (2 Peter 3:6) 8 souls being saved to repopulate the earth doesn’t work with the idea that in many places, human life survived. And if Noah’s flood was local, since God promised never to send one again, this promise is violated all the time, isn’t it? Local floods still kill large portions of humanity, no? And why would an omnipotent creator have an ark built for a local flood? Wouldn’t just moving be a smarter and more efficient idea??? Combine these reasons with the fact that the ignorant writers of Genesis thought that their local area was ALL THERE WAS to the world at that time, and it’s not difficult to see why the much older myth of an ancient flood emerged.

But on incidental proofs, other examples are applicable, like when the scriptures say that the archangel Michael and Satan disputed over the body of Moses, that overturns the idea that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have of Michael the archangel being Jesus under a different name because Jesus himself is mentioned in Jude, and thus, separated from Michael. (Jude 1:1)

Well, I don’t wanna move off of the point here, but just goes to show you that just a few more brain cells would do wonders for you, hun!


Rachel said…

"But beyond that, the word for "formed" is almost always used in connection with pottery. A potter can form the clay for any use he desires. This dovetails perfectly with the context that God "formed" Jeremiah into the prophet he wanted him to be, even from the womb. IOW, that God was influencing and shaping Jeremiah to be what he had called him to be from his very beginning. NOT that God directly created Jeremiah. And we don't have any indication that God "forms" everyone like this. Indeed, the fact that God mentioned it about Jeremiah seems to highlight its uniqueness.

And even IF we were to take your view that God is saying he directly created Jeremiah, the same applies... there is no reason to apply this to every other person. The context indicates that God was doing something unique, specific, and direct with Jeremiah. So even if I grant you your definition (which I don't), we still don't end up with God directly creating every individual who has ever lived."

My reply…

Uh, no Shirley Simple, by “forming” Jeremiah, he was indeed creating him in the womb, and given your (and my former) position of dual soul and body creation in the womb, God HAD to be “directly creating” Jeremiah as all humans are, aside from Adam and Eve, of course. The word for “formed” itself tells us this as the word is used in Genesis 2:7-8 for God creating man, and the same word is used in Genesis 2:19 for God’s creation of animals. The word is also used in pottery illustrations of God molding Israel into an obedient vessel (Jeremiah 18), etc. So no, no distinctions can be made here between “direct” creation and womb creation. But if we were dealing with a passage in the first two chapters of Genesis, where God “directly created” Adam and Eve, you’d be right. But you are not here.

The only “unique, specific, and direct” with regards to Jeremiah was his destiny and chosen nature as a prophet…

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Did you notice that? God said that while Jeremiah was being “formed” in the womb, God sanctified him and ordained him to become a prophet. That’s it. Other than that, Jeremiah was created just like every other human soul according to the scriptures. But you can’t take away the fact that Jeremiah was being created by God himself, as the book says we all are. And if you’re going to go the route of pagan, Persian-ized “immortal soul” theology at creation, you’ve got to say the SAME THING about every other person created. This passage, although it is speaking about the divine destiny of one prophet, doesn’t negate the fact that God himself takes credit for all human creation (see Ezekiel 18:4).

“Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)


Rachel said…

"Ah... "specific plans" is hardly the same thing as "specifically and directly creating". Of course God has specific plans, desires, etc. for everyone. That doesn't mean he directly created them."

My reply…

The Bible doesn’t make this distinction. The Bible was written during a time in which men saw God as having an active hand in everything that is ever done. That’s what’s confusing you. You and people of today are trying to go back to these old archaic passages and reinterpret them to have modern meanings. They don’t! You can’t make them make sense like that. The Hebrew writer spoke of “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Just like the pagans who believed that if children were not sacrificed to the gods of the sky and the rivers, the world would die, the Hebrews believed that the world was actually SUSTAINED by God. Everything would fall apart without God’s hand. So nothing is not “directly created” in the Bible.


Rachel said…

“Well, sorry, but the only one who is "really, really uninformed" here is you. Did you even read the link I gave you? It would seem you didn't, or else you wouldn't have continued to make such an obvious error.

Let's find out what exactly "Christians" believe about suicide…So I'll be looking for your retraction on this point.”

My reply…

Oh boy! Never let a girl do a woman’s job! But I’ll give this an “A” for effort.

There are a lot of creed books out there that will take different stances on the issue. That I never denied. But all the major denominations and church leadership holds suicide to be a sin unto death for the simple fact that it is a sin you cannot repent of. The Catholic Church only recently denounced this position, as have the other churches you mentioned; the reason being, only God knows whether or not one killed themselves out of a sane mind, or an insane mind. I mentioned that last reply.

This was why, for so long, with both Catholic and Protestant churches, a suicide victim couldn’t be buried in a church burial ground. You are right in that that position is changing because society is evolving and heartless religious fundyism is losing ground, but this is only a recent adjustment.

Plus, you’ve got to take into account regional beliefs of churches, and not just creedal statements. Every local preacher of every faith I can think of regarded suicide as a sin unto death. So despite a valiant effort, you’re still dead wrong. The only thing you are right about and that I will retract is that “Once saved, always saved” believers say that suicide is a sin unto death. They don’t believe that for the simple fact that they believe it is impossible for any saint to be lost no matter what that saint does. I could have made that clear from the outset, but didn’t really think about it. This is a side point anyway.


Rachel said…

"Where did I say that God intentionally hurts others because of someone else's wrongs? I'm saying that God allows the natural consequences to take place. God didn't "do" anything, he allowed us to make our own choices and to experience the consequences, good or bad."

My reply…

Same difference. You serve a being who has the power to control the entire cosmos to the “inth” degree, and yet he allows suffering and the distribution of pain to be unequal. That is not fair and will never satisfy a rational mind. You don’t allow two people to sin and ruin the rest of the entire cosmos, honey bun!


Rachel said…

"Beyond this, the culture of the ANE (and many modern cultures around the world) was group-oriented, rather than individualistic like ours. The idea of a group (including innocents) suffering for the wrongs of one of them (i.e. the leader) was perfectly acceptable. We actually do have some examples of this concept, such as the people of a country being affected by the decision of the leader(s) to go to war, the employees of a company being affected by litigation against the CEO, etc."

My reply…

Because, you freakin’ genius, we’re not omnipotent! So yes, we get into war and suffer because of the consequences of our leaders, and reactions for one can affect many. But how does this justify an omnipotent god allowing such a heartless, unfair system being put in place? The cruel, burnt-black hell you believe in will freeze over before you give a good answer to that.


Rachel said…

"And as I noted in my comment to Stan, I don't see anyone arguing about how unjustified it is that we benefit from others' "rights". If it's not justifiable for people to suffer for wrongs they didn't do, then it's not justifiable for people to benefit for rights they didn't do either. I haven't fought a single day in service to my country, yet I benefit from the good actions of others who have. I have no clue how air conditioning works, but I benefit from the good actions of others who did and do. You can't take one without the other."

My reply…

Uh, Rachel dear...if you can please stop crusading for just long enough to realize that we want less suffering and pain, and not more of it in this world, you'll do well. So of course, we benefit from the good of others. Everyone deserves good and a shot at a tranquil life. Every young child deserves to be born with a healthy body, not muscular dystrophy, you blithering fool!


Rachel said…

"We can't erase sin completely, but absolutely our righteous acts can and do make right some of our sinful consequences. Consider the person who breaks the cycle of alcoholism, or abuse, or lying, etc. If someone is an alcoholic, one natural consequence is that their child is more likely to be one, for a variety of reasons. But if the child grows up and is NOT an alcoholic, then THEIR child is somewhat LESS likely to be one.

Now, does every righteous act bring good consequences to others? No, just like not every sinful act brings bad consequences to others. And righteous acts don't necessarily keep people from having to deal with general (i.e. natural) suffering in the world. This is because once sin was introduced and the entire creation began to decay, the process cannot be stopped except by God. The overall process of degeneration is not constantly being slowed and sped up based on what kind of acts are being done at this very moment. So there is some suffering that indeed is spread across the board, because we all live in the same world. But we do have some control over a great many specific aspects of that degeneration process."

My reply…

Well, why doesn’t God intervene in the process? I’ll never get an answer, will I?


Rachel said…
"Is there an argument here, or just assertion?"

My reply…

It’s self-evident, like wanting pleasure over pain. No argument needed, Bible-thumping Bimbo!


Rachel said…

"I wasn't saying that every person's suffering necessarily helps to keep THEMSELVES from experiencing worse future lives. It may very well do that too, but I was saying that other people's suffering can be a strong deterrent to all of us because it shows us that others can and do suffer for sins that we do, thus (hopefully) keeping many of us from experiencing even worse lives."

My reply…

So your point is destroyed. If not EVERYONE must suffer, why is there suffering in all cases? Why can’t God cure a child’s cancer? You just admitted that in many cases, their lives wouldn’t be beneficial from suffering, so why not cure those of their suffering? You have unjust suffering going on in this world, and yet an infinite God on his throne, so why is there suffering?

You actually have the gall to tell me to serve a god who would curse a man with “tree” hands and feet, with flies and bugs getting in between the crevices because he can’t clean them, unable to wipe his butt, dress himself, or masturbate, and you tell me that is justice? You even admitted that if he was born in ancient times before modern science, he’d be isolated and would die, just like a leper!

You are evil, Rachel, evil. Your service to this so-called “loving” being makes you evil. You are a henchman to a mob boss of limitless power. You serve a being who would actually allow this man to be helped by science, but not by the god’s own miraculous power. Why? It doesn’t make sense.


Rachel said…

"I've covered this already in this comment, but just to reiterate, it is perfectly acceptable for innocents to suffer because of the wrongs of others, considering the "group" mentality of ANE culture and even examples from our own culture. Plus the fact that everyone seems perfectly happy to allow innocents to accept benefits for good things they didn't do, but don't want them to have to accept suffering for bad things they didn't do. You can't get one without the other."

My reply…

Wrong. It cannot be right for an all-powerful deity to choose between “the lesser of evils.” We do that because we have to, but an omnipotent god could regulate his universe perfectly, which means we shouldn’t see this. So no point here. You’ll have to do better.


Rachel said…

"I don't see an argument here either, merely assertion of your position."

My reply…

Well, the modern refusal of mankind to keep on using “curses” and “the fall” to explain this sick, cruel world is proof enough that your reasoning is infantile and childish. No, a snake did not cause a woman to sin to bring about suffering, but I almost wish a snake could bite you and make you suffer a little so that you'll think more before you speak with your compassion-less apologetics crap.


Rachel said…

"Because then we would be robots with no free will."

My reply...

You’re so dense, you almost qualify as a neutron star! EVERYONE to an omniscient God is a robot! No exceptions. He knew when he created us exactly the type of lives we would live and the choices we would make, and yet he made hell-bound souls like me and other atheists anyway. Your reasoning is so bad, so off, so twisted. Jesus must really be proud, honey! Jesus says keep up the good work!

(JH)

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

Rachel, you will be perhaps pleased to know that one of your comments I found troubling, and I couldn't as quickly generate a retort.

I had to think about it.

The comment in question is the following:

How could it possibly be immoral to create something that would have some bad, as long as the good outweighs the bad? In my last comment to you I related this to our decision to have children, but you didn't address that. When people decide to have a child, they know that child will experience at least some difficulties in life. In fact, we know that having a child will in some senses make life more difficult for us. But we do it anyway, because we believe the good will outweigh the bad for both of us. But according to your logic it would be immoral for people to have children. This does not make sense.

It was because this question troubled me that I ignored it, and because it didn't directly impact my arguments to the contrary, but now, after giving it considerable thought, I believe I have an answer for you.

First, you said this:

When people decide to have a child, they know that child will experience at least some difficulties in life. In fact, we know that having a child will in some senses make life more difficult for us.

Strictly speaking, this is untrue. I do not wish to debate semantics, but rather we expect difficulties -- both for ourselves and for our children -- but we do not know they will come, at least not in anything remotely resembling the way in which an omnimax deity would be expected to know of them.

So yes, we "know" there will be difficulties, just as we "know" the sun will rise tomorrow. This "knowledge" is an expectation based upon experience and probability, but technically it is not a certainty.

Next, you said this:

But we do it anyway, because we believe the good will outweigh the bad for both of us.

This, too, is untrue, for much the same reason. We do not "believe" the good will outweigh the bad -- we hope it will.

The difference may be subtle, but it is not insignificant. Parents are either informed in this regard, or they are ignorant -- in the latter case they may well "believe" -- but whether consciously or not, they are rolling the dice.

Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, et al, all had parents, and surely they, too, 'believed' the good would outweigh the bad.

As parents, it is not something over which we have direct control (or even indirect control, in most cases).

Instead, consciously or not, we gamble that our children will not be stricken with disease, that they will not be mentally retarded, that they will not be deformed, that they will not be the next Hitler, etc.

Lastly, and most disturbingly to my position initially, you said:

[A]ccording to your logic it would be immoral for people to have children.

My problem with this is that I don't want it to be immoral to have children.

So, after contemplating it for a while, I realized that it is not immoral to have children, but merely selfish. We do not have children for our children's sake; we have children for our own sake, with some room for "the sake of the species".

We have children because of an instinctual desire to further the species, yes, but we can overcome this instinct fairly easily if we so choose. A great many people -- especially educated people in industrialized nations -- choose not to have children, and those who I know personally have universally said that they have made this choice on moral grounds.

They do not like the state of our world, and do not foresee the weight of the good as increasing against the weight of the bad, so they choose to abstain from procreation so as to absolve themselves of any associated guilt from bringing in a child to suffer on this decaying and abused planet.

They are as gods!

Perhaps I am not the cynic I thought I was, and instead have optimistic tendencies -- I had children both to selfishly pass on my genes (consciously, in my case), and in the hopes that like-minded individuals will help to improve this world. Even so, my decision to have children was not a morally pure choice, I will grant you.

No, procreation is selfish at its heart, but selfish acts are not always immoral.

Yet maybe we are unconsciously ashamed of our selfishness in this manner, with a possible manifestation of this shame being deduced by noting that the birth rate decreases with the infant mortality rate -- those two pictures bear striking resemblance, in fact.

But what of your god, though?

Procreation is selfish, but can its initial source also be guilty of selfishness? Is creation itself a selfish act?

Yes.

As I said repeatedly, god could have abstained from creating just as many humans have abstained from procreating. In the case of the humans who have abstained, their claim to moral superiority is an assertion that could be debated either way, but in god's case, in an omnimax god's case, such a debate should not occur (yet here we are...).

The creative acts of your god were selfish, unless he was not perfect (read: unless he had some unmet need). The omnimax qualities preclude his innocence in the existence of anything.

For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

For moral superiority, this situation should be reversed -- indeed, "closed" should be the gate, and "impassable" the road which leads to destruction. "Lighted", "signed", and "covered" should be the road which leads to life, and all should find it.

In the case of parenting, the selfish act of having children becomes, in ideal homes, selflessness, but we understand and recognize that we are not omnimaxes, and we are not perfect.

In the case of your god, the selfish act of creating became the incessant act of judgment for existing as we were created.

Having children, then, is not necessarily immoral, but creating, and subsequently judging the creation for being as they were created, is immoral.

--
Stan

Clint said...

I deserve worse.

Rachel said...

Stan,

I just wanted you to know that I haven't forgotten you. I'll be responding to your recent comments soon, but I've been taking a bit of a break from blogging the last several days... too many late nights. But I have read your comments and will respond in a couple of days.

Rachel said...

Stan,

Alright, you provided 3 main points:

Main Point 1: We had no choice in our own creation.

Right. For anything to choose to be created is impossible.

It may not have been MY choice, but that doesn't mean it was GOD'S choice.

In support of your first point, you said,

Did god allow me to exist (implying that I might exist due to some choice of my own), or did he decide for me to exist? In the case of the latter, noticing that it also would apply to everything in the universe, we must recognize the necessary lack of choice in the subject being created.

God decided to allow you to exist. :-) In saying that God "allowed" you to exist, I have NOT implied that you could exist through some choice of your own, but I certainly have implied that you exist through some choice of someone other than God. If I give my son some play-do and tell him to make something out of it, even if I KNOW he'll make a lightsaber with it, did I choose to make the lightsaber, or did he make that choice? I allowed him to make whatever he wanted, and he did so. I allowed it because I didn't restrict his choice, but it was his choice because I didn't force him to make only a certain thing.

On the issue of hell, as I said, it is a topic that requires depth beyond the scope of this blog, or at least beyond the scope of this thread. Suffice to say, the verses you used to try to prove that the Bible describes hell as unending torment/torture fail miserably. Most of them simply say that some people will go to hell. That doesn't say a thing about torture or torment. Your verse from Isaiah isn't even talking about hell, it's a reference to God, who is described often as a "consuming fire", paralleled in the very next phrase with "everlasting burning". The references to "fire" are surely symbolic, considering the prolific use of the "fire" symbol throughout Revelation (a book clearly full of symbolic language), as well as the ancients' fondness for extravagant language.

Look, I'm not saying hell is a bed of roses. But "fire" is not the only way hell is described in the Bible. Often it is treated as contempt, shame, disgrace, "outside" (considering the group-orientation of the ANE), etc. Also, considering that frequently in the Bible, reality wasn't as extreme as the symbolic language used to express it, we find that thinking of hell as some sort of torture chamber is highly questionable indeed. So you ask why I don't think hell is eternal torment/torture... because (among other things) the language used to describe hell is variable and symbolic, and utilizes some descriptors that are NOT torture (indeed, Daniel 12:2 would seem to be somewhat misleading if that is the case).

I agree that hell will consist of "suffering", but that doesn't mean people will be burning or even be experiencing physical pain necessarily. I'm not saying there won't be any suffering at all, but it doesn't have to be torture or terrible pain. The only thing that's "clear" about the fire IRT hell is that it is the predominant symbol used to speak of hell. That in itself in no way means that hell is actual fire.

Next, you make the assertion that hell "is still relatively more good than bad", based on a logically fallacious scale which considers annihilation being the worst case. Rather, my whole point, which in fact comes next in my original chronology, was that annihilation (or, more precisely, non-existence) is the "zero" point, and that "heaven" should be at 10, but "hell" should be at -10. Adjust the scale as you see fit, but non-existence is quite clearly the center for any individual as well as for "all possible worlds".

You seemed to have missed my reasons for making annhilation equal to 0, because you disagreed w/o addressing them. So I'll reiterate here. Annhilation is 0 because of 1) the intrinsic value of human life; and 2) the value of honoring a person's choice. Due to those two points, completely annhilating someone is worse than allowing them their self-chosen poor, low-quality, anguished lives. In this situation, a poor, low-quality life would still be "better" than being snuffed out of existence. Thus, I adjust the scale such that annhilation = 0, hell is slightly better than 0 (better for some than others, depending on their choices in life), and heaven is off the charts.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that I'm right about hell. Undoubtedly you still think the Bible teaches that hell is a place of eternal torment and torture, but put that aside for a moment. If I'm right about hell, that it is NOT eternal torment/torture/physical pain, but instead is a low-quality, poor state of life that nevertheless still affords some measure of happiness, would you agree that in that case hell is "better" (even if only extremely slightly so) than 0? Do you agree that this system is at least internally consistent and logical?

(BTW, the reason I cited the article, which I forewarned you was very long, was a) to be honest about where I was getting my info from; and b) so you could read the entire development of reasoning behind the conclusions, which as I said is likely beyond the scope of this forum.)

How could it possibly be immoral to develop a medically inclined robot which successfully performs surgery most of the time, but occasionally, and randomly, kills an otherwise recovering patient after subjecting him to excruciating pain?

Well, depending on the circumstances, such a robot may indeed be worth creation and would NOT be immoral. But, I'll concede that it is in fact possible for it to be immoral to create something even if the good outweighs the bad. However, you had said that it was "clearly immoral" to create a world that contains suffering, even if the good outweighs the bad. This is clearly NOT TRUE, and you must concede that such an absolute is false.

Take your robot analogy as an example. Let's say that you send that robot to a primitive world where no one at all has a clue how to perform surgery. So this robot is saving (say) 8 out of every 10 people that would have died otherwise. How could this be immoral, especially if this robot couldn't have been made any better? (and of course, the analogy fails because people are not robots, so the suffering caused by people is not a "design flaw" as it would be in the case of the robot)

Here's the point. You're postulating that if God can't create a world that contains no suffering at all, then it is immoral for him to have created at all. You say that it's immoral for God to create a world with suffering even if there is more good than suffering. This does not correlate with reality, for often we do things that we know will be difficult and/or fraught with problems, yet we do them anyway because we believe the good outweighs the bad. You didn't like my analogy of having chidren because you think we have kids for our own benefit, rather than theirs. Certainly there is a "selfish" element there, but there is ALSO the idea that giving someone life is a good thing. Perhaps there are people who have children for purely selfish motives, but many others have children for the child's sake as well. There are many other examples that could be used, such as exercise, diet, discipline, etc. Just about anything we do requires some difficulty/problems/"suffering", but we do it because we believe the good outweighs the bad. For you to assert the blanket statement that it is immoral to ever do something that includes bad even if the good outweighs the bad is simply not true.

Main Point 2: Zero bad is greater than any bad.

As I've described above, this statement is not always true. If zero bad ALSO means zero good, I suppose that's neutral. But if allowing "some" bad is the only way to allow good to exist/prosper/flourish, then zero bad is NOT greater than any bad.

You then decide that we don't have free will unless we can choose whether or not we love god

Actually, I didn't say we wouldn't have free will AT ALL w/o the choice to love God or not. Certainly we can have a measure of free will w/o that choice. But since God wants to have a relationship with us, what would be the point of "free will" w/o the ability to choose him? We might have been free to choose other things, but if we weren't free to choose for or against him, we would still be "robots" IRT a relationship - the very thing he created us for.

On the issue of the Tree of KGE, you continue to insist that Adam & Eve had no idea that eating from it was "bad". You offer 4 points as proof:

1. The tree is called "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil", not "the tree of the experience of good and evil", or "the tree of the knowledge of evil".

Obviously, "knowledge" can have a variety of depths. Do you "know" the president? Do you "know" John Loftus? Do you "know" me? Do you "know" your mom? It doesn't have to say "experience" for them to have had some level of understanding that obeying God was good and disobeying was bad.

2. The other tree in the center of the garden was called "the tree of life", and after "The Fall", god specifically noted that it was a good thing they didn't "take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever".

What about it? Had they eaten from the ToL, they would have remained in their sinful state forever. How does this support your position that Adam & Eve didn't know a single thing about good and evil?

3. The statement by god that "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil" is pretty explicit.

But it doesn't mean that Adam & Eve had absolutely NO understanding of good or evil. Again, there's the levels of knowledge thing that you missed earlier.

4. Prior to "The Fall", "the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame", but immediately afterward, "they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." Surely, if it is so obvious that they knew about good and evil, then why did their perceptions of nakedness change?

Speaking of getting the point while missing it at the same time... obviously their understanding of good and evil changed after the Fall. That doesn't mean they had no clue whatsoever. Plus, being naked in and of itself (especially since it was just the two of them) isn't evil, so why would they have thought that anyway? The introduction of sin caused many things to change, including our perceptions.

Knowing a good thing is not the same as knowing a thing is good.

True, but let's look at the situation. An all-powerful being who created them and everything around them, who was pleasurable and enjoyable and all the things he created were pleasurable and enjoyable, and he told them not to do something or they would die. It seems pretty obvious that they had figured out that "dying" was bad, and they didn't want to do it. Plus, their "good" God told them not to and clearly didn't want them to. They didn't need a complete understanding of the depths of good and evil in order to avoid eating of the tree.

The point here is that it makes no sense to say that God set them up to fail. Just like when you tried to say that God prefers for evil events to happen. Why would God do that, knowing that their failure would require the death of his Son? If God set them up to fail, he didn't do a very good job. If he wanted them to fail, he should have made that the only tree and either never told them about it or actually told them that it was good and they should try it. I can see why you wouldn't want to worship that kind of god - I don't either.

The bottom line of all this Adam & Eve discussion is this: you compared their situation to an adult leaving a kid in a room with a loaded gun and concluded that God is just as at fault as the adult, if not more so. I disagree completely, and there are 2 main reasons why:

1. Adam & Eve needed to demonstrate that they truly did desire God above other things. The only way to demonstrate this was through a test of their loyalty. This is far different from arbitrarily leaving a dangerous weapon in a room with a curious child. I can't think of any necessary test that would include leaving a kid alone with a loaded gun.

2. We don't know the exact level of understanding that Adam & Eve had about good and evil. Clearly they did not know as much as we do today, yet to say they were completely in the dark is unsubstantiated. They knew enough that they should have stayed away from the tree, and that's all that matters.

You may say (and you pretty much already have said) that God could/should have tested them w/o any of the choices carrying such deadly consequences. The problem is that that is impossible. As I said earlier, they needed to demonstrate that they would choose God, that their loyalties were with him above other things. The particular thing (i.e. the fruit) they chose wasn't the issue, it was their disobedience. They chose against God, which is sin. Sin had now been brought into the world, thus justice required that punishment be meted out. The choice HAD to be between God and "against-God", and anything "against-God" is sin, which brings deadly consequences. There was no other way.

Main Point 3: It is not the player's fault for losing the game of "War".

This is just a restatement of the omnipotence-omniscience issue, which I have answered previously and you have not addressed, other than to say that I didn't answer it.

You seem to think that god is not responsible for the actions of his creation which he knew would be made if he created it.

He's not responsible, as in, he is not to blame. No one can rightfully say that it's God's fault that they sinned, or that God made them the way they are (i.e. sinful) therefore it's not their fault and God should be blamed for their sin. God made Adam & Eve perfectly. When they sinned, it was their own choice. The rest of us were not made perfectly, nevertheless our sin is still our own choice. The only way our sinful actions would be his fault is if he purposefully made us worse than we could have been. If he chose to make us this way instead of a better way, than I agree that that would put him at fault. But if there was no better choice, if this is the best there is (and given an "omnimax" deity, that is the only logical possibility), then it's not God's fault at all... it's ours.

that verse clearly states that god is where the buck stops

The passage in Matthew says nothing of the sort. As I've shown, it clearly says that God knows about each sparrow. The context also speaks to knowledge/attention rather than forcing of events. You gave no support for your position on this verse other than more assertion.

IRT to Job, I have no idea how you get "arbitrary" and "frivolous" out of that. God brings up a specific person because of specific attributes he possesses. That isn't arbitrary or frivolous at all.

Then you claim that God is "responsible" for Job's woes. We're back to definitions here. Were his woes God's fault? No. Did God purposely allow his woes to test him and to record for posterity? Yes. I don't see how this is a problem.

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

(Before I begin, I respectfully request that you cease using the text-messaging or chat-room abbreviations -- I can figure them out, but it's much easier and clearer to spell them out, so please do so. I'd hate to mistranslate "IRT" as "implicitly representative toward"... Thanks.)

Rachel, I don't know how I can say it any other way. You agree with the precepts and the conclusions drawn from them, but you deny the implications of any of that, and evidently only because it would be catastrophic to your position to do otherwise.

You said:

I certainly have implied that you exist through some choice of someone other than [g]od.

What?! There is another creator out there?

Ohhhh, I see, you divorce the concept of creation of descendents from the creation of the ancestor. How clever. So god is not responsible for Cain's murder of Abel, but he is responsible for Adam and Eve's eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? This is a finite regression, meaning that eventually (at Adam and Eve, according to the bible), someone existed through some choice of no one other than god. Directly, then, he is responsible for them, and indirectly for us.

And see, you admit that an adult [with limited knowledge, and no prescience] leaving a loaded firearm in the presence of a child is culpable if/when that child uses the firearm, but you still claim that god is innocent here?

Remember, god is omniscient and omnipotent -- either you limit his knowledge or you limit his power when you say that his knowledge that the tree (loaded gun) would be eaten of (fired) by the child (Adam and Eve) in whose presence it was left is somehow inadmissable as evidence of his criminal negligence. As my legal example showed, even our primitive human laws make it a crime to fail to prevent a crime that was otherwise preventable -- yet your god did no such thing.

In the analogy of the loaded weapon, the adult neither created the child (the analogy would still hold if the child were not the offspring) nor the weapon, and he also had no foreknowledge of what would occur if the scenario were played out. In the garden of Eden, however, your omnimax god knew all of it, yet still created it.

You may argue until you're blue in the face that there is more good than evil, and I admit that you may be right, if you're also right about all of your other claims (especially the nature of hell), but none of that takes away god's responsibility in that initial "sin".

He didn't have to do it. He didn't have to say they couldn't eat of the tree (more on this in a moment). He didn't have to condemn them for disobeying. All of that was his choice.

You would combine their ability to choose their actions with their ability to choose their fate -- yet they could only choose the former, and they had no foreknowledge of the latter whatsoever. You claim that Jesus was the eventual method of atonement and forgiveness, but you ignore the fact that this method didn't materialize until millennia later -- why not instantly atone and forgive them? Forget it -- it doesn't matter.

As to the tree itself, and my contention that the whole thing was a set-up, I still don't see how it can be argued otherwise in the face of god's supposed omniscience (hell, even a non-omniscient creator should recognize that eventually that apple is going to be eaten), but I'll let that go for the sake of the tree.

The tree itself was also created of god's choosing, unless you again limit his omnipotence by saying that the magic formula for a garden necessarily included the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Its selection as the tree from which they could not eat was therefore necessarily arbitrary.

As you maintain, the garden and this tree were set up as a test of their devotion, and the properties the tree's fruit imbued upon them were effectively irrelevant with regard to the test itself, so it could really have been any tree.

Also, this tree, and the tree of life, were implicitly listed as unique in nature, but no such implication exists for the other trees -- indeed, we guess that the garden was filled with fruit-bearing trees, but this is only a guess. At the least, there was a third tree, but the total number of trees, or of any particular variety, is open to speculation.

Suffice it to say that god could have picked any other tree to put in the center, and claim that they could not eat it, but if it must have been this tree, why not omit it from the garden's résumé? If it could have been any tree for the sake of the test, why require eternal damnation (of whatever variety you choose out of convenience)?

I went back and re-read some of your replies, but none of them dealt with the loaded-gun scenario, despite your claims to the contrary (if you find one, and it indeed deals with the implications of the analogy, I will eat crow). All you offered in reply were scenarios in which such negligence might actually be justified, but your scenarios required that the perpertrating adult be a non-omnimax. Mine assumed they were, to make the analogies implications even easier to grasp, but I quickly reminded the reader that while we find the adult culpable, the adult is not an omnimax, and therefore when we graduate the analogy to that which it represents, we must find the omnimax god to be even more responsible -- else he is not god.

Show me where you have dealt with that, and I'll give you credit for the attempt at the least.

Regarding hell, and the bible's descriptions of it, I care not if the multiple explicit references to its fiery nature are "symbolic" -- that this argument is a slippery slope has not escaped me -- but the fact that it is a place of unending torment is undisputable. Even your extremely lengthy linked article admits this. Or do you suggest that this, too, is mere embellished symbolism? Start slipping any time.

You didn't like my analogy regarding the game of "War", claiming it was re-hashed and its original had already been answered, but your "answer" does not explain the paradox. Your "answer" is that god created us with free will, and we chose poorly, but this does not explain the paradoxical fact that god knew how we would choose and chose to make this happen anyway.

If you don't like "War", you may also try "Blackjack", but in Blackjack the player has limited options, but, to the credit of your theory regarding descendents, the decisions of the preceding player affect the decisions of the players down the chain.

If we posit a game of Blackjack, in which all players must behave as the dealer does (e.g. hit on a soft 17 or lower, no splits), then the analogy is acceptable. The players, however many there may be, are free to shuffle their cards as they like, but the outcome is not affected by this illusion of choice. The order of the cards is set, and therefore so is each hand indefinitely. Your god created the cards, the deck, the game, and the players, and even went so far as to require that all players play the game, and yet you still believe it to be the player's fault if he loses.

No one can rightfully say that... [g]od made them the way they are (i.e. sinful)..."

Ummm. If you say that god made them, then necessarily he made them "the way they are". Sorry, but that constitutes a technical foul. Two free throws for me.

I have never said Adam and Eve share no blame for their sin, but I have rather said that god shares blame for their sin. They sinned of their own choice -- fine. But god created them to sin -- his knowledge made it a foregone conclusion, and this makes him partially responsible. Period.

If he chose to make us this way instead of a better way, then I agree that that would put him at fault.

Good, then we agree that he is at fault. A better way is, as I have said, not to have made us at all, to name but one, and the simplest, such "better way".

[I]f there was no better choice, if this is the best there is (and given an "omnimax" deity, that is the only logical possibility), then it's not [g]od's fault at all... it's ours."

But there was a better choice (abstinence from creation), and there are plenty more far better choices (where even one fewer person suffers, as an absurdly simple example), so the conclusion drawn is already fallacious... Of course, "given an 'omnimax' deity", we have to conclude that there are no better options, unless we recognize that perhaps our attributing 'omnimax' powers on this deity is the error...

As Sherlock Holmes is reputed to say, when all of the possibilities have been eliminated, whatever remains, however improbable, is necessarily true. In this case, the truth is that god is not an omnimax, and therefore not worthy of worship (even if he retains his 'godhood').

I think you recognize this truth, too, for you give yourself away by denying that a choice by god not to create is better than the choice to create. If you waver on this denial, your argument comes crumbling down. Just as if you waver on god's culpability because he created with foreknowledge, your argument also comes crumbling down. The only thing supporting your argument is you.

Your insistence on the Matthew 10:29 (and its Markian counterpart) verse describing god's knowledge rather than his consent is itself mere assertion. I am taking the context into question as well as the meanings possible in the translation, and the implication is clear: either way, Jesus is telling us that god decrees all things.

Denying that is pointless, unless you deny either god's omniscience (which is implied in this verse) or his omnipotence. If he is the "prime mover", and he has such perfect knowledge, then everything that occurs really is by his decree. This is stated repeatedly in various different ways throughout my posts on this topic, yet you still have no valid retorts. I wonder why.

Finally, you want to argue that Job's woes were neither "arbitrary" nor "frivolous", as I have claimed. True, god chose Job because of his righteousness, which was neither arbitrary nor frivolous, but the actions that follow this are frivolous and arbitrary. Job was chosen for being righteous, but Satan challenges the reasons for this, and god immediately says, "Oh, yeah, well, I'll bet you he maintains his righteousness even if you knock him down a few pegs." Satan must've visibly salivated when he then asked god, "Is that okay with you? Can I ruin his life? I'll take the bet if you let me."

Translate it however you want, my versions are perfectly accurate. Job's selection was not arbitrary, and frivolous doesn't apply to the selection process, but his woes were indeed both.

As to the responsibility for Job's suffering, you deny the scripture if you deny god's responsibility. First, and foremost, Satan had to have permission. Therein lies responsibility. Second, and explicitly, Job 2:3 says, "...though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."

"[Y]ou incited me against him." What does that mean? Was Satan incited against Job, or was god? Incite: to move to action.

The whole thing is clearly frivolous, as neither Satan nor god seemed to have a problem with Job -- they just wanted to settle a wager -- and the story itself tells us that god was responsible for the woes which befell the man. Job understood, when he asked his wife if we should "accept good from [g]od, and not trouble?" Did god make Job prosperous again? Was he responsible for that?

Of course you claim that Job's story has redeeming value now -- it's in your bible! But to argue that Job might have felt that his story would be helpful several thousand years hence is pretty far-fetched. To further argue that he should be happy that his first set of children died is evil. He was rightly angry with god, and as the story shows, he was not punished for being angry -- he was punished so that god could make a point with Satan. A frivolous point which surely could've been made without such needless suffering.

You don't see Job's suffering as a problem, and you don't see god's omniscience as making him culpable for the actions of his creation, but these are problems. They make god out to be a dick. They make him out to be a vengeful tyrant, who smashes his Gumby figures because it suits him.

I will not worship a dick. Your god is a dick.

Why did he create? You say he desired a relationship as that of parent-to-child. This is selfish, as I have shown. No, parents do not have children for the sake of the children -- this is logically impossible. They may, as I have said, become selfless in their care for their offspring, but the action itself is selfish at its core. Anyway, what "loving" parent would consider eternal torment for his offspring? Even your version of hell?

If he desired such a relationship, then was he lonely? Does god have some un-met need? Is this not an imperfection?

As I have said, if this is god, then I refuse to worship it. One person sentenced to eternal torment (however you wish to describe it) is one too many. I would choose to join them just to spite your god. This is not the behavior of a loving being with such infinite power. The wages of sin is death. By whose decree? Such power, yet such impotence. Unworthy of worship.

--
Stan