Five Big Rocks (part one)

Having been a believer for the bulk of my life, the decision to cross over the other side has not come easy. Once upon a time, I was a zealous Christian apologist, not unlike many who frequently this blog. I know most of the arguments in favor of the Christian faith intimately. Please understand, if I could believe them I would, if for no other reason than it would make my life a lot less complicated. My family is a bunch of strong, dedicated believers. The vast majority of my friends believe, as well. Many times I have questioned myself—-am I doing the right thing? Just how much do I really doubt the existence of God, the veracity of Scripture, and the Gospel message?

To understand why I remain steadfast in my unbelief, I need to introduce you to some of the obstacles that stand in the way my faith. I call them, simply, the Five Big Rocks:

1. The Problem of Evil & Suffering
2. The Problem of Communication.
3. The Problem of Scriptural Errancy
4. The Problem of Theological Incoherence
5. The Problem of Religious Toxicity

I plan on dealing with each "Rock" in a separate article. I know that some of our antagonists will enjoy dissecting and minimizing each point. That’s fine—-at least they will have heard me out! That’s really all I ask. Ready?

Rock #1: The Problem of Evil & Suffering

One day I was watching Ingmar Bergman’s powerful film The Virgin Spring, in which the beautiful virgin daughter of a nobleman is savagely raped and murdered while on her way to the candle-lighting ceremony at the village church. When the father goes to search for his daughter and discovers what has happened, he is shaken with grief and turns his eyes toward heaven, seeking some kind of consolation. Suddenly it hits him: “God, you were there! You watched this happen. You could have stopped it, but you did nothing.” In one powerful scene, Bergman had encapsulated years of doubts for me; I could not contain my tears.

I am no longer a Christian because I cannot reconcile the existence of a loving God with the superfluous nature of evil in our world. There’s just too much moral and physical evil in the world today. We’re in it over our heads. We're drowning in it! As a minister, I used to tell people, “It’s not a question of if God will put a stop to evil, it’s a matter of when.” There’s a Greek word for that argument: bologna!

If God is all-knowing he can perceive evil plans while they are but a dim conception; he can predict earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes with pinpoint accuracy. Yet he does not impart this knowledge to us, and we suffer.

If God is ever-present, he is there when a child is being abused, a teenager raped, an innocent pedestrian hit by a car. Yet he does not make his presence known.

If God is all-powerful then he can prevent evil acts from happening (theoretically, he can do this and still allow for free will). This means that the tragic loss of life in recent years due to tsunamis, hurricanes, and suicide bombers could have been entirely avoided. All the pointless bloodshed of the 20th century could have also been bypassed. Yet God's power is not evident.

If God is all-wise, then he knows that his failure to act in opposition to evil leads common-sense thinkers like me into a state of unbelief. Yet he provides no rational alternative.

And (here’s the clincher) if God is all-loving, then he WILL DO SOMETHING to stop evil—not sometime in the distant future, but NOW, as any feeling, caring sentient being would. Yet he does nothing.....NOTHING.

In the end, the problem of evil is too big a rock to scale, and this is why I no longer believe.

91 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Ditto, Joseph. If there was ever an empirical refutation of the Christian concept of God, this is it.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Joseph: A minor quibble -- but one which allows believers who argue against this too much 'wiggle room.' I'd personally try and make a careful distinction between
1a: the problem of 'evil' (i.e., human actions like the rape you described, serial killers, up to the Holocaust)

and 1b: the problem of suffering (i.e., 'natural disasters like Katrina, the tsunami, and the recent one that has been totally forgotten, but which caused even more misery, the Pakistani earthquake)

This forces believers to defend two different impossible problems -- especially for those who believe in a god who consistently intervenes.

Lee Randolph said...

I'm looking forward to this. I've been thinking about rejoiners to the old "PoE is a test" solution and have a nifty sciency link to go with it.

Brother Crow said...

Cudos to Joseph and prup! Both are right on - thanks, Joseph, for distilling the argument, and thanks prup for putting a necessary refinement to it.

As a minister - and one who worked in law enforcement - I encountered evil regularly. Somehow, I came to embrace the Christian notion of fallen humanity, and continue still to use that irrational "rationalization" today. I think, if we are evolved animals, that "evil" is more an evolving social contract - 500 years ago, evil was defined more narrowly than today (for instance, I don't think "hate speech" or corporate thievery would have been viewed as evil in centuries past). Shit happens, we live in an amoral universe - when that shit is caused by another human in violation of an evolved social contract, we view it as evil.

The POS (problem of suffering) is the one that got me, ultimately. Again, if we are evolved animals (and I happen to "believe" - lazy word, I know, I'm sorry - that we are) then tsunamis, hurricanes, cancer, AIDS (? - unless it is engineered), snakebites, plane crashes are consequences of natural processes. We are part of a biological mega-verse, and shit happens. When that shit happens, it hurts. Tsunamis are not evil, neither is the law of gravity, which makes planes fall from the sky (along with possible human stupidity or choice).

What always got me is that the God I worshipped and prayed to and believed in (well, believed that the Bible was the perfect revelation of His character and will) made promises He did not keep in the light of such issues as POE and POS. Those things happening were possibly (for me) just consequences of living in a fallen or natural, amoral universe. But He made the promises...why the f--k did he not keep them? Or keep them so inconsistently? (I came to see that he never kept those promises, I just on occassion found what I was looking desperately for).

So - POE and POS are doorways to unbelief for me...but more as methods by which the false claims and promises of a loving, interdicting God can be refuted.

Thanks for the post, Joseph!

David said...

Are you saying there is absolutely no benefit to suffering? Seems like the hardships in your life have molded you into who you are. What kind of person would you be right now if you had not suffered any challenges or encountered any pitfall?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi David,
you are assuming that he would not have turned out better or different if he had not suffered aren't you?

Shygetz said...

What kind of person would you be right now if you had not suffered any challenges or encountered any pitfall?

Whatever kind an omnipotent God chose to make me. As he is omnipotent, he does not require suffering or anything else to force me to be exactly as He wants. Yet suffering exists.

zilch said...

David- I would say that suffering sometimes has benefits and sometimes has none. I suspect you can provide your own examples of both. But for starters, here are two of mine:

Al, one of the nicest and gentlest people I ever knew, was in his youth, by his own account, a rough and tough guy and always in trouble. That ended with a gunshot that rendered him quadriplegic. When I knew him, he was often in pain, and of course far more restricted in his activity than before. But he made the best of his lousy situation, had many friends, and felt that he was a better person than he had been. So you might say that suffering had benefits in his case.

Case two: the mother of a good friend of mine was jogging one morning on the Berkeley campus. She was attacked, raped, and killed. Now, I don't know what it was like for her, but I imagine she suffered horribly. What good did that suffering do?

Joseph said...

Prup, thank you for calling my attention to that distinction. You'll notice I have slightly modified it to say "The Problem of Evil & Suffering," so that my meaning is clearer.

John W. Loftus said...

Point of clarification. In the standard nomenclature the proper distinction is between moral and natural evil.

John W. Loftus said...

Prup, one question. I have written a lot about the "Problem of Communication" as you call it. I like describing it in these words. I don't believe I've ever heard what I wrote described with this particular phrase before you used it. I will use it from now on. Have you ever seen this phrase used before to describe what I have argued for so much here?

Joseph said...

"In the standard nomenclature the proper distinction is between moral and natural evil."

Yes, that's exactly what I was aiming for. At least in my mind, I lump both of them together in my understanding of evil.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

John:
As far as I know, I came up with the phrase "Problem of Communication." It simply strikes me as an obvious one.

Remember, for me it includes the idea that it was necessary to have Paul explain what Jesus 'really meant,' the stupidity of a ressurected Jesus only appearing to his disciples, and his unwillingness to have written his own book. And I still hold on to my argument that Jesus could have -- had he been the god many Christians claim him to have been -- introduced the idea of at least 'wood-block' printing to have guaranteed his words survived.

But all of this probably shuld have been saved until Joseph's Part II.

John W. Loftus said...

Kudos to you then, Prup. As I continue to use this description I'll give you credit for it.

Wow! An original thought here at DC. There aren't too many left, since the ancients have stolen all our ideas! ;-)

Josh said...

The PoE can be expanded/modified to include the supposed afterlife in hell, though it may over complicate matters.

I don't have the time to write out the whole argument, but basically, if god is loving and just, then he couldn't send people to hell.

Here's a blog entry that explores it much more in depth:

http://tinyurl.com/2n7v2w

Lee Randolph said...

Hi David,
I made a typo above, I meant to say....
you are assuming that he would not have turned out better or the same if he had not suffered aren't you?

A. Thinker said...

"Are you saying there is absolutely no benefit to suffering? Seems like the hardships in your life have molded you into who you are. What kind of person would you be right now if you had not suffered any challenges or encountered any pitfall?"

I think rather than saying that suffering cannot have benefits, we should all go back and read Animal Farm. I'm so utterly baffled by how many people defend terrible evil acts, "Because they cause people to grow into moral people." A claim like this can be nothing less than Nazism or Communism, i.e. the ends justify the means.

The REALLY annoying thing is that a lot of atheist philosophers writing on that same subject do not see that. They have no problem with justifying the means because there's a good end to it. This makes me sick.

DRSimrak said...

Joseph,

I really enjoy reading what you have to say. I also like your honesty in really working out what is standing in your way, when it comes to believing. I don't want to get caught up in an argument or a debate that goes on forever in which nothing is accomplished so if I come off in that way, I apologize and would ask that you point it out so that I can correct myself. With that said.

We are dealing with the problems of evil and suffering. As I have determined from reading the various comments on this post, we are grouping them by acts of nature and acts of man. An act of nature being a tsunami or a hurricane and an act of man being abusing a child.

As a Christian, something I have found in Christian circles is that we are very good at stating what the Bible says about something, but we fail at showing it's relevance. I think it is good that you and the others hear who used to spout out scriptures and party lines are questioning what you believe. One preacher said that "You've never really believed a truth until you've doubted in." I believe he is right.

First and foremost, I think we need to deal with evil. Where does it come from and why is it evil. It makes no sense to talk of evil if we don't know why we are talking about it. Murder, rape, suicide, genocide, extortion and whatever else you want to throw in are all outcomes of evil. We have classified them as evils, but how do we know evil? What is it that shows us what evil is?

Most people that I have come across on this blog are great thinkers, so you are all probably onto where I'm going. When we talk about evil we assume a moral law. We assume that there is an underlying law that guides us as to what is good and what is evil.

Before we can adequately state that because evil exists there is no God, we need to determine where evil comes from and what is it's determining factors.

From the Christian standpoint, I look at scripture and it says that Adam and Eve were created and placed in the garden. They were given the choice of whether or not they would eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They chose to eat it so they did. But we also see later in scripture that Jesus is described in Rev. 13:8 as the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world.

The reason that evil exists, is because God has allowed it. CS Lewis talks about this in some of his writing. Because there are rainy days, I can appreciate sunny days. It's that same idea. From our perspective, we would not be able to distinguish God's goodness if we didn't know what evil was.

I'm not making anything up here, but when you read through scripture you'll find this theme over and over again. God is not interested in forced obedience (divine rape). God wants love. He wants us to choose Him. We were created for fellowship. He allowed us to do what we wanted knowing that we would fall, but more so He also planned on sending Jesus to redeem us.

The Bible states that the love of God is shown in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. So yes God knew we would fall, yes he knew there would be evil and wrong, but we are living in a sinful world. Yes God had a plan from the beginning to redeem us.

Read Ecclesiastes 3 or listen to the song from I think it was the Birds. There is a time for everything even a time to mourn. What we are seeing is God's plan of redemption at work.

So I guess a logical question would be why death? The wages of sin is death. Sin begets death. It's how the system is set up. Obedience leads to life, sin leads to death.

Another point that can be looked at is God's purpose. It is important to remember that our purposes are not God's purposes. Our will is not God's will. To look at it from another vantage point, imagine a 2 yr old complaining that her parents didn't love her because they disciplined her when she ran in the street. Or she complained because she couldn't eat candy whenever she wanted.

If we look at the God of the Bible and take him at His word, He is infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, The End, The Beginning, The Self sustaining one, The everlasting father, the Prince of Peace, The Alpha and Omega, and so on.

Mankinds greatest philosophers at the end of their lives are nothing more than dust and ashes. When I shift my paradigm to look beyond myself, I find myself in more of a position like Job. Who am I to question an infinite creator?

Brother Crow said...

drsimrak, your argument is made with congeniality, which I appreciate. But that it ultimately falls back to the "who am I to question" position is disappointing, to say the least. Give me a piece of your creator's skin, and I will begin a process of believing he exists to question in the first place.

You are born to question. If you do not question, you are not human. You yourself quoted the preacher who said "you can't believe until you doubt."

You state - "If we look at the God of the Bible and take him at His word" - bro, that is the problem. His word, as you say, is inconsistent at best, filled with contradictions and apparent lies.

"When we talk about evil we assume a moral law. We assume that there is an underlying law that guides us as to what is good and what is evil." No, we do not assume a moral law. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, most philosophers recognize the formulation of a evolving social contract...not just social between human and human, but between human and nature. Throughout human development, we have learned by experience that some things are pleasant, good (not moral) and propigate the species. Murder is not one of them...it hurts, it arises from anger. Injustice is one of them. We have built those common recognitions into a uniquely human rational ability, but they do not imply a self-existing "divine" or moral law. To quote my favorite philosopher, Marilyn Manson, "the death of one is a tragedy, but the death of millions is a statistic." In other words, we don't as a society or species truly recognize that killing another human is "wrong."

Last night, a leading news story in my city is about an 85 year old man who is being deported to Germany to stand trial for war crimes because it was discovered that he trained attack dogs for the SS. A woman was interviewed who said - "he should be held accountable for those actions because they led to the deaths of many people." In the background (her house) was a "Support Our Troops" flag. Do you see the inconsistency, and do you see how it challenges the idea of a "divine" or moral law that exists apart from human creation?

We choose what is good and what is evil.

And a brief comment about posting these comments - lately, I have had to type outlandish things like "akdfadfadhfasdhf" for word verification, and the letters look like something I have seen on an acid trip. Anybody else experiencing this, or have I fallen down a rabbit hole? :)

WoundedEgo said...

Joseph, I would say that your has merit in response to the Catholic-Protestant-Trinitarianism-Calvinism concept of God which is based on Plato's ideals but is not a valid argument against the God of the Bible. And I'll be brief...

Plato's ideal God was, by necessity, all-knowing and all-powerful. If he were not, he was not perfect. Any time he learned anything, his perfection was broken. Hence, he is not engaged, has no "edges" etc.

But the God of the Bible is not all-knowing or all-powerful. In fact, he has all kinds of situations that keep his hands full, such as wayward sons. Hence, when he makes the world and declares that it was all very good, the newlyweds go and eat the fruit and all Hell breaks loose. He regrets having made man. Some of his sons leave the sky to live the American dream. Thing just get so out of control that he has to kill almost everyone. Israel continually disappoints. Yada, yada....

So, one can believe in the God of the Bible and very easily see how evil would be abounding. In fact, Psalm 8 says that man was made to help him deal with his own enemies!

War on the dry land is also a feature of the goings on in the sky.

But, after all of God's enemies are subdued, then all will be set to rights.

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.com

Stargazer said...

I will probably regreat responding while angry, but I feel like I must speak. I had recently been reading the background of the woman who claims her leg is growing back, and I came back to this post, to read drsimrak's posting, and I'm specifically responding to this thought:

Another point that can be looked at is God's purpose. It is important to remember that our purposes are not God's purposes. Our will is not God's will. To look at it from another vantage point, imagine a 2 yr old complaining that her parents didn't love her because they disciplined her when she ran in the street. Or she complained because she couldn't eat candy whenever she wanted.

First, I'm angry that folks who defend God's actions by using such pale, innocuous examples of discipline--candy, safety precautions, etc.--when the problem of evil and suffering is so much more heinous, especially in light of the fact that this God keeps asking us to love him, no matter what, to trust him, no matter what.

It is simply too much like the stories of friends and women I have served in the past in domestic violence settings. Their husbands beat them, verbally abuse them, but they REALLY love them, and the women keep persuading themselves that this is so. The God of the OT again and again is credited(!?) with death, destruction, etc. followed up with pleadings in the "prophetic" books that Israel return and love him, because he has loved them for so long. "With love like that, who needs...?"

That poor deluded woman in the other post, convinced that God has performed a miracle with her leg, and you look at the history of her accidents, physical ailments, etc., and she ignores all that because she seems to have had a little bone growth--"You see, God really DOES love me!!"

When I am talking about evil and suffering, I am not talking about a few little uncomfortable boundaries set, in which lack of observing these boundaries has some sort of mildly 'painful' consequence--being sent to one's room or having a time out is not to be compared with the tremendous suffering inflicted within nature and by humankind.

I wish I could find the words to express how deeply upsetting this kind of argument is to me. No disrespect to drsimrak, I am just so weary of coming across this again and again.

John W. Loftus said...

WoundedEgo, you know, I agree with you, and I think your book shows this. The problem is that Christians don't actually believe the Bible, do they?

However, since Christians are the ones who claim God is Omni times three they will have a hard time arguing against the POE. On the other hand, if Christians do want to affirm what the Bible actually says, then you'll be waiting for them, and I like this dual pronged approach! For they cannot bring themselves to believe in and worship a despicable tyrant, a bully, a divine thug.

John W. Loftus said...

Yes Stargazer, it's as if some Christians don't know what real suffering is all about, or they minimize it just to make their case. I can't figure out which it is, but I do know a lot of young people who have been born with silver spoons in their mouths make this type of flippant argument.

B H said...

God wants love. He wants us to choose Him. We were created for fellowship. He allowed us to do what we wanted knowing that we would fall, but more so He also planned on sending Jesus to redeem us.

How do the natural evils support this theory? If some individuals are denied the chance to choose because they die in natural disasters before being exposed to Christianity or are born in a Christian culture but without the neurological equipment necessary for making chooses, shouldn't we abandon the theory that we are being provided a fair chances to choose?

Steven Carr said...

'God wants love. He wants us to choose Him.'

I thought God COMMANDED us to love him.

Joseph said...

Hi, Bill: "Joseph, I would say that your has merit in response to the Catholic-Protestant-Trinitarianism-Calvinism concept of God which is based on Plato's ideals but is not a valid argument against the God of the Bible."

Yes, my argument in this case was fine-tuned towards the former rather than the latter. Thank you, by the way.

"Plato's ideal God was, by necessity, all-knowing and all-powerful. If he were not, he was not perfect."

Exactly, which is why the Problem of Evil/Suffering is such an effective argument against this popular Christian view of God.

"But the God of the Bible is not all-knowing or all-powerful."

I agree with you, but I must clarify that this is not what most fundamentalists and other evangelicals believe and preach. Such influential evangelical pastors and authors as John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, R.C. Sproul, etc. place a Platonic template of God over the Bible and interpret it accordingly. This is the legacy of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and others.

"So, one can believe in the God of the Bible and very easily see how evil would be abounding."

Christian theology certainly has a way of explaining the abundance of evil in the world today. At a certain point I realized that these were not satisfying explanations--nor did they fit squarly with a fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture (which, as you've probably guessed by now, is my background). At that point I saw two choices before me: (1) either settle for a watered down (albeit Biblically accurate) view of God or (2) leave Christianity altogether. I suspect for many in the fundamentalist camp it really is all or nothing--they will either accept a God who is the ideal or not at all.

Good observations, overall, Bill.

Steven Carr said...

'To look at it from another vantage point, imagine a 2 yr old complaining that her parents didn't love her because they disciplined her when she ran in the street.'

I see.

So the best analogy for us is the idea that we are below the age of moral accountability.

Why then does the Bible claim we should really know what is right and wrong, when Christians always say that we are little children compared to God?

And then Christians turn around and say that the little children killed on God's orders in the Book of Joshua would have went to Heaven...


If we are all like little children, why don't we all get to to go to Heaven?

Joseph said...

Stargazer, hello! It's good to read your thoughts on this matter. You said, "I wish I could find the words to express how deeply upsetting this kind of argument is to me." I wholeheartedly agree.

A person cannot come face-to-face with real evil (in its natural and moral forms) and walk away unaffected, with the same caviler attitude that he walked in with. There are no easy or simple answers, and yet that is exactly what popular Christian teaching ends up doing. Charles Stanley always used to say suffering is really us being being "sanded" on God's "workbench." When you replace the word "sanded" with words of real suffering (cancer, brain tumors, sexual abuse, domestic violence, mental illness) the ridiculous and insulting nature of this analogy is exposed.

Joseph said...

Hi, drsimrak. I'm not ignoring you. It's just been a very busy day at work, so I'm responding to comments as I read them. I wanted to spend time thinking through yours before responding. By the way, thank you for the spirit in which you have put forth your argument--it says a lot for you.

You said, "Before we can adequately state that because evil exists there is no God, we need to determine where evil comes from and what is it's determining factors."

I understand where you're going with this, but I still have problems accepting the Bible as the common standard of right and wrong. If we did, it would seem to be only as a necessary evil (taking the good with the bad--i.e. the OT attrocities with the Sermon on the Mount), NOT because its authorship is self-evidently divine.

Also, the Bible does not adequately address many of the most thorny moral and social issues facing our time. It's stance against murder, rape, and theft is common sense (many religious and non-religious societies have fashioned laws and mores independent of the 10 Commandments). However, when it comes to complex issues like end-of-life decisions, sexual identity, or stem cell research, the Bible seems to lack the depth of insight needed to adequately address them.

I'll address the Bible-as-moral-compass debate further in my second and third articles.

drsimrak: "From our perspective, we would not be able to distinguish God's goodness if we didn't know what evil was."

I understand your point, but I'm not ready to conceed that evil is necessary to appreciate goodness. If it is, then it was necessary for Adam and Eve to sin, which opens up a whole other can of worms (like why God punished them for bringing about a greater good)! I can certainly appreciate pleasure without having pain to compare it to. Sure, I may be more grateful for pleasure after I have experienced pain, but such gratefulness is borne out of emotional trauma.

drsimrak: "If we look at the God of the Bible and take him at His word, He is infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, The End, The Beginning, The Self sustaining one, The everlasting father, the Prince of Peace, The Alpha and Omega, and so on."

I agree that there is great comfort in believing in a God of the sort you described. The "if's" you mentioned there are really BIG if's for me, however. As I argued in my article, those attributes cannot be reconciled with the rampant existence of evil and suffering.

drsimrak: "Who am I to question an infinite creator?"

Don't you think you have to question something before you can believe it with integrity?

David said...

Lee Randolph: "you are assuming that he would not have turned out better or the same if he had not suffered aren't you?"

I don't know about Joseph, but the trials and pain I have suffered have indeed made me a better person. Having been through a divorce, I understand relationships better. Raising boys has given me patience.

I can't speak for horrible pain and suffering as I live in middle class America. I understand there is horrible suffering in the world and I can't make total sense of it. As I've experienced some positive through trials, it is all I have to work with. I'm not compelled to point to my neighbor's suffering and speak to it. The less I feel in control, the more I tend to lean on God. Again, I haven't been really tested, maybe I'd shake my fist at him eventually.

This is going to sound inflammatory, but not intended. How is it easier to handle pain as an Atheist than as a Christian? What about justice? If there is a god, perhaps wrongs will someday be righted. With no god, injustice is absolute.

I appreciate this coming up, I've been wondering these things since i started hanging out here a couple weeks ago.

Shygetz said...

How is it easier to handle pain as an Atheist than as a Christian? What about justice? If there is a god, perhaps wrongs will someday be righted. With no god, injustice is absolute.

It is not easier; it is better. Why? Because we work to alleviate pain and to correct injustice in this world without relying upon some phantasmal supernatural justice that we have no evidence actually exists. We strive to be good for the sake of ourselves and our fellow humans, not because we love (or worse yet, fear) some mythical deity. We are not bound by outdated ideas of morality that equate murder with picking up sticks on Saturday (Num 15:32-36).

Often the easy way out is not the best way.

DRSimrak said...

Joseph,

It is not that I don't question, but that my questioning has led to an answer. The answer then has led to a standard and that standard is on what I stand.

I do believe the purpose of this blog is the search for truth. I have found truth and it is on that truth that I stand. It is from that vantage point that I then remark.

It is important to note that I had to search and decide what I believed. I did not wake up one day and decide upon Jesus Christ as one chooses what color shirt to wear.

Now, briefly before ending I did want to say to that individual that was insulted as to how I could even compare disciplining a child to Evil, my point was to bring out the absurdity.

We have no more perspective in life, than in a sense that child does. The parent can see ahead and knows the danger or lack of danger whereas the child has a very limited perspective. God the all knowing and all powerful God that he is knows the end from the beginning and can adequately foresee how all things will work together.

Also, for a good illustration, let us take Jesus in the Garden before he was crucified. He prayed to God that the cup would pass, but then said not my will but yours. Jesus even relinquished his will for God the Father's will but he did it for the glory that lay before Him. He now sits at the right hand of the father.

Also, its key to remember the passage from Revelation. God had a plan from the beginning. He allowed Adam and Eve to sin because in His infinite wisdom, it was worth it that they might truly love Him.

Speedwell said...

David: Did suffering make me a better person? Decidedly not. I didn't need to be abused and neglected as an innocent young wife and to have my baby taken away by the court because I was so in despair I tried to take my own life. I would be a better person today if I could look at a young mother with a smiling baby without wanting to turn around and put my fist through a wall.

Thanks for your lovely platitudes, but suffering and evil are ruinous rapes of the spirit. I hate to think what sort of teacher, prison guard, or day care worker you would be if you honestly believed that suffering and pain were constructive and not destructive forces. I hope you do not seek out suffering in your own life to build your own character. If you do, well, they have medication for that these days.

Joseph said...

drsimrak, it is all too convenient that the Bible describes God as being the perfect being, but at the same time offers him an out for his imperfect world. At what point does the argument become circular?

Regardless of what Revelation 20-22 or any other passage of Scripture says about how the story will end, I am deeply disturbed that God apparently has the power to curtail evil in his world but does nothing. I avoided using the word "suffering" here because Christians have a tendency to associate it with something noble--and in some situations a person can certainly develop a noble character from persevering through suffering (think Lance Armstrong). What troubles me is not the difficulties and trials that we learn and grow from. What troubles me are the cold, brutal acts of evil that leave death, destruction, prolonged pain, and mental illness in their wake.

At this very moment a child is very likely being molested by an adult somewhere--possibly in your town or mine. It is a horrible crime that destroys the childhood innocence of a boy or girl. After the act is over, the shame, self-hate, bitterness, anxiety, distrust, and trauma does not go away. All of this stays with a victim her entire life. Worse still, many of the perpetrators go undiscovered or unpunished (or under-punished). There is simply no value in this tragedy--none at all. It is a waste, a terrible, terrible waste. What angers me is the thought that a holy, loving, omnipresent God would stand by and do nothing. After all he is there in the same room as the child and the molester. God, as evangelists are so fond of saying, is as close as their heartbeats. Yet, he does nothing to stop it. NOTHING. If you or I witnessed a molestation in progress and did nothing, we would be held liable for negligence. Many Christians believe that God would even punish one of us who could do something, but chose to do nothing. And yet...God does nothing. If he exists, he is guilty of negligence by not intervening.

This is usually where the free-will defense comes to bear. Yet, there are stories of God intervening (even hardening the hearts) of men when it suits his purposes. If a molestation is not worth intervening in, then I don't know what is.

I simply don't believe that a love, holy, just, all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present God would allow such a thing to happen. Does it make sense to you? It seems entirely incongruent with his character to stand on the sidelines and watch. So, I am left to conclude that such a God does not exist. Another kind of god, perhaps, but not the Bible's God.

exapologist said...

I think the evil that God intentionally orders in the OT (genocide, slavery, "taking the virgin girls" (yuck), etc.). These are especially bad, as the possibility of a theodicy or a defense is blocked.

zilch said...

david says:

How is it easier to handle pain as an Atheist than as a Christian? What about justice? If there is a god, perhaps wrongs will someday be righted. With no god, injustice is absolute.

This is the only logical defence for evil from a Christian standpoint: that after we die, all wrongs are righted. The first problem with this standpoint is that it claims that our life on Earth, all our pleasures and sufferings, is merely a test: the only important thing is getting that ticket to Heaven. CS Lewis said it to the good dead children in the last Narnia book: the term is over, the vacation has begun. In my opinion, this makes the existence of evil on Earth, for instance speedwell's moving story, a mockery.

The other problem, of course, is that there's no evidence that a God exists who could grant us Heaven for being good. Thus, we atheists, as shygetz said, fight injustice for the sake of humans living here and now.

This is not to say that many Christians, and members of other religions, do not fight injustice. Quite the contrary: some of the people I admire most for their bravery in confronting injustice are believers. This is one common ground we all have as humans.

Now, putting on my nitpicker hat:

"Turn, turn, turn" was written by Pete Seeger. The Byrds made a hit out of it. And "the death of one is a tragedy, the death of millions a statistic" is usually attributed to Josef Stalin.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi all,
first
To defend the PoE as a test, one must not understand what an all powerful, knowing, good god is capable of. The fact that god knows the outcome negates the test theory. The fact that god could make us any way he chose means he could have made us all with the level of knowledge that we eventually are supposed to acquire. He could snap his fingers and bring a christian into existance exactly how he would have been had he suffered in the test of the Problem of Evil.

second
on the other side of the coin is the empirical evidence against it. The facts that stress destroys our genes at a molecular level, and sends people into schizophrenia, depression and suicide just to name a few should rebut the test theory. The point is that a greater good should come about, right? If the participant in the test is being harmed physically and emotionally and can be verified empirically, then it outweighs the rhetoric of the Christian that pleads ignorance and lack of understanding, pleads that it cannot be known and then ignores the evidence against it.

third
it is just a silly viewpoint to say that "I conclude this, but I don't know for sure and I don't know how to know".
The principle would not be considered sound in any other type of discussion.

And watching christians defend the problem of evil should be required of High school debaters because it is the best place I have found to find so many tactics such as minimization, unwarranted presumptions and faulty analogies used together in the wild.

Now I have come to know why John loves the Problem of Evil.

B H said...

Lee Randolph wrote: it is just a silly viewpoint to say that "I conclude this, but I don't know for sure and I don't know how to know".
The principle would not be considered sound in any other type of discussion.


Word. For some reason, this argument seems to be the hardest thing for many theists to accept.

Christians, you are not likely to convince us by countering our negative evidence with Biblical quotes. You need to get out there and start uncovering meaningful and verifiable positive evidence of your own.

Joseph said...

And all God's people said? "Amen!"

1 Sweet Rock said...

drsimrak: "God had a plan from the beginning. He allowed Adam and Eve to sin because in His infinite wisdom, it was worth it that they might truly love Him."

That answer incriminates God,
does it not?

He invents evil just to compensate for his trivial fears about love? He subjects us to his toying doubts and FORCES us to become the very thing he deplores most (evil sinners) because he thought his need for unfettered love would somehow go unfulfilled?

How is this considered infinite wisdom? It seems more like infinite regress to me.

Using that as an apologist’s rebuttal rips the lid right off of Pandora’s Box. It renders the argument for predetermination to be nothing more than a thwarted scheme, as God forces sin and evil into a perfect world for a self-serving desire; he demands perfect love from his disciples. He even threatens us with torture if we fall out of love with him!

Humanity being manipulated into becoming God's servants of sin in his quest to experience love in the greatest and highest form reduces him to a God gone mad. It is a morally bankrupt plan which should be considered the embodiment of evil, as it is rooted in the acts of corruption, greed, and narcissism.

In the bible, God is the SOLE author of evil. On that note, I became an unbeliever in this tormented and twisted myth.

So, why do Christians allow themselves to be blamed for the event of "original" sin, when in fact it is God himself that is guilty of introducing this foreign impurity? God shattered our "pure mold" of humanity by imposing sin upon us. We did not ask for it.

As a member of humanity, maybe I wanted to live in that state of pure of love too, right from the start; Before Adam.

Hey, I’da had been happy with just being a beam of light, zooming across the universe at that point.
Anything would be better than being held hostage by the dirty tricks of a cosmic tyrant.

If God had left evil out of the equation all together, humanity would have been prevented from carrying out any self-defeating acts, and thus we would all be meeting God’s expectations everyday, because it is the only way to truly live in HIS glory.

God could have assured the complete realization of his ambitious primordial dreams by sticking with the master design of perfection.

We would achieve the purity he requires, as we would have been able to maintain that purity because HE divinely bestowed us this gift in order for his kingdom to be filled with loving beings.

In this hypothetical scenario, the fellowship between god and humanity becomes a two way street, benefiting the kingdom of god and man equally, as a whole.

Pure love was our original state. Pure Life being created by GOD is pure love for him in return. Guaranteed!

Now that is infinite wisdom.

With predetermination, I always end up at the same conclusion:
All sinners actually have to atone or compensate for God's original mistake of forcing US to pay for what may be the greatest betrayal of all.

God did not have faith in US!

If I were to make evil to please myself, I would be considered an evil doer. Why that same logic does not apply to a god is beyond me, at this point anyway. A loving mother does not create chaos for her children and applaud their suffering as proof of their true love and appreciation for her.

Tainted love is nothing but a poisoned arrow, and I hate WMD's.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with everyone here. The flow of discussion on this site is nice to see. I hope my post did not come across as harsh, because that was certainly not my intention. I am not as polished as I would like to be, but I am learning.

Good day to all!

David said...

Shygetz "It is not easier; it is better. Why? Because we work to alleviate pain and to correct injustice in this world without relying upon some phantasmal supernatural justice that we have no evidence actually exists. We strive to be good for the sake of ourselves and our fellow humans, not because we love (or worse yet, fear) some mythical deity."

I would agree with you and Zilch that good for the sake of good is better motivation than good as an act thanksgiving or faithfulness. But if we are all doing good, I don't see that as measurably better. Unless Christian good carries a stipulation (food handouts coming with the requirement to sit through an evangelical sales pitch for instance). To release any chance for ultimate justice is a very unsatisfying result of your argument.

Zilch "The first problem with this standpoint is that it claims that our life on Earth, all our pleasures and sufferings, is merely a test: the only important thing is getting that ticket to Heaven."

That claim is not made. Sweet Rock does a very good job of presenting the fact that God saves and is in control. I don't believe that makes it a total sham, but that post is a compelling argument. I'm just a guest here, but it gets my vote for best post.

Joseph, "It seems entirely incongruent with his character to stand on the sidelines and watch. So, I am left to conclude that such a God does not exist."

In the example of Christ on the cross, I am very glad that God did sit on the sidelines. God the Father sat and watched the religous right beat, slander, and crucify his son. Jesus states he could have called in twelve legions of jedi, but he did not. This was the Word who became flesh. Laying down his life. I don't know how any of the horrible examples that have been observed or thought up here could have any positive value, but it stands to pass that this one event did. So maybe, just maybe, when God sits and watches and is terribly grieved, there will be justice. Some day.

Pain and evil are just part of the fabric, Christian or Atheist. But it is not right to say God is unjust if He Himself suffered.

Shygetz said...

To release any chance for ultimate justice is a very unsatisfying result of your argument.

My thoughts on the existence of God has no effect whatsoever on the chance for ultimate justice. Either it exists or it doesn't. If you're right, then my attempts for justice, while well-intentioned, are relatively meaningless.

If I'm right, then all the people you claim you are unworthy to judge before God and therefore resign to God's justice remain unrewarded/unpunished, and justice is not only delayed but denied.

To risk the possibility of NO justice in hopes of an afterlife (of which there is no evidence) is a very unsatisfying result of your argument.

But if we are all doing good, I don't see that as measurably better.

So long as we are all trying to do good for humanity all the time, I would agree that the difference is largely academic. The problem is the same mindset that leads to doing intentional good to humanity due to love/fear of God readily lends itself to doing great intentional evil to humanity due to love/fear of God. Doing good for humanity solely for love of humanity has no such drawback.

ShortWave said...

drsimrak,

I have to take issue with a couple of your statements. Others have responded sufficiently to some, so I won't address those.

What I WILL address, is your statement regarding "Mankinds greatest philosophers at the end of their lives are nothing more than dust and ashes." I would venture to say that you are wrong.

Mankind's greatest philosophers are "mankind's greatest philosophers", as you put it, because they chose to philosophize, and in many cases, that philosophy came at some personal cost. The fact of death cannot be overlooked, but for many of those philosophers, their ideals and words live on amongst us, AS DO THE WORDS OF BIBLICAL AUTHORS, who are themselves ashes and dust.

Individual philosophers are known, and studied because their arguments were compelling and their reasoning was robust. They have no system of punitive reinforcement to compel other people to carry their views forward, as happens with Christianity. What about biblical authors?

Would you venture to say that the Apostle Paul is more than ashes and dust? I don't know of anything in the bible that relates to Paul having any particular divinity, yet when it comes to Christian philosophy, it could probably be effectively argued that Paul was one of the foremost philosophers. What say you about Paul?

So my second issue is your "Why death?" section.

This is another problem I've had. Every discussion, argument, talk, or debate I've entered into regarding this topic, it seems the same thing emerges. Sin is death. How much sin is death? Sin is absolutely death? Are there levels of death? I can never square the punishment with the sin. The entire concept of eternal punishment for whatever sin you might commit in one lifetime seems out of proportion, and not very fair.

For that matter, if obedience is life, why aren't there people who are thousands of years old?

Yes, I know. "Eternal life", all that. I note that this rumoured "eternal life" all occurs after death.

I'm not trying to be combative, but you see the point here. All of the stated "benefits" of obedience are impossible to verify, without actually dying.

So...

Lee Randolph said...

Hi 1 sweet rock,
i thought that was a great comment, and I'd like to see more from you.
thanks.

Joseph said...

ditto

Lee Randolph said...

Hi David,

There’s that little nugget! While conceding that motivation to do good for goods own sake is better, you then minimized it, effectively contradicting yourself here -> But if we are all doing good, I don't see that as measurably better. Unless Christian good carries a stipulation (food handouts coming with the requirement to sit through an evangelical sales pitch for instance).
Doesn’t motivation count?
What about all that “god knows your heart” rhetoric? Logically, shouldn’t it be more pleasing to God to do good for goods sake than because you are commanded to do it?
And then you topped this pile of rhetoric with the cherry of selfishness, this little nugget that was uncovered by your river of rhetoric -> To release any chance for ultimate justice is a very unsatisfying result of your argument.

Metaphor, gotta love it.

Lets play a game shall we? Lets replace a word in a sentence you wrote and see how it comes out.
I am very glad that Lee did sit on the sidelines. Lee the Father sat and watched the religous right beat, slander, and crucify his son.
Doesn’t that just sound terrible? And then if I did do that, Christians would have a field day condemning be for being godless.

Irony, gotta love it.

Does it make sense to you that a being that can manipulate matter at his whim would sits and watches and is terribly grieved, there will be justice. Some day. this just screams that you have no idea what all powerful, all good, all knowing means or should logically mean.

One thing is for sure that with an attititude like this -> Pain and evil are just part of the fabric, Christian or Atheist. But it is not right to say God is unjust if He Himself suffered. pain and evil always have warm place in your heart.

Again, have you really thought about all the things that god should be able to do? You should sit down and use your imagination, then realize that you can’t imagine all the things that god should be able to do, but you could come up with quite a lot. Like this for example, how much suffering would he have endured in the measure of the amount of suffering he could potentially endure, and then realize that he did it to himself, because of a rule that he made, that he could easily change at any time. Makes suffering on the cross look small.

What would you think of me if I crucified myself because I was punishing myself for a rule I made up? Sounds crazy doesn’t it?

Joseph said...

Hi David, thank you for your comments. Supplementing what Lee said, I still have trouble with this idea of God witnessing evil but doing nothing. Keep in mind, that if the Bible is to be believed, God witnesses not just a few evil acts here and there, but every single act of evil, from the conception to action. Can you imagine seeing that much evil 24-7 and just sitting on your hands? Never stepping in? Never saying a word edgewise? Never shouting with an audible voice, "Stop the car! You're about to hit that teenager crossing the walk on the way to school!" (this happened last week not a block away from my home).

I know, our ways are not God's ways, our thoughts not his thoughts. I'm glad for that! (I almost said, "Thank God!") Otherwise we'd have a society that was completely indifferent and robbed of compassion.

I'm curious, when you say that God "sits and watches and is terribly grieved," what do you picture? God sitting on his throne in the clouds tuned into the equivalent of couple billion TV screens? I ask, because most Christians do picture God as a "Heavenly Father," who is "up there" watching us with "an all-seeing eye." But if I understand the Christian doctrine of God correctly, he is an omnipresent spirit--everywhere at once. That means (to repeat an earlier example of mine) he is as close as the heartbeat of the pedophile as he is molesting a young child. And yet he keeps that heart right on beating.

DRSimrak said...

There are a couple of themes that I have picked up on from reading the latest comments so I will respond to those general themes, but firstly I must address faith.

Faith is really important in this setting and in all of life because it is with faith that we say "While I don't always completely understand, still I believe." We don't use this mindset simply with God though, we also use it with everything around us. No one individual understands everything around him or her completely. We may know the general underlying themes/principles, but when it comes to everything we are at a loss. That's where faith comes in.

For anyone to come into this conversation and deny faith would be foolishness. Even if your faith doesn't lead you to where I am and vice verse.

Another point, pre-destination and free-will. I don't understand it, but I take the Bible seriously and God states that both happen. I'm not going to argue it. I accept it, not blindly, but because I know enough to know that I don't know. How can I as a man understand the ways of an infinite God? Try explaining quantum physics to a 2 yr old and see how much they understand. This is faith in action.

Justice. This one is always painful because we have different ideas of what justice should be. In our context we are looking at mans justice vs. Gods justice. It amazes me that we get so angry with God because he doesn't do anything when people are doing wrong, but when He has done something about it we condemn Him. Remember the Flood? Take the Biblical example of the flood.

There was evil and God dealt with it. Also people had 100 yrs to figure out why Noah was building the ark and repent, yet they didn't. God deals with evil. It may not be on our time-line, but He says in the Bible that He will deal with it all.

Another point I want to look at is death. Death in this life is one thing, but true death is separation from God. The righteous and the unrighteous will die in this life and there's nothing we can do about that, but we don't have to die a second time by being separated from God for all eternity.

In summation, when I look around at this world and what's happening I see a broken world. I see a world that is a shadow of what it was created to be. I see a world longing for justice. When I hear about people shooting each other and about rapes and murders, my heart breaks. Jesus said in the end times that these things would happen. That everything would come to an apex and then He would return. That is when we will see God's justice displayed.

Yet even then people will complain that it's not fair. I guess when it comes down to it, mankind in general has too much pride to admit that they need to be saved. What's worse, is that when someone is saved, their testimony is trivialized as if it didn't really happen.

I think my frustration came out in the end, but I pray my points are understood.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Drsimrak,
lack of understanding aside, If you were all powerful, Just, Merciful and loving and you could create people anyway you please, would you create them as you intended them to turn out or would you make them spend a lifetime plodding through life, getting hurt emotionally, getting hurt physically, being a toddler swept away in global flood, etc.

If it were me, I would just make 'em like I need 'em and not make 'em go through all that. The end result is the same without all that needless suffering.

DRSimrak said...

Hey Lee,

I get your point about making them like I need them, but with that you miss God's point. There's a reason He wants us to choose Him. He desires love and love requires choice. If there is no choice, there is not love.

In regards to suffering, I would say that there is something that is to be gained in suffering. Once again, I come to my own lack of understanding, Why suffering? I don't know and the more I think about it, the more I realize that isn't the point.

The point is that the world around us is collapsing and falling apart. The world around us bears witness that it is in need of a savior. All of mankind is dying and God has provided himself as our Savior in Jesus Christ. How ridiculous would it be if a drowning man to chose not to accept help from someone because he didn't like the shirt the rescuer was wearing.

It's a question of faith and a matter of the heart. After all, it is with the heart that man believes unto salvation not with the mind. The true question is, do you need saving? If you think your fine or that you don't need or want the help of a God you view as cruel then so be it. But that doesn't change reality.

To deny the existence of God because we don't like how He operates or because He doesn't do things the way we would is pure foolishness. The more this conversation continues on the more the truth of Romans 1 comes out.

What is to be known of God is made manifest in creation. But man chooses to deny that power. It's because of the hardness of men's hearts that they are given over to their own desires. If we want salvation we can have it, the choice is ours.

Questioning what you believe and why is a good thing. Questioning to prove that you too can be like God is foolishness. The question is, who is God? Will we exalt ourselves as gods or will we humble ourselves and submit to the one true and living God even though we don't always understand?

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

DRSimrak: I entirely agree that we must have faith. The question is:
faith in what.

Do we have faith in certain simple ideas -- that reality is objective, that there is a certain consistent correlation between our perceptions and that reality?

Or do we have faith in one of thousands of differents Gods that have been dreamed up, none of which have any evidence that shows their existence?

Do we have faith in a method that demands, when a statement is asserted, the reasoning, evidence, and tests that back it up be given?

Or do we have faith in a method in which one person demands we accept his view of the 'simple' words in a book, when there are tens of thousands of others making the same demand whose views differ from the first, and who use the same book -- and nothing else -- to back up their claims?

Do we have faith in someone who claims the Pentateuch was written by one man?

Or in scholars who demonstrate it is the weaving together of four separate narrative streams, each with different concepts of God?

Do we have faith in preachers who tell us that the New Testament is 'eyewitness testimony'?

Or scholars who show the original texts our Gospels are based on, and who show the sections of the Gospels that couldn't have been eyewitness testimony because there were no witnesses?

Do we have faith in the preacher who claims the Bible is inerrant?

Or our own reading that shows us the contradictions in the Synoptics and between them and John? In the scholars who show that Peter was written many years after Peter must have died, who show that the Timothys and Titus were not by Paul? In the common sense that shows Matthew's 'march of the Dead' had it occurred would have been wriiten about and discussed for years?

Do we have faith in the person who argues his case on the basis of Noah being historical?

Or on those who show that the Flood could not have happened?

Etc.

Etc.

Etc.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

DRS:
You say "The point is that the world around us is collapsing and falling apart."

Why do you say this? I look through history and I see the world stronger and better than it has ever been.

I see communication making it possible for us to know people of different backgrounds and ideas, rather than ignorantly hating and fighting them.

I see people living longer and healthier than ever in history, and diseases slowly being conquered. And even the weather is no longer a dangerous mystery. If it is not controllable, it is predictable, and so many more lives can be and frequently are saved from the disasters of hurricanes and floods.

I see -- for the first time -- the American people, without being led, choosing to revolt against an evil war and a dangerous President.

I see a new attitude, a stronger morality in personal and sexual matters, an acceptance of people's differences in this area as well, a sensible and praiseworthy celebration of sex for enjoyment -- with responsibility and honesty, of course.

I see women's oppression at the hands of men being lessened every day, I see racism becoming the obsession of the few rather than the doctrine of the majority. Even that last-ditch cry "But would you want your sister to marry one?' is disappearing as more and more of our sisters -- and brothers -- are 'marrying one.'

I see abusive domination by husbands and fathers being treated as the crime it is rather than the biblically ordained 'proper relationship within the family.'

I see more concern for the starving, the poor, the sick -- despite the attempts by the Christian-dominated current administration -- than I have ever seen before.

I see daily new techniques that will not eliminate crime, but which will see the guilty incarcerated -- and the innocent freed.

I see even those most oppressed by religious or political dictatorships having a way to get their stories out -- by this very internet we are using -- and have them be heard. And I see the worst horrors being condemned rather than tolerated, and even the proudest dictator holding back for fear of the shame and condemnation of the world.

Oh, there is none of these changes that has reached the end, that does not still have a long way to go. There are still evils and ignorances, and natural disasters. There are still things to complain about in the world until you ask the 'ultimate questions':

Compared to what? Compared to when?

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

DRS: "That doesn't change reality." The reality is that we are our own salvation, and we are doing a good job of it, mostly because we no longer need to depend on a non-existent God, or to convince ourselves of the myth that a (very wise, if wrong in his apocalyptic fantasies) Jewish rabbi was in some way divine, that a man who had never heard him speak was the true iinterpreter of what he said, etc. etc.

We are our own salvation. And religion tells us not to use the tools we have to create that salvation. And it is only since we stopped listening to the preachers and pray-ers and started paying attention to the truth-seekers and evidence gatherers and men who take the effort to understand the world so they can change it that we have begun to make this world better.

DRSimrak said...

Prup,

Interesting points. Let's continue the questions.

Did the Holocaust happen?

Was Hitler an actual person?

Did George Washington ever exist?

Do I exist?

From an evolutionary perspective, were did the stuff for the big bang come from?

Those scholars you mentioned, were they real?

Was the author Homer a male or a female?

What about Atlantis?

We can go on and on with questions and never get anywhere. GK Chesterton in his book Everlasting Man makes an interesting point. We shouldn't be so quick to dismiss mythology. Talk to an Archeologist. When they want to find a civilization or an ancient ruin or what have you, they most often turn to mythology.

Let's deal with some fact. It is written about time and time again about how the early Christians died for a belief in Jesus Christ. It's very well documented. If it didn't happen, why would so many people die for it?

The Bible says there were 120 people in the upper room on the day of Pentecost who then preached the gospel. This would be 50 days afterward if they were all lying, don't you think the Romans would have just killed them off on that day because they were preaching allegiance to someone other than Caesar?

Most ancient societies have stories about a worldwide flood. There is evidence when you go to the top of a mountain range and find sea shells where there is obviously no sea.

The Christian Bible puts itself in a very vulnerable position by attaching itself to history. Yet here we are 2000 yrs later and we still have it. Wouldn't Rome have just wiped it out?

We ask questions all day long or we can really search for how to know truth. If you want proof of the authenticity of the Old Testament I would suggest reading Robert Dick Wilson's book A scientific investigation of the Old Testament. He lived about 100 yrs ago and spent 45 yrs studying it's authenticity. He learned 45 languages such as Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and all the languages that the Bible was translated into up till 600 AD so that he could know for sure if the Old Testament was true. Or, you can read a postmodern theologian who is still battling with the question of whether we can know anything.

DRSimrak said...

Prup,

Your response that we are our own salvation and we are doing a good job is quite wrong. Remember, the reason we are all commenting on this post is because there is evil in this world. It's because mankind is killing mankind that we don't believe there can be a god.

What about the Holocaust? or hey Josef Stalin was a pretty nice guy too. The Congo? I think there have been a couple million killed there. Rwanda? Kosovo? Somolia? Worldwide Islam I think has around 1.5 billion people that is 1/4 the world's population and women are not being treated fairly.

Then again, I guess IED's and car bombs are peaceful. As are terrorists.

Let's move on to the weather. We can predict it. Actually, we really can't. We get close but we still don't know. Tsunami's, earthquakes, Hurricane's.

Famine and disease are also pretty prevalent. Should we talk about the number of kids in the US that are raising themselves because their parents aren't around? The divorce rate is still up. People don't know what commitment is about.

Communism was found to be a good idea but then people were inserted into the equation and it was found that the greedy people in charge would feed off of everyone else. What we're finding is that man is incapable of ruling himself.

Good grief we have enough nuclear weapons on this planet to destroy it numerous times over. If man were really as peaceful as and progressive as you state, the government wouldn't be able to feed the poor because we would be feeding our neighbors who were in need before the government could find out about it.

No we are not our own savior, but another decoy leading people from finding the hope they need.

Don't judge Christianity on people's abuse of it, but on it's own claims.

Joseph said...

drsimrak, that sounds like an interesting book and may be worth the read. Quick question: do you think that the contributors here have made up their minds to disbelieve the truthfulness of Scripture despite the evidence or because of it? And to follow that up, when do you decide to stop relying on facts and to start relying on faith in this debate over the Bible?

David said...

Shortwave "This is another problem I've had. Every discussion, argument, talk, or debate I've entered into regarding this topic, it seems the same thing emerges. Sin is death. How much sin is death? Sin is absolutely death? Are there levels of death? I can never square the punishment with the sin. The entire concept of eternal punishment for whatever sin you might commit in one lifetime seems out of proportion, and not very fair."

If you don't mind me jumping in here, as DRSimrak stated it is helpful to think of death as separation from God. The serpant said 'surely you will not die', but they did. They were given the boot with only a leather outfit to take with them(what would a leather outfit look like if God makes it?). Adam walked daily with God, but he could no more. So really, if you are an Atheist, being separated from God is exactly what you desire. Punishment would then be based on justice. Any of the pastors in the house agree?

Joseph - "I'm curious, when you say that God "sits and watches and is terribly grieved," what do you picture? God sitting on his throne in the clouds tuned into the equivalent of couple billion TV screens? I ask, because most Christians do picture God as a "Heavenly Father," who is "up there" watching us with "an all-seeing eye." But if I understand the Christian doctrine of God correctly, he is an omnipresent spirit--everywhere at once. That means (to repeat an earlier example of mine) he is as close as the heartbeat of the pedophile as he is molesting a young child. And yet he keeps that heart right on beating."

Yes, I believe he is right there.

Lee - "I am very glad that Lee did sit on the sidelines. Lee the Father sat and watched the religous right beat, slander, and crucify his son."

I don't agree with anything in your post, although it was mostly retorical diatribe. For you example, if you were to sacrifice your son so that others may live, I don't think anyone would call you terrible. The fact is, the sacrifice of your son cannot save anyone. The substitution of names in this case flawed.

Steven Carr said...

'The Bible says there were 120 people in the upper room on the day of Pentecost who then preached the gospel.'

That's strange , because Paul said there were over 500 brethren before Jesus ascended to Heaven

Steven Carr said...

DSRIMARK
How ridiculous would it be if a drowning man to chose not to accept help from someone because he didn't like the shirt the rescuer was wearing.

CARR
Why does God let children drown?

You seem to think God should help drowning people.

So why doesn't he?

DRSimrak said...

Joseph,

I read your comments and I have to smile because I just like your honesty.

I think the evidence has very little to do with it. I think the people here have "made up" their minds because of the "Christians."

AW Tozer said that if the Holy Spirit was taken out of the early church 95% of what they did would stop. If the Holy Spirit was taken out of today's church, 95% would continue as if nothing happened. The greatest testimony as to the truthfulness of the gospel is people living lives that bear proof of it.

When many "evangelical" ministers refuse to believe in the power of God, that doesn't say much does it? It is happening however that the Holy Spirit is working and is alive and well. Miracles are still happening.

In regards to your second question: I don't remember all the details but I remember a story of a Jewish man being asked for proof of God in the 1800's or so and he replied that one need only look to the Jewish People.

It's not about fact versus faith. They both work harmoniously. If we look at the line of history from what I can understand so far, the biggest discrepancy is that the Bible places the age of the earth at 6,000 yrs and evolution/science at billions of years.

I don't intellectually entertain the idea of evolution because no one knows where the "stuff" that exploded together to form the universe came from. From an evolutionary standpoint life couldn't have developed, because the more we learn about it (life) the more we realize that the body of be it a single celled organism or a human is dependent on the system as a whole.

I don't know if you have had a chance to check out Chuck Missler yet, but do it. His research into the Bible has provided some truly stunning discoveries.

DRSimrak said...

Carr

According to Acts chapter 1. There were 500 people who saw Jesus as He was taken up. But he told them in Luke to wait in Jerusalem for the Power from on High. It states in Acts 1:15 that it was 120 in the upper room.

What does your question about drowning have to do with my statement?

zilch said...

drsimrak- is this the "banana is the atheists nightmare" and "jar of peanut butter disproves evolution" Chuck Missler? He's right up there with wackos like "dinosaurs and cavemen leaving footprints together" Kent Hovind. Please don't expect to be taken seriously if you use him as a source for anything.

Joseph said...

drsimrak said: "I think the evidence has very little to do with it. I think the people here have 'made up' their minds because of the 'Christians.'"

Where do you find that reasoning anywhere in my arguments? I don't recall having ever said that I left Christianity because of other Christians. Quite to the contrary, I know some very fine Christians and enjoy their company very much (just not when we're talking about this stuff!). There have always been hypocrites, of course, but they never detered me from believing. I left Christianity because of the "Five Big Rocks" I'm in the process of sharing.

drsimrak: "It's not about fact versus faith. They both work harmoniously."

I agree. Faith and fact don't (in concept) have to be opposed to one another. The reason I asked you where "fact" ends and "faith" begins is because I believe you are so vested in the Christian system that there is no evidence strong enough to prompt you to disbelieve. You're faith simply picks up wherever the corroborating evidence fails or where contrary evidence refutes. It is an arbitrary line that changes as the challenge warrants.

drsimrak: "I don't know if you have had a chance to check out Chuck Missler yet, but do it."

Yes, I read the link you gave me--interesting stuff (some of his ideas were new to me). I intended to do a follow-article to my first one on messianic prophecy sooner, but got "inspired" in another direction. I'll come back to it and perhaps write something in response to Missler, too.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi david,
I'm going to answer both you and drsimrak in a blog article.

Joseph said...

Can one of the believers among us please address Steven's question?

Steven Carr said: "Why does God let children drown? You seem to think God should help drowning people. So why doesn't he?"

From my perspective, if a divinely powerful and benevolent being exists he has a moral imperative to step in and rescue a drowning child. Why? For one thing, because he teaches us to do as much and he should really practice what he preaches.

If you don't think God should intervene, I'd like to know why not.

1 Sweet Rock said...

I appreciate the warm welcome from everyone. That was real nice! ;)

I spent time reading over this thread again and was impressed by the dynamics of this discussion. Everyone has done a great job of presenting valid evidence for unbelief, and why this conclusion should be considered a positive change in life.

These comments are directly debunking the claim that the Biblical God is a supreme and enlightened being. In fact, it leaves no room for absurd arguments of speculation or for the subjective hyper-emotional appeals that are commonly used in all religious faiths.

It’s rather cool to see it all come together in one place, as it cuts right to the chase for those seeking to broaden their current horizons, either spiritually or intellectually.

For some of the readers here, pondering these insights may be emotionally taxing at times. I know this personally. I commend them for their willingness to contemplate another person’s point of view on such poignant topics.

Even though I do not believe, I have to write and speak from a believer’s perspective to frame the debate for them and draw out lines of distinction; it helps them to identify the issues that should be examined with closer scrutiny. If biblical stories are played out into real life action, it forces us to compare them to real life scenarios.

*The opening stage is set:

Alpha is in turmoil. God’s self-defeating troubles have been recklessly carried out with no regard to grace and mercy; instead he tosses these concepts aside as useless tools. He builds the foundations of all creation with the flimsiest of cards and becomes mad when his kingdom starts teetering and buckling.

God declares: "My Glue of EVIL will fix this!" Yet, the evil glue makes things MUCH worse. God throws his hands up at the gluey mess and does nothing else to secure its strength or structure. Omega hides, waiting for the right moment to blow it all down. *Cut!!!

The cold brutality that is required FROM God in his decision to compose evil as a result of HIS post-creation malaise and the continuum of evil and wrath that is thrust upon humanity, keeps the God of Abraham as THE source for evil incarnate. From Gods dedicated hand came evil and thus, it spreads like a disease just as he planned and promised it would.

We must go back to the theatre of the creation story to reiterate the gravity of that event. We know that many Christians are relying heavily on the church to instruct them on how best to interpret the stories of the bible and some will insist these
“truths” are self-evident as a means to remain faithful.

It's just a shame that most believers do not care to know
that these hugely disturbing revelations and predicaments are found in the opening scenes of the very same book they carry around as their moral shield. Their dilemma of faith actually becomes a matter of personal conflict, in virtue and principle.

For me, the bible constantly conflicted with my gentle nature.
I can honestly say that the God of Abraham completely contradicted the personal essence of my being.

In exposing the real acts behind the origins of evil and sin, it implores us to question all other fuzzy epics within the remaining biblical canons, and the further claims that these words are to be taken as absolute universal truths. In pointing this out, it requires us to make a further distinction in the polar differences between the remaining possible conclusions.

These are:
The possibility that a prime cosmic force is at work in the universe and it is impersonal and external to humankind. -Or- God is an evil making dictator that RULES over this world and chooses to remain a non functioning parent, unless it serves HIM otherwise. –Or- God(s) are mere ancient myths invented by the human imagination to serve as an absolute moral authority for earlier cultures and civilizations.

Those are the alternatives to choose from, but acknowledging them for what they truly are is another discussion all together.

Faith in the bible becomes a tragedy, in that it is more like an exercise of dot-to-dot dogma.
God intentionally afflicted this world with evil by HIS faith; so the believer must embrace this cruel set up with their faith.

Faith and evil are now equal.
It is a hard pill to swallow, especially when you are choking
on forged lies while being shackled and chained to the
5 Big Rocks of Irrelevancy!

Joseph, I just wanted to say thanks. You did a fabulous job of setting the table. This wine tastes fine, so I think I am going to sleep like a baby tonight.

1 Sweet Rock said...

Sorry about the funky formatting. I am not sure why that happened? It did not look like that in preview. Oh well. Good night!

Joseph said...

1 Sweet Rock, thank you for your kind words. I look forward to more of your thoughtful comments in the near future!

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Joseph: DRS's response to you as to why he thinks we don't believe is sad, but not surprising -- and I'm sure he is totally unaware of how insulting it is, since he is, in effect, calling us all liars.

It is very difficult for some Christians to accept the fact that unbelievers are responding to the evidence, that they have done research into Christianity and it is this which convinced them. This is why, I believe, that so many of them are so desperate to 'find another answer.'
Sometimes they accuse us of wanting to have an excuse to sin, sometimes they accuse us of being annoyed at the acts of Christians, sometimes they challenge us and claim we 'weren't really Christians.'
And sometimes all they do is quote the Bible to us, no matter how often we say we've read the Bible -- and frequently know it better than they do -- and just don't accept it as anything more than the writings of men detailing what they believed to be true.

But face the evidence, look at it, and attempt to refute it, no. (Look over the posts of the past six months here and see how rarely, when people have given the evidence on which they write, that Christians have responded directly to those posts.)

They instead act very much like the Cardinal who would not look through Galileo's telescope, because he knew the truth, that heavenly bodies were 'perfect' and therefore anything he might see could only be an illusion.

Evidence scares them. If they have to confront direct evidence that challenges their faith -- or if they have to admit that someone like John, you, or I, have abandoned faith based on specific evidence that it is untrue -- then they might be forced to look at it and feel the necessity to refute such evidence. But they are -- somewhere inside themselves -- aware of what you and John have said, that you were unable to refute such evidence, and that it dragged you 'kicking and screaming' to the side of disbelief.

But if you were unable to refute it, maybe they wouldn't be either. Maybe -- I'd argue 'definitely' -- it IS irrefutable. But they have too much invested in their faith, and are too afraid of the hell they see awaiting unbelievers.

Oh no, gotta find some other excuse why they don't believe.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

A further point on some of the arguing that we do here. We tend to use an argument -- reductio ad absurdum -- that is so obvious to us that we sometimes fail to realize that, unless it is carefully explained, it is difficult for untrained people to grasp. (Much of the running discussion on the 'problem of evil' comes from this. It seems -- and I think it is true -- that the people who are responding don't quite get what we are saying.)

Let me describe how this works symbolically, not for you or John, but for the responders.

There are two variants:

(One)
I:If A then B
II: But not B
III: Therefore not A

In words:
If A is true, then B must be true
But B is false

Therefore A is false.

(This is only refutable by proving either that B is not false, or that the implication is false, that is, that B does not necessarily follow from A.

The second version is similar:
If A and B then C
and B is true
but C is false,
therefore A is false.

(To give a simple version of the last:
A= John is older than me
B= I am 61 years old
therefore, John is older than 61.

But John is not older than 61.

Therefore A is false.)

It might help, when we get lost in the verbiage here to specifically put our arguments in this form so that people can see exactly what it is we are arguing.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

DRS: I regret not responding to you earlier -- and therefore to be accused of creating a strawman in another thread. I do have other responsibilities and other interests, and there are other comments here I might choose to respond to at a given time. However, since you -- in effect -- challenged me to respond. I will be glad to, at least to some of your statements and questions.

As for the questions you asked, some of them are answerable -- the Holocaust happened, Atlantis was a myth, a literary construct of Plato's to present certain ideas, Hitler and the scholars mentioned were real people -- the evidence for them, unlike those for a God, is pretty plain for anyone to investigate.

(As for your 'evolutionary' question, do us all a favor and at least learn the difference between cosmology, biogenesis, and evolution before you ask questions like these.)

As for your 'they died for Jesus, that proves Christianity is true' absurdity, people suffered persecution and died for Mormonism. People today are sacrificing their lives -- and, sadly, others -- for Islam. There were a fair number of people who died fighting for Naziism. Which of these were 'ratified by death?'

Even assuming the story of Pentecost is one of the rare stories the Bible told accurately, the Romans rarely attempted to 'kill people off' because of their religion -- they even accepted the Jews as subjects for many years though they would not worship the Emperor. (You also seem to have an interesting idea as to what the early Christians preached.)

I'll let someone else deal with the absurdity of your evidence for the flood. The earth has gone through a lot of changes in its 5 billion year history.


I will investigate Richard Dick Wilson further, since his books are available on line, but a few quick glances show me little reason to accept his special pleading or method of arguing. On the other hand, Wellhausen, who he treats so cavalierly has maintained his reputation for 150 years, and his basic thesis has been accepted by all serious scientific students of the history of the Bible, though details have bben modified over a period of time.

Wilson may have some knowledge of the archaeology of his time -- obviously he could know nothing of discoveries in the hundred years since he wrote. My first glancing at his work showed no evidence of such knowledge -- or even understanding that such knowledge would be beneficial, but again, this was a superficial look.

(And please, do not ever accuse me of paying attention to any sort of 'postmodernist.' Them's fightin' words, son.)

I hope you aren't so foolish as to think I would say something as idiotic as 'there is no evil in the world.' There is. But we are doing a better job of combatting it than ever before, and Christianity has a pretty poor track record over 2000 years of eliminating the evils you mention. (I don't currently have time to elaborate on this, but the reason that so many people fell for the Hitlers and other fascists that were a blight on almost every country from Finland to Romania is that they were not trained to challenge 'authoritative-sounding oratory' by putting the speaker's words to the test of evidence -- and it was religion that had trained them not to do this. As for Stalin, the reason why the Russian people did not revolt against him was -- as has been shown by many studies -- among other things that they had been trained by hundreds of years of "Caesaropapism" of the Orthodox Churxch to believe 'the Tsar can do no wrong, if he only knew what was happening he'd stop it,' and they merely transferred this attitude to Stalin.)

As for the Islamic treatment of women, you might be careful to avoid bringing that up, or you might have to answer for the treatment of women that Christianity supported for centuries, and which is still supported by many Evangelicals.

I will return to the rest of your comments later, but, as I said, I do have other commitments, and they are impinging on me. Possibly tomorrow.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

DRS: To continue... (I am aware that in another thread you announced you were giving up trying to convince us, but many people have announced this, and then returned to see how their declaration was taken. If you really have left, well, maybe some of these comments will be useful in other discussions.)

Much of your reply to me was stating problems that have not yet been solved. You are right about that, they haven't. They are complex ones and involve many different factors. The solutions are only beginning to be found, and yes, some may not be solved completely.

Unfortunately for your position, while science and rationality might not have solved them completely, religion has done nothing to solve them.

The weather is a very good example. Lets take the example of the damage done by lightning. For thousands of years, it was viewed as "God's weapon," a 'heavenly phenomenon hurled to earth for unimaginable reasons. It was the way God -- whichever god you believed in, but we are talking about Christians here -- 'smote' people.

And since it was, there was only one way to avoid it. Go to church, pray, promise to repent -- hoping all the time that it was the people in the next vilage over that God was mad at, and not you.

(Of course, God was pretty indiscriminant, so no matter how hard you prayed and repented, there was always somebody in town who wouldn't, an adulteress, a drunk, some sinner. Which meant that the God of Infinite Justice and Mercy would zap you, your wife, and your infant child in the process of zapping the unrepentant one.)

Of course, being good Christians, you'd built your church for the 'greater glory of God,' maybe on a hill, certainly higher than any other building, with that pointed steeple aiming heavenwards. And for some unknowable reason God would use the church as a target very frequently, more frequently than he would that lowly hovel the drunk inhabited.

Then along came Benjamin Franklin, an unbelieving rationalist who dared to investigate what lightning was, treating it not as an implement of God's justice but as a natural phenomena.

He even dared to suggest that it was a form of electricity, and that it would tend to hit the highest point in town, especially if that point was a steeple pointing heavenwards.

He didn't just explain the problem, he came up with a solution, one that didn't require the giving up of sins, prayer, or sacrifice. One which protected the believers and sinners alike. A lightning rod.

It worked. It even worked so well that the believers in town, scorning such rationalism, could put it on the church and then, when the rumbles of thunder started could go and pray for protection -- safe in the knowledge that, by some strange coincidence, God was no longer zapping churches.

[Thanks to the late Isaac Asimov for pointing this out.]

I'll respond to your other charges, DS, if you are still around to hear me.

Lorena said...

Well, said Joseph.

I am particularly touched by the issue of child abuse, having been one myself.

The reason is that child abuse is one of those Old-Testament disgraces which have survived in Christianity. The Thou-Shalt-Honor- Thy-Father-and-Mother lie which makes many Christians put up with abuse, even as adult children.

The church encourages to not only forgive child abuse, but it goes further to put pressure on victims to forgive the perpetrators and to HONOR them.

Talk about evil!

Joseph said...

You're right, Lorena, it is evil! Excellent insights.

AG said...

I must disagree with your portrayal of the church:
"The church encourages to not only forgive child abuse, but it goes further to put pressure on victims to forgive the perpetrators and to HONOR them." - Are you talking about the Catholic Church? or another? Lets realise that it is not christian belief to promote this kind of view. Given, many churches unfortunatle push this garbage, but that does not make it christian or biblical.
I do believe that forgiveness of those who have wronged against us is an important part of the healing process in humans, this does not mean we champion or 'homour' the one dwho did wrong to us, but we let it go and move on as best we can.
I am sorry that you have felt that the church you were apart of portrayed this 'view' of how you should respond to abuse (please realise that i too have been a victim myself).
After looking through the huge amount of posts here, i have been thinking along one theme.
It seems that the problem of sin has been classed as death, as a 'thing'. I would like to thow into the mix that maybe sin is 'broken' relationship.
We cannot trust the bible as a book of propositional truths that can be 'argued'.
I agree it has many aspects that contradict itself and many areas that are confusing. When we begin to look at the bible as more a 'story' that attempts to communicate the story of 'God's People' it can begin to be looked at not as something that has all the answers to everything in life, but as a piece of writing that seeks to capture peoples experience and understanding of God.
It does not matter how many christians get on here and 'argue' there point of view, NO minds will be changed here. For if all the 'non-christian' contributers on here really are not interested in changing (nor would i want them too), in the end this site is more a social outlet for the damage that has been done to many of the people who post, sure, get a masters in science, or PHD in debunking christianity and the bible, it will never make you a genuine biblical scholar. However, let all those who are not christians on this site who wish to argue and critique the bible to no end come to realise:
The Bible is NOT YOUR book to claim for yourself, it belongs to the community of BELIEVERS. No matter what you say or do, you have no AUTHORITY in interpreting it.
I know what i have just said will cause many of you to attack me, but if i am honest and if you listen to the what the church has said throughout history, the bible is not a book that is open to SECULAR interpretations, it is a book for the Community of BELIEVERS eg the 'church'.
So no matter how much you seek to debunk it, your views are of no importance to the church or those who believe, for the book was never written as an piece of evidence for court, but as an account for those who wish to find the way of salvation.
Anyway...so just realise that you may own a 'bible' and you have 'been' ministers, but if you are not christians with the spirit of God, you have no AUTHORITY or Claim to Interpret the bible outside of the community of God that is legitamate. You can argue and challenge 'words' it contains, but in the end you are arguing against yourself not christianity.
Anyway all the best.
:o)

zilch said...

ag- I've heard this line of reasoning before- the Bible is not secular, and thus may only be interpreted by Christians. Sounds logical, but how far are you willing to go?

Should non-Christians even be allowed to read the Bible? You realize that reading something means interpreting it to yourself. Of course, the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages didn't even want the Christian laity to be able to read the Bible- hence their opposition to vernacular Bible translations. Perhaps they were afraid, as Isaac Asimov put it much later, that the surest route to atheism is reading the Bible carefully.

Should non-Muslims be allowed to interpret the Koran? Non-pagans the Odyssey? Should non-dowsers be allowed to criticize dowsing? How about heliocentrists criticizing geocentrism? Where do you draw the line?

Joseph said...

AG, thanks for sharing. Do you feel you have the right to question the authority of the Church?

AG said...

Zilch:
Appreciate your challenges.
In an ultimate sense or 'religious belief' i dont think Non-Muslims have the right to interpret the Koran in a way that holds authority . Yes, by all means pick on it and point out flaws, but what one says about it outside of Islam will make no difference because they are not Muslim, and will be treated as such. Most Muslims would not care for or be concerned about 'interpretation' outside of there own faith and 'shakes' (excuse spelling). Sure they will call you an infadel etc, but you will not change their 'living faith' because you are not Muslim.
I dont think people have the 'authority' to interpret outside of any other faith. Sure, debate and question, but if you do not hold to that 'religion' you can have no authority to genuinley interpret what there 'texts' say and expect to be listened to. This applies to anything one holds as their 'religious beliefs'. So i guess the line can be drawn with the Odyssey, however some may have this literature as their religious text, who knows, :o)
I have no authoirty or integrity to be someone who argues with scientist about creation theories, why? because i have no investment or 'faith' in science as an 'ultimate' answer for what i am seeking, and it would be unwise to claim otherwise, sure i could get a masters in science and PHD in Physics, but if my 'faith' or religious 'values' are not placed in science as 'the answer' than i am not not being fair to 'genuine scientists'.
The bible is complex and deeper than the words written on a page, and this is where attempting to 'proof-text' creates problems for those seeking to argue against it and for it. It was never written in a way that makes it proof textable. Yes when you read something you interpret it, naturally, you interpret Tolkiens LOTR by the words written, however this does not mean the way you see it in your minds eye is the most complete and accurate way to see it, or how Tolkien intended it to be seen.
Of course Non-christians can read the bible, sure they can 'interpret it', but just because they can read words and questions conflicts, and point out inconsistancy does not mean what they say is correct or authoritative.
The catholic church wanted to maintain a sense of 'integrity' to how the bible was interpreted, i agree they were wrong in the way the restricted believers in so many ways and allowed power to play a major role in what they did, which caused many atrocities. But the Christian Faith was not born from the words printed known as the bible. The printing press was not even around until hundreds and hundreds of yeasr later, so 'faith' has always had a verbal and communal element about it, hence the role of 'communities of faith' interpreting the word.
Reading the bible carefully will ultimatly be a sure way to atheism. Only if you see the very words written as having to be inerrant and verbally inspired will open that door. Because if you see the words as being the exact words of God with no human contribution than the minute you see contradiction and disharmony than something is wrong, or you feel the need to defend God as many christians do on this blog.
I bet that most (not all)of the EX-Christians here who are 'atheists' had come from or were brought up in a Fundamentalist, Concervative, Verbal Innerency believing background.
What you do with that careful reading can either help you see one way or another depending on how you view scripture.
The line is not alwasy easily distinguishable when dealing with belief systems of people, but i am open to discover another way of seeing things.
All the best Zilch, and sorry about the wordiness of my response.
:o)

AG said...

Joseph:
Thanks for you question.
Of course i feel i have the right to question the church. But do you mean church as a local independant body, or are you meaning the Roman Catholic church, or do you mean the wisdom of the church througout the pst 2000 years?
I believe that one should listen to those who have gone before (early church fathers and those throughout the christain churchs history)and look at the whole council of scripture, seek out how people experience things, and also allow reason to play a guidin role in how i percieve the bible and in making decisions about things that are not mentioned in the bible.
Short answer is Yes, to a point i feel able to do so, for the church in itself as an institution has no authority over believers, but as a living community of faith it can have a vioce that sometimes needs to be listened too.
But to correctly respond , i would need to know what you mean by church.
Anyway all the best
:o)

goprairie said...

We are animal. We still have within our brains the brain of the predator and preyed upon reptile and the child-rearing mammal and the socializing primate and finally the communicating, time-percieving human - and we are often only aware of the information going to and being processes by the human part of the brain. There are constant instincts at work with sensory information being reacted to by the animal brain(s)and causing us to react and act in ways that we are not aware of the reasons for. Most of that is termed 'evil' is some instinct gone wrong, in a situation out of place or to an inappropriate extreme. And sometimes, what is 'good' for one is 'evil' for another, as in the predator/prey relationship. Most of what we consider morality has evolved to allow us to be social in order that we might better raise young to thier own reproductive age. Look to nature to see when certain 'moral' behaviors came into being. A reptile will often eat another reptile that it encounters and fish will certain eat its own young if that young does not disperse quickly enough. The reptile reproduces in such quanitity that it has no need for social groups. A mammal does not see its own young or young of its species as prey because it has evolved to care for its young so that it can invest less energy in quantity reproduction and more in care. But animals will kill each other over territory or mating. Humans were the first to understand time. Primates will make a tool to get food now, but once satisfied, will not plan ahead and make more tools or improve the tool. When primates first understood time, they became human. A comprehension of past begs the question of where did we come from. A comprehension of future makes us wonder what happens to us. Hence, we invent creation stories, and a spirit that lives on. A comprehension of the future allows planning and demands that we communicate with each other to carry out plans. COmmunication allows abstraction of ideas into words and then art of various forms. Ideas can be discussed. To see where a behvior comes from, look at how it benefited the raising of young to maturity. The social group raised more young to maturity because the individual could rely on the 'village' for some of his or her needs and could specialize. If one does not have to provide food AND shelter AND childcare, one can spend time figuring out better ways to do ONE of those things. Instinct governs all that and instinct evolved. The person most 'moral' had the best advantage in raising kids to theire own maturity and therefore got their 'moral' genes passed on. Nothing is inherently moral. It is thought to BE moral because we do it - because it is beneifical. Sometimes what is beneficial to one is harmful to another, and therein lies the fuzzy lines. And instincts gone wrong create harm, such as the instinct to nurture the children of the village getting mucked up with the instinct to mate, resulting in abuse situations. Niether instinct is bad, but when combined 'in error', they cause harm. THis is why it is to hard to treat them, because they are part of instinct. No God to see or prevent evil because there is not really 'evil'. Most 'evil' is someone else's good as in the Islam martyr thnking he is doing a great service to his religion with his sacrifice that kills many. A science teacher thinks the education to the student is worth the death of the frog. Were the frog capable of such thought, it would not see it that way. Instinct has us eat all the calories we can to store up for the lean times, yet our society rarely has lean times any more. We must fight that instinct to overeat. Overeating is not 'evil' but giving that instinct free reign is harmful. Hunting to bring food to the tribe would be beneficial but hunting too much would tax the environment and be 'bad' and hunting our own species is a 'serial killer'. The line between what we do conciously and subconciously can be adjusted through awareness and learning. The line between doing thngs to benefit self and benefit society is and always has been different among individuals. We remain 'diverse' in many ways in order to be an adaptable species. Our diversity brings us at odds with other individuals. Sometimes we agree to disagree. Sometimes we fight to the death over it.
We use religion to explain things we cannot explain, like how we came to be and what happens to us. When we figure out the real answers, we try to adjust that religion, but if it was so 'true' before, it is difficult to give it up once new truth is found. It is uncomfortable to 'not know' so religion will always have a place for those who need that comfort.
Evolution and instinct and the working of the brain are where the real answers are tho, not in a 'god'.

Shygetz said...

I have no authoirty or integrity to be someone who argues with scientist about creation theories, why? because i have no investment or 'faith' in science as an 'ultimate' answer for what i am seeking, and it would be unwise to claim otherwise, sure i could get a masters in science and PHD in Physics, but if my 'faith' or religious 'values' are not placed in science as 'the answer' than i am not not being fair to 'genuine scientists'.

You're kidding, right? You've got to be kidding.

One of the key claims of science is that it works the same whether you believe it or not. Step off of a cliff and, regardless of if you think Newton was a talentless hack or God incarnate, you will accelerate at approximately 32 feet per second per second. Scientific theories of origins all come from this same kind of observation and experiment, and work the same regardless of if you believe them or not. It is hard to find competing interpretations of 32 feet per second per second based on someone's faith.

AG said...

Shygetz,
You want to be serious about arguing? than read what i said not what you think i said!
I said about creation theories!
Not about the laws of gravity or physics! nor about the credability of Newton or Einstein at all.
So the answer is no, i am not kidding. Don't get on here and try and ridicule me with 32feet per garbage that has nothing to do with what i was talking about. If that is the bets oyu can do with what i wrote than this blog is a waste of my time.
Secondly i had not mentioned anything about debating the Laws of physics or of gravity. So get real yourself and be genuine about arguing here on what is said, not what you 'think' i am saying. Or hitting me with one of your 'pat' answers to newbies here. Where did i mention anything about 32 feet per second? I was specifically talking about creation theories, of which are up for deabate. And on that premise i stand by what i said, maybe you could re evaluate your response to me after once again reading what i have said, not what you think i said. Man, and i thought many of you on here want a genuine and 'fair' dicussion/argument about issues.
Anyway....
All the best
:o)

AG said...

Goprairie,
1.What makes us different from animals in that we are called human?
2. If instinct is our driving force, than murder, rape, violence, sexual abuse, are all legitamately 'moral actions' in themselves, why? because noone can argue against another person who said they acted out of 'instinct'. Something else must govern what instincts are 'correct' and what are 'incorrect'. I see your point but like i was asked earlier, at what point does one 'draw the line' when it comes to actions we do not condone in society. If we are 100% animal than abuse and violence and rape and murder are all legitamate. Many animals exhibit these behaviours within there social constucts and no court of law condemnds them or punishes them, so why do we have the right to do the same?
Anyway i was just probing a little more to see a little more clearly where you are coming from.
I strongly diasgree with this line of thinking, howver, i am intrestd in your perspective.
All the best
:o)

zilch said...

ag said:

If instinct is our driving force, than murder, rape, violence, sexual abuse, are all legitamately 'moral actions' in themselves, why? because noone can argue against another person who said they acted out of 'instinct'. Something else must govern what instincts are 'correct' and what are 'incorrect'.

There are several misconceptions with this viewpoint, which comes up over and over in discussions with Christians. While some instincts can lead to behavior that we do not condone, other instincts are the foundation of our moral system: the desire to be fed, sheltered, and satisfied sexually and intellectually, and to cooperate with our fellows to achieve these goals. Beginnings of these instincts can be seen in many social animals, and they are highly developed in us humans. Thus, not all instincts are antisocial.

But for the peaceful, complex societies most of us want to have, following our instincts alone is not enough. Thus, we choose to have morals, laws, religions, and states to impose the additional order necessary to build such societies. And what we choose is what we decide to be "legitimate". For instance: if we want to live in societies free of violence, then we will not accept violent behavior, genetic or otherwise. How we choose to deal with it is another question. To the person who says he acted out of instinct, I would say that that's not good enough.

Thus, I would agree with you that "something else" governs, to some extent, what we decide to condone and what not. But that "something else" is not God: it is how we choose to behave, based upon our desires and our rationality. God is just one of the ways many people have come up with to enforce the choices they make with divine carrots and sticks.

Shygetz said...

ag, I did read your post. And I specifically mentioned how the origins of the universe are approached with the same rigor and method as gravity.

Here, I'll quote the sentence for you:

Scientific theories of origins all come from this same kind of observation and experiment, and work the same regardless of if you believe them or not.

Now, if you want to talk specifically about origins, fine. One faith-based idea of origins is that God created the Universe from nothing 6000 years ago. This idea about the origin of the universe is probably more firmly refuted by sciencethan the idea that gravity doesn't exist, by multiple independent lines of research spread across many fields. It is independently refuted by:
geology--measured rates of geological formation and the geological column support an ancient Earth
anthropology--civilizations that are more than 6000 years old have been discovered and described
astronomy--light from stars MUCH more than 6000 light years away has been measured (not to mention the remnants of the Big Bang billions of years ago)
particle physics--careful measurements of rates of radioactive decay clearly indicates an Earth and a universe that is much more than 6000 years old
linguistics--the pattern of language development can only be explained given much more than 6,000 years of language
archeology--fossils considerably older than 6,000 years have been found, along with the absence of creatures found today and the presence of creatures never seen alive
evolutionary biology--observed evolutionary laws explain biological variety on Earth, but indicate many millions of years of evolution
botany-plants more than 6,000 years old are still alive today

This origins story is clearly at odds with science. The only way out of this that conforms with the data is to posit a liar God--God made the universe to LOOK old for some reason. Yet if you allow a liar God, then one could just as easily state that God makes gravity LOOK like it accelerates at 32 ft per second per second, which you clearly object to.

Perhaps you would like to reconsider your position that all creation ideas are equally credible and beyond the censure of science.

AG said...

Thanks for your response.
I agree with you that it is ludacris to think of the earth as 6000 years old, and i think this is not a reality.
I support science in many ways on this ground.
The problem is your position of seeing all christian belief as the fundamentalist 'answers in genesis' group who want to claim the earth is only 6000 years old. They are wrong in my mind.
What do you do with the view that God did in fact create the world, and it didnt take 7 literal days and that yes he actually created humans from apes and that earth may well be million of years old. In mind that doesnt go at odds with the biblical account. Thats more where i am at, and i would be interested in your 'rebuttle' against this view rather than the 'fundamentalist view' that keeps coming up this site.
I support almost everything you said science has produced, it doesnt explain away God to me it mearly strengthens hi need to exist.
All the best
:o)

AG said...

Zilch,
Thanks for your attempt to 'clarify' with me your point.
However the fundamental point i was making was the one we agreed upon that "something else governs" I understand you want to make an adhoc statement and say its not God, but where is your objective proof of this? Maybe it might not be the christian God, could it be another god? I know my answer but im interested in how you find it so easy to just dissmiss it as not God with not objective hard proof, but you want all the christians on this site to bring 'objective and hard truth'
All the best
:o)

zilch said...

ag- as I've said before, I have no "objective proof" that God does not exist. Nor do I have "objective proof" that I'm not a brain in a vat, or that the world was not created two minutes ago. But I also have no reason to believe that God does exist, and lots of reasons to believe that people made up, and are still making up, stories about gods.

I'm glad we can agree on the necessity that "something else governs" our ideas of right and wrong. Probably my ideas of right and wrong are not all that different from yours- we simply disagree on the source.

AG said...

Fair enough and i am sure we do have similiar views on whats right and wrong, i guess the source is what we debate. I can see your point with no hard evidence, but in all fairness lets keep some checks on how far we want to push that, a brain in a vat? hmmm...interesting....lol
All the best
:o)

Shygetz said...

What do you do with the view that God did in fact create the world, and it didnt take 7 literal days and that yes he actually created humans from apes and that earth may well be million of years old. In mind that doesnt go at odds with the biblical account. Thats more where i am at, and i would be interested in your 'rebuttle' against this view rather than the 'fundamentalist view' that keeps coming up this site.

I'll set aside the fact that the world is billions of years old, not millions (hey, we all make typos) and focus on the rest.

Claim 1: God created the universe over some unknown timescale

This claim is currently unprovable. I think I agree with Prof. Hawking that we can never have a complete mathematical model for the universe, which may indicate that we will never be able to determine what happened in that first yoctosecond of the expansion. This will leave the question of a deist God always unanswered, and is one reason why I relegate belief in a deist God into the "unjustified, but not much" category. My wife actually falls into this category. However, keep in mind that the fact that I have no reliable evidence against it does NOT mean that there exists any reliable evidence FOR it. There does not, and I think that the most reasonable position in this case is agnosticism--we simply don't know and may never know.

Claim 2: God created humans from apes

Fossil evidence, genetics, and evolutionary theory have proven that humans and apes share a recent common ancestor. But did a god direct the evolution? Well, there are a few reasons to think that, if a god did, that god is nothing like the Christian God. First of all, the human body has many areas of poor design. The appendix, for one; it has harmed and killed many more people than it has helped. Same with wisdom teeth. The human eye is wired backwards, resulting in a small blind spot. There are numerous other examples. The point is, the fact that we had to evolve from ancestors not optimized for the same niche that we are optimized for means that our body plans have several non-optimized "shortcuts" like the ones listed above. An omnipotent designer looking to guide evolution would be able to shift the path of evolution to eliminate these design flaws. Finally, all examination of mutation (and there has been a TON) suggests that it is not guided toward any ultimate goal; if a designer were guiding evolution, we would expect to see a directional push to mutation, especially if that designer were benevolent and wanted to prevent unnecessary suffering. However, we see that most mutations that do anything are detrimental, and the ones that are beneficial seem not to be going in any one particular direction. Therefore, if a god did direct evolution at some point, he stopped directing a while ago and didn't direct it to any unusually flawless design.

AG said...

sorry i will respond, i have been interstate recently and have a backlog of work to do, so bear with me, thanks for your thoughts.
All the best
:o)