Last week I posted my thoughts on the Question of Suffering or, as it’s also commonly referred to in philosophical/theological circles, the Problem of Evil. Prior to that I had left some comments in another post about my recent enjoyment of Bart Ehrman’s latest book, God’s Problem, a nice analysis of how the Bible, rather than address and resolve the issue, actually confuses it by contradicting itself all over the map.
In response to the former post, a reader sent me a private email that I thought was a nice illustration of the reasoning inherent in the problem. With his permission, I reproduce it here, in its entirety.
Your recent post about The Problem of Evil reminded me of a argument I recently had with a Christian. I thought I would share it with you.
Imagine the following scenario: Two of your children are hanging from the edge of a 20 story building. They are screaming and pleading for help. I happen to be on top of the building and hear them. I rush to the edge where they are and immediately pull the first child to safety. Then, I stand there and do nothing. The child who is still hanging is begging me for help. I stand there and do nothing. The child who I have already saved realizes that I am not going to help his/her sibling and tries to help them himself/herself. However, he/she is not strong enough to pull them up. The other child loses his/her grip and falls to his/her death; splattering all over the concrete below. Everyone on the street, not to mention you and your family, is horrified and traumatized, some of them having to seek professional counseling to cope with what they have seen happen. How would you feel about me? I saved one of your children. I also stood by and did nothing while your other child fell to his/her death. Well, I think it depends on who I am.
If I am God, you will go to church and praise me for saving your child. Your love for me will be reinforced. You will talk about how I have taken your deceased child to heaven and he or she is now eternally happy. If anyone questions you about why I did not save your other child, you will simply say that I work in mysterious ways.
If I am a human being, I will be arrested and forced to spend several years in prison. The fact that I saved one of your children will be grossly outweighed by the fact that I stood by and did nothing as your other child fell to his/her death, when I easily could have saved him/her. It is likely that I will be resented by you and your family. Most people will consider me evil and cruel.
Christians, why does your God get the benefit of this double-standard? Why is god not considered evil and cruel, even though he sits by and does nothing while children and many good people burn to death, starve to death, and suffer each day; while at the same time, you say that he has changed your life, giving you many blessings? You thank him for the food he gives you. You thank him for helping people survive car accidents, hurricanes, disease, etc.
The most common response that Christians have given me for scenarios like the one I have described above is that God needs these people or has another purpose for them and is calling them to be with him or to some other place. This argument is not compelling because 1) the total randomness of who is “saved” and who suffers or dies is much more consistent with chance and natural cause and effect than with a divine plan, and 2) the manner in which God supposedly “calls” or “takes” those who die is often by violent means in which the individual suffers. If God simply wanted to take someone, could he not simply “put them to sleep” and take them, or take them in some way that would not cause them to suffer. Do they really need to burn or starve?
Your God’s ways are quite mysterious indeed. So mysterious, in fact, that a rational person would have to question whether or not such a God exists.
I have nothing to add to that, but I’d love to hear the Christian take on it.
Nice letter, thanks for reposting it, it was a nice piece of logic. I find it odd and disheartening that no Christians responded, yet. But I will make an assumption that a response will revolved around the axiom “The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways.”
I have often asked questions similar to this, and I have yet to receive any sort of coherent answer or explanation. This is where we arrive at what is called cognitive dissonance: Refusal to question one’s own beliefs despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
I’m glad you’ve posted this. It’s a great letter. I’ll refrain from saying more so that Christians may have their fair turns at this.
Maybe I’m missing something foundational, it’s entirely possible, but this “problem” doesn’t seem to me all that difficult to reconcile.
The traditional claim is that man was created with free will. If man is truly free, he must be allowed to transgress. Further, it is claimed that man’s transgressions have been so great as to damage the fabric of reality and give rise to natural disasters.
The traditional conception of God is that He’s omnipotent. Omnipotence means the power to do anyTHING. “Thing-ness” implies possibility; a married bachelor is not a thing, it’s a syntactical trick, therefore God can’t create a married bachelor. Equally impossible is an individual who is restrained from expressing volition and creating consequences yet has free will. Were God to intervene to end all evil, free will would be destroyed and man would be no more than an automaton.
The historical record *does* show God intervening in human existence in rare circumstances, but all these events were connected specifically with the plan of salvation, and were typically actions affecting individuals set in their path already. Beyond those times, God seems content to “woo” individuals to Himself and away from evil, always respecting their freedom of choice.
Like I said, perhaps I’m not getting something, I’d be grateful for any clarifications of logical lapses I may be committing.
From the letter above, how is the free will of the two children violated by the saving of the one and the ignoring of the other? It seems to me there is no violation of their free will.
I’m not familiar with the claim that “man’s transgressions have been so great as to damage the fabric of reality and give rise to natural disasters.” I am familiar with the claim that the alleged acts of two individuals, Adam and Eve, resulted in the “fallen” (imperfect) state of affairs which we currently dwell in. The latter is a traditional Christian claim. From where comes the former?
I don’t believe that’s true. Is the free will of the thief violated by the policeman when prevented from committing a crime?
Lastly, do Christians have free will in heaven?
I’m curious about the phrase “The fabric of reality”. Exactly what and where is this fabric,and how does one go about damaging it?
It sounds suspiciously like a “syntactical trick”, rhetorical at best, without independent existence.
I pick my nose, a minor transgression at best. How is the fabric of reality affected?
The historical record *does* show God intervening in human existence in rare circumstances, but all these events were connected specifically with the plan of salvation, and were typically actions affecting individuals set in their path already.
I am curious about this statement. There have been records (and by records, I mean first-person, contemporary accounts, or news accounts, or memoirs, etc. which can be verified at least tangentionally through one or more additional source) in which individuals have claimed the presence of God, or the intercession of God. These are often found associated with the happening of a wildly improbable incident (not impossible, not miraculous, but merely improblable). These are also associated with natural phenomena for which there was not an explanation at the time.
The most widely claimed ‘historical incident’ in which God supposedly had a hand was the crucifiction and resurrection of Jesus. There are, however, no contemporary accounts of his ministry, crucifiction, or resurrection. There are accounts written, in a language foreign to the participants, some 30 to 60 years after the event which appear, through textual analysis, to be different forms of the same oral history and were assigned apostolic authors even later. Paul’s writings must be considered as propaganda — he wanted his version to win, and was willing to create miracles out of ordinary events to justify his version of Christianity. Were these incidents not in a ‘holy’ book, historians would find it very difficult to credit the veracity of the stories — no contemporary accounts (even Josephus (assuming it wasn’t adulterated out of all usefulness by later translators and scribes) came well after the fact, and after the oral histories had been circulating for quite some time) and not corroborating evidence OF ANY KIND.
A rational person would question this ‘evidence.’ Yet, the murkiness inherent in religious writings is also chocked up to ‘His mysterious ways.
I agree with the letter (thanks for printing it (and thanks for giving permission for it to be printed)). God’s mysterious ways would be described in modern society as psychopathic, sadistic, mysogynistic, and a whole bunch more -istics I can’t think of yet.
I don’t mind trying to answer your question but I think that the basic assumption behind the question is wrong. As I understand it you are asking why does God do nothing sometimes and do something other times. There is a verse in the Psalms, sorry I don’t have it at my fingertips right now, but it says that the heavens are the Lords but the earth he has given into the hands of men. That puts the ball back in our court. It is incumbent upon the people who believe in the Father, Jesus the Son of God and the Holy Spirit of God to subdue this world and bring it into alignment with the eternal, heavenly kingdom. In fact, Jesus Himself said He did nothing except what He saw His Father doing. As a Christian, I am to do what Jesus did. Now you can see why I am saying your argument has a flaw in its basis. The better question is, why is the Church and why are the Christians not doing what we are supposed to do. Let me give another example. When Moses was confronted with the prospect of being pulverized by the Egyptian army or being driven into the Red Sea, God said to him, “Stop crying out to me.” God then told Moses what to do and when Moses obeyed the word of the Lord, Israel was delivered safely onto the other side and the same army was drowned in the sea.
There is yet another matter which I struggle with myself and that is the basic issue of death. Why choose death as the means of exit at all? I can honestly say that I don’t know except that death is the natural result of life. The means or the method of death are not even relevant because a person killed in a traffic accident is just as dead as a person who dies in his sleep and the result of any method of death is equally final. One may seem a bit more “humane” than the other but that is a matter of our perspective. I will say this about death. Our perspective is based upon our finite ability to conceive of what lies beyond our mortal existence. The Apostle Paul wrote that, after having a glimpse of the other side, that he was torn between whether to stay here or to depart because being with the Lord was much better than being here. That is a byproduct of perspective. My perspective, having not seen the eternal realm, is limited to what my senses perceive and that means that death seems like a rather bad end.
The entire concept of suffering and death are directly related to sin. I know how some of you feel about this having read the comments before posting; however, sin brings about suffering and death and always has. In Romans it is written, “The wages of sin is death.” Even a person who lives a “good” life is subject to the fallen nature of man and can suffer simply because when sin entered the world, death, sickness disease entered with it. Again, Christians are supposed to be the ones with antidote to sin and we are supposed to apply it liberally. When Jesus left the earth, He said that all authority had been given Him in heaven and in earth and His believers were to take this authority and go out healing the sick, preaching the gospel and doing the good that He had done. The real question for Christians and the real accusation for those who don’t believe is not “Why does God do nothing,” but “Why do Christians do nothing?”
That story necessarily assumes that God is in control of everything. As the story clearly, a loving, caring God would contradict Godself to allow suffering and evil to persist.
Assuming that there is a loving, caring God, my personal opinion is that any suffering, inequality and evil is not the will of God. If that is the case, then suffering did not originate with God. If it did not originate with God, my assumption, then, is that it originated with us (humankind).
Working with the reality that suffering exists, either God refuses to intervene or cannot. To me, the first option contradicts God’s character. My assumption is that God is not in control. If God were, suffering wouldn’t exist, as it is against God’s will.
If suffering originated with humankind, then it makes sense to me that it’s our responsibility to fix things. In doing this we do the will of God. We become God to those who we help. We are “condemned” for those we don’t. Jesus said in Matthew 25 that we will be judged according to our response to the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and imprisoned.
To me, your story does not illustrate the failure of God, but the failure of us, humankind, particularly the church. But whether one calls oneself a Christian or not, I believe we still all equally share the imperative to respond to the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and imprisoned.
One last thing: I’d say we Christians have done a right $#!ty job of representing God to the world, and for that I humbly and sincerely apologize.
It’s amusing to me that people sit around and congratulate themselves on the soundness of arguments revolving around a God they don’t believe in.
You trust in your own wisdom and understanding supposedly based on “logic” and build your beliefs around you like a moat. Why attack Christians? Why carry a banner to stake your claim to self knowledge? Why bother? You’ve made a choice. Go do something to build up instead of tear down.
Your wisdom will be tested in the end.
Personally, I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.
The two children analogy isn’t apropos to reality, from what I understand, so I don’t know that I can speak to it without building further confusion.
The idea that creation was damaged by man’s transgressions is a very common Christian understanding. I’m sure a bit of googling would show more and deeper info that what I could provide in a comment reply.
The policeman analogy is also not apropos. What policeman has the resources to be present for every possible crime? If such a law officer existed and consistently prevented every crime, indeed the free will of all people *would* be violated. Even then, the analogy wouldn’t be accurate, because officers don’t have any stated commitment to respecting free will.
Christians in heaven have free will, but have no ability to commit evil. By virtue of their free choice to become constituents of God’s government, they have traded in their damaged nature for one incapable of damage, a process only complete upon earthly death. The necessity of a free earthly experience in this transaction explains why God couldn’t have created such a heaven by fiat from the beginning.
@ Spanish Inquisitor:
Re: the “fabric” of reality: Perhaps my language was too “mystical” sounding, I apologize. I’m really referring to something quite pragmatic. Basically, due to man’s poor use of free will, God is prevented from protecting us all from the natural dangers of the world due to the constraints of not overriding our free will. If God were to miraculously prevent any person from ever getting hurt by a tornado, a tsunami, an earthquake, etc., such clear interactions wouldn’t allow for a balanced choice of dissent from His rule.
I can’t really speak to your points; you’ve clearly decided that those scholars who would find your account of the historical origins of scripture texts to be questionable or even ludicrous (and there are many secular individuals among that group) can’t be trusted.
“Why attack Christians? Why carry a banner to stake your claim to self knowledge? Why bother? You’ve made a choice. Go do something to build up instead of tear down. Your wisdom will be tested in the end. Personally, I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.”
Why attack Christianity, or Islam or Judaism, or any religion? Well, to paraphrase the great Richard Dawkins, religion is a root of great evil. If women are being mutilated in its name, if men are bombing themselves and innocent bystanders in its name, if wars are being waged because of it, then people of logic NEED to speak out against it.
In response to main post: that was a wonderful letter that your shared with us, and illustrative of one of the great problems that exist with religion, whether Christian or not.
The analogy doesn’t work. God doesn’t choose one person over another to die (although admittedly some Christians will try to say he does.) He lets the world run its course – the kindness of God is free will and the creation of a world with which to use it. It is not being rescued despite oneself. If one child falls, it’s a combination of choice and chance, but not an orchestration by God.
Gary Cosby said:
Yet he stayed. Say’s a lot, don’t you think?
Why would god have to save any individual from a natural disaster? Why not simply create a world where there are no natural disasters? Then we wouldn’t have to worry about a “balanced choice of dissent from His rule”, as everyone would be in the same position, and could dissent or assent without pressure. True free will, in other words.
@ Spanish Inquisitor:
I’m not sure I understand your vision of a world without natural disasters; I wonder if you could explain further how such a world would work.
Poppies: No. I researched the writings, pro and con, regarding the historical evidence for Jesus’ life, ministry, trial, crucifiction and resurrection. Without faith, there is no contemporary evidence for an historical Jesus. If your faith tells you he existed, that is one thing. If you start to argue from an historical standpoint, using the standards of a 20th or 21st century historian, the evidence is not there. Take it on faith and enjoy.
Are you saying you can’t envision a world without hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis? I find no difficulty doing that. I don’t even have to close my eyes, tap my scarlet slippers and wish upon a star.
Here’s how you do it.
Think of the world as it is with hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Now, in your mind, think away hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. There? Isn’t that easy?
God is omnipotent, right? He created the world, right? The world he created seems to have weather phenomena that includes hurricaines, right? It also was created by him with a tectonic plate system that moves, and as a by product of movement, sets off earthquakes, both on land and under the sea, right?
Now, envision a god who knows how to create a world that is exclusive of these things, (this is where omnipotence comes in).
Are you suggesting he didn’t have the ability to create the world without such weather phenomena, or the movement of tectonic plates?
My original remark reflected my incredulity of a god who might want to individually save each and every human in harms way of natural disasters, on a case by case basis, sort of like Superman would do. I thought that an omnipotent god, the creator of all natural disasters, could make it so much simpler, and take less time and energy, if he didn’t create natural disasters in the first place.
But, hell, I’m just an atheist, what do I know?
If I seemed to have a bit of a smarmy tone, it’s intentional. I apologize in advance.
The ‘problem of evil’ is easily explained if you think of the Bible as reactionary to the real world rather than describing the ‘blueprint’ (if you will) for the real world. By that I mean that the writers had to account for the fact that death, destruction and sickness exist, even though their God is supposedly all-loving. How do you do that? Uh…the fall of man! Phew, that was close.
Incidentally, why on Earth doesn’t God make the whole charade a lot easier by just coming down here (now, not 2,000 years ago) and saying ‘Yeah, I exist.’ I’m not saying he should show off his heavenly powers or prove that he’s the true God, but it would be nice if we could know for certain that he’s actually real. As it is, he seems to be making it as difficult as possible for anyone to believe in him – which is odd, since that’s supposedly what he wants more than anything else.
I’d feel improper continuing down this divergent path and moving out of SI’s initial topic. If you’d be so kind as to post the source of your research on, say, that apostolic authorship was assigned and not descriptive of the actual authors, on your blog, I’d love to hear about it. My knee-jerk reaction is to doubt the veracity and depth of the research of your source, but I don’t want to be closed off and miss contrarian evidence of which I may be ignorant.
I can imagine a jet engine flying at supersonic speed and making right angle turns, but just because I can imagine it doesn’t mean it’s possible. Again, God is omnipotent and can do anyTHING. It’s quite likely that a world without the processes we see which create natural disasters isn’t a *thing*, it’s an impossibility.
I probably won’t respond any further; I’ve found that smarminess and the possibilities for an interesting good faith conversation are inversely related. Thanks for your time, though, it’s good to think about these things.
And it’s also just as likely it isn’t. I think you’re now intentionally confusing your definition of anyTHING, or thingness, as you called it. Originally, you used a conceptual example, a married bachelor, which by definition is impossible. Now you want to extrapolate it to the physical world, beyond the conceptual, definitional plane. I don’t think so.
If you’re going to define god as omnipotent, then he can do anything not contradicted by definition. There is no definitional limitation to a world without tectonic plates. Or explosive weather patterns. A truly omnipotent creator could create such a world. Mars, for example, doesn’t appear to have them, as far as we know. (I think, don’t hold me to that.) Add a layer of atmosphere and a lot of water (two things an omnipotent god should be able to handle) and voila, Earth II.
But they are not mutually exclusive. Smarm is just another rhetorical device. Tell you what, hit me with your best smarm.
Well, now we agree on something.
Good point! Gotta love those Christian contradictions.
you guys are funny. Spanish Inquisitor, All I have for you and your cronies is Proverbs 14:2, Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 16:25. I think it explains it all. Notice 14:12 and 16:25 say the same thing, God must have meant it.
PENIS! PENIS! PENIS!
I, as a Christian, appreciate reading the opinions and views of others, even if they are against what I believe. A lot of Christians fear questions being raised about what they believe, I think this is mostly because they only believe what they believe based on what they have been told and to have to answer questions concerning it, their belief is so shallow they fear having to defend something they do not know.
This is my first visit to your blog. I ran across it from the dashboard here on WordPress.
First of all I don’t think I can fully answer your question. I believe you have your mind made up. After all, you have already concluded your view on God or the lack thereof, so my answer, is really for the sake of typing or for argument. There is very little chance that anything I said would change your mind, just as there is nothing you could say to change my mind about my relationship with God.
I will focus on some of what has been said as I have not had the time to read all of the comments: You said,
According to the Bible, God did create a world without natural disasters (Just as you requested 😉 ). It was a perfect world. However, He created man with free will and in that free will man chose to sin, and it is sin and our choosing to do so that brought that perfect world to an end and brought the perfection into chaos.
The email that you posted makes the assumption that God sits back and allows all of this wrong to take place, but that is our problem as imperfect humans. We want to choose our path and expect God to be our Superman without having to face any consequences. We have to decide…do we want a God that allows free will or a God that treats us like robots, a puppet master if you will? If God never put a choice in the path of Adam and Eve that was the opposite of all the good choices he provided them, then we essentially never had free will because there was nothing for us to impose our will on. God would have created this perfect world and our only choice would be to enjoy the perfection that he had created, therefore we would only be robots, programed for the perfect world that God created and nothing more because there would have been nothing more. The fact is, if you want free will, then you have to be willing to accept the responsibility of the choices we make in that free will. It is our choosing to sin that brings about death and destruction. Those things never existed until man chose to sin.
I believe you said you were a parent. You are no different than God in some aspects when it comes to your children. I am sure you set some type of boundaries or had some type of guidelines for them. I only have boundaries or guidelines that will better my children, not harm them, however because I am not a dictator, I have to allow them to choose for themselves. My oldest son knows not to play with the stove, so I have one of two options: Allow him to make the choice whether or not to touch the hot stove eye or hold his hand for the rest of his life guiding him and controlling his every move so he doesn’t make the wrong choices. Where is his free wil? He has none.
See, I believe this is where a lot of non-believers or non-Christians become hypocrites. They yell that they don’t want people forcing “their God” on them, yet they bring up arguments such as these. In essence this argument boils down to saying, “I wish God would impose his will on me, so life can be perfect.” – But it is only when troubles come and deaths happen that this argument becomes a serious one. However, the fact is, bad things happen to Christians as well. Sure people may be totally off base by saying “God allowed it to happen.” or “It was God’s will.” – We never know that for sure, but the Bible is clear that we all will face death, and that is because we chose to do so. God never forces himself on anyone. He didn’t with Adam and Eve and He isn’t about to start.
As for Vitaminbooks last comment. He doesn’t come down here to reveal that he exist because its called faith. Its faith that brings a person to salvation, its faith that brings a person to belief. Christians and non-Christians a like of faith, its just what we have faith in that matters. The Bible says that we are without excuse to believe in God through nature. I personally don’t see how a skeptic can look at nature and not see that God exists. But the argument once again boils down to free will and what we do with it. With my free will I choose to have faith in what the Bible says is true, the God exist, the Jesus came to earth to restore what we messed up, and I put my faith in him, the difference between us is, I choose to and you choose not to.
I personally don’t see how a skeptic can look at nature and not see that God exists.
That’s because you’re hallucinatory.
Further to Exterminator’s comment directly above, even if the universe was created by some higher power, it does not necessarily follow that this higher power is the god of the Bible.
Any thoughts on what I said?
OK, Davo, I’ll bite. You said: One last thing: I’d say we Christians have done a right $#!ty job of representing God to the world, and for that I humbly and sincerely apologize.
Maybe your god has done a right $#!ty job representing himself by picking Christians to represent him. Or maybe — try to wrap your head around this one — he doesn’t exist. In which case, he’s doing a fantastic job revealing that.
Perhaps this issue rests on the the definition of God…
In both Christianity and Islam, the two biggest religions in terms of numbers by far, that believe in a God with a personality or persona, God is all-compassionate, all-merciful and all-loving (cf the words in Arabic of the Muslim prayer made five times a day by those Muslims devout enough to manage this impressive feat(no sarcasm intended at all – I am sure it involves remarkable discipline and commitment), as well as Handel’s Messiah quoting, I believe, Isaiah).
Now, in your example, God is not acting all-compassionate or all-merciful. Neither is he following Jesus’ edict to go after the one even at the expense of the 99 (this one individual suffering counts more than any theology or setup regarding free will, even if it is me who set it up (God speaking out loud here).
HOWEVER, this does not mean that God does not exist as such, only tha the standard doctrinal definitiono of God as set forth in religious theology is a logical nonsense.
That is, maybe there are other ways of viewing God other than the standard Muslim or Christian way (and, in practice, I have known both Muslims and Christians who interpret theology and God in their own way, irrespective of official doctrine — can we say they are “wrong” necessarily?).
For example, A N Whitehead believed God was part of the process of nature and so himself governed by certain rules or forces of this process. If God was not all-powerful, for example, then he could still be all merciful…
This is where I stand I think. I can accept a God who is not all-powerful but is nevertheless all-compassionate — but to be both seems contradictory to me, as your scenario illustrates.
http://www.squidoo.com/WasTheHolocaustPartofGodsWill (The Magee – McCain debacle)
Yes, people have atrocious things in deities’ names…BUT HOW COME ATHEISTS NEVER ASK THE QUESTION ABOUT PEOPLE DOING THE GOOD IN THIS WORLD IN THESE SAME DEITIES’ NAMES?!?
“These are often found associated with the happening of a wildly improbable incident”
Hm, I wonder at what point “wildly improbable” becomes impossible?
Let’s say there was a fellow who started an orphanage, raising money only by praying. Let’s say he grew his orphanages over time.
How far do you think he would get, relying on prayer alone, and never asking a single man for money (outside relaying times of hardship to his immediate staff)?
How many orphans would have to be cared for per year, without missing a meal, for this to become a miracle? How large would the buildings have to be?
The standard definition of god is the one that is so ridiculous, and I guess you agree. It’s the Christians in authority who insist we ALL worship this clearly impossible being. If they stayed in their churches, in their own houses, and in their own bedrooms, I wouldn’t bother them, and I wouldn’t maintain this blog.
My problem though, is that if he’s not omnipotent, just omni-benevolent, as you suggest, well, hell, that describes me. Why doesn’t everyone worship me?
I’ll bite too.
The way you seem to have analyzed it, god is more like the Deist version. He creates everything, then sits back and has nothing to do with us. It’s Mankind’s fuck up here on earth. It’s our responsibility to act right, do right, be right. God has nothing to do with it.
If that’s the case, why do we (mankind) invest so much time, energy and resources worshiping him? Frankly, he’s irrelevant.
If God isn’t real and Jesus didn’t die/resurrect, then what’s the big deal? Nobody makes a fuss about little green Martians or people that believe in them. If he isn’t real, then live your life as a good person by your “naturally selected” personal standard of morality and find out when you die.
I am not a Chritian, but I do not find fault with Chritians finding the ways of God as mysterious. In Hindiism , the God is also known to be acting in mysterious ways in the eyes of ordinery mortals but His ways are perfect. In Gita Lord Krishna says ‘gahana karmno gatih’ . It means that the actions of the actor in this mundane world ,present and past, convert in to ‘prarabdh’ ie fate and it is very difficult to know in what way it will be delivered.One has to bear the consequences in this or the future births but the action as is apperent is not what the action is .It is the state of mind with which the action is performed that makes for what the action (karma) is. In this light we are not competent to judge others actions and have to have faith in the God in an unfailing manner. However, if one is convinced of the evility of some one based on the principles expounded in the holy scriptures , he becomes duty bound to resist the evility of that person but would not be bounded for the result of the action he takes in the process. He would , however, will be action bound and would suffer for not acting in his own self interest or for fear.
Gary Cosby Jr.
That makes little sense.
Suffering and death are not concepts, they’re very much real. As for the rest of this statement, here’s what you have to do before it’s even worth listening to:
1. Define sin
2. Show it’s existence
3. Connect the dots to show the causal relationship between suffering and death and this sin
You know what they say about when you assume, right?
It’s amusing to me that people sit around and congratulate themselves on the unsoundness of believing in a god when there’s no sensible reason, it saddens me to know that they will base their life on what they believe the will of this god is and it truly frightens me to know that many will do truly horrible things to others to carry out that god’s will.
Your folly is being tested now, for faith is foolish and why atheists as rational human beings have no time for it, and neither should you.
And what exactly is this so-called “historical record”?
Then people in heaven don’t have free will. They’ve essentially agreed to being lobotomized, the apparent price for entry into heaven. I for one see that state as a damaged one, an imperfect and lacking one, compared to our current state. So even if this heaven and afterlife thing were more than mere fanciful dreaming, I’d still not want any part of it.
I’m curious, how exactly do you figure passages from a book of dubious authorship citing the word of a god whose existence is unreasonable would either contribute in any way to this discussion or convince atheists of anything?
Because there’s a crapload of nonsense going on in the world predicated on the belief that your or SOME OTHER GOD exists and has rules that must be obeyed which results in everything from simply not allowing condoms to flying planes into buildings.
Anyone I missed, sorry.
You said that God picked Christians to represent Godself to the world. How did you come to this conclusion? I personally would be very hesitant to make exclusive, divisive statements such as that. I would never say that God chose one specific people group to represent Godself. What would that mean about everyone who didn’t get picked? Sucks to be them. In fact, I would say that we all can represent God to each other, regardless of individual faith practice or belief.
Regardless, in my mind one belief or disbelief in God in no way absolves anyone from the responsibility of following Jesus’ teachings of loving one’s neighbor. Whether you believe in God or not, is this teaching not still true? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on that.
Also, I would appreciate a respectful conversation without sarcastic or offensive remarks. If at any time you feel I am attacking you, I would appreciate you calling me on that. I think that proselytic language (regardless of if it’s from theists or atheists) is perhaps one of the most dangerous weapons we humans have created. Let’s strive for a conversation in which we try to understand each other, rather than attack each other.
I see your point, but I don’t think I entirely fall into the Deist model. While I don’t think God physically intervenes, I don’t think God just “sits back and watches.” In my mind, there’s a distinct difference between not controlling us, and refusing to interact with us.
You said, “It’s our responsibility to act right, do right, be right.” I wholeheartedly agree. I would only add that it is through this that we interact with God. Frankly, I share your frustration with the way that most modern Christians worship God. I don’t see it as productive at all. My method of “worship” usually either involves getting out and enjoying nature, or connecting with people. Honestly, some of my best “worship” experiences has been sharing a cigarette with a homeless guy.
Side note… I never understood why God is a “he.” Does God have a penis?
From your mouth to, well, the rest of all the Christians out there who insist that everybody believes what they believe. Stay out of my life, my bedroom, and my government. You’ll know if you’re right when you die.
Or maybe you won’t but it won’t matter.
I don’t smoke, but I’m with you here. Only I don’t call it worshiping God. I call it being a human being.
I personally would be very hesitant to make exclusive, divisive statements such as that. … Regardless, in my mind one belief or disbelief in God in no way absolves anyone from the responsibility of following Jesus’ teachings of loving one’s neighbor.
OK, can you make up your mind? Are you a Christian or not? If you are, do you NOT believe that God speaks more directly and personally to Christians than to others — and maybe even favors them just the teensiest bit? Because if he doesn’t, why bother to be a Christian? Why not just be a Davo-ist, and make up your own religion?
If you’re NOT a Christian, why would you be attributing ancient teachings to Jesus, rather than some other long-dead person. How do you know there even WAS a Jesus? I’ve seen no historical proof. And why should I LOVE my neighbor, anyway? How about if I just tolerate my neighbors and they tolerate me. I’m talking about completely free interchanges without any strings attached. No one tries to “save” the people next door, and no one tries to impose his or her views on the family across the street. Doesn’t that sound better than slobbering over each other all the time?
Also, I would appreciate a respectful conversation without sarcastic or offensive remarks.
See, here’s the deal. If this were YOUR blog, I’d respect your attempt to control the tone of the conversation. But it’s not. You’re a visitor, just as I am. So I suggest that you either eat the food that’s served here or go to a different barbecue.
By the way, SI, these ribs are delicious.
I’m glad you’re enjoying them. Ribs. Mmmmmm
Fair enough. We see things differently, but I can understand and appreciate your perspective.
I call myself Christian in that my faith practice is Christian. I don’t believe that God speaks more directly to Christians. Nor do I think that such an idea can be supported Biblically. I practice Christianity because it’s part of my heritage and tradition. Additionally, I really like a lot of the ideas Jesus had.
As for whether Jesus was a real, historical person, in my mind the question is moot. Regardless of whether or not an actual dude walked around and did crazy shit that made people flip out, the cultural adherence to the religion that followed in his wake made him real. That is, his influence in the world (particularly the western world) is so pervasive, that it no longer matter whether he did or did not exist.
I’d also be extremely interested in hearing how you’ve developed your system of morality. From my own experience, much of it has been based on a spiritual component. I would love to hear how yours developed, and perhaps, a couple of the guiding principles for it.
Lastly, I only mentioned the language thing because I’m really, sincerely interested in trying to understand your point of view, and language like that makes it more difficult for me to respond in a respectful manner. I’m not trying to change your mind or make you see it my way. I will explain how I see things, but please don’t take that as me forcing myself on you. I’m not trying to “convert” you or any bullshit like that. I just want to understand and respect the way you see things, and would appreciate the same effort in return.
That response is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever read. No Christian would say that it’s “moot” whether or not Jesus ever existed. If he didn’t exist, he didn’t have those ideas you “really like.” You’d have to search somewhere else in the ancient world to find their origins. So drop the bullshit.
As far as my ideas on morality, you can go read this..
But I doubt whether your question is sincere; I think it’s just an attempt to deflect the conversation.
Look, I’m not interested in debating morality with you here. I don’t have to explain “evil” or twist my words to justify it, because I don’t believe that the world was created by a perfect being. If you choose to engage in dialogue, the onus is on you, as a god-believer, to explain both “god”-caused evil and human-caused evil (since, theists believe, humans were designed by their god).
I’m really, sincerely interested in trying to understand your point of view …
Maybe you are. But I’ve heard that line spoken insincerely so many times that it’s impossible for me to take your word on faith. So tell me: Why do you want to know my point of view? I’m not proselytizing for it. You can believe whatever nonsense you choose; I don’t care. On the other hand, you do seem to be proselytizing. Why is that? Why is your belief dependent upon mine?
Daveo: I don’t believe that God speaks more directly to Christians. Nor do I think that such an idea can be supported Biblically. Correct me if I am wrong here, but according to Christians, the only way to achieve heaven is through a relationship with God as defined by the teachings of Christ. If Christ and the Bible are the ONLY way to achieve heaven, then how can your statement, by any stretch of the imagination, be taken as a valid view?
Someone’s got their hands full and I don’t think it’s the Inquisitor…:)
Ethics are only cool when the individual doesn’t have to apply them to his/herself but just to the rest of humanity.
What is the purpose of humanity? Produce semen? Be happy? Be nice? Pass on information to a generation who won’t really appreciate it? Does atheism have a consensus on that?
I’m completely puzzled by the opening statement in your last comment Clint. I’m puzzled by it’s meaning, I’m puzzled by your intent for making it and I’m puzzled whether this is something you subscribe to or not. I don’t see ethics as something applied to anyone but oneself. How can you apply your ethics on another? Certainly a community can agree upon a code of ethics and then penalties for a community member who violates the code. This is how laws work, but only cool when you don’t have to apply them to yourself, just others? Why would you say that?
To your two pronged question that followed, first, atheism has no consensus on anything other than that the claims so far for the existence of a god or gods aren’t credible. To ask what atheism has to say about the purpose of humanity is like asking what your decision to buy or rent, to choose traditional or Roth IRAs, to get a haircut or not has to say about the purpose of humanity. That’s a nonsensical question since atheism, like those other issues, are positions in response to a specific topic.
Second, personally, I see no absolute purpose for humanity. I have my personal views for what I think humanity should strive for which many agree to in whole or in part, and many don’t. Much like the issue of ethics above, a community can form a consensus opinion and then strive for making that a reality, but a purpose existing independent of us? That makes no sense.
What is your personal purpose.
To get your picture out in public? To make grammatical errors? To praise the lord and pass the ammunition? To foist your primitive views on others? To leave ridiculous comments that cry for snide answers?
I think atheists try to disprove the existence of God primarily by over-used insults and sarcasm. Its cute really.
God doesn’t believe in atheists, but he does believe in people who use that claim to be their own god.
poppies, you wrote
This strikes me as a dodge. The analogy is precisely that–an imagined scenario that is fully within the bounds of possibility. Consequently, the question I asked is appropriate.
I agree, however, that’s not what I questioned. Your words were that “man’s” transgression “damaged the fabric of reality”. This is a novel claim which I had hoped you’d clarify.
I disagree that the policeman analogy is not apropos. You claim a distinction which doesn’t hold relevance. If the capability to perform an act is negated by an external cause, this doesn’t entail negation of free will. Free will entails freedom of choice, not freedom of action.
Your statement also seems to contradict traditional Christian theology is its view that God actively intervenes in the world even today. If God does perform miracles for certain individuals according to His inscrutable will, is He violating their free will?
Here you appear to concede that free will and ability are not necessarily linked, which stands in contrast to your argument above.
Why not simply create an “incapable of damage” nature at the start, where we enjoy free will, but lack the ability to commit evil? It’s not clear why a free earthly experience was a necessity, more so when you consider that the vast majority of the creation will not achieve heaven, but will be sent to eternal punishment.
My personal purpose is close to yours–live with my mom, eat cheetos, insult Christians via blog, and put the entirety of my trust in The Great Scientist in the Lab.
Give or take a few. 🙂
Clint presents his point that atheists rely primarily upon insults and sarcasm not by way of any evidence or a sound argument, but by over-used insults and sarcasm.
I find the irony amusing.
Not to mention the idiocy of going back and forth, this intire conversation has been to try and disprove either Christians faith or athiests faith.. Either way, it probably will not happen. Oh, Philly.. You wrote something like this? “…then I would not want any part of it.” IF Heaven is real, then I’m sure you’ll want a part of when you find yourself dieing the most horrible death imaginable in a lake of fire, FOREVER. Forever is a long time.
Thanks for your time.
Don’t thank me. In fact, I feel cheated because you just wasted my time with two of the more ridiculous christian arguments, atheist faith and Pascal’s wager.
Thankfully David, there’s a cure for ignorance. It’s called knowledge, and thanks to the internet, the cure can often be had for free. It’s like universal healthcare for the mind. So please, go use your internet to cure your ignorance at least on the things you mentioned here, if not for your own sake, at least for the sake of others.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste.