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May 06 2013

How the Problem of Evil uncloaks Christianity’s total moral bankruptcy

I don’t think Christians are evil. But the Christian God is evil, and belief in him runs the risk of non-evil people embracing evil through lazy moral and intellectual concessions to things that do not deserve to be conceded. And the Problem of Evil settles it.

The PoE came up on yesterday’s show, and in response to the show we got some correspondence from an atheist who’s having this very discussion with a Christian friend. As we see from the friend’s responses, theodicy isn’t so much an exercise in rebutting the Problem of Evil as making excuses for it. It often falls back on appealing to God’s incomprehensibility to the minds of mankind. That God created minds incapable of understanding his cunning plans and mysterious ways, while simultaneously mandating our eternal punishment for rejecting him based on our failure to understand him, pretty much counts as the greatest dick move in the history of everything. (Or it would, if God existed. Fortunately, he doesn’t.)

Anyway, as these conversations usually go, the hypothetical Crime That You’d Really Think God Should Stop, Because Come On — the rape of a child — ended up on the table. This one always ends up being the example, because whether theist or atheist, child rape is something that anyone who isn’t utterly diseased between the ears can agree crosses the moral event horizon into utter irredeemability. The Christian will still look for a path to redemption here, and this fellow instantly resorted to the most common defense of the PoE: the Appeal to Free Will.

The power of free-will allows evil. Omnipotent meaning “state of being all-powerful” does not necessitate God has to correct evil for it is a result of the free-will he gave us. I believe omni-benevolent is generally given as an attribute to God, which He is. He is all perfect and flawless in essence. Evil came out of the free will he gave us. The Omniscient aspect is something that none of us can comprehend as humans because none of us have it. Thus, He knows what is best permanently and can see things with a perspective that none of us are even capable of seeing them. His action (or what may be perceived to us as non-action) are all a result of His omniscience which may be played out in timing and setting. I don’t see this contradiction being valid.

This explanation shows how freely Christians toss around the three “omnis” and play with the definitions of them until they are more or less meaningless. Immediately after describing omniscience as “something that none of us can comprehend,” he then presumes to comprehend it by explaining that God “knows what is best permanently” and is just way way smarter than us. But this is a dodge, not a response, because it not only appeals to an unknown but an admitted unknown. Seriously, he’s saying no less than “Because none of us can understand God’s ways, you’re wrong in saying they’re wrong and I’m right in saying they’re right.” It’s self-evidently absurd.

The appeal to free will is the very worst example of theodicy there is, for many reasons. First, it excuses God’s inaction by taking into account only the freewill of evildoers, not their victims. As Tracie said to a caller a few weeks ago (and which has now become the all-time most quoted line from AXP), “The difference between me and your God is that if I could stop someone raping a child, I would.” What kind of moral monster sits back and watches the most helpless and innocent victim have her life destroyed, solely because of some perverse notion of the inviolability of free will? Doesn’t the victim’s free will — which is presumably screaming “I do not wish to be raped, please, kthxbai!” — matter? Who wants to worship the patron god of child rapists? And this is the same deity from whom Christians insist I have gotten my morals?

The appeal to free will also conflates will with action. Free will only implies the ability to desire a thing. It doesn’t imply an ability to act on that desire. There are many things I cannot do because of the very nature of the organism I am. I would like to be able to teleport. I would like to live to be 1000 in perfect health. I would like to be the meat in a Jennifer Aniston/Jessica Chastain sandwich. (You’re welcome for that visual.) Does the fact I cannot do these things mean my free will has been taken away?

In short, free will is the most common, but dead worst rebuttal to the PoE there is. It doesn’t even appreciate the problem.

In the follow-up, you watch in despair — rather what it must look like to witness a school bus plunge off a bridge — as this Christian contorts himself into thinking up ways in which the rape of a child can fit into God’s Great Plan. It’s truly monstrous, but it presents as clearly as anything could that what Christians consider most important, even when considering life’s darkest and most inexcusable evils, is that when the dust settles, their God emerges untarnished and every bit as worthy of fawning worship. Try to read this without too much headdesking.

I do agree that there are a lot of tough circumstances that are capable of making anyone question whether there is a loving God that exists. It is truly amazing that suffering can be so prevalent in our world.
After doing some investigations myself, one question that I really had a hard time answering is, “what is just?” … How would we define a just God when He has created everything and breathed life into all things? If you do believe in a God, then you would believe that He had the power to give it to us, then He also has the right to take away life. You see it in the Bible many times when God is not happy, and He allows things to happen in order to bring people back to the right path.

In the rape case you mentioned, I agree, why should a child have to endure something so horrid? That is a question that is hard for us to answer. I think about it in a similar way as mentioned above, if God had strucken him dead on the spot, would he have been just in giving the rapist another chance at redemption and everlasting life? If he stopped him and let him live, would he have had a drive to change his ways or would he be constantly driven to find another chance at doing such a thing? I believe that God finds ways to console the victim and to provide His love to the child, while also providing those instances where the rapist will suffer in guilt through all his confrontations with those around him. A lot of the time, I believe God’s solutions are long term and utilize time as another dimension. We like to see instant justification, but we do not have the element of time as a visible parameter that we have to work with, so we find it instantly “unjust” since we have no idea what the future holds. This goes back to the statement I made earlier about “what is just?”. We have part of the picture and truly cannot assess or define it without having all of the cards shown on the table, so to say.

Still here?

Okay, let’s consider…

…why should a child have to endure something so horrid? That is a question that is hard for us to answer.

No. It is not a hard question to answer. It is the easiest question to answer that one could ever be presented with in an average three score and ten years of existence. The answer is: “There is, without exception, never a circumstance in which a child should have to endure sexual violation of any kind.” If you disagree, or think there are possible exceptions, then you suck at being a person. That is all.

I believe that God finds ways to console the victim and to provide His love to the child, while also providing those instances where the rapist will suffer in guilt through all his confrontations with those around him.

Oh, so he believes this? Well, jolly good show, old bean. Has he ever sought to confirm it? He says he did “some investigations.” What were they? How many childhood rape victims has he ever interviewed, to ask about all the ways God “consoled” them and made their attackers feel guilt and shame? Did these victims agree that the rapist’s valuable lesson in learning the feelings of guilt and shame was worth their getting raped (assuming any such feelings actually arose)? So the whole horrific exercise was just something that the rapist really needed, in order to learn some kind of empathy lesson, and their role as victim was simply to be a tool for that end?

"Happy to help, God! I hope that poor young man has learned a valuable lesson! Anything else I can help with once I stop bleeding?"

“Happy to help, God! I hope that poor young man has learned a valuable lesson! Anything else I can assist You with once I stop bleeding?”

Were the victims consulted by God on this first? “Excuse me, innocent child. But there’s this fellow who has a deep, sociopathic need to rape kids, and rather than simply erase it from him — because, you know, [echo] FREE WILL [/echo] — I’ve decided he needs to actually go through with it and then feel bad about it to learn that lesson, and, well, you’re as good as anyone for that. So, what do you say? A little rape? I mean, it would really help him out. Look, how about a pony? I mean, if he doesn’t kill you, because that could happen, and I could stop it, but like I said — [echo] FREE WILL [/echo]!”

This guy hasn’t thought about this. He hasn’t done any “soul searching.” He has simply concocted an elaborate series of excuses that allow him not to think about any horrible troubling thing, so that he can, at all costs, preserve his faith in a totally just God who does everything right all the time, even when his way of doing everything right looks like an unforgivable fuckup to us (because we cannot understand his multi-dimensional ways).

Now, let us take this whole ghastly exercise in finding the silver lining in the cloud of child rape, and marry it to an attitude prevalent in conservative Christian culture: the obsession with sexual “purity,” and the tying of (almost always a woman’s) entire personal worth into her level of sexual experience. Just today I read an article in which famous kidnapee and child-rape survivor Elizabeth Smart talks about the psychological damage she’s having to overcome from her experience, and the way her religious culture’s attitudes contributed to that damage.

Smart was recovered while she and her kidnappers were walking down a suburban street, leading many Americans who followed her story on the national news to wonder: Why didn’t she just run away as soon as she was brought outside?…

Speaking to an audience at Johns Hopkins about issues of human trafficking and sexual violence, Smart recently offered an answer to that question. She explained that some human trafficking victims don’t run away because they feel worthless after being raped, particularly if they have been raised in conservative cultures that push abstinence-only education and emphasize sexual purity:

Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”

Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

So: marry “God has a plan we cannot understand, and besides, evildoers need to learn lessons” to “YOU, WOMAN, ARE UNCLEEEAAAN!” and you have a pretty comprehensively shitty deal for the victims here, don’t you?

FFS, this shit is depressing. Have a kitty.

FFS, this shit is depressing. Have a kitty.

The Problem of Evil doesn’t merely reveal Christianity’s moral failings. It’s the headshot that takes Christianity down for good and all, as the polar opposite of a moral belief system. Really, it’s over. Walk away from this evil, Christians, I implore you. It will be the best for you, and probably good for some little one you love.

224 comments

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  1. 1
    mythbri

    I remember Elizabeth Smart. I’ve lived pretty close to the area where she lived with her family when she was taken. I was old enough to know, at that point, that it was likely no one who cared about her would ever see her alive again. I was shocked when I heard the news that she had been recovered, and I’m thrilled that she’s working as an advocate to prevent sexual violence. That takes a lot of courage.

    My younger brother was terrified after hearing about her kidnapping, because such a big deal was made of it in the media (white, pretty middle-class girl snatched from her bed? Much more attractive victim than all the other missing children in the world). He wouldn’t sleep alone after that for a very, very long time. He either slept on the floor of my other brothers’ rooms, or mine, or my mom’s, or had the dog sleep in his room with him. Despite what people might think (particularly the Christian in your example), child rape doesn’t just affect the child and the rapist.

    The Problem of Evil, indeed.

  2. 2
    Alverant

    If God is omnipotent (ie all-powerful) then that means free will has zero power because any power we have as free-willed individuals is a power God does not have. So either God isn’t omnipotent or we don’t really have free will. In any case since, in the bible, God incinerated a man for questioning him giving a child-rapist a heart-attack shouldn’t be any trouble.

    1. 2.1
      Martin Wagner

      Certainly, reconciling “free will” with divine omniscience is another logical cock-up that Christians have been fighting to reconcile forever. But in discussing the Problem of Evil, it’s most helpful I think to address free will from a moral perspective.

  3. 3
    Alicia

    God’s “unknowable mind” is what directed me towards atheism. In every church I went to (and I considered many denominations in my “spiritual quest”), I got the typical response of “The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” or that I was being “Tempted by the devil” when I asked why a loving god would create a hell knowing that it would be impossible to comprehend his nature. That would be like me hiding my jewelry in a secret place but beating my kids if they couldn’t locate it when asked. God has all the answers–we do not. And yet we can be punished eternally for giving the wrong answer to the god question. Watching peopel go through mental loop de loops of justifying this makes me understand how good people can stand idly by why humans are thrust into ovens in concentration camps. We create incredible justifications for the most unjustifed things.

    1. 3.1
      Martin Wagner

      If your doctor or your banker or your insurance company worked in “mysterious ways,” how trusting of them would you be?

      1. Alicia

        I would think they got their credentials out of a cereal box–lol!

      2. Hamsa

        Last time I checked, God didn’t work as a doctor (though they like to think so), or as an insurance adjuster. Why would ANYONE assume (a hypothetical) God is the same as a human man? I can see after reading your 8th grade level post, that you are sadly clueless. Such a shame…

        1. Alicia

          God is supposed to be better than a human banker and yet I doubt I see many human bankers advocating or endorsing genocidal killing sprees or the rape of young girls ( who had to marry their rapists) A shame indeed.

        2. Martin Wagner

          It’s Christians who say this God made us in his image. That Jesus came to Earth as a man. That we are all God’s children. That God gives all us human men his “objective moral standard.” So why do I think of God in human terms? Golly gee, maybe because that’s how Christians insist upon selling him to me. Unless, of course, I have a critique about anything this God does, then suddenly it’s “Oh noes, you cannot apply human standards to the LAWD!”

          Try again and do better, Hamsa.

        3. rrpostal

          Way to miss the point.. Yes, it is assumed that god has a more important position (what with being the creator and ruler of space and time) than a banker or shoe salesman. But when he’s said to act in a way we wouldn’t trust from these menial entities, why must we just shrug and assume “he’s got our back”. And then his lack of existing is not only dismissed, but is actually an important test of our character? If you can just stop and consider what your suggesting without all of the instilled fear, it makes it easier to change the paradigm you are grasping with white knuckles.

          1. rrpostal

            *you’re…

            grumble, grumble grumble.

  4. 4
    Ryan Jeanes

    So God could have stopped the rape but chose not to because it would be good for the child in the long run. What…the…fuck.

    1. 4.1
      kagekiri

      There is a more horrifying answer to the question of evil, though it’s usually only held by crazy fundamentalists (I say this as a former crazy fundamentalist).

      That answer is “we deserve the horrible things and worse, because every day where we suffer less than we will in hell is an act of infinite mercy.”

      This paints all good things as undeserved grace from God, and all the horrors as the results of simply existing as impure beings. No horrible thing is unjustified, because we all deserve hell, which is basically infinite suffering.

      This sort of thing has some Biblical justification in the idea of original sin, but it requires the kind of brain-washed self-loathing that you usually only get from child-hood indoctrination to take those verses to their “logical” anti-humanistic conclusions. If it does catch, though, you spend so much time going between hating yourself for every error/sinful thought and loving God for being so merciful as not to toast you on the spot that you never ponder how that arrangement could ever be the product of a merciful or good being.

      To be fair to the waffling “free-will!!!” Christians, that argument is basically an answer straight from the New Testament. I remember Jesus’ parable about holding off on weeding before the harvest, because the farmer (God) can’t remove the weeds without harming the wheat (God’s a really shitty farmer in most of his farmer parables). Aka, the wheat are the people going to heaven, the weeds are people going to hell, but separating them on earth just isn’t possible, because free will and “it’s for your own good!”.

      Then, there’s the “the world’s suffering exists for God’s pleasure/glory” answer Jesus gives to explain a man’s disability. He explains a man was given blindness from birth not because of sin, but to glorify God when he was healed. An old testament example of that same masturbatory function of evil is shown when God allows Satan to torture Job and murder Job’s family in order to show off.

      1. theignored

        There are worse things: Remember Calvinism?

        Vincent Cheung

        (fun guy, this one. Go to fstdt.com and put his name in the search engine there!) This quote of his divided into separate paragraphs for readability:

        Although evil is negative, God’s purpose, which is his own glory, is positive. God is the only one who possesses intrinsic worth, and if he decides that the existence of evil serves to glorify him, then the decree is by definition good and justified – because he thinksit is good and justified.

        “Intrinsic worth”? To whom??

        Anyone who thinks that God’s glory is not worth the death andsuffering of billions of people has too high an opinion of himself and humanity. A creature’s worth is conferred by his creator, according to the purpose for which the creator made him. Since God is the sole standard of measurement, if he thinks that something is justified, then it is by definition justified. Christians should have no trouble with this, and those who find it difficult to accept what the Bible teaches should examine their spiritual condition, to see if they are indeed in the faith.

        Or, for something a little more mainstream, which may make it all the more depressing:
        Answers in Genesis’s Bodie Hodge

        In light of such passages, does a “righteous lie” really exist? The most common example sent to me was envisioning the Holocaust and being placed in the position of lying to potentially protect someone’s life. Like most, if placed in such a difficult situation, it would be very difficult. In fact, I could never be sure what I would do, especially if it were a loved one.

        But consider for a moment that we are all already sentenced to die because we are sinners (Romans 5:12). It is going to happen regardless. If a lie helps keep someone alive for a matter of moments compared to eternity, was the lie, which is high treason against the Creator, worth it?

        It would be like sitting in a cell on death row and when the guards come to take your roommate to the electric chair, you lie to the guards and say you don’t know where the person went—while your roommate is hiding under their covers on the bed. Does it really help? Since we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), death is coming for us, and there is an appointed time (Ecclesiastes 3:2).

  5. 5
    GoingtoRegretPosting

    Walk away from this evil, Christians, I implore you. It will be the best for you, and probably good for some little one you love.

    What should a Christian walk towards, if he/she is walking away from this evil?

    1. 5.1
      Martin Wagner

      Um, reason? Humanity? Reality? Stuff like that?

    2. 5.2
      Alicia

      Reason–real love and real morality based on a true understanding of human nature–what we are capable of–and what we can achieve together without superstition and monsters pursuing our footsteps.

      1. GoingtoRegretPosting

        What is “real morality”, or “real love”?

        Are you saying that if we [truly understand] human nature.. and if we just use reason.. we will reach some system of “real morality”?

        As for “what we can achieve together”.. that strikes me as rather irrelevant. Isn’t it what we should achieve, and not what we can achieve that is relevant to morality?

        1. Martin Wagner

          Be nice to each other, and don’t hurt anyone.

          Not sure why so many people find that one hard.

          1. GoingtoRegretPosting

            I should never cause anyone any hurt?

          2. Martin Wagner

            Is there someone you wish to hurt? If so, why?

          3. Alicia

            @Going hurting others is sometimes inescapable Ex. I had a friend profess feelings of love for me that I did not return. I had to hurt a friend. NOW, when we speak of not doiing unjustified harm to others, a reasonable person knows that these are not the scenarios we speak of….

          4. Martin Wagner

            There are indeed circumstances in which it’s unavoidable to cause hurt. This is non-trivially different from doing it on purpose, by choice, out of selfishness. You may cause minor, temporary hurts in rejecting a friend’s romantic advances, and this is actually an example of one of those “learning and growing from adversity” things discussed elsewhere in this thread, that will eventually benefit your friend down the road.

            Now consider some alternatives. Your friend responds to your rejection by not taking no for an answer and assaulting you. Or, you’re the kind of girl who thinks “You know, I really don’t like this guy, but he’s got money and a sweet ride, so I’ll pretend to be his girlfriend until someone better comes along to dump him for.” Now we’re into the kind of hurts that benefit no one, and teach no lessons already not known (don’t be a raging asshole). Quite a different thing.

          5. Alicia

            Exactly, but so many Christians think they have some kind of gotcha when they refer to the idea of “harming none” as if they can’t differentiate between unavoidable situations or willful and malicious intent….intellectual dishonesty?

          6. GoingtoRegretPosting

            So at first its just

            “Be nice to each other, and don’t hurt anyone.”

            After asking if I should never cause anyone any hurt, I then learn that its not just “don’t hurt anyone”, but its now “don’t hurt anyone [on purpose, by choice, out of selfishness]“. It also cannot be “unjustified”.

            How do I know if something is “unjustified”, or “justified”? Or if its truly “unavoidable”? In the scenario mentioned one could actually accept a friends romantic advances thus avoiding that hurt. It is not a truly “unavoidable” hurt. Rejecting the advance is justified (apparently) because its “learning and growing from adversity”.

            So apparently, even avoidable hurts are still ok, if its one of those “learning and growing from adversity things.”

            We’ve now gone from “don’t hurt anyone” (simple, and easy to understand) to “don’t hurt anyone unless its a “learning and growing from adversity thing” that teaches a previous unknown lesson that will benefit someone down the road”

            Do I have that about right?

          7. Alicia

            Noooo, you don’t have that right *sigh* so simple. A reasonable person knows it isn’t okay to kill someone just to eat their flesh for example. This fact however, does not even remotely equate to having to “let some guy down easy”. I am not OBLIGATED to marry someone just because they say they like me, that is what makes the pain inflcited upon said friend “unavoidable”. We have the right to make choices, according to you, based on free will, and some of those choices will conflict with the desires of others, hence the “unavoidable aspect” if we endeavor to be honest people). Sure, I could very easily say, out of guilt for example,” Okay, I love you too dude. ” but that leads to GREATER hurt in the long run as I would be lying to him and essentially damning myself. There are many unavoidable situations where hurt can occur in life, and in particular, if one makes the RIGHT choices that are actually beneficial in the long run (how good wouldl it be to get hooked up with someone you do not love–to make commitments, build lives, have kids–all on a lie?” Better to skip all the B.S. with hurtful honesty. Such scenarios are true, beneficial learning experiences for those without mental illness or derangements like Ted Bundy, who took being dumped out on a number of women he did not know. A healthy individual simply understands that we do not always get what we want out of life. We move on, hopefully not bitter, only wiser. What lessons are learned by a man who has his leg cut off while he is alive so that a cannibal can eat it in front of him? What lesson is learned by parents who have a child kidnapped and murdered? What lesson is learned by stuffing people into ovens? That tevil exists? That god is somehow merciful? Really dude?

            In the end, it’s about INTENT and even our own court of law understands the distinctions of motivations behind actions and gives sentences accordingly. You seem like a smart person so you should be able to grasp that concept. See, there are these things called mitigating factors. It is far less egregious to hurt someone to be kind, i.e. not string someone along cruellyy, than to let’s say, start a relationship with a man just to get money out of him….You can’t even begin to equate the two levels of harm caused by these actions (or the loss of loved one to cancer or an earthquake). To do so is the GROSSEST form of intellectual dishonesty. Apples and oranges dude, apples and oranges.

          8. Martin Wagner

            So what you’re telling us, GtRP, is that you are flummoxed by discussions about morals that are complex and nuanced? Do I have that about right?

          9. TerranRich, Yet Another Atheist

            I love how some theists become absolute robots when discussing morality outside of religion. “What is morality?” “What is love?” It’s like your circuits are shorting out or something.

            Let me ask you this… do you believe that slavery (ownership of another human being) is wrong? If so, where did you get that moral judgement from? Certainly not some millennia-old book. This is a recent decision by humanity, in the grand scheme of things. So again, I ask… how do you personally know that slavery is wrong?

          10. Jasper of Maine

            So again, I ask… how do you personally know that slavery is wrong?

            They seem to have an answer for that, though the mileage may vary.

            Basically, they’ll claim to derive it from the “Love thy neighbor as thyself” clause…. which they’ll also cite for why Jesus was against racism and sexism… and apparently the places where the Bible endorses slavery/sexism/etc are overridden.

            … doesn’t matter to them that the basic concept predates the Bible, but hey, what can you expect?

          11. Martin Wagner

            Why do they think “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is right? Why was Jesus right for being against racism and sexism (assuming he was)? Whatever moral claim they think originated with their God, they still have to apply a standard by which to determine their God’s moral precepts are the right ones. What is it, and where did it “come from”?

          12. Jasper of Maine

            That’s one reason why I don’t really bother to try to argue within their doctrine. They make it a habit to “use the letter of the law to defeat the spirit of the law”, dismissing huge swatches of their own book because of a single sentence buried in there somewhere.

          13. Christopher Lowe

            Jaynism, though their theocracy and books read like something out of Beowulf or the Iliad, sum up their moral stance with one simple statement; “Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.” Sort of like what Matt was sayin near the top of the post. It makes the pronouncements of morality in scripture seem like something that would come out of the lurid mind of the Marquis de Sade.

        2. Alicia

          Real morality is based on being properly motivated for good or decency, not because we fear hell or some kind of punsihment. Ex. I have two kids–I could beat them every day to acheive good behavior–but are they really “made” good? What I strive to do is understand their natures and prod them gently towards empathy, reason, and a care for others ( coupled with healthy skepticism and a desire to question authority–even my own). I know of several Christians who say that if God were shown to be false tomorrow they’d have no reason to continue to be good people. One even said he would rob banks. Do they possess real morality? Now, I am not by any means placing myself up to some kind of gold standard but I do not believe in god and yet, I do not rob banks. According to scripture, all fall short of the glory of God. In a reason based world, we understand that no one is perfect. Have a lied, or done things I regret? Sure. But when I attempt to mend or rectify my wrongs, I am moved by conscience or empathy NOT from a fear of punishment. And yes–by truly undertanding our natures, devoid of divine ideology, we can really work on the things that divide and conquer us. Unification is always a good thing when the goal is to uplift or help us evolve as a society. Sure, we can do wondrous things as individuals but strength also comes in numbers. Recognizing that we need one another does not devalue any individual identities or achievements at all. Such concepts are more than relevant to the idea or morality ( what we SHOULD acheive and what we are ACTIVELY achieving.) As Martin said, it really is simple–just be kind–don’t do shit to folks you wouldn’t want done to you–this nugget of wisdom existed long before Christ entered the arena.

        3. Alicia

          Also, real love is love that comes WILLINGLY from the “heart” as it were, not because “God said so”…My Preacher used to say “I have to love you but I don’t have to like you.” What the hell is that? My philosphy? I give love to those who have shown regard to me. I stay away from those who wish me ill. I no longer labor under the false idea that I have to show regard for poeple who wish me harm. This has resulted in a fairly happy, drama free life. Besides, if you are only loving someone because god said so–is that real love? Remove god from that picture–would the love remain? The answer here is no. The sentiment is about as sincere as asking little Timmy to apologize for taking a toy. Timmy isn’t sorry, but he will say so because he is being made to do it. You can’t manufacture emotions by MAKING people do things. Jeez, This is why I hate it when people force celebritiy apologies. Mark the offense and move on people, just move on.

          1. GoingtoRegretPosting

            ” I give love to those who have shown regard to me. I stay away from those who wish me ill. I no longer labor under the false idea that I have to show regard for poeple who wish me harm. This has resulted in a fairly happy, drama free life.”

            That’s great that it makes you happy, but why is turning the other cheek a “false idea”?

          2. Martin Wagner

            She’s doing it, by ignoring them.

          3. GoingtoRegretPosting

            Turning the other cheek is equivalent to ignoring someone?

            I have to admit, its been a bit since I’ve been too concerned about Biblical interpretation.. but that’s a new one for me.

          4. Martin Wagner

            I’m not sure I get your whole angle here, GtRP, and I am doubtful you actually have one. You’re very focused on syntax-lawyering every word anyone else posts here, in an apparent intent to nitpick whatever flaws you think are there to find. But I don’t see you explaining what position it is you hold on any of these questions. Do you have some ideas to advance here? Anything to, you know, contribute?

          5. Lord Narf

            I can see the similarity, yeah. I’d call it a fair comparison.

          6. GoingtoRegretPosting

            Ah well then. Since you call it a fair comparison.

            You are a Lord after all.

          7. jdoran

            “That’s great that it makes you happy, but why is turning the other cheek a “false idea”?”

            Reading comprehension 101. She wrote that she realized that the idea that she “has to” show regard for such people was the false idea.

          8. Alicia

            Thank you Jdoran, @ Going–thanks for purposefully misinterpreting my words. 1) Do not think I go around spoiling for fights, I do not. In most situations, I try to resolve conflcit fairly, however there are times when turning the other cheek is not an option, especially if your own life is at risk ( or the life of someone you love). Besides, one is hardly showing any kind of love to the offender to do so in all cases. Those who pretend this is the case are more likely the types who wish to pray loudly in schools to show how pious they are (something even Christ admonishes them NOT to do). ” Look at me, am I not merciful–I have shown kindness to this scumbucket that hit me. Look at my Holier than thou Agape Love style”…2) Believe it or not there is no such thing as unconditional love in a reasonable world. We all want things from our relationships, even our love ones. We seek understanding, companionship, fairness, and the ability to give our love to someone who reciprocates that love. The idea of true unconditional love could equal remaining involved with a monster–someone who would beat me–rape my kids or burn my house down on the idea I would love them no matter what they do! To show you how crippling this idea can be: I knew a Christian woman who remained in contact with a man who stabbed both her daughter and herself with intent to kill during a drug fuelled rage. Both were in the hospital for weeks. When I asked her how she could do that of course she mentions God love and such. WTF dude. Of course he attacked them again (he was still abusing drugs at this point). SMH. Come on, how logical is that? I have been hurt in life and I wish no ill on those who have hurt me. I have never been the type who would slash tires or go on public tirades. I simply resolved to leave with as much dignity as I could and move on past pain. I am not unscarred–hardly–ask my hubby–lol. Cool thing is though, that this attitude has allowed me to stay fairly amicable with some exes who don’t have an unkind thing to say of me, so maybe that is a win. I try my best not to burn bridges. However, life doesn’t always afford us the ability to do this. There are some people I could not allow to be in my life and I think making that decision was healthy. None of these concepts really have anything to do with turning the other cheek as you suggest. Do you think turning the other cheek translates to remaining married to a man who rapes your kids for example? That is what I am talking about. Remaining around sick and diseased people at cost to our safety or mental health goes against our own self preservation instincts, which, in your world of theory, God would have given you for a purpose. Hope the individual gets help–or heals–or becomes a better person; heck, pray if you must, but get the hell away from them until they do what they need to do for themselves.

        4. Alicia

          In answer to your question regarding how do we know slavery is wrong *shaking mah dman head* here are the facts.

          1) We don’t know that slavery is wrong based on anything the bible says. The bible ENDOSRES slavery and even gives details on how slaves and masters should interact.

          2) Common sense. Would you want to be enslaved and treated like cattle? Would you want your children to be enslaved and sold of? Your loved ones. Raped–killed at the whim of someone else. Of course not.

          Now, am I right in assuming that since you asked this question in the manner in which you asked it, that you may be trying to state that slavery is somehow okay. This would mean that, like most who still hold this belief, you think you would be the top dog of the arrangement (with other races beneathe you) and therefor not in danger of enslavement. If so, this inidcates that you are far more IMMMORAL than the godless heathens you probably look down upon and I will waste no more time even answering your questions as you have no idea what morality is.

          1. Alicia

            Oops, I misread the comments–erase my former posts–lol

  6. 6
    hausdorff

    The problem of evil was pretty instrumental for me in leaving Christianity. The main answer I remember getting was that people learn lessons through hardships. This made sense for any hardships I had to deal with personally (I had normal troubles like any other kid, but never had to deal with anything too serious), but really doesn’t explain really bad stuff I would see in the news. I remember one particular news item about a bus full of Christian children who were on their way to some camp that crashed and everyone was killed. It hit home because that easily could have been me. I then started thinking about all of the other horrible stuff that happens all the time around the world. I just didn’t see how an all loving God could be in charge.

    1. 6.1
      Martin Wagner

      Learning lessons from hardships is certainly a thing that can help people. But there are hardships, and then there is unimaginably unjust victimization. I recall a minister addressing an ACA brunch years ago (the details on how that happened are complicated, so I’ll skip over them), and he tried to address the PoE through the example of the Holocaust, as a “lesson” about evil humanity needed to learn. Apart from the question of what its 6 million victims might have “learned,” Jeff Dee, in a classic moment, bellowed “Who the hell was sitting around in 1938 thinking, ‘Golly gee, I just can’t figure out if it’s right or wrong to massacre millions of innocent men, women and children and burn their bodies in ovens’?”

      1. hausdorff

        That’s pretty bold to try to claim the holocaust happened for us to learn a lesson. Hilarious response from Jeff :)

        1. Aleyx

          …Not really hilarious from where I stand, at all. Just and to the point, sure, but not hilarious in the least.

          Of course, that may be because I’m French, and WWII has left scars here that, contrary to popular belief in the US (as far as I can read; I still don’t know where it comes from: this is still, AFAIK, mandatory viewing in high-school) are _not_ buried away by our education system. My own village in Northern France, where I’ve spent all my 35 years, was occupied by the German army. My maternal grandmother still tells us today (well, last week actually) about the time when she was a war nurse. We joke about old timers saying things like having to go to work in the snow, ten miles, by foot, uphill, both ways? She pretty much did that at 16.

          Also to clarify, the horror was felt on both sides of the border. On my father’s side, my German grandmother was as relieved of Germany regaining its senses as my French grandfather (a devout Christian…).

          Strangely, I’m not aware of any controversy here concerning the Nazi regime’s supposed atheism. As far as I know, the catholic church’s involvement in the conflict is not denied, and I’ve never heard of anyone suggesting that Hitler or any of his circle were atheists. Sociopaths, psychopaths, insane and plain old monstrous, sure, but never atheists…

          (Then again, we don’t conflate mythologies and contemporary history in classes, so, yeah. Actually we don’t really talk about religion in geography classes either. I’ve always sort of knew that the USA were kinda religious, but it’s only since I’ve stumbled upon the AXP last year or so that I realized how much, and the damage it did there. In fact, I’m not sure I understand even now. It’s blowing my mind, even now. Here, religion is basically an old cultural remnant. Not a lot of church-going people, and most do so mostly for the gossip, and plain old habit. I’d be surprised if more than 10% of Christians believers were serious about all of the dogma if confronted.)

          So again, no, Jeff’s response was not hilarious. But right here I’m thanking him for it and my mémé is giving him a virtual cookie. Well, a virtual apple pie. She doesn’t do cookies.

          Sorry for the mostly OT rant. But hey, I felt I had to.

          1. Lord Narf

            Well, you have to have a very sick sense of humor to find it hilarious, then. I did. I’m a sick monkey.

          2. Martin Wagner

            I suspect what Narf felt hilarious was not Jeff’s reply itself, but the way Jeff so effortlessly blew the minister’s apologetics to smithereens with a single, obvious question.

          3. Lord Narf

            A little of each. Context is always a large part of what makes something funny.

    2. 6.2
      Alicia

      Thing is, this menatlity did help me through a lot of hardships–the idea that I am going through something for a reason cause I am sooo special that god is molding me for a purpose. In hindsight, I recognize just how selfish this was. Why would god for example, guide me relatively unscathed through the traumas of my life and let some couple lose thier kid to cancer? Was I better or more noteworthy? Reminds me of people who thank god when they recover from a illness when so many others lose their battles. What a hateful thing to do.

      1. hausdorff

        No doubt, it can be comforting. But there are potential downsides even to that angle. As you said, it is natural to ask if you are better or more noteworthy than people who don’t get through so unscathed. Some people will answer yes to this question and consider themselves better than everyone else. As far as they are concerned this attitude is endorsed by God!

        1. Alicia

          very true–I have run into such souls *shudder*

  7. 7
    Jasper of Maine

    So the whole horrific exercise was just something that the rapist really needed, in order to learn some kind of empathy lesson, and their role as victim was simply to be a tool for that end?

    How about some vivid nightmares or visions? You know, the sort of things Christians often cite for why they believe in a god at all?

    Is the god really this bad at basic problem solving?

    1. 7.1
      Jasper of Maine

      I swear God would fail miserably if he were to participate in a “Are you more moral than a 5 year old?” game show.

      1. Martin Wagner

  8. 8
    Alberto

    Terrible christian mentality, the thing is, they are not really evil, because if they went through a similar situation (I hope it never happens), they would see how wrong they were.

    But seriously, do we need to be in that position to understand that’s so wrong?, I don’t think so, rape, kidnapping is fuckeeeed up!!

    PS And hello Martin!!

  9. 9
    stever

    If you’re working in an axiomatic system and find that you can derive a contradiction, it’s time to check the axioms. The standard way to test an axiom is to replace it by its negation and see if the contradiction remains. Of the three “omnis” that Christians are so fond of throwing around, the most suspect is omnibenevolence. If you assume that God is a sadist, it all makes sense. That’s why, if forced to pick a religion, I would rather go with Inebrideism:

    God is drunk. He means well, but He’s too fucked up to get it right, and every attempt to correct a mistake leads to another mistake.

    From there, a quick swipe with Ocham’s Razor leaves “no god at all” as the best explanation for observed reality.

    1. 9.1
      Lord Narf

      Sounds similar to my perspective. I don’t even have to go to logical proofs, though. Just go read the Bible. If someone tries to tell me that bastard in the Old Testament is omnibenevolent, they’ve just lost right there, in my eyes and in the eyes of anyone rational.

  10. 10
    doublereed

    That’s really disturbing. I came to the same conclusions, which is why I deduced that it’s all BS. To actually write that stuff down; to actually believe the rape/genocide/torture apologia that you put forth; I can’t imagine it.

    I can’t empathize with this person at all. When I ask my Christian friends about this, they generally give me the answer of “I don’t know,” and straightforward non-answers. They wouldn’t say things like this. No one should say things like this.

  11. 11
    dantalion

    When christian apologists talk about “free will” they mean something entirely different from a will that is free.

    They are not saying humans have a choice in their own actions. They are saying humans can be blamed for god’s mistakes because we chose to eat the fruit. The entire concept of free will as it exists in christian theology is just a shoddy attempt to explain away one of the crippling plot holes in the garden story (and keep us guilty and in need of salvation).

    They do not believe the god they’re talking about has any real concern for free will. They have just heard the words used as an excuse against the problem of evil, and parrot it on the assumption that it must be a good excuse.

    What they actually believe is that god is all powerful and micromanages the world, and constantly interferes with the choices of humans.

    In the real world we are already faced with many situations that compel us to belief or action (or limit what actions are available to us, which kind of makes free will a deceptive concept anyway).

    And the christian holy book contains many examples of god trampling free will. Creating people without knowledge, drowning those who didn’t meet his approval, not letting his prophets refuse to be prophets, commanding the mass murder of those who worshipped other gods and not giving a girl any choice about bearing his child are the type of things we shouldn’t ever see from a god who was as respectful of free will as christians like to claim their god is (when it’s convenient to claim this).

    Consider the premise they are saying this in support of. The core idea there is that Jesus is the christ. What that would mean is that god already intervened so profoundly with human history as to leave all of us completely without the ability to make any free choices ever (unless you consider a choice with a gun to your head free).

    1. 11.1
      Alicia

      Precisley, we have free will and god never, ever, ever intervenes–except to cure Sistah Amanda’s cancer, or help us survive a car crash–or help a football player win a game…

    2. 11.2
      kagekiri

      (unless you consider a choice with a gun to your head free).

      I’m pretty sure they consider atheists and believers as other religions essentially proof that the choice is free. “Oh, those sinners know God exists, they just pretend they believe he doesn’t so that they can sin without feeling bad about it! They deserve what they’re asking for: hell!” That’s what, Romans 2, I think? Along with all the various verses saying God’s status as creator is self-evident in the world? I’ve had the accusations of hedonism and selfishness thrown at me when I told my family I had deconverted.

      But yeah, it’s pretty much a ridiculous version of free will.

      If you really think about it, the only thing that Christian free will gets us is the chance to go to hell. The benefit of having a bunch of worshipers who chose to love you (the bit normally cited as why free will is needed: because without it, love isn’t love) is all on God’s end. God even takes away free will in heaven, as you would no longer be able to sin or even mourn those in hell.

      1. Alicia

        Had a Mormon friend tell me that I became an atheist so I can sin freely–well then–howzabout Christians who sin–like Preachers who cheat or kill thier wives for examples…? They’re not real Christains…*sigh*

        1. Jasper of Maine

          Had a Mormon friend tell me that I became an atheist so I can sin freely

          .. and yet, I’m not. I stopped pirating music/software years ago, while my fundamentalist/moderately religious friends have no problem pirating music, movies, games (literally, stacks of xbox games).

          They used to hop onto a video chat program called “stick cam” specifically to be racist towards black people, trolling them.

          … what am I doing that’s sinning, that I apparently was so eager to do, that I risk career and bodily harm to be an out(ish) atheist?

          1. Alicia

            Precisel, I think that is just projection on thier part. They secretly doubt and probably begrudgingly admire our stance because they want to cut loose from the noose…

  12. 12
    glodson

    The problem of evil is a big one for Christians. So much so that I recently saw one say that the ills of the world were caused by demons. Which I thought created more problems than it solved as it still forced the same questions, and added a few more.

    Another problem is that in this world, god can never be shown to be good. At best, it is a zero-sum game, if given an all-powerful and all knowing being. This being incurs no risk at intervening, and should always be able to pick out the best solution. Unlike us, since we lack power. So there’s risk in interventions. We run the risk of being hurt for the sake of others. We run the risk of making a mistake which turns a bad situation worse. We run the risk of failure. We have real risks, and yet many of us would elect to take those risks if it meant we had a chance to stop the suffering of another.

    Acting to prevent the suffering of another when it requires no real effort on your part and entails no risk is not an act of good. It is the barest minimum of decency.

    Of course, this is a game of pin the blame on the victim. The mindset for these various theodicies to work seem to require the assumption that we deserve all the blame, and god is being super cool if he decides to act.

    Finally, what’s the point of free will when the choice is believe in god or burn forever?

  13. 13
    mechtheist

    How many remember William Lane Craig’s heartfelt response to god’s orderring the dispatch of children with “they were doing the children a marvelous favor” in getting them to heaven that much sooner! Nice.

    Is raping a child so much worse than, say, toasting them to death in a fire? 1381 children, 0-<16, were killed in vehicle accidents in 2011, see

    www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/People/PeopleAllVictims.aspx

    which means as a society we decide to kill that many children so we can get from A to B sooner. I mention this because one of the usual tactics of theists is to use the killing, or often rape, of a child as something that only a monster, or moral relativist, which is the same in their eyes, could possibly say isn't absolutely immoral. It would be quite simple to drastically lower if not eliminate these deaths, say, limit all speed limits to under 10mph, with capital offenses for speeders.

    Where are the cries of evil moral-relativists on this and the wide range of similar choices that ALL countries, and peoples, make? It isn't always wrong to kill a child in horrible ways, there are no absolute morals, sorry, but that’s just reality.

    1. 13.1
      BecomingJulie

      Raping or killing a child could only be justified if it was done in order to prevent something even worse than the rape or killing of a child. The fact that I can’t think of anything worse than that right now does not mean that there is nothing worse.

      1. Lord Narf

        And the omniscient, omnipotent deity couldn’t come up with a better way to prevent that worse thing?

        1. Martin Wagner

          Here’s a scenario: “You must rape and murder this child or else I will press the button on my doomsday device and blow up the whole world!” This would be God’s cue to strike down the doomsday device owner with a massive coronary. He doesn’t, because…? [echo] FREE WILL! [/echo]

          1. Lord Narf

            Yeah, unless the villain’s name was Pharaoh. Then, God could fuck with him as much as he wanted. It’s a rule.

          2. Martin Wagner

            But remember why Pharaoh did what he did! The Lord hardened his heart. Talk about fucking with free will!

          3. Alicia

            Have you ever gotten a sensible answer as to why THAT was okay–all the asnwers I have ever gotten contradict the free will theory quite fabulously. Then they just give up and default to “mysterious ways…”

          4. Martin Wagner

            Pretty much.

          5. Lord Narf

            It would take a new-agey, liberal Christian who dismisses most of the Bible to get around that one.

          6. Lord Narf

            Well, that’s the only coherent way around it, I should say. Inane babble is always an option, with fundies.

          7. theignored

            From what I’ve read of xian apologetics, they seem to dodge this by saying it was metaphorical speech or some cock-up in the translation of the words.

            Their explanation (or dodge) whatever…begins with this statement. The rest of the paragraphs above it seem to be taking shots at both calvinists and non-believers. Sure wastes a lot of time getting to the point:

            Both explanations pertain to the fact that every language has its own way of using certain types of words and phrases that might appear odd to a person not familiar with the language.

            At least they reject Calvinism…

      2. Raymond

        Without trying to sound too argumentative, I have been in a situation where I had to kill a child. When a child is running at you and a bunch of your buddies with explosives strapped to his chest. Can’t help with raping, but killing is sadly necessary sometimes.

        1. Lord Narf

          Yup, that’s one of the situations.

          Child dies from you shooting him in the head.
          vs.
          Child dies from detonating his pack and kills you and a bunch of your buddies along with himself.

          Sucks, but the former is the obvious option. My brother was in Iraq twice, once during the initial invasion. He’s got a few things he won’t talk about but hints at.

        2. Alicia

          So sorry to hear that, would be a difficult sitatuion indeed. I would say that your circumstance, though extremely tragic, is probably quite rare. Many instances of child killings, or at least the circumstances we are referring to, involves predators preying on the innocent for their own pleasure. Again, it comes to intent.

        3. Alicia

          But more to the point, and I am not trying to speak for Martin here but, the arument is not whether or not there are situations in which it is okay to kill a child…or even rape a child. Rather, it’s that we live in a world where such choices CAN exist. Why would a kind God create any kind of reality where a kid could be strapped into a vest of explosives with intent to kill? The scenario ends in the child’s needless death and the deaths of others if his/her mission succeeds. Such brutalities need not happen of course, if we REALLY had some kind of loving overseer. With things being what they are, I can’t see how any Christian can get around PoE.

    2. 13.2
      Alicia

      What I always find funny (funny as in odd, not funny ha-ha) about these arguments is that it makes the assumption that there is like this fifty fifty even split on how just it could possibly be to kill a child. Uhm. No. In most of the nightmare scenarios you can conjure, i.e. child is a demon sent to destroy the world let’s say, this would probably be like .0001 percent of reality based, real world cases in which it would arguably be okay to kill a kid. In MOST cases of child killing/rape/ etc., the perp is just some twisted fuck who got off on it, so even in the realm of probables the argument is destructive, not helpful and disingenuous.

    3. 13.3
      Alicia

      “an addendum:

      Is raping a child so much worse than, say, toasting them to death in a fire? 1381 children, 0-<16, were killed in vehicle accidents in 2011, see

      www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/People/PeopleAllVictims.aspx"

      Back in the horse and buggy days, people, including little ones, could be killed falling under the wheels of a wagon, or being kicked in the head by a mule/horse…these were convenient modes of travel then and folks knew the risks. Even today, a kid can be killed just by slipping on the playground and hitting his head on a rock….If we refuse to pad the playground with styrofoam, does this mean we should be okay with child killin?

      Talk about your logical fallacies…

      Living and life itself has its dangers, espeically when new technology enters into the picture, hell some folks have even been killed by exploding cell phones. That is neither here nor there. The immoral aspect of killing that we speak of has to do with INTENT…no one intends to have a child die in a car or a playground, we try to make them as safe as poissble.

      But, just what are you arguing here? That since we don't bubble wrap the world that it is okay (or not ruled as immoral) for some dude to rape and kill tkids for his pleasure?

  14. 14
    Jenkins

    The problem is that most christians are so invested in their religion, that to say any part of their religion is evil or wrong, is to call them evil or wrong personally (in their head).

  15. 15
    Ermehgerd

    I haven’t read PoE, but based on the quotes from this article, it’s pretty bad. Unfortunately, it looks like logically speaking, this article is even worse. Every single “argument” in this article appeals to “common sense” logic and philosophy. Instead of making an actual point and defending it, the author says, “let’s all agree that child rape is bad and there’s no possible reconciliation of a higher power and such evil” without giving any kind of argument as to why I should believe this. It might appeal to me on an emotional level, but that doesn’t make it a good argument. Good arguments are built on facts and logic, not sarcastic mud-slinging and blind expectation that everyone will agree with you because rape is always bad, you guys.
    That being said, the book itself seems wrought with logical flaws and general explaining away instead of genuine, well thought out contemplation of what is a very difficult issue for most religious people.

    Ted Bundy once said this:
    “Then I learned that all moral judgments are “value judgments,” that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either “right” or “wrong”….I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable “value judgment” that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these “others”? Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as “moral” or “good” and others as “immoral” or “bad”? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me—after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self.”

    And you see Christians going around all the time saying that this means atheism begets immorality and probably rape and murder. But just because Bundy was an atheist and because Bundy was wrong doesn’t mean that atheism has to be wrong. This article is the same drivel, but with the shoe on the other foot. Sure, maybe this book is wrong, but that doesn’t make religion wrong.

    We should all just play nice and respect each other. That’s what I’d like to see. People respecting each others belief systems would be a pretty cool bonus.

    1. 15.1
      Martin Wagner

      Belief systems are not automatically entitled to respect. And as a general rule, I don’t “play nice” with child rape apologists. Nor do I feel a need to “play nice” with some ninny who demands it of me immediately after saying my moral arguments are no better than the self-serving ravings of a serial killer.

      But as to your point here…

      Instead of making an actual point and defending it, the author says, “let’s all agree that child rape is bad and there’s no possible reconciliation of a higher power and such evil” without giving any kind of argument as to why I should believe this.

      Apart from the laughably obvious way in which your attempt at rebutting me ignores roughly 98% of the actual content of my essay, does this quote imply you think there is a way in which the ineffable wishes of some unproven-to-exist “higher power” could in fact create a context in which child rape is justified morally? If so, please present this scenario. Otherwise, I feel entirely comfortable in not needing to argue why child rape is bad, as its badness certainly looks self-explanatory to me, and I suspect to most people who aren’t you or Ted Bundy.

      1. Alicia

        I wish I had the “WIN” dice for this comment.

    2. 15.2
      dantalion

      Belief systems are the main thing preventing people from playing nice.

      I’m all for respecting everyone’s right to their belief system. But why should we respect demonstrably wrong ideas which people believe for silly reasons at great cost to themselves and others?

    3. 15.3
      Raging Bee

      Instead of making an actual point and defending it, the author says, “let’s all agree that child rape is bad and there’s no possible reconciliation of a higher power and such evil” without giving any kind of argument as to why I should believe this.

      We can all agree on that based on the observable, predictable and verifiable harm done by child-rape. The author of the OP didn’t give any arguments because he probably thought he had a grownup audience who already understood why child-rape was wrong. Dreadfully sorry if we overestimated your intelligence.

    4. 15.4
      Deen

      Actually, “If we can all agree to X, and if from X we can conclude Y, then we should all agree to Y” is perfectly valid logic. You might want to argue that X is false, or that there was a mistake in concluding Y from X, but you can’t declare the logic to be invalid without doing either.

    5. 15.5
      Leeor D

      Meh.

      Agreed with Martin on this one — do you really need anybody to argue why child rape is wrong?

      As far as respecting beliefs, fuck that. Sorry. No. I can respect an individual’s RIGHT to believe something, but that’s as far as I go. I am under absolutely no obligation to respect someone’s beliefs, especially when those beliefs are used to suppress my rights every day.

      So nope. I have no respect for the beliefs of three main abrahamic religions nor their deity, yahweh the war bringer.

    6. 15.6
      EnlightenmentLiberal

      We should all just play nice and respect each other. That’s what I’d like to see. People respecting each others belief systems would be a pretty cool bonus.

      This is impossible – at least for me. You cannot be nice to me, respect me, and respect my beliefs, with the meaning that you ascribe to those words. As soon as you hold back objections that you have to my beliefs for fear of “hurting my feelings” or some such, you have already done me a disservice, and that is a far worse insult to me than actually stating your objections to my beliefs.

      I want to know when I’m wrong. I want to know when other people think I’m wrong, and more importantly why. If some friend of mine won’t tell me when I’m wrong “to protect me”, then they won’t be my friend for very long.

  16. 16
    Randall

    “…something that anyone who isn’t utterly diseased between the ears can agree crosses the moral event horizon into utter irredeemability.”

    From whence did this “moral event horizon” come? Who set the standard? How does the human heart have the capability of recognizing evil, except that God has created the standard? The only evil atheist seem to worry over is OPE (Other people’s evil). He does not “make” you stop sinning, yet you would accuse God of not “making” others not sin. God wishes each person to be redeemed from this evil, washed of evil, made right again with His way. He could wipe out evil easily enough by wiping out mankind. Yet His love is patient. And in the end, evil will be punished, and eliminated without your destruction if you would only recognize the creator of morality.

    1. 16.1
      Martin Wagner

      How does the human heart have the capability of recognizing evil, except that God has created the standard?

      And from whence did God set his standard? And why that standard and not others?

      It’s been shown that altruism is an innate human trait, and new research strongly suggests that many animal species apart from humans have notions of ethical behavior. The idea that rational thinking beings could not develop criteria for moral conduct without having it forever explained to them by some divine lawgiver is one of religion’s more contemptible, misanthropic ideas.

      The only evil atheist seem to worry over is OPE (Other people’s evil).

      Oh cute, a new acronym. Still, why shouldn’t we worry about that? People who do evil hurt us, and hurt our friends and loved ones, and our societies. Of course, we must be diligent about our own evils as well.

      And in the end, evil will be punished, and eliminated without your destruction if you would only recognize the creator of morality.

      Yes, again I hear about this so-called “creator of morality” who nonetheless never intervenes to prevent natural evils like earthquakes or tsunamis that kill thousands, nor deeply evil human acts like child rape, even in cases where the rapists are his own priests. And so you’ll have to excuse me for not quite buying your God’s credentials in the “morality creating” department. The point is: If I were in a position to prevent a child being raped, I would. That’s the difference between me and your God. You expect me to accept that a being demonstrably morally inferior to me is the creator of my morality? You’ve got a real mountain to climb there, bud.

      And remember, you believe this God of yours is all-powerful. So it is clear he need not wipe out all of humanity to prevent its worst evils (a thing your storybook says he actually did at least once). He could very simply and easily pick one unconscionable evil — the sexual abuse of children — and prevent it in each specific instance where it is about to occur. This would be far more persuasive a demonstration of his “patient love” to the rest of us than some vague, unproven promise of distant divine justice for evil that does nothing to stop the pain and suffering of the innocent right here and now.

      Basically, you’ve just gone right back to the Appeal to Free Will and failed to grasp the problem. To guys like you, God always has to win, even if little children lose.

      1. Mog

        I may have missed this being mentioned. But if God is truly all powerful and all knowing then why can’t he just figure out a way to get rid of evil without stepping on a persons free will? If he can’t do that then he isn’t all powerful/knowing and if he can but just doesn’t feel like it then he’s evil. It should be pretty clear to everyone by now that if God exists and has the attributes people say he does then it shouldn’t be a problem for him.

        1. Martin Wagner

          Correct. As I noted, “free will” does not necessarily imply an ability to act.

          1. Mog

            I realize this. My point was more to say that even if it did imply an ability to act (Which as you pointed out, it doesn’t.) an all powerful and knowing God would be able to find a way around that without difficulty.

          2. Martin Wagner

            Oh I see.

          3. Mog

            Pretty much. Might be a bit of a confusing statement from me or even something that’s been mentioned before, but I’m new to this so you’ll hopefully excuse that. I love the show by the way.

      2. Randall

        So you argue on, using logic as opposed to religion. I use logic also, and as far as I can see, you have not given logical reasoning for the non-existence of a Creator. In fact, there is not one shred of evidence that God does not exist. There is, however, much evidence that He does exist. Again, you mention morality (you say altruism, but morality is the issue). So where did it come from? Saying it is “innate” does not answer that question. It’s just how we are “made”? That implies a creator. It’s how we “evolved”? That has no factual evidence. Help me out here. Don’t tell me it’s there, tell me where it came from?

        1. Jasper of Maine

          as I can see, you have not given logical reasoning for the non-existence of a Creator.

          Not relevant. We do not have the burden of proof to falsify it, any more than you have a burden of proof to falsify Zeus, Thor, Allah, the Tooth Fairy, etc.

          There is, however, much evidence that He does exist.

          Such as?

          Again, you mention morality (you say altruism, but morality is the issue). So where did it come from?

          I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that this isn’t supposed to be one such evidence. An Argument from Ignorance is not evidence. It’s a logical fallacy.

          Saying it is “innate” does not answer that question.

          I don’t think anyone has said that. The foundational axioms (harm bad, benefit good) come from evolution, and the fact we evolved as a social species, who’ve been naturally selected to work together, found the basis for secular morality. The rest is trial-and-error.

          It’s just how we are “made”? That implies a creator.

          Good thing no one said any such thing.

          It’s how we “evolved”? That has no factual evidence.

          Actually, yes it does. Do a little research. Here’s a casual scan of search results. I should probably compile a better, more complete list at some point.

          http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2010/may/05/physicists-study-how-moral-behaviour-evolved
          http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/How-Humans-Became-Moral-Beings.html
          http://www.academia.edu/2147551/Genetic_Evolution_and_Moral_Choice

          So no, you don’t appear to be using logic. Not when you’re making common logical fallacies left and right.

        2. Jasper of Maine

          (This response will make more sense once my previous reply survives moderation)

          I think I’ll add it to my todo list to take the time to collate some lists of peer reviewed publications for various publications, and put them on Iron Chariots.

          I shake my fist at Google when I do a query of “list of scientific publications regarding the evolution of morality”, and I get a bunch of search results of Amazon trying to sell me popular books.

          1. CaitieCat, getaway driver

            Jasper, you might try Google Scholar – it returns only academic publications. I think it’s at scholar.google.com (I use a bookmark, so I don’t remember the URL if that’s not it, but it’s easily findable). :)

          2. Jasper of Maine

            Thanks! That’s not a bad idea

        3. Raging Bee

          I use logic also, and as far as I can see, you have not given logical reasoning for the non-existence of a Creator.

          I’m still waiting for YOU to give us logical reasoning for the non-existence of faeries, genies, Valkyries, gremlins, succubi, or invisible pink unicorns in my backyard.

          The absence of any evidence for the EXISTENCE of a Creator, and the inability of humans to agree on WHICH Creator(s) are real, even after so many centuries of arguing and looking for proof, is all the evidence I need that none of those Creators are real and none of those claims about a Creator can be trusted.

          1. Sigurd

            Maybe I’mu lucky but I happen to know a Succubus who is desperately in love with a Valkyrie. Of.course being a writer who gives his characters more free will with out the threat of wiping them out than that upstart Babylonian Sun God Yahweh rewrote the texts as giving people.

          2. Sigurd

            As a Norse Heathen I’ve been asked to explain why I think evil exists and the answer is satisfyingly easy to give evil exists because it has always existed and it is not within the power of the Gods to end it. The Gods are not all powerfull they never have been. The Gods are fallible they simply have far more power than humans.

        4. unfogged

          So you argue on, using logic as opposed to religion.

          Given that religion is just a set of unproven assertions it would not make sense to use it to demonstrate anything.

          I use logic also, and as far as I can see, you have not given logical reasoning for the non-existence of a Creator. In fact, there is not one shred of evidence that God does not exist. There is, however, much evidence that He does exist.

          The burden of proof is on the person making the positive claim. The atheist position is not “god does not exist” but rather “there is not enough evidence to accept the claim that there is a god”. Since you believe that there is sufficient evidence please provide some. Before wasting time, please note that personal experience can’t be distinguished from delusion and the bible is no more convincing than the Iliad and the Odyssey or any of thousands of other stories with supernatural elements.

          Again, you mention morality (you say altruism, but morality is the issue). So where did it come from? Saying it is “innate” does not answer that question. It’s just how we are “made”? That implies a creator. It’s how we “evolved”? That has no factual evidence. Help me out here. Don’t tell me it’s there, tell me where it came from?

          Saying it is “just how we are made” is only another way of saying it is “just how we are”. It does not imply a purposeful creator. As for how we evolved, the amount of factual evidence is enormous. I suggest you start at http://talkorigins.org. Martin already provided links to evidence that simple moral concepts can be seen in other social species. The emergence of morality is part of the evolution of social species. The imposition of arbitrary rules from an authority figure is not morality, it is just blind obedience.

        5. Martin Wagner

          Since I see other commenters have gotten a good head start on schooling you on most of the mistakes you’ve made here, I’ll pick up on the one they haven’t. If our morality comes from your God, where did he get it from? Is something moral just because God says? Or does God say things are moral because they have demonstrably beneficial consequences (in which case, these could be perceived by us through reason alone and we don’t need a God to clarify them for us)? If we only behave morally because God has given us a list of rules to follow, aren’t we just mindlessly obeying authority without actually bothering to understand the function morality performs in a social context? What kind of “morality” takes the form of simple obedience?

          When you demand I back up my position after my reply included a number of links you clearly didn’t bother to read, you come across as dishonest and poorly equipped to argue.

          1. Randall

            “…where did he get it from” in regard to morality is the same logical fallacy as who created the creator.

          2. Martin Wagner

            Nope, you have it backwards. Christians claim everything must have a creator — except the creator. That is a logical fallacy called special pleading. (Addendum: I see some of you are already on the case. Don’t hesitate to do this. Today is actually about to be a crazy busy day for me and I will be AFK for a while.)

            You’re simply dodging the question at this point, Randall. What is the source of God’s moral precepts? Why does God call moral the things he calls moral, and why should we agree? And even if moral precepts did originate from God, what standards are you applying to determine God’s moral precepts are, in fact, moral?

          3. Jasper of Maine

            How is it a logical fallacy? Which one? In both cases, the actual logical fallacy is “Special Pleading”, and it’s typically the answer given by theists for each.

          4. Lord Narf

            Asking who created the creator is not a logical fallacy, Randall. It’s pointing out your special pleading argument. Please name the logical fallacy that you think it is.

          5. Jasper of Maine

            I should probably stop role playing a piranha and let Martin answer.

          6. Lord Narf

            Heh. Nah, you’re good.

          7. Lord Narf

            Martin can comment wherever he wants, because he’s cool like that. :D

          8. Jasper of Maine

            I am 37.3 surprised that Randal, unlike his esteemed predecessors, fails to address any points made outside of lame nitpicks, ignores any accusations of logical fallacies, and fails to provide any evidence as requested.

            37.3 surprised, I am.

          9. Lord Narf

            I still want to know which logical fallacy he thinks that is.

          10. Martin Wagner

            It’s the fallacy of “Hey, you’re not supposed to question my God!”

          11. Jasper of Maine

            It really is typical. I’m a nerd about epistemology, and I value it more than the conclusions it produces. I’d love to hash out these topics with people like Randall, but as usual, they don’t want to have these discussions. The only goal is to convert the non-believer, and whatever the fastest route they can take, regardless of whether it’s actually valid or not, they’ll take it.

            I was engaged in endless arguments with who I call “The Brick Wall”, and I’d get this nonstop. I’d go through his arguments, thoroughly refute and correct each point, and he’d just ignore everything I said, pick up on some mostly irrelevant nitpick, and focus completely at that. He didn’t care about the discussion, or what was actually true or false… the only thing that mattered was scoring another victory against the atheist.

            Randall is only mildly better here… he’s already demonstrated a complete disinterest at even the most rudimentary level of intellectual honesty, or engagement on the topic. Like the brick wall, he attempts to adapt to the language of epistemology and logic that he hears from us, but only vaguely understands the concepts behind them, severely botching them in the process. We end up receiving word salad that appears to have epistemological and logical key words in it, but that’s about it.

            Damn it, I want to discuss these things!

          12. Alicia

            I feel your pain–and I think I may resign from these talks for a minute or two because–man–the stupid–it does burn…lol

          13. Lord Narf

            It’s the fallacy of “Hey, you’re not supposed to question my God!”

            I’m … not finding that one on the list. Perhaps someone needs to add it to Wikipedia’s page on the subject.

          14. EnlightenmentLiberal

            “…where did he get it from” in regard to morality is the same logical fallacy as who created the creator.

            Two simple questions.

            One: Are you infallible?

            Two: You believe there exists your christian god, and thus you believe that there is some set of circumstances that could convince you that you are talking to your christian god. If that christian god ordered you to rape some child purely for its own amusement, would you?

            You can’t say it can’t happen, because you (hopefully) just answered that you are not infallible, but your christian god is. The heart of your argument is that the christian god is the author of morality (whatever that means) and you know but an approximation of it, as it has been revealed to you. So, would you rape the child purely for the christian god’s amusement? Or are you infallible?

            PS: If you prefer, an equivalent phrasing is: Ok, let’s suppose the christian god created the universe for the purposes of argument. It can strike me down now with but a gesture. Why should I do what it says?

        6. EnlightenmentLiberal

          In fact, there is not one shred of evidence that God does not exist.

          Every time I drop a hammer and it falls, that’s evidence against god. Every time someone prays to get their leg grown back, and it doesn’t happen, that’s evidence against god. Every time we do an experiment and it conforms with the usual materialistic reductionist view of the world as merely physics, that’s evidence against god.

          If you come back and try to define god to include unobservable aka untestable claims, then the conversation is over, because I both do not understand what you are talking about, and I do not care what you are talking about.

          The history of progress of knowledge is indisputable – every time someone has posited a testable god claim, never have such claims been verified, and very frequently such claims have been shown to be complete fictions, and the scientific advancements that arose opened up whole new fields of knowledge. This inexorable progress of history of knowledge towards science and physics and away from magic and faeries and gods is indisputable to any honest person in possession of the facts. How many times do we need to show that the god claims are false? How many? Learn your history, for you are doomed and repeating it.

    2. 16.2
      Raging Bee

      How does the human heart have the capability of recognizing evil, except that God has created the standard?

      How do we distinguish good from evil? Easy — by observing the consequences of actions, and labelling them good or evil based on whether they are beneficial or harmful to other people. Even early Christian philosophers like St. Augustine understood that people have the capacity for such reasoning whether or not they believe in Jesus or ever read one word of the Bible.

      Seriously, dude, do you really need a voice from the Heavens to tell you that certain actions may be harmful to yourself or someone else? I don’t — and if you do, then you’re really not someone whose ideas I need to listen to.

    3. 16.3
      Deen

      How does the human heart have the capability of recognizing evil, except that God has created the standard?

      How does the human heart have the capability of recognizing God’s standard? If the example that God sets in pretty much every case we see is to do nothing? And if the argument to counter that is basically that we can’t understand what God’s plan is?

    4. 16.4
      ayamesohma

      Randall, your Babble doesn’t even tell you that inflicting suffering is wrong unless no reasonable alternative is available. Your bible isn’t a guide to morality. It isn’t even an introductory guide to determining personal morals and societal ethics.

  17. 17
    Mog

    An interesting article. I’ve only gotten serious about Atheism and religion in general within the last few years after being brought up in the Anglican Church over here in England. After reading this it hit me that I’d surprisingly never heard of this argument before. Although admittedly I’ve only been seriously questioning my former beliefs for a few years now although I now consider myself to be an Atheist. The problem of evil was just never really touched on and no one asked about it. Maybe I should ask someone affiliated with the church and see what answer they give. I’m glad I live in England because although we don’t have separation of church and we actually have bishops in the house of lords, I didn’t really have to worry about “coming out” to my family because most of the people over here are much more easy going about it.

  18. 18
    Mark Tilbrook

    For the record, I talk to children who have been victims of rape every day, 5 days a week and not a single one of them has told me that God has helped them after he sat there watching them.

    In fact more often than not when a child mentions God to me, it’s usually to say that they’ve been told by their parents/pastor that they will go to hell if they don’t do x, y, z.

    As always, the most vulnerable are often the least heard.

  19. 19
    Lord Narf

    As we see from the friend’s responses, theodicy isn’t so much an exercise in rebutting the Problem of Evil as making excuses for it. It often falls back on appealing to God’s incomprehensibility to the minds of mankind.

    I love when you get this sort of thing.

    Okay, so God is incomprehensible … but you know he’s omni-benevolent. How do you know he’s all good and all loving? How were you able to determine that, if he’s incomprehensible?

    Ah, he told you. I see. My sister also knew that her boyfriends in high school loved her, because they told her how sorry they were and how much they loved her, after beating her.

    I’m not particularly a fan of the PoE argument, but I still enjoy watching Christians babble stupid shit about it.

  20. 20
    Lord Narf

    I just had a thought.

    Has anyone ever heard a Calvinist use the free-will argument? I bet some of them have, because they don’t even know their own dogma.

    1. 20.1
      Raging Bee

      Yes, I have, and it’s a sickeningly batshit-ridiculous spectacle that will make you feel dirty just trying to get your head around it. The three principles of Ingsoc make more sense.

      1. Lord Narf

        Well, at least Ingsoc is built around the contradictions, instead of in spite of them. It’s more honest than apologetics.

    2. 20.2
      Deen

      Yeah, I have, but it’s not necessarily because they don’t know their own dogma. They’ll just argue that free will is somehow perfectly compatible with predeterminism, because magic.

      1. Lord Narf

        Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh …

        :D

      2. Jasper of Maine

        It was my understanding that they simply straight up don’t believe in free will.

        1. Lord Narf

          Yeah, but I’m sure that many of them lack logical consistency and will use free-will arguments, anyway.

  21. 21
    Carrie Castle Lafferty

    Comment submitted: So God allows the rape to happen so then that child will grow up with the same sick impulses? Isn’t that what they find that pedophiles were usually victims and the whole vicious cycle repeats? Well played God Well played.

  22. 22
    FarEastPoke

    Those who believe in Karma and / or reincarnation might say that the child being raped raped the rapist as a child in a previous life, and that the victim will eventually victimize the other in the next life. The two have to sort it out between them if either of them are to ever get out of this vicious cycle. So here we have another belief system that blames the victim whenever an evil event occurs. Karma fairs a bit better as an explanation where free will fails but still makes the god in charge of setting up such a system seem completely twisted. There is just no getting past the PoE if you’re any kind of theist.

    1. 22.1
      Houndentenor

      Ideas like karma and an afterlife and reincarnation are used to convince people who are being treated like shit in this life that things will be better later if only they accept the crap being handed to them. It’s a tool for the powerful to control the rest of society. Once people realize this is all there is, they rise up and demand justice and human rights.

  23. 23
    Deen

    I always want to ask the people who use the free will argument against the problem of evil whether they believe that there is no suffering in heaven, and if so, whether they think there is free will in heaven. If there is, then suffering is not an unavoidable consequence of free will. If there is no free will in heaven, then free will is apparently not a greater good, and it’s not an unavoidable necessity. Whether there is free will in heaven or not, either way it can’t be an excuse for the existence of evil.

    1. 23.1
      Alicia

      I like that–will use.

    2. 23.2
      Catrambi

      Nice. But I’m pretty sure the standard response to this argument goes something like:

      In heaven everybody will be more enlightened and won’t have any need or desire to make other people suffer. And, of course, there are no outside causes for suffering either, since it’s heaven and all. Everybody is in total bliss all the time, since they’re with gawd, and even if bad things could happen in heaven (which they totally can’t) those would seem so miniscule compared to the eternal bliss of chilling with gawd.

      In short, there’s no suffering in heaven because heaven is a cool place and Earth isn’t. Thus, suffering is not an unavoidable consequence of free will in heaven, but on Earth it is, because Earth is “fallen” or whatever.

      Yeah.

      1. Deen

        Of course, that response completely avoids addressing the objections.

  24. 24
    grumpyoldfart

    I’ve had Christians tell me there is no such thing as evil. Everything that happens is good; not always as good as we may have hoped, but still good, not evil.

    If a child is raped nothing evil has occurred. The victim just happened to be in a place where there was less than the usual amount of good.

    And the rapist is not evil, just less good than you and me.

    1. 24.1
      jdoran

      I think that’s the point where I’d ask them to write down what they thought was good about child rape, sign it, and make copies that they could hand out to their friends, family, and employer.

    2. 24.2
      Alicia

      Say whuuuuut. That brother is crazy.

    3. 24.3
      brianpansky

      haha, well, that’s sorta a word game that forgets the original question.

      why the fuck does god let it happen?

      also, there is such a thing as immense “suffering”, it may be a word that is less easy to play games with. but who knows with sufficiently determined trolls.

      also, nice jdoran.

  25. 25
    Lord Narf

    By the way, guys, we’ve got a fundie invasion going on over on Aron’s blog. http://freethoughtblogs.com/aronra/2013/05/07/if-you-are-up-for-a-protest-of-ken-ham-will-be-in-texas-promoting-creationism-to-homeschoolers/

    Lilandra’s post apparently got mentioned on Ken Ham’s AiG Facebook page, so we’ve had a handful coming in from over there. Jump in and join the fun, if you’re so inclined.

    1. 25.1
      Jasper of Maine

      Bah, they’re mostly picked over at this point.

      1. Lord Narf

        There will be more, I’m sure.

        1. Alicia

          I wouldn’t even have to see the blog to know they were trounced, backed into corners and more than likely resorted to name calling, praying for us or threatening us with hell…lol

          1. Lord Narf

            Mostly, we never hear from them again, after the first drive-by comment. We had one particularly insane one, though, who made three posts about how hateful and bigoted we are.

          2. Alicia

            As he proceeds to be hateful and bigoted–lol. Typical.

          3. Lord Narf

            The commenter is a she, if the name is any indicator. I wouldn’t say she was being hateful and bigoted, as much as hysterical and over-reactionary.

        2. Alicia

          I have often wondered if they do that–gather en masse to try and put us in our wee little places. I have often found myself arguing one theist to find I am suddenly surrounded by three or four. LOL. And why? If they are on the side of right–why even go there…?

          1. Lord Narf

            Helps that I’m about 6’1″, 220 pounds, and lift weights with 65 or 75 pound dumbbells on each arm, I guess. And I’m loud, from dealing with my deaf mother, all the time. I probably fill a bit more space than you and make them keep their distance.

            It also helps if you’re not afraid to interrupt them midstream and ask them questions about something stupid they just said.

            If you mean online, on Aron’s blog, I’m not getting the sense of any organized effort, on their part, just random people who wandered over at Ken’s urging. We’re just getting completely unassociated comments full of unrelated claims. I haven’t seen any of them attempt to support something that one of the others said.

          2. Alicia

            Ah I see, I see–and I mean primarily online–I try to keep my head down in real life, which is why these forums are so wonderful…lol

  26. 26
    Catrambi

    The religious response to secular morality usually boils down to complaining that it seems arbitrary or at least difficult. At least one commenter in this thread was complaining that the rule “don’t hurt people” had to be accompanied by qualifiers, so that: “don’t hurt people (unless you have to, or unless the alternative causes more harm in the long run) on purpose” – which is, nedless to say, a more complicated rule than just “don’t hurt people”. The argument seems to be that secular morality is too difficult for humans to follow, and thus we need divine command. It strikes me that this, like so many other religious arguments, is actually a Simpsonism, in that it has already been stated more eloquently by Homer Simpson. This particular one goes:

    If something is hard to do, then it’s probably not worth doing.

    In a slightly different context, a similar idea has been proposed by Bart:

    Can’t win – don’t try. Got it.

    1. 26.1
      Alicia

      Indeed–God is an overseer who tries to make sure we play nice apparently. Funny thing though how Christian countries have higher crime rates than many agnostic ones. Here in the US alone the jails are filled with god fearing folk…hummmmm….

  27. 27
    Houndentenor

    I think this was a tipping point for me. I usually credit Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion for my deconversion but if I wasn’t almost all the way there I’d have never purchased his book. The final straw for me was Darfur. What kind of omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolant deity would allow 10 year old children to be raped and tortured. None would. Even a weak, powerless, morally compromised being would be horrified that such a thing would occur. To do nothing? That deity either doesn’t exist or is unworthy of respect much less worship. Anyone here with the ability to intervene in such a situation (and we could give countless examples) while innocent people cried out for help only to be ignored (the recent case in Cleveland for current example) would do so. But people believe in a God that didn’t? How? Why? It makes no sense and requires a high level of cognitive dissonance to rationalize that.

  28. 28
    RJ

    I think the way to explain why bad things happen and God doesn’t do something to stop it, ie. rape, is because of free will. If we didn’t have free will we wouldn’t be able to choose from an action/choice that is good or that is bad. For God to stop evil actions, evil in the world he’d have to stop all of it. For God to bring a halt to evil it would require either revoking man’s capacity for choice or annihilating every living person. Evil is a bi-product of God giving people free will, the ability to choose evil or good.
    Many want to say the existence of evil is evidence that God does not exist, or at the very least he is either incapable of doing anything about it or does not care about the plight of man. Norman Geisler asserts, “The very fact that evil is troubling to atheists or naturalists logically leads to a standard of good or justice beyond the world.” That is to say, those who appeal to the fact that God is evil are doing so on the basis of His existence. Without an overriding, external standard of right and wrong, morality merely becomes one person’s opinion against another’s.
    I think this story is a good story/analogy.
    A man, troubled by the amount of evil and suffering in the world, petitions God. “Why do you allow the maleficent deeds to continue without intervening?” “If you are all loving and all powerful, why not put a stop to the evil that takes place?” God decides to answer, “Where shall I start? How about I eradicate those that take human life with disregard?” The man was slightly startled, but he angrily replied, “Yes, get rid of all those murderers.” “Who will be next, God inquired.” “How about I annihilate all those who abuse others sexually?” “Yes God, the man replied, remove all of the rapist, child molesters, and those that take advantage of others.” “Maybe next we should remove all of the thieves from the world,” God petitions. “Absolutely, there is no room for those that steal for others in this world,” said the man. “We are making considerable progress. Shall I remove all of the liars next?” The man stuttered to answer. God repeats the question, “Should all the liars be struck dead now?” The man said nothing. He now understood that for evil to be eradicated, all of mankind would need to be demolished.
    Would you rather have free will with the potential for suffering, or a lack of free will devoid of any pain.?

    1. 28.1
      Martin Wagner

      RJ, did you even read the original post? The appeal to free will, and every point in your entire argument that attempts to support it, is utterly destroyed there.

      Without an overriding, external standard of right and wrong, morality merely becomes one person’s opinion against another’s.

      Categorically and demonstrably false. Human beings are not sharks. We are a social species, and what we call moral behaviors have developed as an emergent social phenomenon. When human beings get along, we have successful societies and species survival. When we don’t get along, we have the opposite. We have a word for people who think morals are just a matter of their own opinion, and engage in behaviors outside the social contract: criminals.

      As for this alleged “overriding, standard of right and wrong,” even if such a thing existed, what would it be based on? And how would you determine it’s the correct standard of right and wrong?

      This has been discussed in exhaustive detail in this thread. You should try to read, comprehend, and bring something new to the table, before charging in with arguments that were flushed down the commode 100 comments ago.

      1. Alicia

        Don’t think he read the post–no…

    2. 28.2
      brianpansky

      a passive aggressive troll for a god that can’t distinguish between lying and murder?

      are you TRYING to make this god look ridiculous?

      Not to mention the primitive form of justice employed, maybe you should check out the recent justice post over at brute reason.

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason/2013/05/05/blogathon-restorative-justice-for-sexual-assault/

      the all-powerful and all-knowing god should be able to be a bit therapeutic, one would think. maybe even nurturing, like a parent.

      1. brianpansky

        *by theraputic I do not mean AFTER the crime is committed.

    3. 28.3
      Buddylee103

      RJ I see another problem with what you stated in this sentence ” Evil is a bi-product of God giving people free will, the ability to choose evil or good.” according to this statement this would mean free-will doesn’t exist in heaven, if it did, then heaven would be evil and would be no different than life today. If free will doesn’t exist in heaven, then God could have essentially created man without free will and we could have skipped all this b.s. to begin with. I read many comments from Christians stating; “God created free will because he doesn’t want robots” but, in the end, he basically has robots and you are still left with the problem of evil.

      1. Martin Wagner

        You can hit a Christian with this conundrum as follows:

        XIAN: God created free will because he doesn’t want us to be mindless robots, and evil is just a consequence of having free will.
        YOU: Is there free will in heaven?
        XIAN: (most likely answer) Yes.
        YOU: But is there evil in heaven?
        XIAN: No.
        YOU: Then it’s possible for there to be a place where one can exercise free will, but there is no evil?
        XIAN: (wary of a trap) …I guess.
        YOU: Then why not just make this life like that?

        1. Alicia

          THIS why you are one of my fave pundits and hosts Martin–must steal–MUST!

        2. Jasper of Maine

          Of, if they say no, there’s no free will in heaven, then apparently he can’t help but create mindless robots anyway.

          1. Lord Narf

            More to the point, that would suck, and I don’t want to go to a place like that.

          2. Alicia

            Excellent points guys! Posted the Exchange in a few places I frequent to get feedback–My Xtians friends have remained strangely silent…in particular the one who claimed I am just an Atheist so I can sin without guilt…

  29. 29
    Buddylee103

    Excellent approach to the free will problem, Martin. I can, however, see a Christian wiggling their way out of that one by stating that we did have free will and no evil prior to the fall of man, they would simply claim that it was man’s disobedience which caused evil to come in to existence, but that could easily be rebutted with the point I originally brought up. I wonder if their version of heaven includes another fucking forbidden tree, because if it doesn’t then I blame the tree for all of our problems. Usually I don’t like venturing this far into the Christian’s imagination land because it always seems that the laws of magic can change, conveniently, at a moments notice.

    1. 29.1
      Martin Wagner

      Remember what that tree was, too. It was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Meaning that if they ate of it, Adam and Eve would have had moral and intellectual agency. Take Christian myths at face value, and it sounds like what God wanted really were obedient robots all along.

      1. Buddylee103

        Yeah, which brings up yet another flaw for those who believe in the literal Genesis account. If man had no way to determine good from evil, in the beginning, then how can you hold them accountable for disobeying god? I’ve read Genesis a few times and my interpretation was God wanted humans to remain ignorant from the beginning. Back to the point, I wonder if the Christian friend referenced in this blog believes that our justice system interferes with god’s free will, in a sense we are interfering when we arrest and punish murderers, rapists, and thieves, maybe he should be asked if it would be okay to let all those criminals free to allow them to repent on their own time.

  30. 30
    AvalonXQ

    I bet there are far fewer child rapes in Singapore than in the US.

    We could greatly reduce the occurance of child rape just by ignoring the Fourth Amendment and subjecting all adults to constant surveillance.

    And yet, we don’t. So while you claim that permitting child rape under any circumstances makes you a bad human being, the truth is that we do not live in the society that is OPTIMAL for preventing child rape. We are precisely guilty of the thing you’re accusing God of doing in allowing bad things to happen in order to preserve freedom.

    So, not only is this not a “headshot” against Christianity, it’s too full of hypocrisy to even be a good argument.

    1. 30.1
      Martin Wagner

      You’re overlooking a non-trivial detail.

      In a material world, where human beings must form rational, law-abiding societies that at the same time respect individual rights and freedoms (including privacy), we understand that people will fall through the cracks, that sociopaths will exist, that the eye of enforcement cannot be everywhere at all times, and that there will still be innocent victims of crime. You try your best to minimize this.

      But God, at least in the minds of Christians, is not simply a divine analog for how we’d go about our business in a secular way. No one claims human law enforcement is omniscient or omnipotent or all-powerful in their reach, but believers do claim this about their God. In a world where an omniscient all-seeing eye is scanning you from Heaven, you’re already in a world without 4th amendment protection.

      Ariel Castro could (and did) rape two captive women for ten years in complete secrecy, with law enforcement none the wiser. But Christians believe that God did know, and even watched, these atrocities happen, yet did not a thing to rescue the women and punish their assailant. Throughout the world, there are countless innocent, undeserving victims of horror, many of whom are out of the reach of human help but not out of the reach of an all-powerful deity. If humans could reach them, they’d help. God, who can reach them, does not.

      If this is the being you wish to believe in, fine. Just don’t go claiming this being is the source of my morality, and that I lack a moral compass without belief in him. A being whose inviolable policy is total inaction in preventable moral atrocities is no moral example. If you witness someone raping a child and can stop it yourself, you would (hopefully) do so. If you witness someone raping a child and call the police, they will come to put a stop to it. If you witness someone raping a child, and pray to God to intervene, nothing will happen at all, period. If the child is helped by a by-stander or a cop, Christians will give their God the credit, and point to some imaginary notion of divine punishment in an unproven afterlife as justification for their God’s inaction when action really would have counted.

      So yeah…pow. That’s a headshot.

    2. 30.2
      Alicia

      Talk about your straw men arguments. As Martin says here, and I heartily concur, men are not all knowing, all powerful beings. We set up laws as best as we can to protect the innocent. We also attempt to bring justice to those who are harmed by rape and abuse. Sometimes the poor little ones fall through the cracks in spite of our best efforts. However, DECENT human beings try to stop abuse and rape. Apparently, your omnipotent, omnibenevolent being does not , even though he easily could with his perfect all-powerfullness and stuff. THAT IS the difference and no amount of smug, intellectual dishoensty on your part will erase that.

      Christiians say that we should not measure God by a man’s standard. You’re right–he is supposed to be BETTER than us–yet he has not even the morality of a five year old.

      Also, it is about intent–no one with any humanity to them purposefully sets up society to allow rape and murder. These things occur because some individuals are motivated to do evil for a number of reasons. You claim that God allows free will–but in his allowance, evil reigns supreme. Gee, that is somesuper smart, righteous, know how to set up the world, all mighty god you got there. Some god indeed.

      1. AvalonXQ

        “Talk about your straw men arguments. As Martin says here, and I heartily concur, men are not all knowing, all powerful beings. We set up laws as best as we can to protect the innocent.”

        No, we don’t. We set up laws as best we can to protect the innocent WHILE ALSO PRESERVING INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM. Laws which were ONLY designed to protect the innocent without any concern for freedom, would be very different than the laws we have.

        “Also, it is about intent–no one with any humanity to them purposefully sets up society to allow rape and murder. These things occur because some individuals are motivated to do evil for a number of reasons.”

        Which, again, is precisely the way it is described to work for the Christian God. The problem is that you believe omnipotence somehow stops a being from having to make cost-benefit analyses — as though all possible ways a universe can be created are exactly equal in every way EXCEPT for the existence of moral choices with consequences, as though taking those choices out of the universe wouldn’t change anything.

        But anyone who’s ever built a fictional universe knows better, and the constant refrain of “but it’s God” doesn’t suddenly mean that no concern should be taken for freedom or some other attribute that just minimized harm. A universe with no sentient beings at all is a zero-harm universe, but surely we can see why adding sentient beings might add value to a universe. Adding free will agents further adds the ability for moral evil, and yet free will agency may provide sufficient value for allowing it to make sense.

        1. Alicia

          No, I believe an omnipotent god, with the power to do ANYTHING, could create a system where kids do not have to get raped to make whatever point said Entity is trying to make (or grant his creatures free will –whatever that means).

          I do think a perfect system protects the innocent as well as safeguards our freedoms…sometimes they are at odds but not always mutually exclusive. No, I would not change any of our current freedoms, but would only seek that we remain diligent to capturing people who commit crimes and and aid victims who are harmed by unprovoked violence. Just because I want to safeguard liberty doesn’t mean I am down with child killin and rape’…what kind of sick, twisted argument is that???

          The world sucks because some individuals are dark hearted and no amount of freedom restr’icitng laws will change their intent. FYI, even in SINGAPORE laws are broken, less often sure, but broken all the same. So, taking away liberty does not dissuade malicious intent. That is neither here nor there and has nothing to do with a so called CREATOR’S ability to make an entirely diffferent kind of Universe and rule set.

          Red Herring indeed.

          Just so you know, the mysterious ways thing just doesn’t cut if for me, especially when I look in the eyes of a victim of abuse or violence. Sorry.

          By the bye, are you attempting to tell me that we have a God in place who would justify evil against the innocent as a counterbalance to free will, the same free will he supposedly gave to us, when it was well within this beings power to create another type of reality devoid of murder and rape?

          Then I say KEEP that god all to yourslef and have at it hoss. I don’t want him/her/it cause he/she/it sounds like an asshole.

    3. 30.3
      Dalillama, Schmott Guy

      We could greatly reduce the occurance of child rape just by ignoring the Fourth Amendment and subjecting all adults to constant surveillance.

      No, we actually can’t. Constant surveillance of all adults would require at least twice as many people doing the surveillance then were present in the country (the watchers have to sleep sometime). It is not possible to do what you are advocating here, therefore supposing it makes for a pretty stupid argument.

      1. Alicia

        The whole “you must obliterate freedom to ensure the safety of all and if you don’t advocate that idea then you are all for kiddie rape” argument lost me a few posts ago, esp since I can’t figure out how that lets an omnipotent being off the hook for anything.

        1. Lord Narf

          That’s the problem I’ve seen with most of what he’s said. He keeps making arguments as if his god is as limited and fallible as us. His arguments don’t fly when you’re trying to make excuses for an omnipotent, omniscient being.

  31. 31
    AvalonXQ

    “In a material world, where human beings must form rational, law-abiding societies that at the same time respect individual rights and freedoms (including privacy), we understand that people will fall through the cracks, that sociopaths will exist, that the eye of enforcement cannot be everywhere at all times, and that there will still be innocent victims of crime. You try your best to minimize this.”

    Except that you DON’T try your best to minimize this — to the extent that you are not willing to give up your fundamental freedoms. You recognize that you are not willing to prevent horrible things AT ALL COSTS — that you are willing to live in a society with a higher level of crime in order to get the benefits that you believe this society provides. At least, I am. Are you saying you’re not?

    If I could prove that eliminating the Fourth Amendment in our country would prevent 5% of all child rapes, would you do it?

    1. 31.1
      Martin Wagner

      Good job ignoring everything I said about the difference between human beings and supposedly omniscient, omnipotent, divine ones that we are told invented our moral sense in the first place.

      Regardless of the society we live in, if I witnessed a child being raped and was in a position to stop it, I would do it. God is in such a position, and does not. That’s the issue.

      Your objection is a red herring. I already know I’m not all powerful, and that I live in an imperfect world. And I don’t see any reason to believe your claim that all child rape and similar crimes could be prevented by my giving up legal rights. We all could give up every right under the Constitution we have, and crimes could easily still occur.

      1. AvalonXQ

        “And I don’t see any reason to believe your claim that all child rape and similar crimes could be prevented by my giving up legal rights. We all could give up every right under the Constitution we have, and crimes could easily still occur.”

        We can see that rates of violent crime are signficantly lower in certain countries without civil liberties, so I’m not willing to concede that point.

        I would still like an answer to my question, and in any event I’LL answer it — I WOULD NOT be willing to repeal the Fourth Amendment, even if it could be shown to prevent one or more child rapes. Hopefully we agree that someone taking this position HAS NOT failed as a human being; you seem to acknowledge from earlier that having a free society should be a constraint on what steps we will take to reduce crime.

        And here’s where the hypocrisy comes in — your original argument was predicated on the idea that any human being should be willing to prevent any rape of any child AT ALL COSTS and UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, and your indictment of the Christian God was based on that. Yet we know that that simply isn’t the case — we believe in trade-offs like personal freedom and due process even when these things might result in crime and therefore human suffering. We recognize that personal liberty has COSTS, and we agree to pay those costs.

        So now to show that God fails under the problem of evil you have to show that, unlike with human calculus, for God preventing suffering must be COSTLESS. This is where free will enters the picture — a universe in which human beings cannot choose to inflict real harm on each other is not a world that is morally equivalent to this world. So God’s decision to change the rules (or eliminate them altogether) to disallow these things to happen would be at the COST of having genuine free moral agents in the world at all.

        And this would be a fundamentally different world, as even those of us involved with RPGs and SF recognize — suffering and moral choices with real consequences are core to the human experience; even very VERY different worlds from ours in fiction still preserve these elements (or the work is pretty much obsessed with how they’re missing, like the very excellent novella “The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect”). We can’t get away from them.

        I suspect that you’re going to try to dodge this issue by digging deeper and deeper into “omnipotence,” but there’s no reason to believe that it’s even conceptually possible to have a world with a moral dimension and no moral choices, or a world with moral choices that are all meaningless. You’re welcome to argue that if YOU were God, you would PAY these costs to have a pain-free world… but if you’re not even willing to pay the much milder costs we DO have access to, why should we believe you, or even believe it would be the right decision?

        1. Martin Wagner

          We can see that rates of violent crime are signficantly lower in certain countries without civil liberties, so I’m not willing to concede that point.

          Citation needed. Countries that deny civil liberties are those that usually have draconian laws doing so. The countries with the highest per capita murder rates, however (like Honduras, El Salvador, and Ivory Coast), tend to be generally lawless hellholes, torn apart by war and economic ruin, and lacking any strong central governmental body to enforce laws.

          your original argument was predicated on the idea that any human being should be willing to prevent any rape of any child AT ALL COSTS and UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, and your indictment of the Christian God was based on that.

          This is a clumsy attempt at slippery-sloping my argument in the interest of defending God’s moral failings. Look, why not just keep sliding down that slope to the bottom? We could easily rid the Earth of child rape, and indeed all crime, forever, simply by locking every human being into a small cell from the moment of birth, feeding them through tubes and educating them by computer, so that they never physically interact with any other human. If you do not support this, then obviously you’re not willing to do all you can to prevent crime, and thus you are a hypocrite to criticize the failure of a supposed all-powerful moral authority who fails (and in fact refuses) to prevent preventable crimes in situations where he can do so, and where doing so would undeniably improve the quality of life in society and redound to his everlasting credit. Really, that’s how bad your rebuttal is.

          Your characterization of the absolutism of my position seems to stem from your reading of this part in the original.

          The answer is: “There is, without exception, never a circumstance in which a child should have to endure sexual violation of any kind.”

          And I hold to that. This does not, however, imply that the only valid method anyone should support for obliterating child rape is the eradication of all human civil liberties. Again, slippery slope. Human beings are not the all-powerful ones under discussion here. We know we have a flawed world, in which we do the best we can to establish laws and moral guidelines to minimize suffering. Your rebuttal is rooted in some bizarre binary thinking (“total freedom or no freedom”), and the idea that there is only ever one real solution to dealing with a problem, and it’s always the most extreme one. Might there be ways to solve one set of problems (such as minimizing and eliminating certain crimes) without introducing another (turning the whole society into a totalitarian mind prison)? Certainly, and in any free society that still has laws prohibiting crime, effective crime prevention is always an exercise in balancing what’s needed and desired with what’s feasible and fair. It’s a complex problem for us (not being all-powerful universe-creating deities and all), but when your only tool is a hammer, as they say, every problem looks like a nail. So I’m not surprised you think the problem is so simple.

          So now to show that God fails under the problem of evil you have to show that, unlike with human calculus, for God preventing suffering must be COSTLESS.

          Two problems here. First off, you’re talking about an all-powerful being, so it could indeed be costless if God chose, or at worst, at a cost that any deity could easily bear. But then, we are talking about a being whose whole religion is based on the following salvation policy: “Humanity’s sinful nature has offended me. Here, take my son and execute him so I can forgive you.” So we’re not exactly dealing with a logically sound mythos to begin with.

          But the other is that the “human calculus” you refer to, according to Christians, originated with this God. So why is there one moral calculus for him and another for us? Why, if this being has moral precepts he wishes us to follow, does he never lead by example?

          So God’s decision to change the rules (or eliminate them altogether) to disallow these things to happen would be at the COST of having genuine free moral agents in the world at all.

          Rubbish. For one thing, God is already on record as having no problem manipulating “free will” when it suits him. And I already dealt with the difference between will and action. Enforcing a moral rule in a particular situation — such as preventing a rapist from murdering a child — does not mean that, out of some bizarre notion of fairness, all free agency in all human decision-making affairs must cease. Arguing that it must is essentially arguing that God is himself lacks free will, in that he’s incapable of weighing the severity of specific crimes versus other specific crimes and deciding which ones deserve greater enforcement than others. Is God really so limited in his decision-making options that he’s sitting around thinking, “Yes, I could rid the world of the scourge of child rape, but this would mean that no one could be allowed the free will to decide anything at all, including whether or not they want anchovies on their pizza”?

          God could easily thwart the designs of an aspiring child rapist through many means, even ones which, to a human eye, would look entirely natural and not give anyone the free-will-vanquishing idea that maybe a divine enforcer had stepped in to see to the problem. You have to figure, knowing how to create universes and such, God’s at least clever enough a fellow to figure that out. How could this be done? For one thing, how about just not allowing pedophilia to be a thing? That could work. As it’s already understood that pedophilia is a mental disorder and not really something a mentally healthy person engages in as a matter of choice, then it doesn’t even fall under the rubric of “free will” any more than any other disease. So it’s not so much about thwarting free will as curing the sick. Think of another example: if God were to cure Alzheimer’s, has he destroyed free will by curing a disease that destroys free will? No one chooses to get Alzheimer’s, and its elimination would in fact increase the net amount of free will in the world. So why hasn’t God done so?

          But let’s get back to good old Pedobear. Say there’s some pervert hanging out near a playground, and he’s spotted a likely target and is planning to make his move. Suddenly, a strange fugue state comes over him. He feels faint and passes out. When he comes to, he can’t remember what he was doing there. But he knows he has important things to be doing at home, or at work, or somewhere else, so he’d better go do them… This person may have lost the will to do his crime, but has he lost the will to make other decisions about how to spend his day? Does an inability to do one thing necessarily lead to the inability to do all things? If a shopping mall posts a sign saying, “Have fun in our shopping mall, but do not violently strip the clothes off every attractive woman you see,” has my choice to do anything whatsoever while I walk through that mall been denied me?

          Could God do stuff like this, with no one being the wiser? Why not? Christians, in fact, love nothing more than to share stories about how the power of Jesus swayed someone from criminal intent. If God actually exists and has done this sort of thing (which millions of Christians believe he does), and we all haven’t yet been robbed of our free will, then I think your arguments that losing free will is the necessary outcome are rather dashed.

          If free will is such an inviolable thing, why do Christians pray for God’s intervention in it all the time? When someone is kidnaped, what does everyone say? “Our prayers are with the family.” “May God see the victim safely home.” “You are all in our prayers!” “Please pray for this child!” Over and over again. And what do Christians say when the victim of a crime is rescued? “God guided those rescuers!” “Praise Jesus for saving that precious child!” God cannot intervene…until humans do, and then it’s PRAISE GOD!

          Why do I never hear any Christians say what you’re saying? “I’d be happy to pray for your kid, but the thing is, there is simply no way for God to get between this child and her kidnaper without eliminating all our precious free will! Sorry, but everything has a cost, as if your child’s life is the cost for our free will, then that’s just how it goes.”

          The fact is, Christians only say this when stumbling through theodicy. When things actually hit the fan, when actual evil strikes, their attitude is a little different.

          I suspect that you’re going to try to dodge this issue by digging deeper and deeper into “omnipotence,” but there’s no reason to believe that it’s even conceptually possible to have a world with a moral dimension and no moral choices, or a world with moral choices that are all meaningless.

          Since omnipotence itself isn’t even conceptually possible, it’s not an issue. But again, if this God exists, what’s the use of a world with a moral dimension if their aren’t consequences for immoral deeds? Punishing immoral choices, and preventing immoral deeds when it is possible to do so, does not effect the free will of individuals. If it did, the mere existence of prison and the possibility of spending one’s whole life there would be sufficient to deter crime. In the Orwellian, rights-free dystopia you insist anyone must support if they hold moral authorities (especially all-powerful divine ones) accountable, people would still wish to commit crimes, and find a way to act upon those wishes.

          1. Alicia

            “I’d be happy to pray for your kid, but the thing is, there is simply no way for God to get between this child and her kidnaper without eliminating all our precious free will! Sorry, but everything has a cost, as if your child’s life is the cost for our free will, then that’s just how it goes.”

            So perfect I wish it fit on a t-shirt.

            And I was just thinkiing the same thing–why all the praying and stuff if God isn’t supposed to ever, ever, ever under NO CIRUMSTANCES intervene?

          2. francesc

            I’d be happy to pray for your kid, but the thing is, there is simply no way for God to get between this child and her kidnaper without eliminating all our precious free will! Sorry, but everything has a cost, as if your child’s life is the cost for our free will, then that’s just how it goes.

            Good quote Alicia :)
            Avalon is trying to justify God’s inaction on the basis that he is an idiot.
            I’ll explain myself: assume that god could
            1.- Avoid the rape itself
            2.- Implant in the rapist the memory of the rape being, indeed, carried out

            As god is all-powerfull we have to assume that he is not smart enough to have thought that solution, so I will tell him next time I pray
            As god is omniscient I assume he already knows I came to that answer so I’ll skip the prayer thing

          3. Alicia

            Indeed, why pray when God knows already what you need and KNOWS you are gonna pray anywayz? Or is prayer a test of faith???? Ohhh , it just all gets so confuuuusing. LOL

          4. AvalonXQ

            I’m glad we at least got you away from the absolutism of your original position. You acknowledge that human beings are not willing to prevent child rape AT ALL COSTS, and simply disagree on the costs and value of God’s decision to allow these crimes in our world. That’s a cost/benefit analysis for which I’m willing to admit I don’t have access to all the variables (and neither do you), so feel free to criticize the Christian God for the choice He’s made with the resources at His disposal and the factors you believe He has to consider.

            And thanks for taking the time to respond to my posts. I genuinely appreciate it and greatly enjoy the show.

          5. Martin Wagner

            I’m glad we at least got you away from the absolutism of your original position. You acknowledge that human beings are not willing to prevent child rape AT ALL COSTS…

            Just remember the criteria you set by which you’re defining “at all costs” are so extreme as to be unrealistic for finite beings. It is true, we’re not willing to prevent child rape by denying all human rights, or locking every single person on Earth in a cell for life, or pushing a button to blow up the world before any more child rapes occur. But practically and realistically, we should do all at our disposal to prevent child rape.

            But as others have pointed out to you, no one is asking for extreme measures on the part of your God, whose practical resources are far greater than ours anyway. In a simple circumstance of being an eyewitness to a child rape, and shouting “Hey you, stop!” and tackling the assailant, a human being is far more likely to do this. (And arguments as to why are an academic exercise, as the practical reason God doesn’t do what a person would do in this situation is that He isn’t there.)

            Thanks for being a good sport and offering spirited argument, AvalonXQ.

          6. Lord Narf

            … so feel free to criticize the Christian God for the choice He’s made with the resources at His disposal and the factors you believe He has to consider.

            Err, you’re running headfirst into omnipotence again, man. How does it make any sense to speak about the resources at the disposal of an omnipotent being, as if they’re finite?

          7. Alicia

            Precisly! I have met many theists who exclaim, “You are giving God crap for doing the same thing human’s do.” “Of course,” I often reply, “Because he’s god.”

          8. Lord Narf

            Just remember the criteria you set by which you’re defining “at all costs” are so extreme as to be unrealistic for finite beings.

            I’ve seen that in almost every post he’s made. The context shifting, between what’s reasonable for humans to do and what his god can do is … not exactly dishonest, since I’m not sure he’s aware that he’s doing it … but it’s skewing his perspective, because he isn’t accounting for it.

            What’s reasonable for a fallible, human government to do to try to form a moral society is not acceptable for an infinite, omnipotent, omniscient being. Every time he shifts between contexts, he loses me completely, almost every time. There are a few arguments that hold across that divide, but they’re the exception, rather than the rule.

          9. ayamesohma

            Excellent as always, Martin. :)

            See AvalonXQ.

            See AvalonXQ watch a child get raped.

            See AvalonXQ follow his god’s example by doing nothing.

            See AvalonXQ get charged with accessory to child rape.

            See AvalonXQ pray to god.

            See AvalonXQ pray to god as prison inmates rape him.

            See AvalonXQ deconvert to atheism.

        2. dantalion

          If god were omnipotent there shouldn’t be any costs. If there are preexisting conditions which limit what god can do, and he is not able to overthrow those limitations, then you are defining god as somewhere below all powerful.

          1. Alicia

            Exactamundo, which is why I always cry foul when folks try to let god off the hook whilst using human standards. If I were all powerful, and omnibenevolent–I would make up my own damn rules and they would not include cruelty of any kind. I’d also be able to figure out how to do this and give man free will…like not creating free beinsg with a nasty disposition towards violence and rape. You can be free and be, well, nice.

  32. 32
    arensb

    Free will only implies the ability to desire a thing. It doesn’t imply an ability to act on that desire.

    I don’t think this is quite right. If I may borrow a page from Dennett’s book, when people complain about their free will being violated, they usually mean that they’re being prevented from acting in some way. You may or may not desire to take a walk on the street outside your house, but it’s not until I prevent you from doing so that you that you’ll feel that your free will has been thwarted.

    Another example that springs to mind is Elizabeth Smart, who famously recently said that one reason she didn’t escape her kidnapper was that after being raped, she felt like a filthy piece of chewed-up gum that nobody would want. One could easily make a case that the people who instilled that attitude in her violated her free will, by preventing her from thinking the sorts of thoughts that would lead to her escape.

    This doesn’t negate your larger point. I’m just saying that free will isn’t as simple as it’s made out to be in these two sentences. Sometimes, violating a person’s free will (as in the example of the child rapist, above) is the Only Right Thing to Do.

    And besides, according to the Bible, God’s never been shy of violating people’s free will, whether it’s Uzzah being zotted by lightning for catching the ark of the covenant, or the firstborn of Egypt being slaughtered because Jehovah’s showing off in front of their pharaoh, or the New Testament message of “if you don’t worship Jesus, you’re going to burn forever. But hey, the choice is entirely up to you.”

    1. 32.1
      Martin Wagner

      Those are all good points. But I see Christians, especially those who engage in theodicy, using “free will” in this catchall way that just isn’t valid.

      1. Lord Narf

        I just spelled that out, in another thread. I don’t think free will is a particularly good excuse for a god allowing evil, in the first place. The fact that free will is also contradictory with an omniscient, omnipotent creator god is just a confounding factor.

        1. Martin Wagner

          It comes back to the question of whose free will matters more: the victim’s or the victimizer’s? Presumably they both have it. Why would a moral God respect the sanctity of the victimizer’s free will through his inaction, rather than the victim’s through action?

          1. Lord Narf

            Really, I don’t even go that far. Demonstrate free will to me, before you try to use it as an argument to excuse anything.

      2. arensb

        Right. “God respects people’s free will” essentially means “God’s going to be neutral, and not intervene in your petty human squabbles”, like a celestial Switzerland. But even Switzerland in WWII wasn’t so neutral as to allow weapons to be transported on its railroads.

        The point we keep coming back to is that there are times–and, sadly, they’re ridiculously easy to come up with–when neutrality is obviously the Wrong Moral Choice, and that the only moral course of action is to intervene.

        1. Alicia

          “neutrality is obviously the Wrong Moral Choice, and that the only moral course of action is to intervene.”

          well said.

  33. 33
    francesc

    if God had strucken him dead on the spot, would he have been just in giving the rapist another chance at redemption and everlasting life?

    Then, why do US still have capital punishment and life imprisonement ? Is the US far right campaigning for abolishment of those convictions?
    Ya know, this only applies to God’s justice, not human justice.

  34. 34
    nathan

    Just came across the whole AE thing last night, and i am just now joining in. Only a couple comments near the end of the whole corey thread. So….i’m a newb, bear with me, please.
    What exactly is the “problem of evil”, and why would that necessarily prove that God is evil? If i am to have even the slightest understanding of human history, it seems that humans definitions/parameters of what constitutes good and evil have many times (but not always) been attributed to the deity or deities they believe in. Not trying to confuse the issue, it just seems that throughout much, not all, of history, humans have chosen to attribute their knowledge of good and evil to some higher power outside of themselves.
    Nowhere have i seen either side prove their case.
    One side says evil exists, therefore, if God exists, He must be evil. There is evidence there to support the claim, and a line of reasoning that can be considered valid, if a whole bunch of other things are held as true, or, presupposed.
    Just as the other side says, God is good, He said so, i believe so, the bible says so, etc; Same thing, evidence exists, presuppositions exist.
    Neither proved, neither disproved, both believed.
    I believe in God, and the bible. By some standards, i have no evidence, by others, i have plenty, by others still, i have no need of evidence, and yada yada yada. Atheists believe their things, and the same is true, they believe things that, by certain standards, there is no need of evidence, or there is plenty of evidence, etc;
    If there is a presupposed standard that only when something can be proved will it be believed, then how can anything really be believed? I looked up such simple things as knowledge, belief, civil discourse, evolution, presupposition, all so i could have a grasp of why these discussions are more like arguments. Heck, even the definitions of these terms are open to discussion and speculation. Words mean different things to different people, they change/gain/lose meaning over time, it sucks, but it has happened, and probably it will continue to happen. If we cannot discuss things from some common point, it will always devolve to mere argument and conjecture, as that is how both sides will view the other.
    There are lots of reasons to believe many different things, all of which will have their consequences.

    1. 34.1
      Dalillama, Schmott Guy

      What exactly is the “problem of evil”, and why would that necessarily prove that God is evil?

      The short answer is that christians claim that their god is all-powerful and all-knowing. Assuming that these things are true, the only valid answer to the question “Why are there such a thing as tuberculosis, malaria, and natural disasters which cause untold human misery and death thorough no action of any human?” is “God wants it that way.” The only reasonably conclusion that can be drawn from that answer is that God likes human suffering, misery, and death, which makes god malevolent and evil. Religions that don’t attribute omnipotence to their deities, and who have more than one, don’t have this problem, although they still fall short on the whole matter of evidence.

      Not trying to confuse the issue, it just seems that throughout much, not all, of history, humans have chosen to attribute their knowledge of good and evil to some higher power outside of themselves.

      Not actually true; you need to do a lot more research on the history of philosophy and ethics.

      Just as the other side says, God is good, He said so, i believe so, the bible says so, etc; Same thing, evidence exists, presuppositions exist.

      What specific evidence exists (Hint:books of mythology don’t constitute evidence).

      If there is a presupposed standard that only when something can be proved will it be believed, then how can anything really be believed?

      BZZZT!!! Wrong. The standard is that those things for which there is a preponderance of evidence are to be believed, and other things are to be believed in proportion to the evidence available. In the case of gods, there is no evidence for their existence, and considerable evidence against the existence of any defined god.

  35. 35
    nathan

    {God wants it that way.}
    Why, exactly, does that HAVE to be true? One could come to other conclusions as well.
    {It isn’t true that humans have, throughout MUCH (not all) of history, attributed good and evil to deities.}
    Really, what about all these different religious cultures throughout history? Were they fake history?
    {What specific evidences for God’s existence}
    If, you want conclusive evidence, that cannot be disproven in any way, or evidence that overwhelmingly proves to everyone, everywhere, that without any contrary argument or evidence, God exists….then, no, i don’t have any.
    BUT, if you want evidence that God exists, it is everywhere. Just the fact that we discuss His existence is evidence of knowledge of Him, of the concept of Him, or the idea of Him. The existence of our universe. The existence of miracles. The existence of good and evil. Yes, even the bible is evidence. You asked for evidence, as my preamble stated, i offered you some evidence, albeit from one who is not a theologian by any means.
    {BZZT! wrong, standard for believing…etc;}
    your standard for preponderance of evidence is not necessarily the same as mine, or anyone else’s. if we all had the same standard of evidence required for belief, i daresay these discussions wouldn’t be necessary. hypothetically, parties could discuss a matter from the same standard of required evidence to justify belief. i believe that might be a good common ground to start from. HOW to attain that common ground is a matter i would love to see resolved in many arenas. Religion, politics, finance, morality, to name only a few.

    1. 35.1
      Dalillama, Schmott Guy

      Helpful hint: <blockquote>text goes here </blockquote> looks like

      text goes here

      and makes your posts much easier to read.

      Why, exactly, does that HAVE to be true?

      Because if god is omniscient, he knows about it, and if he’s omnipotent, he can change it. He doesn’t. Therefore, if such a being exists, he prefers the current situation, i.e. wants things this way.

      Really, what about all these different religious cultures throughout history? Were they fake history?

      Many cultures do not consider their gods to be the source of morality or the source of good and evil; these are often attributed to the fundamental nature of the universe, humanity/human thought, nonhuman and nondivine actors, etc. Therefore your contention that all cultures do so is fallacious. Things that I know are pointless, but I’ll have a go at anyway:

      ust the fact that we discuss His existence is evidence of knowledge of Him, of the concept of Him, or the idea of Him.

      The idea of something is not the same as the existence of something. There are massive fora dedicated to the accuracy of the Stormtroopers’ weapons, the sociology of the Shire, and how fast Captain Kirk can get to Vulcan. These do not constitute evidence of the existence of blaster rifles, hobbits, or the crew of the Starship Enterprise, let alone the supporting constructs needed for their existence, to wit galactic empires, Middle Earth, and the United Federation of planets. Theological discussions are on exactly the same ground.

      Yes, even the bible is evidence

      Why do you consider the bible evidence for your god, but not consider the Rig Veda evidence for the hindu gods? The rest of your claims have already been addressed, if you read the thread. (actually so have those above, but whatever)

      HOW to attain that common ground is a matter i would love to see resolved in many arenas.

      Repeatable empiricism is the only standard which reliably returns verifiable results.

  36. 36
    unfogged

    Just the fact that we discuss His existence is evidence of knowledge of Him, of the concept of Him, or the idea of Him.

    We have concepts of big foot, the loch ness monster, leprechauns, fairies, trolls, dragons, giants, faster-than-light travel, teleportation,…. we discuss many things that do not exist, at least not yet. We can easily conceive of and discuss things that do not exist.

    The existence of our universe.

    That’s already been address in this thread; search for “look at the trees”. It’s an argument from ignorance.

    The existence of miracles.

    Please provide evidence of a single miracle.

    The existence of good and evil.

    ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are value judgements that we place on actions or situations. I do not see where any god is necessary to evaluate something as either good or evil beyond the effect it is producing.

    Yes, even the bible is evidence.

    The bible is a collection of stories collected over a long span, influenced by many cultures, edited and revised by many individuals. As a cultural and historical reference it has value; so do the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Quran, and all other books that were written by people trying to understand and influence the world around them with the understanding that they had at the time. Given the lack of clarity, the contradictions, and the atrocities it espouses it is blatantly obvious that it was not written by the god that modern Christians typically believe in. Aesop’s Fables make a much better read and have better morality.

    your standard for preponderance of evidence is not necessarily the same as mine, or anyone else’s.

    You seem to have a very low standard of evidence. If that isn’t the case, please provide ANY actual evidence and not “the universe” (we agree it exists, not knowing exactly how it got to the present configuration does not justify leaping to ‘god did it’ and even if it did it wouldn’t justify believing it was the god of the bible) and “the bibe” (it is just a book with a pretty well understood history).

  37. 37
    nathan

    this is what is being communicated to me:
    God doesn’t exist, prove it if He does.
    Here is what i am communicating:
    no one can prove that He does or doesn’t exist, nor have they.
    I am not trying to prove His existence, nor do i care to.
    No one has disproved His existence, and so, my conclusion is that we are all human beings who have chosen to believe what we have chosen to believe, we are also free to change our minds.
    i dont see why it has to become an argument about one side being right and the other being wrong, that really seems kind of pointless.

    1. 37.1
      Dalillama, Schmott Guy

      i dont see why it has to become an argument about one side being right and the other being wrong, that really seems kind of pointless.

      Because there are real things and not-real things, and it’s important to know the difference, but mostly because people who believe in god keep trying to pass laws based on what they think he wants, and these laws have disastrous consequences.

    2. 37.2
      unfogged

      this is what is being communicated to me:God doesn’t exist, prove it if He does.

      Let’s go back to the question the TAE hosts ask: what do you believe and, more importantly, WHY?

      Here is what i am communicating:
      no one can prove that He does or doesn’t exist, nor have they.

      Most posters here are not trying to prove that god does not exist; they are asking theists to explain why we should believe that he does.

      I am not trying to prove His existence, nor do i care to.

      Why are you here then? If you have your beliefs. unfounded or not, and you are happy with them and are not interested in whether or not they are true or having them challenged and you aren’t trying to convince atheists that there really is a god then I’m unsure what the point is. If you just want a big group hug and to have everybody agree to just get along then that will happen when theists stop trying to impose their unfounded beliefs on the rest of us.

  38. 38
    nathan

    wow, just got the shutdown from the almighty no repeat comment meister.
    didn’t seem that i was repeating myself, except that i was responding to a redundant argument.
    this comment seems to have a touch of bitterness and sarcasm, so i am guessing it will fly right through the filter.

  39. 39
    nathan

    and, sure enough, bingo, right on through

    1. 39.1
      Lord Narf

      Yeah, random things will catch the moderation of the site. It’s a pain in the ass, sometimes. I’ll post 2 or 3 links, and it gets tired up in moderation. It’ll go through once one of the moderators looks it over and makes sure it isn’t spam. It’s annoying, but it keeps out the spam-bots.

  40. 40
    nathan

    i will try again:
    i am not trying to prove God’s existence, i have come to the conclusion that no one has disproven His existence, and i choose to believe in His existence, not solely based on these statements.
    i am in complete disagreement with the argument that there can be proof on way or the other. and it is saddening and maybe even offensive that the continuous argument/debate seems to be:

    you prove it!

    no, you prove it!

    i did.

    no you didn’t.

    why don’t you prove it?

    i don’t have to.

    and blah blah blah.

    1. 40.1
      ayamesohma

      Some gods don’t exist, and in fact cannot exist because they conflict with logic, reality and/or their own definition. This includes the Christian god, and any tri-omni god (all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving).

    2. 40.2
      Martin Wagner

      Then if you’re tired of the blah blah blah, just get yourself knowledgable once and for all about burden of proof and how it works, and you shouldn’t be flummoxed by these discussions any more.

  41. 41
    nathan

    i have to apologize, i misunderstood what was going on with the no repeat comment prompt. it appeared as though i was being censored, when it was actually just prompting that i had already posted that comment. it was confusing, as i couldn’t view the comment, so to me it appeared to be blocked or deleted. i got a little testy after that. so sad, i thought i would be able to take part in these discussions without some of the ill banter i see tossed around, and all it took was a little computer glitch or delay, and i sunk to the emotional level i was hoping to avoid. my apologies.
    i still don’t believe in an evil God, though, LoL.

    1. 41.1
      MiaGioia

      Then you don’t know what your genocidal deity is about.

      Hint: Your deity is evil. Or that’s what it would be, if it existed as christians claim.

      It advocates and ORDERS kidnapping, rape, human sacrifice, murder, genocide and permanent torture over thought crimes–only the most evil idea ever vomited up.

      Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for worshiping evil?

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