The Moral Compass Ceded; or, Argument By Snape »« Atheist Gestapo Bullies Another City into Removing Crosses

“Why Me?” — Four Bad Answers

In the case of a shooting, or flooding, or cancer,
The question arises, “why me?”
We tend to get four different species of answer;
Our wishes distort what we’ll see.

Since you won’t get an answer directly from God
You might think of asking a pastor—
For the problem of evil, it strikes me as odd
That his answer is such a disaster.

Over on CNN’s Belief Blog, a senior pastor and best-selling author shows how badly you can answer a question and still be a senior pastor and best-selling author.

As a minister, I’ve spent countless hours with suffering people crying: “Why did God let this happen?” In general I hear four answers to this question. Each is wrong, or at least inadequate.

So we can’t say he hasn’t pondered the problem before. He’s no rookie.

The first answer is “I guess this proves there is no God.” The problem with this thinking is that the problem of senseless suffering does not go away if you abandon belief in God.

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said that if there was no higher divine law, there would be no way to tell if any particular human law was unjust. Likewise, if there is no God, then why do we have a sense of outrage and horror when suffering and tragedy occur? The strong eat the weak, there is no meaning, so why not?

Well, no. Of course it doesn’t disprove god, but not for his reasons. Rather, because god is a squirmy little bastard, with legions of people making excuses. The problem of senseless suffering is only a problem for an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god. Since atheists don’t posit one, the problem of senseless suffering goes away. Mind you, that does not in any manner mean that suffering goes away. Death happens. Illness and injury happen. Earthquakes, floods, fires, famines, all happen. These things are problems, but they are not “the problem of senseless suffering” because our worldview does not include a god with the power and motivation to prevent it, sitting idly by.

And yes, I’ll say it, Martin Luther King was wrong. Even if there was a “higher divine law” (which we have no evidence of), we would need to rely on the human interpretations of that law, and (for instance) the bible would be used both to justify and to condemn slavery.

The second response to suffering is: “While there is a God, he’s not completely in control of everything. He couldn’t stop this.”

But that kind of God doesn’t really fit our definition of “God.” So that thinking hardly helps us with reconciling God and suffering.

So re-defining god is a no-no, which frankly is a point in the atheists’ favor. All those excuses you see being made? Cheating.

The third answer to the worst kind of suffering – seemingly senseless death – is: “God saves some people and lets others die because he favors and rewards good people.”

But the Bible forcefully rejects the idea that people who suffer more are worse people than those who are spared suffering.

So the people (Falwell, Robertson, et al.) who claim a hurricane is god’s punishment for the ghey? Wrong. Prosperity gospel? Wrong.

The fourth answer to suffering in the face of an all-powerful God is that God knows what he’s doing, so be quiet and trust him.

This is partly right, but inadequate. It is inadequate because it is cold and because the Bible gives us more with which to face the terrors of life.

So his most satisfying answer is to deny the problem? To say it’s not really suffering, because shut up, that’s why?

Do you see what this means? We don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, or why it is so random, but now at least we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be.

It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that he was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering himself.

So, yeah, he does care enough to do something. He just doesn’t do anything. Don’t ask. Seriously.

Someone might say, “But that’s only half an answer to the question ‘Why?’” Yes, but it is the half that we need. If God actually explained all the reasons why he allows things to happen as they do, it would be too much for our finite brains.

That’s right, he went there.

The easy answer is, there is no god–at least, no god that fits the job description. But we can reject that answer.

Why?

If I told you, your brain would explode.

So just trust me on this, ok?

Comments

  1. San Ban says

    THIS is the main factor that caused the questioning teenage me to reject theisms of all kinds. I kept asking the questions, but I found secular answers and rational ways to find them, while the preachers just kept telling me to shush.

  2. hotshoe says

    Someone might say, “But that’s only half an answer to the question ‘Why?’” Yes, but it is the half that we need. If God actually explained all the reasons why he allows things to happen as they do, it would be too much for our finite brains.

    In other words, God says “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you”.

  3. San Ban says

    That’s exactly right (#2)! There’s a story in Exodus where Moses begs Yahweh to show up in person, and the deity tells Moses the sight of the deity’s face would kill a poor mortal, then, for some weird reason, Yahweh just mooned him!

  4. dukeofomnium says

    The original article sounds like atheist propaganda. It’s always fun to watch christians fumble the problem of evil, but this is practically a lateral to the other team.

  5. 'Tis Himself says

    I notice senior pastor and best-selling author (SP&BSA) ignored another possible reason, viz: His god is a sadistic bully who likes to screw people over. SP&BSA is unfamiliar with his Bible because it’s full of episodes where Yahweh kills people just because he can.

  6. sumdum says

    I think the easiest answer is “Why not? What makes you so special that this should NOT happen to you ?” It’s simply a matter of chance. Bad stuff happens to some people, and because you are a part of the group ‘some people’ therefor there’s a chance bad stuff happens to you as well. Shit happens, get over it.

  7. says

    Old Testament God comes across as just a superpowered version of the local tyrants of the time. For xome reason the folks whose writings were incorporated into what became Christianity moved towards a less nasty version of God. Perhaps they were losing market share to a nicer deity.

  8. says

    I never asked the “Why me?” question when I was diagnosed with cancer. I was already an atheist, and I knew the answer: We live in an impersonal Universe that in most instances is doing its best to kill us in the first place. I enjoy Hitchens’ answer the most: “Why not?”

  9. Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant) says

    The first answer is “I guess this proves there is no God.” The problem with this thinking is that the problem of senseless suffering does not go away if you abandon belief in God.

    The problem of senseless suffering does not go away if you cling to belief in God, either. So what is it good for?

  10. Andrew says

    Criticizing God for not doing anything about suffering and evil right now is like reading half a novel and criticizing the author for not resolving the plot. God will bring accountability at the right time.

    Besides, he HAS done something already, His name is Jesus – no greater suffering and death has the world witnessed as that God himself had to bear on the cross for our sake. He knows what pain is…, so I trust him on this.

  11. Thorne says

    no greater suffering and death has the world witnessed as that God himself had to bear on the cross for our sake. He knows what pain is

    Give me a break! Your god had a bad day. A flogging, a couple of nails, a poke in the ribs with a pointy stick. That’s not suffering! Suffering is screaming your lungs out for days on end as cancer eats at you. Suffering is listening to a loved one screaming his lungs out. Your god didn’t suffer. Even if he did exist, and did get crucified, he didn’t suffer worth a damn.

  12. Cuttlefish says

    Andrew, your comment is self-contradicting. If life’s book is only half-read so far, you don’t and can’t know that Jesus is the good guy. Halfway through Harry Potter, Snape was evil and Dumbledore was immaculate. By the end, though… By your argument, when we get to heaven, we could see Hitler sitting at the right hand of God, and Jesus a figure of shame.

    Additionally, your comment cedes Christianity’s claim to an absolute moral compass. If we cannot know what God’s ultimate good and bad are until the last page, then there is no earthly way for you to be certain your compass points north.

    Are you sure you’re playing for the right team?

  13. Cuttlefish says

    Thorne–and what about the two thieves crucified next to Jesus? Or the countless others crucified over the centuries? How is it that the one victim that gets to recover fully is the one who has experienced the greatest suffering?

    (ya know who suffered? Prometheus, that’s who. And he gave us a more useful gift!)

  14. says

    There’s another bad answer: god allows suffering to teach us “lessons”.

    Like giving a kid cystic fibrosis to bring the parents closer to god.

    That god, frankly, is a dick.

    But then, so is the “my ways are mysterious” god. The one who allegedly has already defeated Satan, but hasn’t shown up for 2000 years to claim the prize. And in the meantime, lets thing run amok.

    That god is even worse than the other one. Because for 2000 years, this “victorious” god has STILL let Satan rule the Earth (says so right in the bible). Lazy, uncaring, or incompetent.

    Or, more likely, nonexistent.

  15. Andrew says

    Cuttlefish,
    You raised a straw-man. The book is only half-read by the atheist who rejects the author of life prematurely on the basis of evil today. The Christian theist has already read the story and knows that Jesus is the end. Hence he/she knows that pain and evil, for as much as it sucks today, and for as inconsistent as it may appear with an all-loving and powerful God, will one day be put down forever! And this Jesus, who was once (and still is) put to shame, mocked, and suffered as we do, will one day reign. And when that happens, all evil and suffering will be no more.

  16. Trina says

    Andrew, most people who reject the idea of God do not do so because evil exists- we’re well aware of the cheap, lazy ways in which the problem of evil is wiggled around by the devout- we/they do so because no evidence has been presented that God exists- beyond that xtians WANT him to!

  17. Cuttlefish says

    Andrew, I was once a born-again Christian. I believed I had read the book through to the end–believed with all my heart.

    Turns out life keeps writing.

    There’s books, and then there’s books. http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2012/03/10/two-books-again/ As science learns more about human sensation, perception, thinking, and memory, we see again and again that people can be utterly convinced of something that simply is not so. We cannot claim that one subset of humanity has read the whole book, while claiming another subset has not (not without special pleading, which is what we generally get–including in your comment–in response).

    It’s not a strawman on my part, but special pleading on yours, that lets you believe you have finished the book.

    Keep reading. It gets better.

  18. David Hart says

    Andrew: “And this Jesus, who was once (and still is) put to shame, mocked, and suffered as we do, will one day reign. And when that happens, all evil and suffering will be no more.”

    Just so we’re on the same page here, I take it that by ‘all evil and suffering will be no more’, you mean that there will be no Hell; that everyone who ever lived will go to Heaven?

    You may or may not be the sort of Christian who believes in Hell – some don’t, but rather a lot do, and I just want to check if you’re being consistent here.

  19. lcaution says

    As a teen in hospital, some relative came to visit and said something like “I know you are asking why me?” etc. and I still remember my utter bewilderment. I had a problem. I had surgery. Stuff happens. By then I already knew I didn’t believe in a God, but I kept my mouth shut (rather easy I suspect because I was heavily sedated).

    This is not to say that I’ve never thought “why me?” I think most of us must do so at least occasionally. But I always know that it is simple self-pity. I indulge for a while and then go on with my life.

  20. Andrew says

    David H.,
    No, I don’t mean that. Not universally. I mean “…all evil and suffering will be no more… for those who are in Him” Since He is the source of all goodness and righteousness, apart from Him, what is there left?

  21. KG says

    So Andrew, you’re just fine with people screaming in unbearable agony for ever and ever and ever and ever.

    You’re almost as vile as your god would be if it actually existed.

  22. Andrew says

    KG, you must appeal to an objective moral standard by which you can rationally call me ‘vile’, otherwise everything is just relative. Let’s say that what is vile for you is ok for me. Where do you get your judgement from? Is there something such as ‘what things ought to be’ by which we both should abide?

    That’s why I agree with Dawkins when he says: “… there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” And he’s right, only if God doesn’t exist. You don’t seem to show any indifference to my post!

  23. Andrew says

    Trina, you’re quite right there – there is other reasons (or the absence of as you well say) that people don’t believe. The problem of evil just happens to baffle theists and non-theists alike more than any other issue because of the personal dimension that is attached to it.

  24. Cuttlefish says

    Andrew, the fact that you see nothing wrong with some people suffering in hell eternally means that you, yourself, lack moral standards. If you hear of someone in agony, and have to ask god whether it’s good or bad, you are missing something of what it is to be human.

    And that is not an objective standard, in the sense that you mean it. Rather, it is a human standard*. It is part of the social agreement (sometimes explicit, sometimes tacit) that makes the world a better place for all of us.

    The universe does indeed display a “blind, pitiless indifference”. There is no ultimate justice meted out by an omniscient overlord. Any morality we see about us is something we created ourselves, because it turns out that being good to one another makes our lives better than being bad to one another, in the long run. And believe me, we’ve tried both.

    Julia Sweeney (as long as we’re quoting atheists) came to the realization, while leaving her Catholic past…“Then I thought, “Wait a minute, so Hitler, Hitler just… died? No one sat him down and said, ‘You fucked up buddy! And now you’re going to spend an eternity in HELL!’ So Hitler just died.” I thought, “We better make sure that doesn’t happen again.””

    That is the moral message of atheism. We can’t leave this to god, cos there is no god to leave it to.

    *artificial, socially agreed upon constructs include money. Those bits of paper have no inherent worth. Even gold’s worth has nothing to do with its physical properties, and everything to do with the fact that we have a social agreement that these particular objects, and the numbers associated with them, have human-assigned value. We no more need objective morality than we need objective dollars. There is value in a culture’s survival, and it turns out that cultures in which people take care of one another have been more successful.

    But I do thank you, for once again providing the perfect illustration of ceding the moral compass. Feel free to ask god whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

  25. Andrew says

    Cuttlefish:
    “the fact that you see nothing wrong with some people suffering in hell eternally means that…”

    Quite the opposite! In fact I sincerely think it is quite horrendous, terrible and heart-breaking… That’s why I’m taking the time to write this post, because I care about this issue. If you were indeed once a born-again Christian you will know that God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish but He desires ALL people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. But He is also the perfect Judge – hence the provision of the Cross…

    “…it is a human standard. It is part of the social agreement…that makes the world a better place for all of us.” “Any morality we see about us is something we created ourselves, because it turns out that being good to one another makes our lives better than being bad to one another, in the long run.”

    Arguing against the objectivity of moral values and duties by describing how societies obtain their moral principles through social development commits the genetic fallacy. It might be true that, as societies evolve, they discover that “people that are good to each other do make a better place to live in”. Fine, but that’s simply observing a deeper reality which is: “people in society OUGHT TO BE good to each other!”. So the moral value of ‘respect for other human beings’ is objective in the sense that is always true independent of any social convention at any particular time. All that societies have done (at least most Western societies I hope) is to discover it! Take the Nazis, for example, who themselves adopted the philosophy of social conventionalism. You’ll agree that, even if they had won the war and exterminated or brainwashed everybody who disagreed with them, their actions would STILL be objectively wrong, regardless whether there’s anyone around at the end to agree on it or not!

    William L Craig rightly says (to quote fairly from both sides): “I think it is self evident that raping a child isn’t just socially disadvantageous; it is really and truly evil. It is not just a social taboo; it is an abomination which exists not just in my subjective opinion, but rather it is evident in the very nature of the act itself. It is at least self-evident to me that some things really are wrong, whether people agree or not. People who say otherwise are either mentally ill, or, they are purposely suppressing the knowledge of that which is self-evident in order to serve some other self-gratifying ideology or artificial purpose; which is quite sick in itself.

    Cuttlefish, if you’re honest to yourself you’ll have to admit that some things are just plain wrong! The only alternative to this would be to admit that right or wrong are simply arbitrary and ephemeral social conventions, but then the ‘problem of evil’ dissipates across the boundaries of societies and cultures and this blog post becomes irrelevant.

  26. Cuttlefish says

    Horrendous, terrible, and heartbreaking… and, in theory, God’s will. So god is not omnibenevolent? Or you just have an opinion of morality separate from your god’s?

    And I am quite happy saying that right and wrong are social conventions… but that in no way makes them “simply arbitrary and ephemeral”. Rather, they are in response to the contingencies of the world. And since the contingencies of the world change over time and circumstance, right and wrong cannot be immutable. “Thou shalt not bear false witness”– does that apply when answering the Nazis who are asking if you are hiding jews? When your future mother in law asks how you like her cooking? Please. And when it comes to dietary laws, we have disagreements depending on which god you pay attention to.

    The arguments you are making lead to the conclusion that you are not deriving your morality from god.

  27. David Hart says

    Sorry to be late back to this discussion, but I feel I have to respond.

    Andrew: “I sincerely think [some people suffering in hell eternally] is quite horrendous, terrible and heart-breaking…”

    As you should. No matter what small disagreements we may have, I’m pretty sure anyone who isn’t a psychopath would have to agree that keeping someone alive for eternity in order to torture them for eternity is a pretty crappy way to treat someone. But note what this means: You are more compassionate than the god you claim to worship. If you wouldn’t torture someone for eternity, but God does, then you are a better person than God.

    This is easily illustrated. You said “[God] desires ALL people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. But He is also the perfect Judge”. In other words, God prioritises ‘perfect judgement’ over ‘all people being saved’. A truly compassionate god, assuming the usual omnipotence and omniscience, would be able to figure out some way of setting up the universe that did not involve sentient beings getting tortured for eternity. However much your god may “desire[ ] ALL people to be saved”, if he allows some to go to Hell, he must, however reluctantly, consider that a price worth paying for whatever it is that he gets out of his perfect judgement.

    “Cuttlefish, if you’re honest to yourself you’ll have to admit that some things are just plain wrong!”

    I’m sure Cuttlefish would agree. But it is important to understand why some things are just plain wrong. It is because of the suffering they inflict on sentient beings capable of suffering. Whether an action can be judged right or wrong depends on the properties of those sentient beings. You brought up the unpleasant question of child rape. We condemn rapists in general, and child rapists in particular, because rape is so very damaging to its victims, not because a supernatural being says so. We could easily imagine a universe in which children didn’t really mind being raped, or indeed, quite enjoyed it – for whom it was analogous to being picked up and swung round that small children actually do seem to enjoy. In that universe, child rape would not be wrong. But that is not the universe we live in.

    We could note by way of comparison the issue of homosexuals. Many Christians and other Abrahamic monotheists throughout history, have condemned gay sex as an unconscionable evil – in fact, it probably wouldn’t be that hard, even today, to find someone somewhere who considered gay sex to be a worse crime than (heterosexual) rape. But the reason this is a nonsensical view is because when two informed, consenting adults willingly engage in a sexual act, even one that the majority of people wouldn’t personally choose to take part in, no one is harmed by it. There is no victim, unlike in the case of rape. And this is very obvious when you thing about it – we do not need to factor in a god in order to be able to tell the difference between consenting adults on the one hand, and an unwilling victim and a predatory rapist on the other.

    The only concept of right and wrong that makes sense is one which takes as its objects of moral concern individual sentient beings capable of suffering and wellbeing, whose suffering or wellbeing can be affected by our actions. In our universe that means humans, and other animals to the extent that they are capable of experiencing pain or happiness. Of course, we need to weigh things up very carefully when the wellbeing of two or more are in direct conflict, but adding a god into the equation does not help us settle those disputes.

    That is the ‘objectivity’ we need; indeed the only objectivity we’re going to get (because gods are notoriously unreliable at stepping in to give a ruling where two people disagree about how to interpret their instructions) – the objective question of ‘does this action in fact cause unnecessary suffering, or unnecessarily curtail the wellbeing of, an actual person?’.

  28. Andrew says

    “… God’s will. So god is not omnibenevolent?”

    Cuttlefish, according to the Christian worldview:

    1. God is both omnibenevolent (which demands reconciliation and forgiveness) and perfectly just (which demands exercising of justice upon all evil-doing).
    2. Every person has failed to live up to God’s perfect moral law and so we find ourselves guilty before God. The existence of evil and our own personal experience of guilt and shame are well (if not best) accounted for by this proposition being true.
    3. The only way for God to fulfill both demands on His character (love and justice) is through self-substitution. On the Cross, He not only offered a way of reconciliation with mankind, but also His wrath was satisfied as He, the Judge Himself, paid the penalty for our moral shortcomings.
    4. If proposition (1) is true then it follows that in order to receive forgiveness, one needs to acknowledge proposition (2) and personally believe proposition (3) as true and trustworthy. By rejecting the claims and the work of Jesus on the Cross, we reject God’s provision of mercy and fall back on His justice. This means there is simply no one else to pay the penalty for our moral condition – except ourselves.

    So, according to the Christian worldview, it is not His will (like you insinuate) that keeps (and will keep) people separated from Him, but rather their free-will decision to reject God’s way of reconciliation. The idea of Universalism, which would imply unbelievers having to love God for eternity against their will, is logically contradictory to both the very concept of love and the existence of man’s free will. On the other hand, the Biblical worldview shows no inconsistency between God’s being all-loving and some people’s going to hell, since He cannot guarantee that all people will freely respond to Him and be saved.

    “social conventions…in response to the contingencies of the world. And since the contingencies of the world change over time and circumstance, right and wrong cannot be immutable.”
    Of course not, since these ‘right and wrongs’ are no more than behavioural patterns that are socially agreed upon in response to the changing circumstances around us! But, like I said before, this observation does nothing to undermine the transcendence of the moral principles societies gradually apprehend as worth adopting – say, the value of human freedom or race equality – and which ought to constitute the ethical foundation of all human cultures.

    “Thou shalt not bear false witness”– does that apply when answering the Nazis who are asking if you are hiding Jews?”
    While lying, in and of itself, is always wrong, lying to save innocent lives is not! This is the ethical view of contextual or graded absolutism which is Biblically supported. There are higher and lower laws, and when they conflict we are responsible for following the higher law. Our response to the conflict should be centered on duty rather than on end. Regarding a future mother-in-law, I see no conflict of moral obligations here. The act of lying is end-centered, hence wrong! I’m married now but I’m sure my fiancé’s family would have rather me being honest at the time than putting on a mask to give a good impression. But I’ll admit this is not always easy to do and I’m not perfect either!

    “And when it comes to dietary laws, we have disagreements depending on which god you pay attention to.”
    After Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross (installing the New Covenant), God not only overturned all dietary laws but also all the “ceremonial” laws in the Mosaic covenant (including laws about sacrifices, cleanliness, festivals and special days, and circumcision). The Law was completely fulfilled in Jesus so our trusting in Him removes the need to present anything else – whether in the form of ritual or ordinance – before God.

  29. Cuttlefish says

    1—good luck reconciling this with Hell. Infinite punishment for finite sins cannot be just, unless you wish to completely obliterate the meaning of the word. (That would, at least, be consistent—“morality” having long since lost its meaning in the Christian world view.)
    2—So He created beings inherently unable to live up to His arbitrary standards? And then blames the victims? Oddly enough, guilt and shame may also be accounted for by purely social teaching, without the need to posit a supernatural entity. Social teachings, in addition, account for cultural differences in the things we feel shame and guilt for. One God—especially the Christian God—is a very poor explanation for such variety.
    3—Why? The only way? Why does nailing somebody else to a cross reconcile my sins? (Makes sense as a continuation of cultures of blood sacrifice, but from first principles this is utter gibberish.) Seriously, take two steps back and look at your statement there—suddenly the caricature of Christianity draws itself.
    4—there is no reason to believe 1 is true, less reason to believe 2 is true, wishful thinking of the worst kind to believe 3 is true, and on top of all these, your conclusion does not follow from your premises. Congratulations.

    Did God give us free will, in your view? (I, myself, reject free will as well—the experimental evidence strongly suggests that it is an illusion—our environments control us, but we have very little access to the processing going on in our brains, so it feels quite magical and free.) Your worldview has forced you into a position where you have to treat free choice as every bit as important as your eternal torture, whereas any decent parent would choose to intervene before their child runs out into traffic (their freedom to run being less important than a very brief—compared to eternity—bit of pain and suffering from being hit by a car).

    I’m glad you are more moral than God, when it comes to lying. At least one politician disagrees with you, saying she’d have to tell the truth in that case. She thinks she’s more moral than you. Discuss.

    I’m glad you are more reasonable than the leaders of many of the world’s major religions when it comes to dietary laws. You have not, however, established that your view is any more authoritative than theirs. I could ask a Muslim reader, who would speak of your savior as simply another prophet, would justify Halal dietary laws, and the two of you could argue for a bit. Or a Jewish reader, who would deny your savior and justify Kosher laws.

    All of which speaks to the underlying circularity of your argument. You must assume Christianity to be true in order to even begin your apologetics, and even then ignore gaping holes in logic. The god hypothesis fails again and again, but a bit of duct tape and epoxy and carry on… and by this time, it’s all duct tape and epoxy.

    I have hope, though. A friend of mine once noted that people climb further and further out on their apologetics limb, and then realize they have forced themselves into absurd positions. Examining their absurd positions, they realize that there is no single place along that limb that they can draw a demarcation, and come to see that the whole notion is foolishness. This is my wish for you. Take off your blinders and look around. The real world is a beautiful place.

    Plus, we have cookies.

  30. Andrew says

    Hi Cuttlefish, thank you for these relevant questions!

    “Infinite punishment for finite sins cannot be just”
    It is not the (finite number of) sinful acts that God will judge but the sinfulness of our human nature that keeps us separated from Him.

    “Why [Jesus]? The only way?
    Like a trustworthy witness who testifies on our defense in front of a judge, Jesus is the only one who can mediate between us and God! Because He lived a sinless life, God approves Him and anyone who is in Him won’t be judged – since God only sees Jesus! But without Jesus’ cover, our nasty-smelling sinfulness is exposed before God and, in that state, we can’t share eternity with Him because He repudiates sin!

    “So He created beings inherently unable to live up to His arbitrary standards? And then blames the victims?”
    We were originally created as responsible moral beings with the capacity to freely choose between obeying Him or disobeying Him. It is man’s sinful condition resulting from the fall that predisposes us towards sin, preventing us from living up to His standards (which by the way are no more arbitrary that any social teaching permitting slavery or race discrimination!)

    “… [cultural differences in the things we feel] guilt and shame [for] may also be accounted for by purely social teaching…”
    This begs the question since it assumes that anyone who breaks the law (or opposes social teaching) is committing a truly wrong act to be ashamed of. Think of your favourite moral reformer and see whether their shame (or absence of, rather) for their “wrongdoings” can be explained by social relativism.

    “… your conclusion does not follow from your premises”
    I never intended it to be a deductive argument but a summary of worldview propositions.

    “… the experimental evidence strongly suggests that [free will] is an illusion—our environments control us…”
    If determinism was true then you would have been incapable of evaluating this evidence rationally by freely following the logic that leads to the conclusion. Moreover, I see no reason why a creature endowed with free will could not exist and act upon and be acted upon by the external environment.

    “[A politician] thinks she’s more moral than you.”
    Who is she to say something like that about me if social relativism is true? I’m not American!

    ” You have not established that your view is any more authoritative than … a Muslim[‘s] or a Jewish’ [views]”
    My view is established on the authority of someone who, unlike others, claimed to be God in flesh, and proved it!

    “You must assume Christianity to be true …. in order to even begin your apologetics”
    All I’ve done is to show the consistency of the Christian worldview. This, like with any other position, cannot be done unless it is first considered! It wasn’t my intention to prove it or to give any good reasons to embrace it. But it can be done.

  31. Cuttlefish says

    Ah, the consistency of the Christian worldview. It is indeed consistent, but at the cost of re-defining the words it relies on most.

    The sinfulness of human nature… for your worldview to be consistent, a newborn infant must be saddled with sins worthy of eternal torture, should she die unsaved. (Yes, I know, apologists have made all sorts of exceptions, but since those support my contention that you ignore God’s word in order to be moral, I’ll grant you the favor of remaining true to principle, and the baby is a sinner worthy of hell.)

    I am liable for someone else’s sins (Eve, either literally or metaphorically), and my descendants are liable for mine. But a completely separate third party can forgive these sins. I can rob from you, and appeal to a different person for forgiveness. Whether you are repaid is irrelevant. This is lunacy.

    Jesus is the only one who can intervene, because…. I specifically asked why this was the case, and all you did was reiterate the claim. I ask again–why? It makes no sense unless you wish to invert and pervert every word in the definitions you use.

    in addition…

    “[your] view is established on the authority of someone who, unlike others, claimed to be God in flesh, and proved it!” Please tell me how you can differentiate between someone who actually fits this description, and someone else who simply claims it. Jim Jones and Charles Manson convinced people they were God in the flesh, and proved it to their satisfaction. “I just know it” is thin gruel.

    lastly…

    “If determinism was true then you would have been incapable of evaluating this evidence rationally by freely following the logic that leads to the conclusion. ” Wow. Really? Please explain to me how it is that rational evaluation requires free will. You and I are both constrained by our past experience and our present situations; rational evaluation does not in any sense mean “unconstrained” evaluation–indeed, both scientific methodology and logical rules have been developed in order to guard against our normal thinking. Were it not for the influence of an external set of rules we have stumbled upon (because they work), your “evaluating this evidence rationally” would be limited… as the prescientific writers of what became the bible were limited. And your results would be as flawed as theirs.

    I make no claims to freely evaluating the evidence. So what? The evidence is evaluated, and comes up short.

    “Moreover, I see no reason why a creature endowed with free will could not exist and act upon and be acted upon by the external environment.” Thank you for this. In one sentence, you show how you have redefined “free will” (not to worry–it’s not just you; the concept has been faulty from the start, and has been redefined constantly since at least Descartes, if not Plato) to account for the obvious effects of the environment. “No reason why X could not…”, of course, is a classic shift of the burden of proof–sorry, but you’ll need to prove it, not simply assume it and say there is no reason not to see it. Especially since there is nothing requiring an assumption of free will, other than ignorance.

    Do me a favor, please–when you *do* abandon your faith, please come back here and let us know. You are asking many of the right questions. Don’t settle for made-up answers, and don’t give up.

  32. KG says

    Because He lived a sinless life, God approves Him and anyone who is in Him won’t be judged – since God only sees Jesus! – Andrew

    Really? An omnipotent being without X-ray vision?

  33. KG says

    God is both omnibenevolent (which demands reconciliation and forgiveness) and perfectly just (which demands exercising of justice upon all evil-doing). – Andrew

    You’ve just given the most succinct proof I’ve ever seen that the Christian god does not exist! Congratulations!

  34. The MadPanda, FCD says

    Objective morality?

    Every time I hear or read that particular claim, I am reminded that it is not the unbelievers and nones who must make excuses for the Noachian Flood or certain incidents of ethnic cleansing performed by Moses and his happy band of marauding vagabonds. And lets not forget the pair of angry mother bears sent to massacre a crowd of children for daring to make fun of a bald prophet!

    Divine Command is not an objective standard. At best, it’s on a par with the tenth* rule of the Fascist Decalogue (“Mussolini is always right.”) See ‘theodicy’.

    Invocations of omnibenevolence are also not an objective standard so much as an exercise in special pleading–shades of gawd as an abusive boyfriend! “It’s for my own good that he beats me, because I’m so wretched and useless without him!” See ‘theodicy’ again.

    The closest I’ve ever found to an actual objective standard of morality? That’d be Kant. And he failed to reconcile the conflict between equal and opposite perfect moral duties, so far as I know. So that’s no good.

    The kindest thing I can say about the use of Scripture as the end-all and be-all of moral standards is that it seems an abdication of one’s responsibility to give unto such a text the burden of sole authority. I suspect this papers over a whole host of ethical bankruptcies, regardless of the scripture being invoked.

    * I’ve never been too clear on why that wasn’t the first rule in the Fascist Decalogue, to be honest.

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