William Lane Craig and ruling out an evil God by observation

January 18, 2015

Here is a post for the philosophers of religion amongst you. Can we rule out an evil god on the grounds that the world is not nearly evil enough? Of course we can. But then why can't we similarly rule out a good god on the grounds that the world isn't nearly good enough?

 

Back in 2011 I debated philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig on the existence of God (link). I presented the evidential problem of evil as my main argument against the existence of God. In particular, I pointed out that, for almost the entire two hundred thousand year sweep of human history, one third to a half of each generation has died, usually horribly, before reaching their fifth birthday. This caused immense suffering to both all those kids and also their parents who had to watch helpless as their children were killed on an industrial scale.

 

That evil is certainly ‘inscrutable’ in the sense that we can see no good reason why God would allow it. This and much of the other evil we see around us strikes many of us as ‘gratuitous’: we suppose there is no good God-justifying reason for it. And God, if he exists, won't allow gratuitous evils. So it seems we can reasonably rule out an all-powerful all-good God on the grounds that the world just ain't good enough.

 

I strengthened this standard argument against the existence of God by pointing out that, surely, we can reasonably rule out an all-evil and all-powerful  creator on the grounds that the world just isn’t nearly evil enough. There exists much inscrutable good - good for which we can identify no evil-creator-justifying reason. Much of that good is, surely, gratuitous: there’s no evil-creator justifying reason for it. But if such an evil creator exists, then gratuitous good won't exist. So we can quite reasonably rule out an evil creator on grounds that the world just isn’t evil enough.

 

That last thought strikes me as particularly plausible. Surely most of us can see this just isn’t the sort of world a supremely evil and powerful deity would create. But then why can’t we similarly see that this just isn't the sort of world a supremely good and powerful deity would create? I drew this plausible thought to the attention of Craig and the debate audience.

 

During our debate, and also in his subsequent posting on our debate, Craig decided, on being presented with this plausible thought, to bite the bullet and reject it. He insisted that, actually, we can’t reasonably rule out either a good creator or an evil creator on the basis of the evil or good we see around us. Here's Craig denying we can reasonably rule out a good God on the basis of observed evils:

 

"The fact is that when we see an incidence of evil or suffering enter our lives, we are simply not in a position to say with any kind of confidence that God lacks morally sufficient reasons for permitting that to occur. We’re simply not in a position to make those kinds of judgments competently.

 

And, therefore, it’s simply impossible for the atheist to show that it’s improbable or impossible that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil and suffering in the world."

 

And here is Craig denying we can reasonably rule out an evil creator ('anti-God') on the basis of observed goods:

 

"I agree that you cannot disprove anti-God by just looking inductively at the good things in the world."

 

[quoting Wykstra] "‘Just as the inscrutable evil in the world doesn't give much evidence that there's no totally good creator, so the inscrutable good in the world doesn't give much evidence that there's no totally evil Creator’" (source – see debate transcript and here)

 

I consider Craig’s response here – to just bite the bullet and say we can't reasonably rule out an evil creator on the grounds that the world isn't nearly evil enough mistaken, and certainly highly counter-intuitive, and said so in our debate (‘Pull the other one’, I said.).

 

Now in his latest Reasonable Faith podcast available here (with full transcript), Craig is asked to comment on a TED talk in which the speaker suggests that perhaps this universe was created by a 100% evil creator that is, say, just 80% effective. Craig immediately brushes this suggestion aside as ridiculous. His response is below.

 

“I must say, Kevin, that seems to me to underestimate enormously what an 80% effective deity could do to make life miserable for us. I mean for most people life is very good. Otherwise we’d all commit suicide. But when people go through hard times they typical look to the future with hope that things will get better. And when you go through bad times you, ah, will often find that some good things come out of it. Life for most people is worth living. That’s just an undeniable fact of the matter. So if there were a being that were really 100% malevolent I mean goodness sake we have no idea what sort of a torture chamber or something we might be living even if he’s only 80% effective.”

 

So here is Craig dismissing the thought that there’s a 100% evil creator. Why? Apparently on the grounds that the world isn't nearly evil enough (even if the evil creator were only 80% effective). There’s just too much good stuff. We should expect something much more like a torture chamber if there were such a 100% evil creator.

 

But then Craig is now making precisely the point that I made back in 2011, which he then rejected.

 

Of course, the fact is Craig is correct to say we can reasonably rule out a 100% evil creator on the grounds that the world isn’t evil enough. And if we can do that, then why can’t we reasonably rule out a 100% good creator on the grounds that the world isn’t good enough?

 

I wonder how Craig will now respond? He appears to have been caught in a straightforward contradiction.

 

My thanks to Aron Zavaro for drawing my attention to Craig's recent podcast.

 

POSTSCRIPT 21 Jan. Some may think, 'Well so what if Craig got caught out in some contradiction? None of us are fully rational. We all make mistakes. No doubt Stephen Law has also contradicted himself on occasion.'

 

True enough. But this would be to underestimate the significance of this particular contradiction, if that's what it is. For what it strongly suggests is that the leading intellectual response to the problem of evil - to say, "Ah, but for all we know our creator has good reasons for allowing these things" - is actually counter-intuitive and not fully accepted by at least some of those saying it. Saying it may supply them with a convenient get-of-jail-free card in debate, but it's a belief they don't consistently maintain.

Comments:

#1 Gary Curtis (Guest) on Sunday January 18, 2015 at 7:45am

“Yes, such an evil creator might allow some goods as the price paid for greater goods.”

Don’t you mean “greater evils”?

#2 Stephen Law on Sunday January 18, 2015 at 10:08am

yes sorry fixed that…

#3 Angra Mainyu on Sunday January 18, 2015 at 11:38am

Hi, Stephen

I think that he contradicted himself (unless he changed his mind on the issue, but that’s extremely improbable), and I don’t know whether he will reply.

But speculating for the fun of it, I think if he replies, he’ll probably say that he was only talking about Holt’s [alleged] beliefs that God is 100% evil but only 80% effective, and that that is the explanation for all the evil we see - or something along those lines

Craig might then say that the explanation allegedly proposed by Holt is not correct because if there were an entity with that degree of effectiveness attempting to cause evil directly (i.e., in an observable way), then he would be more effective - yet, observations can’t rule out a 100% evil and 80% effective creator as long as that is not proposed as an explanation for the evil we observe; perhaps, such an entity would have mysterious reasons that justify the good we observe, according to this reply.

That is, I think, a very convoluted and frankly improbable interpretation of Craig’s words in that context (at the risk of being accused of uncharitableness, I reckon it’s much more probable that he contradicted himself), but still, it seems to me that that (or something like that) is the most likely reply by Craig, if he ever replies.

Of course, maybe he’ll come up with something else, but any of the alternative potential replies I can think of (at least for now) would commit him to an even more convoluted and improbable interpretation, so the reply above seems to be a reasonably good prediction, based on the information available to me.

By the way, going by Holt’s speech, I don’t see any indication that he believes in a creator that is 100% evil but 80% effective. Quite the opposite, it seems probable from that talk that he does not believe that, and was not suggesting that as a probable explanation.
While Harris says that other people told him that Holt either actually believes that, or says it a lot, those two things (actually believing it, and saying it a lot) are quite different, and if Holt says it a lot but in a context like the TED talk in question, one shouldn’t infer from that that he probably believes it.

So, I think that in addition to being inconsistent (the biggest problem, of course), Craig was interpreting Holt in a way that was not warranted: neither the TED talk nor Harris’s statement warrant belief that Holt believes in a 100% evil, 80% effective creator, or that considers it more probable than not (if Craig decides to comment on this particular point, I guess Craig might say that an assessment that his position is inconsistent is unwarranted, turning the accusation around).

#4 Bertrand (Guest) on Sunday January 18, 2015 at 12:45pm

“The fact is that when we see an incidence of evil or suffering enter our lives, we are simply not in a position to say with any kind of confidence that God lacks morally sufficient reasons for permitting that to occur. We’re simply not in a position to make those kinds of judgments competently.
And, therefore, it’s simply impossible for the atheist to show that it’s improbable or impossible that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil and suffering in the world”

- William Lane Craig


“The fact is that when we see an incidence of bad or suffering enter our lives, we are simply not in a position to say with any kind of confidence that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting that to occur. We’re simply not in a position to make those kinds of judgments competently.
And, therefore, it’s simply impossible for the theist to show that it’s probable or neccessary that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil and suffering in the world.”

- The non-existant William Lane Craig who is less stealthy or more self-aware

#5 Stephen Law on Monday January 19, 2015 at 12:59am

Hi Angra - thanks for the comment. Seems to me though that Craig can’t get himself out of trouble by saying that he was talking about a 100% evil but 80% effective creator, not a 100% evil and 100% effective (or omnipotent) creator. For any evidence in the form of good against the former must then be *even stronger* evidence against the latter, surely? The excuse that ‘he’s only 80% effective’ is not available.

I think Craig’s best bet is to say ‘mea culpa’ and admit he made a mistake in that podcast. If he retains that view, he undermines his strategy for dealing with the problem of evil (Unless he has another one up his sleeve).

But even this is a very grave admission, because he is effectively *mocking* someone who thought what we see around us is no threat to belief in such a creator. “For goodness sake’ he says. Quite! And your previously expressed view - that what we see around us is no threat to belief in a 100%evil/onipotent creator is *even more* absurd than that.

#6 Mark Jones (Guest) on Monday January 19, 2015 at 2:57am

I agree that what Craig says contradicts his response to the Evil God argument. However, he may try to sidestep the charge because of the figure of speech he uses:

“So if there were a being that were really 100% malevolent I mean goodness sake we have no idea what sort of a torture chamber or something we might be living even if he’s only 80% effective.”

He says ‘we have no idea’, which in the context actually means ‘we do have an idea’ that we would be living in something pretty torturous, but I wonder if he might finesse this to support his previous sceptical position, that we don’t have an idea based on the goodness around us how good God is.

Here’s the statement turned around:

“So if there were a being that were really 100% benevolent I mean badness sake we have no idea what sort of a paradise or something we might be living even if he’s only 80% effective.”

Which I think means we would really expect to being living in some kind of amazing paradise. Which we’re not, good though some people’s circumstances might be. Incidentally, perhaps we should start saying ‘for badness sake’ when discussing the evil god!

#7 Adzcliff on Monday January 19, 2015 at 3:18am

“The fact is that when we see an incidence of evil or suffering enter our lives, we are simply not in a position to say with any kind of confidence that God lacks morally sufficient reasons for permitting that to occur.”

Which works as an honest argument if the title of your talk/article is (something like):

“Strategies in self-deception: how to side-line evil, and preserve belief in an omnipotent, omniscience and benevolent god.”

Of course it would equally apply to anyone who is reluctantly falling out of love with their abuser (I assume).

#8 Stephen Law on Monday January 19, 2015 at 4:29am

Hi Mark - I think you are right that there is some ambiguity in what Craig says that he might exploit. However, if he insists that he should be interpreted as saying only that it is possible that 100% evil creator who is 80% effective would create a hell hole universe, not that it is likely he would, then he has no response at all to the guy who suggested this world might be the handiwork of such a creator. Yet he clearly supposes he is giving such a response.

#9 Baz (Guest) on Monday January 19, 2015 at 6:00am

I think it’s clear that Craig is either being inconsistent or has changed position.

As for the argument, it’s easy to imagine a more hellish existence. In fact winding back the clock a few centuries would make life much worse for practically everyone. Hard to see why medical progress would be permitted by an evil and effective creator.

We can equally imagine a much better life, clearly. However, isn’t this getting into “best of all possible worlds” territory? If Leibniz is right, and free will is a major good, and a paradise on Earth would require no free will, it looks like a faulty world is compatible with a good creator.

One might even argue obstacles are required, for humans to overcome. Still leaves the question of whether THIS world really couldn’t have been any better, of course. Do we really need so many parasites and diseases for example?

#10 rogercavanagh on Monday January 19, 2015 at 7:12am

> I mean for most people life is very good. Otherwise we’d all commit suicide. But when people go through hard times they typical look to the future with hope that things will get better. And when you go through bad times you, ah, will often find that some good things come out of it. Life for most people is worth living. That’s just an undeniable fact of the matter.

If you define “people” as white, male, Western and middle class, then “most people” *might* just be true. But the basic premise of this paragraph is certainly deniable.

Not that I’m arguing for an 80% effective evil god.

#11 rogercavanagh on Monday January 19, 2015 at 7:16am

Of course, it may be that:

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/phil_princeofheck.jpg

#12 Angra Mainyu on Monday January 19, 2015 at 12:02pm

Hi, Stephen,

Thanks for the reply.

My suggestion was not meant to make a distinction between the 80% and the 100% cases - sorry if that was not clear -, but to try to argue that it was a response to Holt, so that it was given under Holt’s assumption that one may use observations to assess whether such entities exist.

So, in particular, if pressed he would say that he could have replied similarly and properly if Holt had said 100% effective, without contradicting his skeptical theism, since he was essentially granting a point for the sake of the argument (i.e., the point one may make such assessments of existence based on observations)- a point implicit in Holt’s reasoning.

I don’t think that he actually meant any of that of course - I think he contradicted himself -, but I don’t think Craig will ever recognize that. At least, it seems extremely improbable to me, given Craig’s past replies to other people (including me).

Of course, it might be that he won’t even reply. That depends, perhaps, on how many people comment on your post, and so what he reckons is better for his reputation, or something like that.

At any rate, if he replies at all, I think the reply I suggested is the most probable. It’s a bad reply, but any other reply (other than a mea culpa) would be even worse, and I’m guessing Craig will come to that conclusion as well, or has done so already.

#13 Mark Jones (Guest) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 at 4:26am

Thanks for the reply Stephen.

Surely if Craig can show that he’s not saying that the evil god is *unlikely* given the evidence but that it’s *incalculable*, then he has a reply to Holt? He should be sceptical of Holt’s inference from the world around us to its creator.

But really that’s straw-clutching in context. For example, Craig says that Holt ‘seems to me to underestimate enormously what an 80 percent effective deity could do to make life miserable for us’. That seems similar to your notion of running the evil god argument even if you think the evil god doesn’t exist for other reasons. The good (or insufficiency of evil in this case) makes the idea of an evil god absurd. Craig then underestimates enormously what a 100% percent effective (benevolent) deity could do to make life pleasurable for us. The evil in the world makes the idea of a good god absurd.

#14 Alan Duval (Guest) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 at 6:49am

I was at that debate, Stephen, and I approached you afterwards to say how much I appreciated your re-invigoration of the rather tired ‘Argument from Evil’ (Euthyphro and all). It really comes as no surprise that WLC is hoist on his own petard, given his rank sophistry, andf the inconsistency of his reasoning in service to it.

#15 Witness on Monday January 26, 2015 at 8:09pm

Hello, I am a Christian so everyone knows where I stand.  I wanted to ask this question.  If GOD had created a perfect world with no sin in it, and man had then introduced sin into the world, why would it be God’s fault for there being misery in the world, would it not be mankind?  GOD tries to show man how to live rightly(righteous), but most of the time we ignore that still small voice and get into trouble, time and time again, I do. James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  I believe in GOD and his son Jesus Christ and GOD has proven my faith in him beyond doubt.  I have heard, felt and seen, both waking and sleeping, things that have come about in my life.  These things were for me and me alone, I can not prove them to anyone else, nor do I want to stand on these things as proof to you of Jesus Christ, but for me there is no doubt. Every man must choose whether to seek GOD and his truth, or not.  GOD gives every man a choice, free will.  The next argument coming will be why does GOD not just show himself and prove beyond any doubt that he is in control.  If the police were to put an officer into every home, would you feel free to choose whether to obey the law and be good?  GOD wants men and women to love him as he loves us and to try and follow him.  I fail to fully follow him and that is why I pray and ask forgiveness.  Do not think that you can willfully sin as a son of his and not to expect chastisement as the bible calls it.  Every parent with children know, that without chastisement, a child becomes spoiled and will only get into more and more trouble.  God let his only begotten son to leave Heaven and become a mortal man to offer himself as a perfect sinless sacrifice for our sins, so that these sins could be forgiven forever, past, present and future.  The bible says that the sins would not even be remembered if we would just seek repentance.  James 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.  We see by this that eventually a perfect sacrifice had to be made for man to enter into heaven, that was my Lord Jesus Christ.  He paid everyone’s price.  All you have to do is Repent and accept this free gift. Thank you for your time, Brad

#16 Alan Duval (Guest) on Monday January 26, 2015 at 8:41pm

Brad, I’m just about to go to bed, so I will save a fuller response until tomorrow, but in response to this:
“If GOD had created a perfect world with no sin in it, and man had then introduced sin into the world, why would it be God’s fault for there being misery in the world, would it not be mankind?”

So an all-powerful God can’t create a creature that has no desire to sin? That seems like a simple thing to be able to achieve given the scope of what he supposedly achieved in the rest of creation.

#17 Adzcliff on Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 1:31am

Hi Brad

I think I’m with Alan Duval above, and too think that an omnipotent and benevolent creator could easily have created a more morally perfect human race.  This would remove the need for a hell, where men, women and children would burn in agony for eternity.  If I were a believer and a compulsive sinner, I would think it was a cruel trick to have created me this way.  I would also think it were a slightly less crueler trick if I were a believer and the purest of the pure, but was still subject to the malevolent free will of others.  If God gave us freewill, we have to accept that paedophilia and genocide (etc.) are just unfortunate side-effects of this ‘gift’.

Thanks for the post though, I bet you have started an interesting discussion.

#18 rogercavanagh on Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 2:36am

Responding to Brad:

> All you have to do is Repent and accept this free gift

The gift is not free.

There is no evidence for the existence of any god. The existence of Jesus Christ as an historical figure is by no means certain. The existence of police, on the other hand, can be verifiably demonstrated without requiring one to sit on my sofa.

To repent and accept belief would involve the sacrifice of my rationality.

It is fallacious to suggest, as you seem to do, that moral behaviour requires religion. I will not argue this point further in case I have read something into your words that was not intended.

The gift is not free. It is offered on pain of eternal damnation and torture, should it not be accepted.

#19 Adzcliff on Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 3:01am

Or as Hitchens put it:

“We are created sick and ordered to be well”

#20 Witness on Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 4:38pm

Hi Alan,
Thank you for responding. If God the Father created another who was not capable of sinning he would be creating himself. (James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God:  for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:)  Jesus was tempted in (Luke 4:2 Being forty days tempted of the devil.) Jesus said himself in (Luke 18:19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good?  none is good, save one, that is, God.)  I do not even know if God the Father could create himself and if he did how could there be 2 God the Fathers and only 1 heaven.  Having 2 heads would not work well.
My description of the earth was not right, I should have said the earth had no sin in it.  If you want to think of a sinless earth as being perfect then I guess it would work.  (Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;  and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:)
Thank you for a wonderful discussion,
Brad

#21 Witness on Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 5:28pm

Hi Adzcliff,
For your question on children going to hell.  Only those who know right from wrong will go, and small children do not know right from wrong.  In (Mathew 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me:  for of such is the kingdom of heaven)  I have never been there but from many descriptions, heaven is full of children.  The question on whether Jesus existed or not.  There are many non-biblical historical writings that confirm Jesus lived even among those who persecuted Christians.  One is a Roman historian “Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.”  For your response on you being created as being a cruel trick.  Can I ask, would you want to be born and given the opportunity to make that choice I spoke of and live, or never be born at all?  If God said OK only these people will accept me so I will no longer allow these others to have children, would that be right?  If God has to judge everyone equally, how can he deny 1 group of people the blessing of having children and another group not having them.  The bible “never” condoned pedophilia and your reference to God telling Israel to kill everyone was against the Amorites.  The Amorites attacked Israel first and God was punishing them for sacrificing their babies on their Gods altars.  For 400 years God tried to warn them.  That was the time Israel was in Egypt.  The kingdoms around Israel believed that Israel was more righteous than them because they had written laws on how to punish.  The laws of punishment Israel had at the time was no different than the other nations of the time.  If you sinned you paid, just like some countries still do it today.  I’m not saying God agreed with it but he allowed them to set the punishments just like he let them marry more than 1 wife, but that was not the way God intended it.  Jesus spoke these words.  (Mark 10:5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.)  I hope I have answered some of your questions,
Thank you for your time,
Brad

#22 Witness on Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 5:57pm

Hi Roger,
The free gift did come from much pain and torture on Jesus part.  Crucifixions were very painful.  This gift is like an acceptance of following something much bigger, kinder, patient, and loving than us.  The reason why Satan denied God was because of pride.  I’m not sure if Satan still believes that he will win in the end, but he will try to convince as many people as he can to go with him.  Why God did not punish Satan many thousands of years ago, I can not answer but if God allowed the Amorites to live their lives and sacrifice their babies on their Gods altars for 400 years.  How many years should he allow Satan to be free?  God is very patient.  He is with me.  There is a God and he knows you and sent his son to die on a cross for you.  I hope and pray you will just give it some thought.
Thanks,
Brad

#23 BH (Guest) on Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 8:11pm

It seems to me that Craig had better answer your evil God objection.  If a God does exist he cannot know what the “objective moral standards” of God are if he does not know if God is good or if God is evil.  They will have different requirements.  As it stands Craig is not morally standing on any objective foundation even if one theoretically exists, just what he thinks is right in his own opinion which is no different than what he accuses atheists and agnostics of doing.

#24 Alan Duval (Guest) on Wednesday January 28, 2015 at 4:10am

Hi, Brad

I’ll deal with your response first, and then go back to your original post (apologies for the delay on the latter).

“Hi Alan,
Thank you for responding. If God the Father created another who was not capable of sinning he would be creating himself. (James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God:  for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:)”

That’s simply unsupportable. God is supposedly omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent (we’ll get onto why that’s not possible some other time), the mere fact of being disinclined to sin does not make a human any of those things. Also, humans have a physical body, but there is no dogma that suggests that this is true of God, except in the person of Jesus Christ.


“Jesus was tempted in (Luke 4:2 Being forty days tempted of the devil.) Jesus said himself in (Luke 18:19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good?  none is good, save one, that is, God.)”

This is merely underscoring the fact that God did create creatures prone to sin, not that he had to do so. You’re begging the question by saying that God couldn’t, and then using Jesus’ recognition of this to justify it.


“I do not even know if God the Father could create himself and if he did how could there be 2 God the Fathers and only 1 heaven.  Having 2 heads would not work well.”

A non-sinning human is not a God. If that is all that you require to define something as God it is no surprise that Go could not create such a creature. If, however, you do believe that God is all-powerful, and created the universe, then creating a non-sinning human would be incredibly easy. Whether by placing him in the garden of Eden with sufficient knowledge to know good from evil, or through making him disinclined to sin in the first instance.


“My description of the earth was not right, I should have said the earth had no sin in it.  If you want to think of a sinless earth as being perfect then I guess it would work.  (Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;  and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:)”

Sin is an issue of human behaviour. Sin could only “enter” the world with man… what it would be for a world to be sinful with no humans on it? The idea is incoherent. This implies that, by reading Roman 5:12, that sin was inevitable because was man was created with a sinful nature, and we have been punished with a) death, and then b) eternal torment for acting according to the nature we were given.

I think you’d agree that, by any reasonable definition, that is a no-win situation.


“Thank you for a wonderful discussion,
Brad”

And thank you for being open to this discussion,
Alan

#25 Alan Duval (Guest) on Wednesday January 28, 2015 at 4:57am

“Hello, I am a Christian so everyone knows where I stand.”

In kind. I am an atheist, secularist and humanist, I’m studying psychology, and have an interest in philosophy.


“I wanted to ask this question.  If GOD had created a perfect world with no sin in it, and man had then introduced sin into the world, why would it be God’s fault for there being misery in the world, would it not be mankind?”

I’ve addressed this already, but I will paraphrase. If God made man, and gave him human nature, and that nature is to sin, then it is God’s fault. Would a manufacturer of faulty goods be culpable? Even if those goods included a degree of self-awareness, like a high-tech AI-loaded robot? Of course.


“GOD tries to show man how to live rightly(righteous), but most of the time we ignore that still small voice and get into trouble, time and time again, I do.”

So why does an all-powerful creator need to manifest as a “still small voice” rather than create an ideal man (and woman) in the first instance, and by ideal, I mean those that will not sin, then fall, and then give birth to more sinful humans.

“James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”

But his own lust comes from his nature which was bequeathed by God as part of His creation.


“I believe in GOD and his son Jesus Christ and GOD has proven my faith in him beyond doubt.  I have heard, felt and seen, both waking and sleeping, things that have come about in my life.  These things were for me and me alone, I can not prove them to anyone else, nor do I want to stand on these things as proof to you of Jesus Christ, but for me there is no doubt.”

If they do not stand as proof, and you cannot support them, why do you bring them up? You might just be copying other apologists, but you should know that this move is deceitful – some people will hear your witness, and be affected by your passion, and not notice your disclaimer as to its evidentiary value. It’s the equivalent of a judge telling a jury to ignore a defendant’s incriminating remark – the human mind simply doesn’t work that way. If it is intentional, it is deceitful, and that is a sin, by your own dogma. If you learned that from other apologists, I suggest you stop it now, as you are endangering your soul.


“Every man must choose whether to seek GOD and his truth, or not.”

If God were perfect—and man created by a perfect creator— man would be able to detect God perfectly. As it is, that is not the case.


“GOD gives every man a choice, free will.”

Do you mean free will in the legal sense, or the philosophical sense? In the legal sense free will is convenient shorthand for responsibility for one’s own actions (and the standard interpretation is compatibilism, which is a form of determinism, philosophically speaking). In the philosophical sense it means ‘could do otherwise.’ But this ‘otherwise’ that one could do is not predicated on past action or preference, meaning that you are being controlled by someone or something else, rather than by yourself and by your own experiences. The implication being that if you believe in God and God’s gift of free will, you are actually allowing yourself to be controlled by God… and I’m sure I don’t need to point out that a great many things have been done in the name of God, and by “God-fearing” Christians that are unequivocally sinful.

And of course your response will be that these people were mistaken in their beliefs and they were, in fact, being controlled by Satan, unbeknownst to them (shades of Muhammad and the Satanic Verses)… but this just loops back around to ‘why couldn’t God create us such that we unfailingly detected him?’


“The next argument coming will be why does GOD not just show himself and prove beyond any doubt that he is in control.  If the police were to put an officer into every home, would you feel free to choose whether to obey the law and be good?  GOD wants men and women to love him as he loves us and to try and follow him.”

Interestingly, if you believe that God is real, and that God is omnipresent, that’s what you believe – that the big policeman in the sky is everywhere. So, DO you feel free to choose knowing that God is everywhere? Choice is only available if you don’t believe in God – once you believe in God you lose free will.


“I fail to fully follow him and that is why I pray and ask forgiveness.”

Apologising for your own nature to the one that gave you that nature? Seems legit.


“Do not think that you can willfully sin as a son of his and not to expect chastisement as the bible calls it.  Every parent with children know, that without chastisement, a child becomes spoiled and will only get into more and more trouble.”

Actually, there’s a great deal of evidence that chastisement is very bad for children (especially Biblical chastisement: Proverbs 13:24: He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes).

Distracting children away from bad behaviour, and modeling good behaviour for them is the correct thing to do – this is also the way that children learn language (and basically everything else). The only thing that chastisement by the rod achieves is children that are more inclined to violence, and who believe in the power of corporal punishment (in other words they learn that ‘might is right’).

If you want an understanding of how morality actually develops in children I recommend reading Martin L Hoffman’s book ‘Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for Caring and Justice.’


“God let his only begotten son to leave Heaven and become a mortal man to offer himself as a perfect sinless sacrifice for our sins, so that these sins could be forgiven forever, past, present and future.”

You’re going to have to explain how coming down from heaven as a human, dying, resurrecting and then going back to heaven to live in perfect bliss is in any way a sacrifice. If you read into the Bible you will understand that the treatment of Jesus at the hands of the Romans and the Pharisees was meant to be as painful as humanly possible – both emotionally, i.e. betrayal and mockery, and physically, e.g. the crown of thorns, the spear in the side, and the crucifixion itself. This torture was for the expiation of the sins of Israel, the chosen people, not of all mankind.

Notice how in ‘The Passion of the Christ’ the torture that Jesus was put through was ramped up to an obscene degree (there’s a video on YouTube somewhere counting the number of minutes in the movie in which Jesus is in some way physically hurt). My point being that Mel Gibson had to multiply the suffering of Jesus in that portrayal because, unlike the authors of the Bible, Mel Gibson lived in a world of 6+ billion people.


“The bible says that the sins would not even be remembered if we would just seek repentance.”

Indeed, and because of that many (Protestants in particular) seek “cheap grace” by saying a magic spell once (because that is what apologizing to no-one in particular is), and then sinning away as if nothing else matters. Shame and guilt are SUPPOSED to be painful, so that you learn not to do these bad things again… if you think that seeking forgiveness from God, rather than the one you have wronged is appropriate behaviour, it’s no wonder the world is in the mess it’s in.


“James 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”

And so you see, Christianity is as bloody a sacrificial religion as any old school paganism… if not more.


“We see by this that eventually a perfect sacrifice had to be made for man to enter into heaven, that was my Lord Jesus Christ.”

Yes, well done, you’ve learned the magic words. Just as we are not perfect, Jesus’ sacrifice was not perfect. Your God is O for 2.


“He paid everyone’s price.”

When there was maybe 80 million people in the world (of whom the authors were only dimly aware of 8 million). The world is now approaching 8 billion. One man’s purported sacrifice is as nothing.


“All you have to do is Repent and accept this free gift.”

Do as you’re told and I will love you. Fail to do as you’re told, and you will be tortured for eternity. That is not a gift, that is passive/aggressive slavery.


“ Thank you for your time, Brad”

And you, yours. I hope I’ve given you something to think about.

#26 Adzcliff on Wednesday January 28, 2015 at 4:09pm

Thanks Brad

I’ll only focus on a few points, as it looks like you have many discussions going on.

I don’t think it is moral to create a hell where children will burn all over in eternity, regardless or not of whether they knew right from wrong.  But then again, I don’t believe in any corporal punishment – especially against children.  I’m afraid I can’t reconcile the invention of a hell with an all loving, all forgiving god – quite the opposite in fact.

By the way, I don’t think it was me that contested the existence of Jesus.  I’m fairly satisfied that he existed, and was probably a fairly revolutionary guy.

“For your response on you being created as being a cruel trick.  Can I ask, would you want to be born and given the opportunity to make that choice I spoke of and live, or never be born at all? “

If those were really the only two options that a god was willing or able to offer, then I would rather not be born at all.  I would rather not exist than risk eternal suffering.  My non-existence did not trouble me in the slightest for 13.5 billion years, so that is not a state that particularly concerns me.  I take it you would rather take the risk?

If you could be born into a civilisation that (1) has been purposely designed to maximise the happiness and well-being of sentient creatures and has no hell; or (2) one where it was the choice of each individual to decide how they treated each other at the risk of eternal torture for getting it wrong, which would you choose?

“If God said OK only these people will accept me so I will no longer allow these others to have children, would that be right?  If God has to judge everyone equally, how can he deny 1 group of people the blessing of having children and another group not having them. “

Firstly, the Christian god (for example) doesn’t treat everyone equally.  He must know full well that millions of individuals will be born in regions of the world that will live and die (and be tortured eternally) without ever having heard of him.  I think if God intends to eternally torture the children of those parents who do not accept him, because, through not fault of their own, they grew up the victims of their parents free will and also rejected him, yes, it think it would be more moral to deny those potential parents children. 

My references to paedophilia and genocide weren’t so much to do with biblical examples, but the state of the modern world.  If we are to believe that an all powerful,  all knowing and all loving god gave us the ‘gift’ of freewill, then we have to believe that those thousands of children who are being abused this very second, and the civilian victims of the Holocaust, Albania, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur (etc.) are all part of a god’s loving plan.  This doesn’t make any sense to me anymore than a god being able to make a square circle.

Hope that’s okay Brad and not too heavy.  Thanks for your time.

#27 Witness on Wednesday January 28, 2015 at 4:34pm

Hi Alan,
I don’t have a lot of time right now, but it sounds like our disagreement will come to down to our definition of free will.  I would say if you can not sin then you have no choice either or no free will.  In my mind that would make you a machine or maybe even describe an animal that can not sin because it has no soul.
I know you will point out that God the Father can’t sin so?  I don’t even want to try and define who God the Father is, all I know is that it is impossible for him to be tempted.  I certainly will not ask him if he could make another God the Father.  That would be like a person in court asking the judge to bring another judge into the courtroom.  He might get offended.  I would treat the judge with the utmost respect, knowing my sentence hung in the balance.
The still small voice is one way he encourages Christians.  I have seen what you would describe as miraculous things, but Jesus told the story of a rich man asking if he would send someone from the grave to tell his family and the reply was if the would not believe the prophets, they would not believe someone from the grave.  Rightly so, the people of Jerusalem saw the dead walk the streets when Jesus rose from the grave and many still did not believe.
I will try and respond more later.
Nice to have a good conversation,
Brad

#28 Witness on Wednesday January 28, 2015 at 9:08pm

Hi Alan,
I wanted to touch a little more on what the bible says of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  It sounds like you might know this but just to be sure.  God the Father can not be tempted so he can not sin.  Jesus was tempted 40 days of Satan and was offered the world by Satan (Luke 4:5) and Jesus rejected it.  God the Holy Spirit is spoken of as a real person and is on the earth now in Christians.  I guess some of the disagreement that we have might also be in your belief that God can create either a Soul who can not sin or maybe a Soul less inclined to sin.  The bible never speaks of anyone not capable of sinning including the Angels of which 1/3 followed Satan, even being in heaven at the time.  Satan sinned because of pride (Ezekiel 28:17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, …).  I believe Satan wanted to be God the Father, he did not want to follow anyone else.  That sort of reminds me of most people today.  They don’t like authority.  A Christian is someone who knows God and is willing to follow Jesus and I do not think that being a Christian is a religion, that is what man calls it.  I speak with God and seek his face, I want to know him and what he thinks. 
Sorry if I did not explain myself very well with my reference to God proving my faith in him with things heard, felt and seen.  I was going to expound on that with how a Christian can prove God by asking for things.  I have seen especially with new Christians many wonderful things happening in their life.  It seems as a Christian gets older he looses his first love “Christ” and he falls away, especially today.  The things that happened with me was prophetic in that I was shown things that would come to pass and I believe to strengthen my faith.  I struggled with whether I should tell you of one because it promotes the person more than Christ most of the time and even with this doubt I will share one so you can understand what I am speaking of.
One was a first cousin of mine who had an accident and was laying in the hospital in a coma.  On the way there I got a strong need to touch him.  I remembered noticing this but did not give it much thought.  When we got there the whole family was there and we went in to see him.  As soon as I stood by his bed I quickly touched his hand and immediately got a beyond doubt knowing that he was fine and just sleeping.  When we left I hugged his mother and the thought came to me to tell her this, but for some reason I thought everyone knew he was just sleeping.  Later I asked my mother on his condition at the time and she told me that they were still waiting for him to wake to see if he had any head injuries.  I then realized my mistake and told her I was supposed to tell his mother to lesson her fears and I did not.  The family had been praying for him.  The only way for someone to think this was miraculous where if they could have felt what I felt and know what I knew by it.  You see someone is not going to believe this if they do not believe there is a God because it can be easily explained.  I hope I have explained myself more clearly and why I was reluctant to speak of them.
God truly loves everyone and wants everyone to come to him.  He proved that by allowing Jesus to die on a cross and to take the burden of sin from the world.  God the Father forsook his son for a time because of the sin laid on Jesus.  If one man brought sin into the world, one man can take it from the world.  (Roman 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.)  I can already hear the response on this one.  No one on earth can explain why the world was made the way it was made, they are not God, but I do know that God tries to keep the world from getting worse and one day (you know the day I speak of) God will grant them their wish and leave them alone and take his protective hand off the World and give it to Satan for a Season.  Remember the Holy Spirit being in the world with Christians.
He wants to be a Father just as I did and wants his children to love him.  That is the first commandment.  The second being to love your neighbor as yourself and all of the other commandments are based upon these 2.
Thanks,
Brad

#29 Alan Duval (Guest) on Thursday January 29, 2015 at 3:45am

“I don’t have a lot of time right now, but it sounds like our disagreement will come to down to our definition of free will.”

Well, I provided both a legal definition and, more importantly, the philosophical one (which the legal one somewhat rests on). I don’t think we disagree on the definition, so much as the ramifications.


“I would say if you can not sin then you have no choice either or no free will.”

Untrue. I can’t fly does that mean I lack free will?


“In my mind that would make you a machine or maybe even describe an animal that can not sin because it has no soul.”

Sin, when you get right down to it is, generally, the failure to act in accordance with what is logically appropriate in a given circumstance when taking empathy into account. The best way to achieve sinless perfection is to have knowledge with which to understand what choices there are, and which are the most relevant, and the empathy to ensure that you consider others almost as much as—- and sometimes more than you consider yourself.


“I know you will point out that God the Father can’t sin so?  I don’t even want to try and define who God the Father is, all I know is that it is impossible for him to be tempted.”

If you don’t want to try and define Him, then you can’t say that it ill be impossible to tempt him.


“I certainly will not ask him if he could make another God the Father.  That would be like a person in court asking the judge to bring another judge into the courtroom.  He might get offended.  I would treat the judge with the utmost respect, knowing my sentence hung in the balance.”

But why are you under sentencing for the mere fact of living? A life that he gave you? Also, in a court of law, your sentence rests on the deliberations of 12 of your peers, not the judge… and I think that an entirely suitable analogy.

“The still small voice is one way he encourages Christians.”

Any little voice inside your head is your own, you’re just failing to recognise it as such. Schizophrenics fail to recognise the myriad voices inside their heads as their own. You are mistaking self-talk and intuition for the voice of God—and this is why so many people that do terrible things say ‘God told me to’ – if you’re a decent person then “God” (your conscience) will tell you to do the right things, if not, then you will do bad things. All that believing in God does is amplify your behaviour and your surety… in either direction.


“I have seen what you would describe as miraculous things, but Jesus told the story of a rich man asking if he would send someone from the grave to tell his family and the reply was if the would not believe the prophets, they would not believe someone from the grave.”

Would you believe someone from the grave? Or would you assume that it was a trick or treater, or an extra from a zombie movie? You have to understand that the voices of the people in the Bible, whilst sounding like adults, have a knowledge of the world equivalent to a modern nine or ten year old (if that). Yiu can’t trust the interpretation of disease from someone that didn’t know about germs and bacteria, for example.


“Rightly so, the people of Jerusalem saw the dead walk the streets when Jesus rose from the grave and many still did not believe.”

And indeed, no historian of the time reports such an event, which suggests that maybe the writers of the Bible were either a) seeng things, or b) telling a story to make the same point you’re trying to make.


“I will try and respond more later.”

I look forward to it.


“Nice to have a good conversation,
Brad”

Likewise,
Alan

#30 Alan Duval (Guest) on Thursday January 29, 2015 at 4:26am

“I wanted to touch a little more on what the bible says of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  It sounds like you might know this but just to be sure.  God the Father can not be tempted so he can not sin.  Jesus was tempted 40 days of Satan and was offered the world by Satan (Luke 4:5) and Jesus rejected it.  God the Holy Spirit is spoken of as a real person and is on the earth now in Christians.”

You’ll have to explain how the story of Jesus and Satan came to be written down. It wasn’t written by Jesus, nor Satan, and no-one else was there. It is narrative fiction. Furthermore, the world was not Satan’s to give, and Jesus, as the son of the God of this world would know that. So it was no temptation at all. Much like his later death was no sacrifice.


“I guess some of the disagreement that we have might also be in your belief that God can create either a Soul who can not sin or maybe a Soul less inclined to sin.”

Let’s be clear, I do not believe in a soul, we have a mind that has recursive and self-referential properties that can manifest in things like dreams, and when in highly fearful or anxious states, as external to ourselves. I don’t believe in God, God is the same self-recursive brain process applied to social stimuli – in other words, we thing of God when we think of the society we live in, that is why morality seems to come from God, why the socially acceptable “right thing to do” comes from God, etc., etc., etc. What I AM saying is that your God is pretty powerless as an all-powerful creator.


“The bible never speaks of anyone not capable of sinning including the Angels of which 1/3 followed Satan, even being in heaven at the time.”

So, most atheists are asking for proof of God’s existence, and none is provided. The angels, who had that proof felt that eternal damnation was preferable to living in God’s house. Does this not say quite a lot more than you’re willing to admit? Notice that God did not want Adam and Eve to have knowledge of Good and Evil, and when they acted in ignorance of Good and Evil he punished them. Notice that when given the choice to live in ignorance and bliss, 1/3 of the angels chose not to. It is dismissively called pride, but that is what God displays. No, they display openness to ideas and curiosity about the world.


“Satan sinned because of pride (Ezekiel 28:17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, …).  I believe Satan wanted to be God the Father, he did not want to follow anyone else.  That sort of reminds me of most people today.  They don’t like authority.”

There’s a big difference between legitimate authority and a despot. Did you know that the most devout Christians in the US are mostly authoritarians? Authoritarians follow authority without question – take a look at the current US Conservative party to see illegitimate authority, and take a look at their religiously inspired followers… who actually believe that Sarah Palin is a viable candidate for President, when she can’t even string a coherent sentence together when he autocue fails. And if you want to know what that looks like in the longer term, check out Nazi Germany, that basis for the original research on Authoritarianism.


“A Christian is someone who knows God and is willing to follow Jesus and I do not think that being a Christian is a religion, that is what man calls it.”

Hip-hop is a lifestyle, too. If you believe in God, or organize your life around metaphysical claims about the nature of reality, you are in a religion.


“I speak with God and seek his face, I want to know him and what he thinks.”

I think that very unlikely.


“Sorry if I did not explain myself very well with my reference to God proving my faith in him with things heard, felt and seen.  I was going to expound on that with how a Christian can prove God by asking for things.  I have seen especially with new Christians many wonderful things happening in their life.”

If you expect God in the result, then you will find him. That’s how the human brain works – it’s called priming, or self-fulfilling prophecy.


“It seems as a Christian gets older he looses his first love “Christ” and he falls away, especially today.”

Because the human brain, for all of its faults, is at least a little scientific. If you spend a lifetime not getting the results you feel like you were promise by believing in God, you will eventually drift away from God as an unhelpful belief.


“The things that happened with me was prophetic in that I was shown things that would come to pass and I believe to strengthen my faith.  I struggled with whether I should tell you of one because it promotes the person more than Christ most of the time and even with this doubt I will share one so you can understand what I am speaking of.”

That’s very selfless of you. But I refer you back to what I just said – if you expect God (or Jesus) in the results of any given thing, you will find a way to find him, however tenuous. This is known as confirmation bias and ad hoc rationalization.


“One was a first cousin of mine who had an accident and was laying in the hospital in a coma.  On the way there I got a strong need to touch him.  I remembered noticing this but did not give it much thought.  When we got there the whole family was there and we went in to see him.  As soon as I stood by his bed I quickly touched his hand and immediately got a beyond doubt knowing that he was fine and just sleeping.  When we left I hugged his mother and the thought came to me to tell her this, but for some reason I thought everyone knew he was just sleeping.  Later I asked my mother on his condition at the time and she told me that they were still waiting for him to wake to see if he had any head injuries.  I then realized my mistake and told her I was supposed to tell his mother to lesson her fears and I did not.  The family had been praying for him.  The only way for someone to think this was miraculous where if they could have felt what I felt and know what I knew by it.  You see someone is not going to believe this if they do not believe there is a God because it can be easily explained.  I hope I have explained myself more clearly and why I was reluctant to speak of them.”

You said it yourself, and I see no reason to say anything further, “someone is not going to believe this if they do not believe there is a God because it can be easily explained.”


“God truly loves everyone and wants everyone to come to him.”

Remember what you said? “I don’t even want to try and define who God the Father is.” If you claim to know what he wants, you are defining him.


“He proved that by allowing Jesus to die on a cross and to take the burden of sin from the world.”

You really didn’t read and understand what I wrote about this before, did you? Go back and read, and more importantly take on board, or at least think about what I said about the torture of Christ being representative of a few thousand people, not the billions alive today.


“God the Father forsook his son for a time because of the sin laid on Jesus.”

But God is ALSO the son, so not really.


“If one man brought sin into the world, one man can take it from the world.  (Roman 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.)”

But that’s not true, is it? No other man can throw himself on the mercy of God and ask for him to be the scapegoat for all man’s sins. No, it had to be Jesus, the son of God. He who would be merely inconvenienced by being tortured on this earth, as he would eventually go back to the eternal bliss that is heaven. Please, understand that the narrative is illogical and self-falsifying.


“I can already hear the response on this one.  No one on earth can explain why the world was made the way it was made, they are not God, but I do know that God tries to keep the world from getting worse and one day (you know the day I speak of) God will grant them their wish and leave them alone and take his protective hand off the World and give it to Satan for a Season.  Remember the Holy Spirit being in the world with Christians.”

Does being a Christian and knowing that all of your non-Christian friends (including a great many who you think to be Christians) will suffer in this way? And can you be certain, with the mass killings in Paris (Charlie Hebdo), and in the US (weekly), and war in the Middle East, and so on, that God’s hand has already moved away, and you are still here?

You can’t because you have absolutely no way of proving it, aside from your belief. But your belief could have been pu their by Satan to fool you into complacency.


“He wants to be a Father just as I did and wants his children to love him.”

Love, like respect, is earned.


“That is the first commandment.”

Commanding love, is like commanding someone to have fun. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of the human mind works… an odd mistake for our supposed creator.


“The second being to love your neighbor as yourself and all of the other commandments are based upon these 2.”

That’s not the second commandment. The second, according to both Exodus and Deuteronomy, is that you should not make false idols. According to Mark, loving your neighbor is the second most important (but the actual commandments merely say to not bear false witness), so it’s not even a commandment, at least not from the Decalogue. Did you know that the so-called ‘Golden Rule’ was written by Confucius, before it was written by Rabbi Hillel or appeared in the Christian Bible? Confucius, you’ll note, is not even close to being a Christian.

Loving your neighbor is another way of saying ‘empathy’, a skill most humans, and indeed most chimpanzees, have. Please explain why the most devout Christians in the US are pro-torture, and want to bomb the heathens into oblivion, etc.? Please explain why the safest and happiest nations are the most Godless (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and to a lesser extent, Japan).


“Thanks,
Brad”

You didn’t approach a number of the points that I made in my prior posts. I assume you’re still thinking on those. Please, take your time.

Thanks,
Alan

#31 Adzcliff on Thursday January 29, 2015 at 5:09am

Hi Alan Duval

I read your post with interest, and will certainly use variants of your ‘free will and flying’ example in the future.

I was struck by this point though:

“Sin, when you get right down to it is, generally, the failure to act in accordance with what is logically appropriate in a given circumstance when taking empathy into account.”

Do you think so?  For me, ‘sin’ is just the wrong side of a theologically-prescribed morality.  As far as I’m aware, ‘sin’ doesn’t exist as a literal term outside of religion, and doesn’t necessarily concern itself with empathy within religion (e.g. it is a ‘sin’ not to worship me, worship others, eat shellfish, cut the sides of your hair etc.).  In describing ‘sin’, I think you may just be offering as a decent definition of ‘immorality’.  Not sure what you think?

Thanks for your time.

#32 Alan Duval (Guest) on Thursday January 29, 2015 at 5:32am

Hi, Adzcliff

You make make an excellent point. Allow me to expand my thinking a bit to maybe draw my comment and yours closer together.

“For me, ‘sin’ is just the wrong side of a theologically-prescribed morality.”

Absolutely. The difference is what I think God actually is, what theists think God is, and hence the source of the theological prescription.

I’ll quote myself from earlier to try and make this clearer:
“...I do not believe in a soul, we have a mind that has recursive and self-referential properties that can manifest in things like dreams, and when in highly fearful or anxious states, as external to ourselves. ...God is the same self-recursive brain process applied to social stimuli – in other words, we think of God when we think of the society we live in, that is why morality seems to come from God, why the socially acceptable “right thing to do” comes from God, etc., etc., etc.”


“As far as I’m aware, ‘sin’ doesn’t exist as a literal term outside of religion, and doesn’t necessarily concern itself with empathy within religion (e.g. it is a ‘sin’ not to worship me, worship others, eat shellfish, cut the sides of your hair etc.).”

I’m not sure that saying that it doesn’t involve empathy is not necessarily true. If you live in a hot climate, and nowhere near the sea, then shellfish is generally going to be off (or heading that) way by the time it gets to you. If you have experienced terrible diarrhoea due to eating shellfish on a number of occasions, then you will want to ensure that your kith and kin don’t suffer likewise. Indeed this is the problem with most traditional laws, they have become detached from the original reason for their existence - the more absurd they seem to us, now, the more likely that they were perfectly sensible in the context in which they arose. That said, the two fabrics thing is harder to explain.


“In describing ‘sin’, I think you may just be offering as a decent definition of ‘immorality’.”

Absolutely. But sin is just immorality in the context of a particular society, with a particular set of rules, and a particular set of beliefs. Which is why some rules are universal (such as the Golden Rule existing in virtually every major religion), some are culturally specific ways of dealing with an issue that could go either way, but where consensus makes life easier (some cultures think it rude to look a person in the eye when talking, some think the opposite - there’s no right or wrong, just an arbitrary rule that everyone follows). Some are purely local, and usually to do with something about the environment, like the prohibitions about pig-meat and shellfish. And so on.


“Not sure what you think?”

I think we’re basically in agreement. Yes?

#33 Adzcliff on Thursday January 29, 2015 at 6:02am

Cheers Alan.

Perhaps not complete agreement, but not too far off.

I said that sin, within religion, doesn’t NECESSARILY concern itself with empathy.  (Sorry, capitals instead of italics I’m afraid.).  I think you have provided some examples of where it might, but may have also stretched ‘empathy’ to ‘functionality’ (or ‘fitness’ even).  I fully accept that avoiding seafood was probably a good rule to live by – which may be why it made it into lasting print in the first place – but I think you may be finding empathy after the fact.  It would equally be in the interests of a community, or tribal chieftain, that its mothers, children, farmers, ironmongers and soldiers were fit and healthy. 

Secular morality on the other hand, is a much more interesting topic. I think I’m with Sam Harris (and, I think, the soon to publish Michael Shermer), that if we grant ourselves one assumption – that morality concerns actions that reduce suffering, and promote the happiness and well-being of sentient creatures – then we have the beginnings of an objective morality.  This, I’m sure you’ll agree, is much more interesting and complex than the prescribed binary of ‘good’ and ‘sinful’ behaviour that we find in most holy books.

Interesting stuff.

#34 Witness on Thursday January 29, 2015 at 8:23pm

Hi Alan, and Adzcliff,
I did answer them and some remarks I had nothing to say.  They were more accusatory than anything.  I hope you would start to believe there is a God.  He loves you and knows you Alan and Adzcliff.  Do you know he holds Christians accountable for not telling them of his son Jesus.  That is why I’m on here.  I saw a debate on my Lord.
I’m not sure we will ever see eye to eye.  You guys sound like very logical people.  I like logic.
By the way I love my children and try and treat them like I remembered I wanted to be treated.  I can remember when I was 2.5 years old and can remember what my thought process was like.  My mom had some pictures with dates and I can remember what I was thinking of at the time.  They think like we do except obviously with much less knowledge.  It is also very hard for them to keep their attention on a single thing very long.  Their thoughts go from one thing to another.

I will try and answer some of your later responses.  Sorry I may have gotten them out of order.

—Sin, when you get right down to it is, generally, the failure to act in accordance with what is logically appropriate in a given circumstance when taking empathy into account. The best way to achieve sinless perfection is to have knowledge with which to understand what choices there are, and which are the most relevant, and the empathy to ensure that you consider others almost as much as—- and sometimes more than you consider yourself.

Your right in that sin is not doing what is logically appropriate, or living in the easiest way as I would put it.  That is why this scripture is in the bible.
(Roman1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;)
God tries to get people to act conveniently or the easiest way to live.  Jesus spoke and said my yoke is easy.  I think that is what God is doing today but people keep rejecting that he exist.  So after thousands of years he is going to give them what they want.  A Earth without God in it.


—So, most atheists are asking for proof of God’s existence.
Do you want proof like the rich man did for his family?  Based upon your current responses you would reject it, just as Jesus said the rich man’s family would do.  I’m hoping you might see a different perspective?

—Does this not say quite a lot more than you’re willing to admit?
It means that Angels have free will to chose like we do and God did not make a fake Heaven were beings are not free or full of robots incapable of feeling.  If you can’t make a wrong decision how could you feel?  It would not matter to you that a good thing was done or not.  I don’t think a heaven full of people that can’t feel happiness would be fun.  It would be a place full of Vulcan’s?  The only thing I could think of right now.

—Untrue. I can’t fly does that mean I lack free will? 
No it means you don’t have the option and if you don’t have the option then you are limited in your ability or not as free as I would like to be.  I like the fact that God gives me free will to choose.  It is my fault if I decide not to do right.  I’m glad he made man.  I like free will and having a soul. 
Your next argument is that God can make a perfect man who is incapable of sinning.  I have already stated that God can make a thing that will not sin, but would it be alive? an animal or a machine?  I can’t make a living thing and I’m very certain you cannot. I certainly will not tell God that he should have just had soulless machines or animals in heaven.  Like I said before it really boils down to our definition of free will.  Yours is not having the ability to make a right and wrong decision and mine is having a chance to make a right or wrong decision.  If a person can not make a wrong decision how can you say he has a choice?

—Authoritarians
What is wrong with following a leader.  A household with 2 heads, a company with 2 CEO’s, a Nation with 2 leaders will not survive.  Only 1 can make the final decision.
There is a big difference between the Republican party and Hitler.  Hitler hated the Jewish people and Israel.  What a coincidence?  Not.  Still the whole world is hung up on Israel and the Jewish people.  Bible spoke of this around 2500 years ago that is proven by the dead sea scrolls.


Roman 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed

I have told you these things to let you know that if a man/woman would seek God they will find him, and if they would say Lord please forgive me and help me to follow you.  This new Christian can know that what he has is real.  Will he get everything he wants? No But it is amazing how his “needs” will be taken care of.  A Christian will know that he is a true Christian by knowing that if he sins, he will be chastened but God is very patient.  He can also know by asking God for help and will receive it, but not asking out of lust.  God knows what you are thinking. 
Jesus was the one who said that all of the commandments are based upon Loving God and your neighbor in (Mathew 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.)

I hope I have given you some things to think on and hopefully made a good impression of what a Christian should be.
It has given me some insight into others thinking.
Thank you for your time,
Brad

#35 Philolinguist (Guest) on Thursday January 29, 2015 at 10:13pm

I came up with a crazy thought-experiment once and I still don’t know if it’s false. Psychology has amply demonstrated that each of us has a very poor knowledge of what we’re ‘really’ thinking. Hence Freud’s famous metaphor of the mind as an iceberg, with the bulk of it submerged in the murky waters of the ‘subconscious’, the repository of all the thoughts that we suppress and sublimate because they are too disturbing to acknowledge (in case they threaten our fabricated self-image).

The difficulty with the standard notion of the ‘subconscious’ is that it is self-defeating. If the subconscious is the storehouse of every thought and motive that we’re trying to hide from ourselves, then how do we know that our theories of the subconscious are not just more attempts at hiding what’s in the subconscious? It’s the classic Observer Effect all over again, that we can’t use our minds to verify our theories of mind, because we can’t rule out the possibility that our minds are deceiving us.

But what if what we call ‘the external world’ is really our subconscious? What if the nightmare ‘out there’ is a faithful reflection of what we’re really thinking? What if the classic distinction between a) the ‘subjective’ or ‘inner’ domain of ‘the mind’ and b) the ‘objective’ or ‘outer’ realm of ‘the external world’ is a form of self-delusion, motivated precisely by our desire to hide our true motives from ourselves? What if the ‘evil god’ that Stephen refers to in his problem of evil arguments is none other than us (although I’m not clear as to how ‘us’ here relates to the first-person/third-person distinction, which I suspect is also some form of self-delusion).

How would this scenario work out in practice? For example, say my neighbor accidentally slips and hurts his knee. I say to him, “Oh that’s terribly unlucky, hope you get better soon,” and lend him my ice pack. I pat myself on the back for being a good neighbor, and believe that I genuinely wish him all the best. But unbeknown to me, I really dislike my neighbor and wish him harm. I don’t want to believe that, because I want to think I’m a decent fellow. So I submerge my malevolent thoughts deep into my ‘subconscious’, which (unbeknown to me) is the ‘external world’. So my neighbor hurting his knee is a direct result of me suppressing my desire to harm him. The desire got sublimated into a seemingly random ‘act of nature’. I was the one who (unknowingly) caused him to fall. Multiply that example by billions of people, and you get the ‘problem of evil’.

Could there be any truth to this scenario? For those familiar with the relevant research in philosophy, psychology and quantum mechanics, the traditional inner/outer distinction is being shot full of holes in each of those fields. It isn’t clear what will replace it, but something like the above theory seems to qualify as a candidate.

#36 Adzcliff on Friday January 30, 2015 at 2:23am

Thanks for this Brad

I actually like Alan Duval’s reference to free will and flying.  It reminded me that Christians think that God invented the laws of physics.  If God created us, then he created us restricted land mammals.  He didn’t make us birds, or fish; and didn’t give us the free-will of the exocoetidae to swim and fly, or amphibians that can live in land or water, or the skills of the cormorant to swim, walk and fly. Okay, we are superior in a whole range of ways, and have conquered those worlds these last few decades of our 200,000’ish year existence, but it doesn’t escape the fact that your god supposedly wrote the rule book of what is possible and impossible.  On the side of all those things that are possible, he says, you have free will to do what you like.  Why not just place paedophilia and xenophobia (etc.) on the other side with invisibility cloaks and human flying, and leave free human beings to only be nice to each other, in the same way they can only breathe oxygen?

I think it may be useful to explain why your arguments are unlikely to change the mind of the considered non-Christian. 

The philosopher Daniel Dennett once said (something like) this about religious belief: “No matter what you believe, there will be more people who don’t share your beliefs than do.  Therefore it us up to you to explain why you are right, and everyone else is wrong”.  The problem we have here is that you seem to be pitching your brand/knowledge of Christianity against atheism, as if that is the only debate to be had.  The problem with many atheists is that they have had the Koran, Bible, Kojiki, Guru Granth Sahib, , Vedas, Torah, Bhuddhavana, Tao te Ching, Avesta, Book of Mormon, the Wheel of the Year, Dianetics (etc.) quoted at them to prove a certain spiritual belief over their atheism/agnosticism.  Unfortunately this leaves the challenge with the believers of those many holy texts – that give very different messages about creation, meaning, existence and morality – to first prove their validity, before quoting from within them about how to believe. From an atheist (or even potential convert’s) perspective, there are a whole lot of religious/spiritual perspectives out there, and all of them are convinced they are right.

Hope that’s helpful.

(P.S.  If you aren’t acquainted with any of those holy texts - and there are many more - it follows that their believers would urge you to give them serious consideration if you wanted to be in the ‘right’ religion.)

#37 Witness on Friday January 30, 2015 at 9:19pm

Hi Adzcliff,
I agree that discussing the whole universe question will probably not change someones mind if they believe there is no God.  I like science and when I see a tree or animal and marvel at it’s complexity,  I can only see intelligence in its making.  Energy and raw material with something controlling it to me seems very logical.  I have read the bible front to back and have found nothing to dissuade me in my belief of a loving God.  That is why I entered the discussion.  I did get a better understanding of an atheist viewpoint.  I wish you could read my thoughts and know what I know to be real.
  The Philolinguist thoughts on our world are very interesting.  I often try to understand why things happen also.  My thought process is somewhat different of course.  Mine center around spirits and angels both good and evil being around us, after all man can only account for a small percentage of the mass we believe has to be in the universe.  What if this other mass is the other things(heaven, spirits, angels etc…).  When he spoke of his subconsciousness causing his neighbor to hurt his knee reminded me of similar things I have observed.  I actually do believe that a persons desire come into play in the physical world, but my hypothesis is not because of some super power someone has but because God can read our inward parts of the belly Proverbs 20:27 (sub conscience).  God and or Satan if God allows can then interact with us in this world, based upon these thoughts or desire.  I’m not saying that I have observed someone getting hurt because of another persons desire.  Have you ever noticed that when someone starts bragging is usually about the time they get hurt, it does with me.  I know this might be out of this sites realm somewhat but I have witnessed prayers being answered.  Sorry I could not resist.  Anyway I hope I gave it another spin.
If I may be permitted to say a prayer for Adzcliff, Alan, Philolinguist and others who read here that Gods grace be upon you.
Thanks,
Brad

#38 rtk (Guest) on Saturday January 31, 2015 at 4:12am

“I must say, Kevin, that seems to me to underestimate enormously what an 80% effective deity could do to make life miserable for us. I mean for most people life is very good.” - William Lane Craig

OK, here’s the deal with William Lane Craig’s statement, first and foremost: One cannot honestly affirm that life for :most people: is “very good”, especially by modern wetsern standards. Maybe for :most Americans: or :most Europeans:, and even in these case it seems more reasonable and honest to assume that the lives of the majority of people in those locations is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between good and bad, by their own standards. So, unless Mr. Craig doesn’t count South Americans, Africans and Asians as people, his statement is either stupefyingly dishonest or misinformed.
Second, the percentage of people(notice that by people I mean every human on the planet) leading “very good” lives (especially by modern western standards) has increased throughout history, so a non-omnipotent evil god’s effectiveness would be decreasing over time, by Mr. Craig’s own definition. And that decrease would be directly proportional to secular progress. So an honest assessment of this non-omnipotent evil god would be to say that, whatever his effectiveness was in the past, it has been steadily decreasing by human secular efforts.

The less people wasting their time with religious nonsense and other forms of toxic irrationality such as numerology, astrology, voodoo, monarchies, tabloids, spiritism, teosophy, homeopathy, neo-nazism, Deepak Chopra, etc., the greater the percentage of people leading “very good” lives.

Basically, religious people ride the benefits of secular progress while actually working to undermine it (slowing it down, in certain respects, to a halt). :And the vast majority of them have no idea they are doing it:.

#39 Adzcliff on Sunday February 01, 2015 at 3:40pm

Thanks Brad.

You may have come across this Stephen Fry clip that has been doing the rounds these last few days.  I think it encapsulates a lot of what we have been talking about:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/01/30/atheist-stephen-fry-delivers-stunning-answer-when-asked-what-he-would-say-if-he-came-face-to-face-with-god_n_6581710.html?utm_hp_ref=stephen-fry

As far as prayers are concerned:  from an atheist perspective, of course I have no issue with you saying things out loud or in your head; whilst also appreciating that you mean this as a gesture of goodwill.  So thanks for that.

#40 Alan Duval (Guest) on Sunday February 01, 2015 at 5:23pm

I’ll get onto the lengthier replies later, but I want to address one long (and interesting) post, with what I think is relevant, though short…

Philolinguist, in response to your question, I believe we can apply a quote that has been said by many (and is often attributed to Anaïs Nin, tough probably incorrectly…
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are──or, as we are conditioned to see it.”
― Stephen R. Covey
From ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

#41 Alan Duval (Guest) on Sunday February 01, 2015 at 5:27pm

Oh, and Brad, I highly recommend Richard Carrier’s book ‘Sense and Goodness Without God’ - it says much of what I think, but is laid out clearly, and logically, and illustrates why I think you are wrong.

I challenge you to read it, and find legitimate flaw.

I will respond to your comments shortly.

#42 Alan Duval (Guest) on Monday February 02, 2015 at 3:37am

Nicely said, RTK.

#43 rtk on Monday February 02, 2015 at 8:40am

BTW, Alan, the arguments put forth by Stephen Fry in that video you linked do not even begin to describe the kind of natural “evil” and “injustice” a creator deity would have to answer for. It’s just stupefying to me the kind of moral vacuum chamber people like that Witness chap (if he is serious, which I am skeptical about) have to place themselves in so as to blind themselves to the ovrall ammount of natural chaos, imbalance and injustice from which the small patches of localized order emerge. It’s something that always bothered me when watching Hitchens debate people like William Lane Craig, who cannot help but see the entire world from the perspective of his backyard barbecue.

#44 Witness on Monday February 02, 2015 at 5:25pm

Hi Adzcliff,
I have seen the reply from Stephen Fry and thought your response was better.
Thanks,
Brad

#45 Johnson (Guest) on Friday February 06, 2015 at 7:53pm

Dr. Law, there nothing necessarily contradictory about the matter at all.

Here I think you have misapprehended what is going on.
Jim Holt was giving an *argument* from our inductive experience for the conclusion that (if there is a creator being)‘an all-evil creator exists’.

Craig counters his premise by challenging his facts.  Craig doesn’t see 80% bad in the world as Holt suggested.  And even if there is, it seems, the 80% could be “worse evil”.

Craig isn’t giving an argument for the conclusion that “an all-evil being cannot exist” as you projected on him, rather he is arguing that Holt’s reasoning why an all-evil being *does* exist* isn’t any good.

So Craig is actually reaffirming his prior position, that you cannot, as Holt attempted, know from an inductive survey of the good and evil in the world whether or not an all-evil creator exists.

#46 Stephen Law (Guest) on Saturday February 07, 2015 at 4:52am

Thanks Johnson. Of course we should always seek to be charitable in our interpretations. However your interpretation stretches that principle to breaking point.

The reason is fairly obvious. You have ignored the fact that Craig is considering a conditional claim – that’s to say, a claim of the form ‘If P then Q’.  As Craig makes clear at the end of the quoted passage, he is considering how miserable the world would be ‘If there were a being that were really 100 percent malevolent.’ Note Craig’s use of ‘if’. Craig is clearly considering the question: conditional on there being such a deity, how miserable should be world be? Craig concludes the world should be much more miserable than it is. But of course he can’t conclude that if he’s to remain consistent, can he?

You would have us believe Craig is merely rejecting the claim the world is 80% evil. Odd, then, that (i) Craig doesn’t even mention that claim (!) and (ii) Craig’s use of ‘if’ clearly indicates he is considering a conditional along the lines of: if P (there is a 100% evil 80% effective deity) then Q (more evil than is actually observed).

#47 Johnson (Guest) on Saturday February 07, 2015 at 1:55pm

Thanks Dr. Law.  I don’t think there is anything “stretching charitability” about recognizing that he actually is *responding* to an argument for the conclusion that an all-evil creator exists.  That is simply a fact.(also, he uses the word ‘could’ not ‘would’.)  There is a difference between “ruling out the *existence* of an all-evil creator on the basis of observation, and ruling out an *argument* for the existence of an all-evil creator on the basis of observation(if that is what Craig was doing).

Certainly you see there is a difference between countering an argument for the conclusion that an all-evil creator exists, and offering up a positive argument that such a being does not, in fact, exist.

Does Craig need to mention this?  No, since he is directly responding to Holt’s argument.  What would you have us believe?
Does Craig mention that he is giving a positive argument that an all-evil creator cannot exist?  No, and that was never the subject, yet you projected that view on him.

So if that is what Craig is doing, then not only is it not contradictory, but rather it is confirmatory of his earlier belief.

Moreover, this point aside given the context that Craig *does* think an all-good creator exists, then the claims certainly need not be contradictory.
1.  “you cannot disprove anti-God by just looking inductively at the good things in the world.”
2.  “If there were an all-evil creator, then the world could (or even would) be much worse than what we see.”

Given that (2) contains the background knowledge that the world we see is one created by an all-good being, then two doesn’t seem to far fetched nor commits oneself to a rejection of (1).  You can consistently claim both, and my guess is that Craig *does* in fact believe both.  So if we say that Craig is merely speaking “off-the-cuff”, so to speak, and saying “wow, this guy is really clueless about what an all-evil creator could do”, then there isn’t a problem.

And let me apologize to some degree, I’m not really attempting to speak for Craig.  I’m just pointing out that his claims aren’t necessarily contradictory.  They could be, but Craig can ultimately speak for himself about whether he believes that you can or cannot inductively prove the existence of an evil-creator from the good and bad in the world.

#48 Stephen Law (Guest) on Saturday February 07, 2015 at 2:25pm

Thanks Johnson. But you are ignoring what I said. Irrespective of whether Holt is arguing for a 100% evil and 80% effective God (and I don’t think he is; rather he’s just speculating that such a God might be a better ‘fit’ for this universe than is the J-C God), the fact is Craig is very clearly considering the conditional: IF there were a 100% evil and 80% effective God, how much misery should we expect? That makes no sense on your interpretation. On your interpretation, Craig is merely rejecting the claim that the world is 80% evil (a claim which, in fact, Craig never mentions!), which functions as a premise of an argument argument for an evil God.

Do you know Craig, incidentally?

#49 Stephen Law (Guest) on Saturday February 07, 2015 at 2:38pm

PS I am quite sure Craig will continue officially to deny that observed goods/evils might provide a reasonable basis for rejecting belief in evil/good deities.

#50 Alan Duval (Guest) on Saturday February 07, 2015 at 2:54pm

RTK, I didn’t post the Fry video, that was Adzcliff… but I agree with you.

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