Defending the Bizarre Against the Obvious

I hardly ever link to Triablogue, because they are usually so obnoxious, but an interesting discussion is taking place on the problem of evil, and David Wood has shown up there. Here's what I just wrote (revised slightly):

David Wood said: I constantly hear atheists say, "But why didn't God give Hitler a heart attack before he started the Holocaust?" What does this claim presuppose? It presupposes that it would be morally permissible for God to kill someone for things he hadn't yet done. Now why would it not be morally permissible for God to allow babies to suffer for sins they hadn't yet committed?

In the first place, David continually seems to be responding to what "atheists say," as if they are the only ones asking these questions. That is NOT true. Christians ask the same type of questions, and he knows it. The difference is that when atheists ask these questions we don't think Christians can answer them satisfactorily, whereas when Christians ask these questions they are seeking to learn the answers. That's the only difference. So please, don't continue with this fortress mentality as if atheists are trying to breach the walls while Christians are all safely tucked inside.

But the bottom line is that these cases are non-analogous. The reason why God should've killed Hitler as a youth is because of the numbers of people he killed. The result of his death would have been good for millions of people. Most people do not cause such intense harms to humanity.

Besides, if God is all-powerful and omniscient, why did he let Hitler slip through his fingers when 40,000 people, mostly children, die every day of hunger? Does anyone really think that the millions of children who die from hunger deserve to die, but that Hitler didn't deserve to die in his youth? If God spared Hitler as a child but instead allows millions of children to die, then maybe these children were going to grow up to be more hideous monsters than Hitler! Such a supposition would be obviously false!

By the way, this, once again, is stating the obvious. How you repeatedly dispute the obvious is indeed bizarre to me. Bizarre. That's what you defend here. Bizarre beliefs. Why can't you admit it? Why are you so sure of your beliefs when they repeatedly dispute what is so obvious?

Maybe God exists, and maybe he doesn't. But where does your sense of certainty come from? That too is bizarre to me. Why not just say, “I think God exists.” Why not admit he might not? Why is there this overwhelming attempt to show that Christianity is the only rational position to take? Do you do that with anything else, in any other area, when there are cases to be made for both sides?

What is so obvious to you that you must deny what is truly obvious, when it comes to the problem of suffering in this world?

Do you really believe that the nebulous arguments for the existence of a creator God, and that your particular historically conditioned interpretation of some ancient documents (which were continually edited until canonized) are so obvious to you, that you must deny what we would all expect if an Omni-God created this world? Sure, you are trying to come to grips with your God in light of the presence of evil, and so you struggle with additional premises and implausible theories. But you simply cannot deny that this is not the kind of world we would expect to find if such an omni-God exists.

Bizarre. If you don't want to deny the existence of God, surely you can accept a deistic kind of God or a process theology kind of God. What's the harm here? Isn't that what we do when investigating something? We revise our notions in light of some intractable problems! Is it because of fear that you don't? The fear of hell? Is that what you fear? It must be. That's all I can figure. For you are repeatedly denying the obvious.


es said...

Amen, brother.

Heather said...

**It presupposes that it would be morally permissible for God to kill someone for things he hadn't yet done. **

Does that argument really work if God isn't bound by time? Because I thought that the evangelical perspective was that God was 'outside' of time. So, to us, a person hasn't done something immoral. But hasn't that person done something immoral from God's perspective?

That also contradicts the other argument I've seen used against God ordering the Israelites to kill other nations -- it was so the other nations didn't corrupt Israel. But that's God being pre-emptive. Even if you use the argument of God ordering that so the children get to Heaven -- that's still God being pre-emptive.

The argument can also be turned against the speaker, and I could easily ask, "So it's morally permissable to do nothing while knowing that Hitler will be responsible for that many deaths?"

es said...

John, I have to wonder, why do you continue to debate David Wood anyway? He obviously is not interested in an honest discussion or consideration of the issue of the POE. His only interest seems to be defending his beliefs at any intellectual cost.

John W. Loftus said...

es, because I like him, it's stimulating to see if I can reach him, and if I cannot do so, I will be credited by him with helping him to develop his approach. It's a scholarly thing.

David B. Ellis said...

Then you have greater patience than I. I've given up on him (and Paul too). I don't mind someone disagreeing with me but when my position is repeatedly misrepresented its time to move on.

That said, can you recommend a really intellectually honest christian apologist/blogger. I enjoy an intellectual discussion on religion but I really haven't found one yet who's really willing to engage the position of atheists rather than strawman misrepresentations of their views. Its really getting so that I'm thinking the whole endeavor is a waste of time.....except that the christians who have doubts are likely to see how dubious the arguments the arguments of the christian apologists are. And that's well worth it. That's really the only thing that keeps me doing this. I know it would have been a great help to me to read these sorts of discussion during the slow painful two year process of deconversion I went through so many years ago.

David B. Ellis said...

dang, I really need to proofread my posts better. The above is rough.

John W. Loftus said...

I agree with you Mr. Ellis, and I've watched as you have engaged them both. We can only do what we can do, and we can only have the patience that we have.

There is one Blog shared by an atheist and a Christian in a mutually respectful dialogue, and you can find it here.

John W. Loftus said...

Probably the most respectful Christian blogger I have found is to be found here. Tell Ken I said so.

David B. Ellis said...

Thanks, I'll check them out.

Steven Carr said...

I have heard atheists say that God could have given Hitler a heart attack when young.

I'm sure God could have found a better way.

David Wood points out that at the age of 12 or 13, Hitler had done nothing deserving of death.

A fair point, and one with which most fair-minded people would agree.

I wonder why David Wood ,and many other Christians, preach that everybody has done things which deserve death, including Hitler as a child.

Steven Carr said...

If God wanted to prevent Hitler gassing babies, then there are other ways than killing Hitler.

One tried and trusted method is to put angels with flaming swords to physically deny access to places where Hitler needed to go to be Chancellor.

Putting angels with swords to deny access doesn't interfere in the slightest with free will, because Christians say God never interferes with free will.

God has done similar things in the past, so why not with Hitler, when it would have saved so many lives?

Shygetz said...

Additionally, Wood's argument assumes that Hitler caused the deaths of millions of people simultaneously. God could have killed him after he caused the death of his first innocent person (or his 100,000th) and still saved the world a lot of grief. He didn't, which kicks Wood's argument right in the keister even if you grant his premises.

Badger3k said...

"Now why would it not be morally permissible for God to allow babies to suffer for sins they hadn't yet committed?"

Short answer - because it is cruel and completely without and rational basis, except perhaps for sadism.

I haven't read the link, maybe this weekend if I have time, but saw this in the comments "David Wood points out that at the age of 12 or 13, Hitler had done nothing deserving death." I guess Mr Wood does not believe that God knows everything, then, or else he would know the evil he would cause, nor does he believe that the Bible is accurate, at least as far as the genocide in Judges (and elsewhere). If his god could order the deaths of babies (and fetuses), is he claiming that they did something worthy of death? Or is it just that God can't get his own hands dirty? No christians in Europe that God could order to track down and kill one kid?

As the song says, "How Bizarre"

Kim said...

Let me add some more on the theme of killing of Hitler. The following story comes with tragic twist of fate. On July 20, 1944 there was an assassination attempt on Hitler's life that would have killed him if it were not for a fluke. Hitler was holding a staff meeting at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia. Colonel Claus Von Staufenburg carried a bomb into the meeting room in his briefcase and placed it under the oak table at Hitler's feet. The bomb was perfectly positioned to kill Hitler when it would explode.

The intervention of a fluke prevented this. In the time after the bomb was initially positioned to when it exploded, the bomb was inadvertently moved. A junior staff member unconsciously nudged the briefcase away from Hitler with his foot because it was in his way. The bomb was now repositioned under the oak table behind its wide legs. Moving that briefcase is something anyone would do without even thinking about it. When the bomb exploded, the sturdy oak table legs shielded Hitler from the full force of the blast and thus survived. Something as trivial as the nudging a briefcase altered the course of history and allowed millions more people to die.

Why did God allow this? Millions of lives could have been saved with the timely death of Hitler. The Second World War would have ended early and the physical destruction of Germany and Eastern Europe could have been prevented. God would not have had to do anything to actively kill Hitler; the free will of men would have taken care of that. The altering of one unconscious movement by a man was all that was necessary for God to save Millions. It is simple really! But God did nothing because he was not there to begin with.

steven said...

Didn't Hitler attribute to his escape to the workings of Providence?

Perhaps he was right. After all, many Christians say that we humans cannot predict in the slightest what unknown reasons God has for his actions in his war against evil.

Perhaps God spared Hitler for one of those unknown reasons theologians like Plantinga are fond of claiming that God has and which we cannot presume to say do not exist.

Kim said...


Of course Hitler attributed his escape to providence. After all, why wouldn’t God spare Hitler’s life when he felt he was doing God's work by exterminating the Jews. Perhaps this was one of those unknown reasons why God let him live.....well at least live until human free will in the form of the Red Army made it to Berlin.

Heather said...

**Of course Hitler attributed his escape to providence. After all, why wouldn’t God spare Hitler’s life when he felt he was doing God's work by exterminating the Jews** It's amazing how many hateful people do attribute their lives to providence (and I'm going across all religions here).

I forgot who said the quote, but paraphrased -- "It's a safe bet that you've made God in your own image when He hates all the same people you do." Which is exactly what Hitler did.

**After all, many Christians say that we humans cannot predict in the slightest what unknown reasons God has for his actions in his war against evil.** The problem here is that the moral outrage generated by the Holocaust would lead to a lot of questions such as the problem of evil. We generally find fault with beings who could've stopped something like the Holocaust and didn't.

David B. Ellis said...

Hi, John, this doesnt relate specifically to christianity but there's an article by Ray Kurzweil I read recently that I think you might find interesting. It has to do with the Singularity (the idea that humanity is on the threshold of a radical transformation resulting from technologies which will dramatically increase human intelligence....among other things).

Its bears a certain similarity to millenarian religious ideas (Ken Macleod once referred to it as "the rapture for nerds"). Despite that I find it quite plausible. The only think I'm very dubious about is the timescale. Though I wouldn't be greatly surprised if Kurzweil was right even on that.

Anyway, if you're interested the article is at: