Responding to Jennifer

This is a continuation of a discussion I provoked with this post.

There have been some good responses but let me highlight Jennifer's since she attempted to meet my challenge, and later asked me to comment on it. She wrote:

What would it take?

It would take you explaining why God should even bother with people who don't listen to Him even when He does show Himself. What does the world say when a person claims they were healed of cancer? They say, "we can explain that..blah blah blah". Tell me how a young man is prayed for an his short leg grows three inches on the spot. We aren't going to run and tell the news, they would sensationalize a powerful moment between a young man and God.

I'll tell you what...my 10 year old has a mass in her pancreas. I don't expect God to heal it. I will ask Him to, but with all the toxins we depend on every day, why should God intervene?

When every single person on this planet gets on their knees and asks God to forgive them for their little part of messing up the planet and each other..for disregarding and ignoring Him and being so busy with churchy stuff or work or whatever..and we all stay there until we cannot physically survive any longer...if at that point, God does nothing I will concede that I am wrong and there is no god.

It is all the fault of man.

Jennifer, Jennifer. Why should God wait to answer your prayers until people pray? Don't you see this is a cop out, an easy excuse to continue believing in God? If God cares and we fail to pray why does he punish your 10 year old? Why doesn't he merely respond to your prayers? Why doesn't he just do the right thing regardless? After all, God should care about your 10 year old even if no one else does. Besides, if your God is the perfect parent, then YOU as an imperfect parent do not love your 10 year old better than he does. And since I am absolutely sure that you as an imperfect parent would not wait to heal your 10 year old until other people prayed, then why does God?

As regards to your response, besides everything else that God fails to do here, you have set up a test that will never happen for so many reasons, not the least of which because not everyone on earth will ever hear of your request. So why such an absurd test? Why not make it something that can happen? I'll tell you why you don't. It's because you fear that if your request might be within the bounds of reason it will never happen, that's all. So you testify against yourself here. You have blind faith, pure and simple. You never want to actually have a test that might show your faith to be false.

I had written:
Jospeh said...There would be FAR more gained morally if the sickos were STOPPED in the act...

Yes! Yes! Yes! Compare that to what we do as human beings. We lock these people up. We take away their freedom. We think this is a good thing. It helps people to live peacful lives.

Can you hear any sane person saying, yes, but freedom is so precious we shouldn't stop them? Sorry, but sometimes I have nothing else to say but "bullshit!"

We already have examples in the Bible where God took away people's freedom when he killed them, and we have Pharoah whose heart was hardened. So God can do it. Freedom isn't a good thing when it comes to sicko's, so where is God?

I'll tell you where. No where.
In response to this
Jennifer wrote:
OK..let's have God come tell us to build enormous prisons and then we will farm the land, sew the clothes, fetch the water and provide the medicine they need in order to keep them all alive. Sounds like a great way for the rest of us to live...support all the sickos so they can get free care.

Or..would you propose God supply all their needs through miraculous intervention? If that's the case, there are days I would rather be in prison!

Or maybe you think God should build this prison or create another planet for all the sickos but let us stay here. Those people won't suffer necessarily except to be abusing each other...then what is solved? All of the transgressors would be complaining like you are and saying how unfair it is for God to send them away.

I'm sorry, John, that is just idiocy.

I would like YOU to answer my questions.
The idiocy here, Jennifer, is that you think I am the one suggesting the things that YOU did. I am not. I am merely suggesting that a good God should limit the freedom of these sicko's just like he hardened Pharoah's heart for good purposes. I have suggested a number of ways God could do this, not the least of which is to plant thoughts in their minds, cause them to blackout just before assaulting a woman, make them have a flat tire on the way to rob a bank.

Listen, life has been very good to me when I compare mine to most everyone else in third world countires, and many even in America. I have not had any real physical suffering in my life. I've always had something to eat, I'm not butt ugly (well....at least my wife thinks so), and I have social skills that help me get along with many different people. But life is still difficult for me, sometimes very difficult. And here's my point. Why can't God make everyone's life face the same level of difficulties as I have? I don't need to be maimed by an attacker. I don't have to sit and watch my children as they are gunned down by a sicko. I don't have to suffer because some sicko decides to hurt me. I don't need these thngs to have a difficult life. I don't need these things to strengthen my character. I don't need these things to test my moral resolve. I AM ALREADY TESTED DAILY BY THIS LIFE ITSELF WITHOUT THESE ADDED PROBLEMS! And if that's true then neither does anyone else need them! I merely claim that God should stop these kind of sicko's dead in their tracks, just like we put them in prison, and just like he purportedly did in the Bible by killing some of them. It would be easy to do and he could do it without us even knowing he did.

Cheers to you. Nothing personal.

35 comments:

Reuben said...

Bear with me for one moment as I am not responding to anything written on this blog (though I find it an enjoyable read). I would like to know if/how I can get access to exapologist's blog. Not to diminish the value of this site's other contributers, but I used to read exapologist's blog until it became open only to invited readers, and his remarks on this blog's posts have sparked my interest in reading his more recent writings.
Thanks

Jennifer said...

Thanks John. No offense is taken and my post was not personal either, but I think you know that.:)

Why should God wait to answer your prayers until people pray?

I think it's because God doesn't want spoiled rich kids. In this question I find an insinuation that we should be allowed to do whatever we like without consequences. If my son asks me for a drink it gives him a chance to be humble, and me a chance to be benevolent. If he never has a need, he never learns to be polite or humble. As a parent I have at times created the opportunity for a need just so I can show my child that they can trust my heart toward them even when I don't give them what they want. I think that is what God does sometimes.

I would like to respond to more later.

gwc said...

The analogy is incomplete because parents are not omnipotent.

It is not strange for parents to not be able to imbue their children with morality.
It is strange for an omnipotent god to not be able to do something such as imbue children with morality without inadvertently making them "spoiled."

gwc said...

[If the whole world prays and no miracle occurs,] I will concede that I am wrong and there is no god.

Perhaps the burden of disproof demanded here is contradiction: because the whole world praying at once would itself be a miracle =)

Notwithstanding, I first tried making a truth table, hoping to find a juicy RAA response... But it got trivial--yes, reversing the supererogative and demanding impossible burdens of disproof will allow you to prove anything.

Jospeh said...

John, I love this blog and the resulting discussion it sparks! It is one of the few honest, respectful, and unfettered conversations about religion that I been able to engage in.

Jennifer, I like hearing your perspectives and if I may, I would like to offer a couple responses.

You said, "I think it's because God doesn't want spoiled rich kids." Far from being spoiled rich kids, I would say a better analogy is that we are neglected children with a father who lets abuse go on in the home and just says, "Deal with it." Or, even worse, he leaves the home for weeks and months on end, while his children are starving, beaten, and ravaged. You call him on the phone to tell him what's going on and he says, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it when I get back." Meanwhile, the abuse continues.

Further, you stated, "In this question I find an insinuation that we should be allowed to do whatever we like without consequences." Quite the opposite!!! I would welcome God NOT TO ALLOW murderers, rapists, child molesters, terrorists, corrupt cops, and drug pushers to act without consequences. I would even welcome his intervention (as John so brilliantly argued) BEFORE they pull off the evil act itself. I'm sure a smart God can figure out a way to prevent evil of this kind, while also preserving the integrity of free will AND teaching us all a valuable moral lesson. The problem is, he doesn't do any of the above. What a gross inconsistency with the high moral character ascribed to God in the Bible.

Therefore, we must conclude that either God (a) is extremely impotent when it comes to dealing with evil, (b) doesn't care, or (c) doesn't now exist. Offering another option that says God will take care of it "later" and "in his time," doesn't help us NOW. If God waits to settle accounts later, it is too little, too late. The damage has been done. Lives have been lost, relationships torn asunder, moral progress lost, and human dignity crushed. Worse yet, evil people see lack of divine consequences as a green light to continue full speed ahead.

The wicked prosper, while the rest of us suffer. Is this the economy that God really wants to support?

Stu said...

This may be slightly off-topic but I was watching a nature documentary the other day of a wolf chasing a caribou calf. You could hear the terror in its cries and its pain when it was eaten alive. But the camera men were there, they had the power to save the calf, but they chose not to. Why? Because they didn't want to disturb the balance of nature.

This led me to thinking: what if God is like that, the great documentary maker in the sky. Or alternatively, if this whole universe is an experiment and God set the initial conditions. He wants to see what happens at the 'end' (whenever that is) but can't interfere as that would disturb the experiment.

Is this a valid theodicy or is it just a form of deism?

Juno Walker said...

John -

Non-Christians will never win this argument with true believers. God always gets credit for the good stuff and humans get blamed for the bad stuff; and they believe God lets the bad stuff happen so we can 'genuinely' learn from it.

A prime example can be found in Francis Collin's book "The Language of God", where he talks about his daughter being raped, and he rationalizes it by saying that he was being tested by God! He actually said that HE was being tested by God, and not his daughter. He feels that God allowed his daughter to be raped so he could learn from it, grow by it, etc.

True believers can rationalize anything. I find that abhorrent.

Juno

SteveJ said...

He actually said that HE was being tested by God, and not his daughter. He feels that God allowed his daughter to be raped so he could learn from it, grow by it, etc.

That's an egocentric abomination. This author is saying, in effect, "The spotlight of the universe is on ME. MY growth and development is of paramount importance. It's so important that if my daughter's rape can help it along, that's OK. It's all about ME." Horrible! He ought to be ashamed of himself.

SteveJ said...

Jennifer,

I'm not sure after reading your original post whether your daughter really has a mass in her pancreas or if you were using this as a hypothetical situation. If it's the former, I want you to know that I wish you all the best in this terrible situation. I'm sure I speak for others on this blog. As a parent myself, I can barely imagine what you and she are going through.

richdurrant said...

If you want to have a world with free will, then you can't limit the freedom of any creature. First you say God should limit the freedom of sickos, and then later you say that limiting freedom of sickos doesn't interfere with free will. This isn't true at all, the sickos' free will being limited is taking his free will away. Yes you can't have it both ways here. Either we, everyone, have free will or no one does.

At some point we have to learn to make the choices that bring about good consequences to those around us. This the result of giving us free will is to learn to use the choices we make responsibly, and part of that is the rapist that takes away someones choice to not be raped.

I'd like to choose my tests too but we don't get that luxury. All of the things you listed are part of life and part of things to be tested with. Not everyone is the same so we can't generalize life experience.

John W. Loftus said...

Rich, if having free will means having the freedom to do whatever we want to do, then no one has freedom at all. We are all limited by various factors in what we can do. We are limited by our brain matter, race, gender, geography, social status, finacial ability, and even by our looks in so many various ways that none us us can exercise the freedom to do what we want to do. There is no such thing as abstract freedom. Our freedom to do as we want is already a limited one. So all I'm asking is for God to further limit the freedom of many sicko's (like he purportedly did in the Bible) so the rest of us can have more freedom because they do not deserve to exercise their freedom.

SteveJ said...

Rich,

I suppose if God doesn't block the freedom of rapists, killers and thieves, then we shouldn't either. Otherwise, we too would be nullifying this most sacred of freedoms ... a freedom that even God allegedly yields to. Accordingly, we should do nothing to prevent predatory humans from harming the innocent. (Or do we think ourselves better than the Divine, who regards free will as so inviolable?)

One gaping hole in your argument is that natural disasters are not covered by the "free will defense." Does God submit to the freedom of avalanches to bury hikers or the freedom of floods to sweep away villages?

I'm amazed at the level of denial that I see here concerning this problem. As I said before, I still believe in a Supreme Being. But I am forced to give the POE debate up to the nonbelievers. We just can't win this one with our present battery of arguments. Let's quit acting as though we can.

richdurrant said...

Part of why this problem goes back and forth like this so much I think is too much generalizing. I'll try to make it a little better on my part.
So yes John we can't sprout wings and fly if we wanted to, but we can build a plane to fly if we want to. Many things are limited but that doesn't mean we have no freedom to make choices. We are free to make choices, and that freedom by it's nature gives us freedom to make bad choices. Those bad choices can affect others by further limiting their freedom to choose. That is why we need to learn to make responsible choices. But hey John, I'll even ask with you because I hate feeling like an inmate, I would like God to make things better. In fact Jesus even asked that his part of the plan be changed, I know we'll get the no answer, you and I, but isn't it worth asking for? I will accept that this is the way life was meant to be, it sucks, but then no one said it would be easy, just worth it.

SteveJ says:
"I suppose if God doesn't block the freedom of rapists, killers and thieves, then we shouldn't either."

Your right Steve, we shouldn't block others freedoms. But wait are you saying we shouldn't put them in jail? How does that block their freedom to commit the act that got them there?

"One gaping hole in your argument is that natural disasters are not covered by the "free will defense." Does God submit to the freedom of avalanches to bury hikers or the freedom of floods to sweep away villages?"

Well Steve, this would be a gaping hole if I was arguing that landslides, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, and such had free will, but I'm not. I'm saying that we, humans, have free will. If you live by the ocean you have a greater chance of being sweep away by a tidal wave than I do in Utah. But at some point you made the choice, despite the chances of that natural disaster occurring, to remain by the ocean. Some people are willing to live places or do things regardless of the danger involved, but that is a choice.

SteveJ said...

Rich, what about a 5-year-old who is killed in a hurricane? Who can say that it was partially his fault because he chose to live near the ocean?

SteveJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
richdurrant said...

We can talk what abouts forever Steve, no one said a five yr old chose to live anywhere. I'd like a little credit here for being smarter than that. But then would it be partially the parents fault for living there? We could go back and forth endlessly with this. I just wanted to point out that we make choices. We need to be willing to accept responsibility for the consequences of those choices. That's what free will is about. You have the freedom to choose to drive drunk, but then you might kill or maim someone in the process and take away someones parent or child or cripple someone. Responsible choices.

Steve said...

It is amusing how atheists gloss over questions about miracles without really answering them. Most of the time, if you are lucky, you might get an answer like this, "Eventually it will be explained by science." (This is obviously not word-for-word, but you get the idea).

It is quite important for one to acknowledge that things which cannot be explained do happen, for instance Jennifer's example of a leg growing out - it happened with a few people and perhaps not a scientist, however I find that many people I talk to have had a "supernatural" experience at least once in their life. (Not all, but many) Now, I would like to hear a concrete answer as to why this is so - if miracles do not happen.

I am sure that I may get a couple replies telling me that most people are not qualified to relate such an event, since they are not objective, scientific individuals, however I would counter by saying: If a common man is not good enough to answer for another common man (especially in issues regarding life and things that we all deal with) then who is? Is it simply someone who is "trained" to recognize inescapable scientific proof?

I think that atheists should stop pointing fingers at people who live by "faith" because they place too much of their own faith in science. (Undeservedly, I would say).

One can say that science has worked so well for us- it has given us houses, technology, etc. While this may be true, one cannot tell me that these things are a necessity, and that they will give you a happier more fulfilled life.

Science has explained things for many years, and has worked for a lot of them. Religion explained things for many years, and worked for a time as well. But neither has answered every question.

And I also don't want to hear any incredibly stupid answers saying that science deals with fact, and religion has been proven wrong many times - we all know that scientific theory is proven wrong every day, and then changed to fit the facts. (Heh, it almost sounds like religion, except religion is a bit slower to act).

Anyway, I hope none of this comes off as being overzealous or rude, (especially the anticipation of certain replies) and I assure you it is not the case. I came to this blog as a Christian who had questions, and left as an atheist. Now I am back as someone who believes in the spiritual nature of things, and wants to ask some tough questions to atheists. (Kinda like a warranty of sorts - is your product all its cracked up to be?)

Steve said...

richdurrant - I think that you may be under the illusion that "free will" is a forgone conclusion, however it is far from so. One could argue that we have no choice in anything at all - everything is determined by our environment. (Kinda like most animals, imagine that!)

Although I realize this may be due to a misunderstanding of what "free will" is, or a differing definition. This is ok - it seems that you take free will to be the ability to make decisions. If this is so, I hardly find this to be free will at all. I like to call it instinct.

Example: A fox sees a large muskrat, and a mouse and has an equal chance of getting either - which will he choose? It will always be the one that his instincts tell him to.

The same it is with humans - with any question we will inevitably choose the one that best suits our instincts. The only difference is that we are able to use information from outside sources to evaluate the situation. I say this doesn't make any difference at all - we still make the choice our instincts demand.

Steven Carr said...

Should God intervene to prevent mass murder, rape and genocide?

Well, obviously not.

But he should strike dead on the spot people who sell property and do not give all the proceeds to the church, but keep some back for themselves.

Compared to that, genocide is a triviality, and we can't expect God to intervene.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Juno:
Can you give me the exact reference to the Francis Collins quote? Before I would comment on this specific a statement, I would have to see it in context. (Collins' name comes up frequently enough in other blogs I frequent I would want to use this, but I have seen too many times how sincere misreadings can promulgate through out the net.)

However, it expresses an attitude which is one of my main reasons for condemning the basis of Christian morality, and why I find their smug superiority ("It is up to you atheists to prove you have a moral system as good as ours.") so sad or hilarious depending on my mood.

(It's also why I get annoyed at atheists for falling for that ploy, the way they fall for the 'creationist shell game' so readily.)

The Christian moral system is based on morality being located in the interaction between human and God. It makes each individual isolated, self-centered, and it does the most immoral thing of all, it turns -- for each Christian -- all other people into objects, for their salvation or damnation, rather than into fellow 'members of the club' who deserve the respect and caring and cooperation of their fellow club members.

(The 'we are all miserable siners' idea is bad enough, but when the two ideas are combined the results are hideous. Even the preaching of Jesus -- so much better than the interpretation put on it by Paul and later Christianity -- is marred by these problems -- though his ted actions imply to me that were it possible to ask him, he would condemn this attitude in words far worse than he condemned the Pharisees.)

Is it any wonder that one consequence of the teachings of early Christianity was the hermit -- isolating himself from all humanity in the desert, totally disconnected, totally alone, and yet believing he is helping that humanity by praying for those others he will avoid contact with?

I am going to expand this comment into a post later today or this week, mixing in the damnable later argument that 'all sins are equal as offenses against an infinite God' that makes rape and masturbation, homosexuality and homicide, theft and profanity -- for some Christians even dancing and drunk driving -- all equal sins, bringing not the lesser up to the greater, but trivializing the greater.

But since I seem to be at my preachiest, I'll finish with a couple of homilies and really make this into a sermon -- ironic, isn't it, since I'm one of the few group members that was never a clergyman.

(Most of you will recognize the style from the Bible, but the hearers recognized it as the standard style any 'Teacher of the Law' would use in Judaism, as, of course, Jesus was.)

"You have heard it said 'thou shalt not steal, or lie, or murder, because by doing so you offend God,' but I say unto you, that by doing these things you poison the two things that are the greatest strengths of man, cooperation and communication, which has made man as great as he has become.

"You have heard it said that 'you should love your neighbor as yourself because God commands it,' but I say unto you that you should respect your neighbor, his life, his property, his dignity, and his dreams, because he, like you, deserves this respect."

(Do I hear an "Amen"? Surely one of you will give me an "Amen".)

Jennifer said...

Stevej,
I looked at your profile and it's a good thing I hadn't just take a sip of my coffee! You have a great sense of humor!

I didn't mean to be vague about my daughter, she really does have a mass but her testing isn't done so we don't know what it is yet.
Thank you for your kind words.


John and Jospeh,

It seems that this is hinging on God making sure we don't hurt each other by intervening in some way before the act is carried out.

Have you seen the movie, "The Butterfly Effect"? (I didn't like it, but the idea was interesting.)
I think the concept is a good example of what you are saying.

Let's say someone is going to kidnap a child. At what point does God stop them? Jesus said that if we think it, it is just as good as done...that evil resides in our heart etc.
Let's say this kidnapper had a bad childhood. (I'm using a real life example.) His brother sexually assaulted him many times, which means it probably happened to his brother, which means it probably happened to the person who did it to his brother etc...

So on the day this man is driving around on the lookout for someone to take, he sees who he wants and runs out of gas. (God's intervetion) What does he do next? Are you saying that if he runs out of gas enough times he will eventually give up?

If I follow this idea all the way to it's end, it seems that God would have to start with babies. But then what if the parents are just evil people? He should stop them from having children?

It seems like what you are really saying is that God should just make us right to begin with so nothing will go wrong. He did make people right, but that's different from righteous.

I would compare evil to a virus. A virus enters a cell, from what I understand, and it attempts to change the genetic code of the cell. (I hope David will correct me if I'm wrong.)
A virus is not a living organism, it must enter a living cell in order to use it's genetic material.
The only point of a virus is to replicate itself.

Evil doesn't enter a person until it has a pathway, so where should God have blocked the pathway so no evil would exist?

About free will...my family just finished a book called, "The Mysterious Benedict Society", which is a GREAT book for all ages! There's a part where some children are being told the "rules" of the grounds of their school. The man tells them that there are no rules. He says, "you can go anywhere you like, as long as you stay on the paths. You can eat whatever you want, as long as it's from the dining hall. You can go to sleep whenever you like, as long as you are in bed with the lights out at ??"
Obviously they had perameters, but they had freedom within those parameters. (In this example..in the story other things come into play.)
God set parameters so we have free will within those parameters. The very fact that we think and try to push against those parameters shows me that there are other forces at play.

The freedom you seem to be suggesting is not freedom at all. Without a boundary there is no freedom, there is only chaos. The very concept of freedom cannot exist in the absence of parameters.

Steven Carr,
I see your point, but I don't think it applies. God was exercising discipline on Annaias and Saphira for blasphemy which means there was no innocence and they knew exactly what they were doing. They directly challenged God.
We don't know how many times God has intervened in the disasters and life events that bring about harm to people.

larryniven said...

"It is quite important for one to acknowledge that things which cannot be explained do happen, for instance Jennifer's example of a leg growing out - it happened with a few people and perhaps not a scientist, however I find that many people I talk to have had a "supernatural" experience at least once in their life. (Not all, but many) Now, I would like to hear a concrete answer as to why this is so - if miracles do not happen."

Depends on what the "supernatural" experience is. Jennifer's example (apparently) wasn't a good one because it's easy to fake (again, I say apparently because this is someone else's claim, not mine). I've heard a lot of supposedly supernatural things that seemed more like wishful thinking. In fact, other than miracle healing (which I still think fits in with what we understand about medicine), I don't think I've ever heard of an event that was best explained as being a miracle (outside of the Bible...).

"I think that atheists should stop pointing fingers at people who live by "faith" because they place too much of their own faith in science. (Undeservedly, I would say)."

Undeservedly? Science has worked great so far at doing what it was advertised to do, I dunno what you're talking about. And yeah, science requires faith, but it's a faith that's backed up with near-constant evidence, as opposed to religion, which is backed up with inconsistent, sporadic evidence. *Now,* this doesn't necessarily mean that faith in religion is stupid - it just means that it's more pure (in a definitional sense), which is almost certainly the way it should be.

"One can say that science has worked so well for us- it has given us houses, technology, etc. While this may be true, one cannot tell me that these things are a necessity, and that they will give you a happier more fulfilled life."

These things are a necessity (at least, for the sort of lifespan and health we have now), and they will give you a happier, more fulfilled life. I mean, maybe not you personally, but they sure have for me. Beliefs about happiness and fulfillment are, at least partially, self-fulfilling prophecies, though, so it's not even clear you're addressing this fairly (or that I am).

"Science has explained things for many years, and has worked for a lot of them. Religion explained things for many years, and worked for a time as well. But neither has answered every question."

...so? Let's ask this question: of the two, which has made more progress over the past, say, thousand years? And, let's not forget, science and religion have never been mutually exclusive - the only real question is how much science *must* leave to religion and how much it merely can.

Juno Walker said...

richdurrant:

"A man can surely do what he wants to do, but he can't determine what he wants."

Yes, people make choices all the time, but they are not free choices; they are simply voluntary choices. There's a difference.

Try to meditate by stopping all of your thoughts. Or maybe just try to focus your attention on only your breathing, and see if you still have thoughts. Can you stop your thoughts? No. Are you therefore in control of your thoughts? No. Your thoughts just come to you; so how can you say you are able to make free choices?

Juno

Juno Walker said...

Prup -

I don't have Collins' book with me right now, but when I get home I'll post the page number and the full quote...

Juno

Michael Ejercito said...

Should God intervene to prevent mass murder, rape and genocide?

Well, obviously not.

But he should strike dead on the spot people who sell property and do not give all the proceeds to the church, but keep some back for themselves.

Compared to that, genocide is a triviality, and we can't expect God to intervene.

God can do whatever He wants, whenever He feels like it, for He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

Jennifer said...

Jim,

The Christian moral system is based on morality being located in the interaction between human and God. It makes each individual isolated, self-centered, and it does the most immoral thing of all, it turns -- for each Christian -- all other people into objects, for their salvation or damnation, rather than into fellow 'members of the club' who deserve the respect and caring and cooperation of their fellow club members.

Well, this is the same thing the Jews ran into. There is a measure of self centeredness, or ego, in every person that needs to be satisfied to some degree isn't there?

The jews began to see themselves as special and set apart but didn't realize that the reason God had them in that postition was for them to bless other nations.
Peter realized this wasn't the case in Acts 10:34-35 when he said he realized God does not have a favorite nation, but accepts all men if they fear Him and do what is right.

Many people who call themselves Christians fall into the same trap that the Jews fell into and I know I have at times. We need to be reminded that before there was Abraham or Moses, there were just people...some following God and some not. There was no law and no nation except for what man created based on his nature.

Paul said we should not hide the light of Christ but put it on a lampstand...I can't remember where..Christ is talked about as our banner. If Christians, including me, are really following Christ, we should be filled with His light and sharing Him with others out of love for them even when it means being rejected.

Annania and Saphira were a perfect example of NOT being special! They did not fear God or do what is right.

With the rest of what you wrote..I think the way you described the way we SHOULD think is how it was at one time.
In Genesis, there is a progression of evil, when God sent the flood, it was becuase He was grieved that He made man..man became so evil.
Then it was a long time before the Law came and that was after Israel had time to incubate in Egypt, becoming the size of a nation. What better place to incubate a new nation but the most powerful and affluent nation?

This seems to be God's intention all along, and it began this way:
Jeremiah 31:33-34
..."I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,"
declares the LORD.

The Law is all about how to treat God and each other, it was never meant to be a replacement for the Spririt of God within us.

richdurrant said...

Juno, are you trying to say that all our thoughts are choices? I'm not sure I follow you point. Are you saying everything we do is predetermined without our ability to do anything of our own choosing?

Juno Walker said...

Prup (aka Jim Benton) -

I have Collins' book in front of me now. Beginning on page 44 of the hardcover version of The Language of God:

"I know a young college student who was living alone during summer vacation...Awakening in the dark of night, she found a strange man had broken into her apartment. With a knife pressed against her throat, he ignored her pleas, blindfolded her, and forced himself on her. He left her in devastation, to relive that experience over and over again for years to come. The perpetrator was never caught.

That young woman was my daughter. Never was pure evil more apparent to me than that night, and never did I more passionately wish that God would have intervened somehow to stop this terrible crime.

Consider this: if the most important decision we are to make on this earth is a decision about belief, and if the most important relationship we are to develop on this earth is a relationship with God, and if our existence as spiritual creatures is not limited to what we can know and observe during our earthly lifetime, then human sufferings take on a wholly new context. We may never fully understand the reasons for these painful experiences, but we can begin to accept the idea that there may be such reasons. In my case I can see, albeit dimly, that my daughter's rape was a challenge for me to try to learn the real meaning of forgiveness in a terribly wrenching circumstance."

In the margins of my copy of the book I wrote "WTF???"

There are few other things I would note about Collins' claims: God can't intervene because he doesn't exist; why the most important decision we are to make involves belief; and it's abhorrent that he values his relationship with his God more than with his daughter.

Cheers,
Juno

richdurrant said...

"Try to meditate by stopping all of your thoughts. Or maybe just try to focus your attention on only your breathing, and see if you still have thoughts. Can you stop your thoughts? No. Are you therefore in control of your thoughts? No. Your thoughts just come to you; so how can you say you are able to make free choices?"

It's not whether I am in control of my thoughts or not but whether I am in control of my actions. You make a choice to act on your thoughts, whether your instincts affect that choice or environment or whatever, you are still free to choose how you act. So I can say I am free to make choices because I am.

Juno Walker said...

richdurrant -

But my point was that your initial thought is out of your control and so is your subsequent thought to act on the first thought (or not to act on that thought). All your actions, with the exception of reflexes and the like, are controlled by your thoughts, but you do not control your thoughts.

I might have a thought to eat a jelly donut, and I might have an immediate subsequent thought to not have a jelly donut, so I end up not eating the donut. But both of those thoughts are out of my control. Deciding to not eat the donut is not a free choice. It is a voluntary choice, but not a free choice. You have to ask yourself who or what is the arbiter in making that decision. Why do I ultimately decide to not eat the donut as opposed to eating it?

Juno

gwc said...

steve said...
"While this may be true, one cannot tell me that these things are a necessity, and that [technology] will give you a happier more fulfilled life."

Are you saying penicillin won't help people life a happier more fulfilled life?

And isn't invoking free will just to answer the problem of evil a little ad hoc? Be careful, you might inadvertently be supporting a libertarian (and decidedly non-conservative) platform.

Steve said...

larryniven said:

I've heard a lot of supposedly supernatural things that seemed more like wishful thinking. In fact, other than miracle healing (which I still think fits in with what we understand about medicine), I don't think I've ever heard of an event that was best explained as being a miracle (outside of the Bible...).

Hmm, well one very modern example would be the Hindu milk miracle: www.milkmiracle.com. However there are plenty of "supernatural" events involved in the occult, most of which are summarily dismissed as hallucinations, however I doubt that is the best explanation for them.

As for technology, it is not necessary. The native Americans lived with only a tiny bit of technology quite nicely.

My biggest problem with science is that it is seen as the antithesis of religion, which is simply not the case. I can't stand the attitude that says supernatural occurrences don't occur if science can't observe them.

gwc, your point is a bit exaggerated, however while it is true penicillin does improve life, it is not necessary for a happy life - even if one is in need of it. People in many countries live happily without things they truly need.

Also- I should in no way be considered a conservative - they won't have me anyway.

These things are a necessity (at least, for the sort of lifespan and health we have now), and they will give you a happier, more fulfilled life. I mean, maybe not you personally, but they sure have for me. Beliefs about happiness and fulfillment are, at least partially, self-fulfilling prophecies, though, so it's not even clear you're addressing this fairly (or that I am).

"Science has explained things for many years, and has worked for a lot of them. Religion explained things for many years, and worked for a time as well. But neither has answered every question."

...so? Let's ask this question: of the two, which has made more progress over the past, say, thousand years? And, let's not forget, science and religion have never been mutually exclusive - the only real question is how much science *must* leave to religion and how much it merely can.

richdurrant said...

OK Juno, call it voluntary over free, it really doesn't make much difference because it's still a choice you made to do something. I already agreed that we don't have control over our thoughts, but we do over our actions. Your saying pretty much the same thing except your not saying free.

Juno Walker said...

richdurrant -

You're correct to say that we make choices, and real choices at that. And we have control over our actions, but it is only a proximate control, not an ultimate one. All of our actions are determined just as much as our thoughts are. So I guess I'm not sure what you mean by saying we have control over our actions.

Sartre claimed that we are 'condemned to freedom', by which I think he meant we are condemned to make choices - or as the Canadian rock band Rush put it: "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." But Sartre et al still believed in freedom of the will, or 'contra-causal free will' as Tom Clark of The Center for Naturalism puts it.

So are you saying that we're free to control our actions, just not our thoughts, or am I misunderstanding you?

Thanks,
Juno

richdurrant said...

Actually, I just conceded to you that we don't really control our thoughts, by saying that even if that is completely true we control our actions.
I am actually confused with your point.
"All your actions, with the exception of reflexes and the like, are controlled by your thoughts, but you do not control your thoughts."
This tells me that since we aren't in control of our thoughts we aren't in control of our actions.

next you say
"You're correct to say that we make choices, and real choices at that. And we have control over our actions, but it is only a proximate control, not an ultimate one."
Which is we have control but not really. But in answer to your question, I say we can control our actions. We can't control what enters our thoughts, but I think we can control which thoughts we entertain.