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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The atheist problem of evil

I have pointed out many times that the so-called "problem of evil" is not an actual problem for Christianity. Indeed, Christianity is predicated on the existence of evil. This post, discussing how the modern academy blunders about completely failing to grasp the basic concept of evil, tends to underline that point:
Hindered by their postmodern moral relativism, many participants tended to be tentative and vague in their ruminations on moral evil (except when it concerned political conservatives). Some of the better papers concerned the theme of evil in great writers such as Kafka and Dostoevsky but left the concept of evil undefined. Only a few papers addressed the problems of the origin of evil and the essential nature of evil. One of these was a Hungarian scholar’s treatment of Plato’s thoughts on how a good deity (the Demiurge) could allow for the existence of evil. I had no idea that thinkers other than Judeo-Christian monotheists had dealt with this issue. The paper demonstrated that the existence of evil is a real intellectual puzzle that merits deeper attention than the sort of superficial, conventional moralizing on display in other presentations
As a general rule, if your first thought concerning evil revolves around political party identities, you're totally missing the point.

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201 Comments:

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Blogger Giraffe September 11, 2012 3:56 PM  

Exhibit A: George.

Anonymous Toby Temple September 11, 2012 4:08 PM  

Well, that is what happens when God is removed from the equation.

When the objective source of good is missing, then evil also disappears.

Anonymous Daniel September 11, 2012 4:10 PM  

Ha! I studied, if it could be called that, briefly at Hokusei Gakuen, where this professor teaches.

The fact that, after 25 years in the profession of Humanities studies, the critic himself can write: "I had no idea that thinkers other than Judeo-Christian monotheists had dealt with this issue [i.e. the problem of evil in the presence of a good god]," says all you need to know about the state of the academy: the thinkers don't think anything, and the critics are too poorly read to know why they don't.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 4:15 PM  

Toby said:

"When the objective source of good is missing, then evil also disappears."

You almost got that right. Actually, when an objective source of good is taken out of the equation, then an objective source of evil also disappears. The concept of evil, and good, however remains alive and well.

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick September 11, 2012 4:16 PM  

The problem of evil should be cause the problem of stuff I don't like.

Anonymous HardReturn¶ September 11, 2012 4:23 PM  

"...the current academic world has in many ways become an enabler of human evil." Eureka! The professor has an epiphany! Meanwhile, the unenlightened masses yawn at this profound academic revelation.

Anonymous CaptDMO September 11, 2012 4:25 PM  

"If you can't explain your "theory" to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself"
(some famous guy)
Hence: Good? Evil?
Aesop's Fables
Mother Goose
Brothers Grimm
1001 Arabian Nights
Et al.

See? It doesn't need to be MADE so disingenuously "complicated", for constant re-evaluation by "qualified deep thinkers" ONLY, at all.

Anonymous Idle Spectator September 11, 2012 4:26 PM  

Ok Vox, it is 3 AM and you are trying to fall asleep in your bed.

I walk into your room and sit down.

I notice you are watching the Designing Women marathon. You're on the episode in the second season, when Ted has second thoughts about marrying the younger woman after appreciating his ex-wife Mary Jo's maturity.

I recoil at this horrid sight, as Odysseus did when he first saw the Cyclops. I quickly calm myself, and get back to my perfunctory thoughts. That's the kind of person I am, grace under pressure. You turn off the TV, because it time for some man-talk. I sit at the edge of the bed. Suddenly you hear a subtle, yet Earthy voice like on a phone sex hotline.

So, what do you think Nietzsche meant when trying to elaborate on his Three Metamorphoses in the book Thus Spake Zarathustra?

I edge in closer on the bed. You recoil back slightly, your hands grasping the blanket edge so tightly your knuckles blanche. Neck jutting backwards, like a giraffe in reverse.

I whisper, softly, subtly massaging your eardum, like a Thai pole dancer massages her expat client's wallet.

...Hmmmm? Hmm? What do you think Nietzsche meant by that?

Anonymous LuxLibertas September 11, 2012 4:28 PM  

I thought the Demi-urge was the evil subcreator deity.

Anonymous Stilicho September 11, 2012 4:33 PM  

The concept of evil, and good, however remains alive and well.

But it is entirely subjective. As your intellectual forebear said, do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. You define good and evil based upon your subjective preferences.

Blogger JDC September 11, 2012 4:34 PM  

Quote from George: Actually, when an objective source of good is taken out of the equation, then an objective source of evil also disappears. The concept of evil, and good, however remains alive and well.

I'm curious to know what you mean by "alive and well." What I'm getting from your response is that in your op - there can be a healthy knowledge / framework of good and evil without an objective source.

Blogger JDC September 11, 2012 4:35 PM  

Is that a fair statement?

Anonymous Daniel September 11, 2012 4:38 PM  

I thought the Demi-urge was the evil subcreator deity.

Not according to Timaeus.

Blogger JartStar September 11, 2012 4:39 PM  

Nothing changes with these fools. From Chesterton:

And with a hypocrisy so ludicrous as to be almost unparalleled in history, we rate the gutter-boys for their immorality at the very time that we are discussing (with equivocal German Professors) whether morality is valid at all. At the very instant that we curse the Penny Dreadful for encouraging thefts upon property, we canvass the proposition that all property is theft. At the very instant we accuse it (quite unjustly) of lubricity and indecency, we are cheerfully reading philosophies which glory in lubricity and indecency. At the very instant that we charge it with encouraging the young to destroy life, we are placidly discussing whether life is worth preserving.

Blogger JartStar September 11, 2012 4:45 PM  

George,

Do you believe in real good and evil? (not just that the concept of good and evil is real) And if you do, how do you define them?

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 4:45 PM  

Stilcho said:

"But it is entirely subjective. You define good and evil based upon your subjective preferences."

That's correct. It works out ok.

Anonymous Richardthughes September 11, 2012 4:45 PM  

Hmmm. Evil certainly is a problem, but I think we're talking in terms of it being an entailment for a particular origins narrative. I'd humbly suggest its more of a problem for one that contains and all loving, all powerful god.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 4:47 PM  

JDC Wrote:

"I'm curious to know what you mean by "alive and well." What I'm getting from your response is that in your op - there can be a healthy knowledge / framework of good and evil without an objective source."

I meant primarily that the issue of good and evil, without entertaining the idea of an objective source, is still a very serious issue. The individual can unquestionably operate under a healthy framework for good and evil without relinquishing their moral authority to a god.

Blogger Giraffe September 11, 2012 4:48 PM  

That's correct. It works out ok.

That depends on whether you are Hitler or a Jew.

Anonymous WinstonWebb September 11, 2012 4:49 PM  

...when an objective source of good is taken out of the equation, then an objective source of evil also disappears. The concept of evil, and good, however remains alive and well.

But completely subjective.

Let's apply it this way:
"...when an objective source of right is taken out of the equation, then an objective source of wrong also disappears. The concept of right, and wrong, however remains alive and well."

I had no idea that you were a nihilist, George.

Blogger Giraffe September 11, 2012 4:52 PM  

I had no idea that you were a nihilist, George.

He didn't either.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 4:53 PM  

Jarstar said:

"Do you believe in real good and evil? (not just that the concept of good and evil is real) And if you do, how do you define them?"

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "real" good and evil. I think good and evil are intellectual/emotional constructs that are likely only entertained by humans. I think there are basic ideas of the moral good and the moral evil that have existed through time and place, while there are other notions of what is good and what is evil that has changed over time. My own moral framework (so to speak) was formed over time utilizing a variety of tools and being impacted by a variety of cirumstances. I personally think this is how the vast majority of folks get to their concepts of good and evil.

Anonymous Josh September 11, 2012 4:53 PM  

Wtf?

Anonymous Daniel September 11, 2012 4:54 PM  

George
That's correct. It works out ok.

Giraffe
That depends on whether you are Hitler or a Jew.

No it doesn't. Hitler subjectively decides it is good for the Jew to enter the gas chamber, and the Jew subjectively decides that he doesn't like that very much.

See? Works out ok, indeed!

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 4:55 PM  

Winston wrote:

""...when an objective source of right is taken out of the equation, then an objective source of wrong also disappears. The concept of right, and wrong, however remains alive and well."

I had no idea that you were a nihilist, George."

Yes, that's about it. Though I think properly understood "right and wrong" are derivative "good and bad".

As for nihilism....I'm unconcerned with that label.

Anonymous Daniel September 11, 2012 4:56 PM  

I think good and evil are intellectual/emotional constructs that are likely only entertained by humans.

As opposed to what? Lawn furniture?

Anonymous Mrs. Pilgrim September 11, 2012 4:57 PM  

Wtf?

About which?

Anonymous Toby Temple September 11, 2012 4:57 PM  

That's correct. It works out ok.

No. It doesn't.

If you are wondering why then you have no grasp of the logical consequence of moral relativity.

Anonymous Shild September 11, 2012 4:57 PM  

By Davidson's description, I surmise that the academics at the conference made the basic error of disavowing morality, or at least objective morality.

The trouble is that humans are by nature moral creatures, meaning that we must make judgements about good and evil. Disavowing objective morality therefore has the absurd result of causing one to condemn any expression of objective morality as evil. This is why they were unable or unwilling define what they meant by "evil", because doings so would have forced them to make objective judgments.

This is also why the academics wasted their time on irrelevent conservative examples. Those conservatives represent objective moral judgement, and therefore the academics who mistakenly attempt to transcend moral judgement are forced to condemn them.

An individual like Genghis Khan who conquers, rapes, and murders for his own animal satisfaction is morally superior to a radio personality who claims to uphold an objective moral principle by this pseudo-standard.

Anonymous Stilicho September 11, 2012 4:58 PM  

Stilcho said:

"But it is entirely subjective. You define good and evil based upon your subjective preferences."

That's correct. It works out ok.


That is an admission that whoever accused you (in a prior thread, Giraffe, IIRC) of defining good and evil as "George likes = good and George dislikes = evil" was entirely correct.

Anonymous Heh September 11, 2012 5:00 PM  

"But it is entirely subjective. You define good and evil based upon your subjective preferences."

That's correct. It works out ok.


The subjective preferences of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim, and Castro worked out "OK"... for some values of "OK" (namely, theirs).

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:03 PM  

Toby wrote:

"No. It doesn't.

If you are wondering why then you have no grasp of the logical consequence of moral relativity"

The logical consequences of moral relativity don't impact the fact that despite retaining my moral authority, my own set of morals would largely line up pretty closely with the vast majority of those folks who relinquish their moral authority.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:05 PM  

Shild wrote:

" Disavowing objective morality therefore has the absurd result of causing one to condemn any expression of objective morality as evil"

Why?

Anonymous Grendelizer September 11, 2012 5:05 PM  

Evil is NOT the Dark Side of the Force. There is only one "Force." It is good. It is God. It is Love.

Evil is the absence of the tempering agency of God's goodness and love acting in, through, and upon God's creatures with moral capacity.

Jesus put it thusly, "You must be born again. The wind blows where it wills. You cannot see it, but you can feel it and know when it's present. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

It is the wind of God's good Spirit, blowing on the dry leaves of human clay, hovering over the chaos of matter, that is the Source of Goodness.

The absence of God's Spirit leaves hearts darkened and turned in upon themselves: Evil.

Anonymous Stilicho September 11, 2012 5:05 PM  

The logical consequences of moral relativity don't impact the fact that despite retaining my moral authority, my own set of morals would largely line up pretty closely with the vast majority of those folks who relinquish their moral authority.

You are clearly a satanist, but unlike most, you are honest about it.

Anonymous Heh September 11, 2012 5:06 PM  

Straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, one Finnish academic ridiculed Fox News commentators trying to defend the U.S. from the charge that it was torturing terrorist prisoners. The problem, you see, is that Americans are “othering” the terrorists by treating them as different. If anything, the perpetrators of jihadist terror seem to be the ones guilty of “othering” Americans, demonizing their civilization as worthy of nothing but destruction. The participants seemed taken aback when I pointed this out.

The Leftist academics agree with the jihadis on that score, and thus they naturally are taken aback when you describe this goal as evil!

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:07 PM  

Stilcho wrote:

"That is an admission that whoever accused you (in a prior thread, Giraffe, IIRC) of defining good and evil as "George likes = good and George dislikes = evil" was entirely correct."

Not entirely correct. It might be better put like this: George believes = good/bad.

Anonymous WinstonWebb September 11, 2012 5:10 PM  

Yes, that's about it. Though I think properly understood "right and wrong" are derivative "good and bad".

Bad logic. Neither can be "properly understood", as (by your words) neither have an objective basis. Chaos, by definition, defies understanding.

As for nihilism....I'm unconcerned with that label.

That's nice, but your concern is irrelevant to the validity of the label.

Anonymous Shild September 11, 2012 5:10 PM  

Re: George

Because if you retain your faculty of judgement you have to condemn something.

Blogger JohnG September 11, 2012 5:11 PM  

Is there an atheist that thinks anything is evil?

It all comes back to the origen of morality, Western atheists cling tenuously to Judeo/Christian morality and when God is taken out of the equation, then they stumble around and make up excuses like some mystery gene. From a Darwinian perspective, a good Eugenics program would be entirely helpful, but most of these guys think that's abhorent - same lot that will say that promoting homosex is a good thing.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:11 PM  

Stilcho wrote:

"You are clearly a satanist, but unlike most, you are honest about it."

Does one have to proclaim themselves a "satanist" in order to be one in the same way that a christian needs to proclaim themselves a follower of Christ? I think so.

I don't claim to be a Satanist in the same way I don't claim to be a Christian or faithful at all. The most you could say is that I have Satanist tendencies, I suppose. But again, I could care less, though not much.

Anonymous Mrs. Pilgrim September 11, 2012 5:11 PM  

Idle Spectator, I think you'd have been dead within the first three paragraphs of your...um...enlightening real-person fic there.

Meanwhile, my brain and a bottle of Clorox have a date. Jerk.

If I were a vindictive woman, I would provide you with a link to a page that, while relevant to the discussion here (because it contains a severe logic-fail on the part of atheists trying to explain why bestiality is immoral), contains worse than what you wrote.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:13 PM  

Winston Said:

"Bad logic. Neither can be "properly understood", as (by your words) neither have an objective basis. Chaos, by definition, defies understanding."

Simply because I claim no divine warrant for my beliefs doesn't mean they can't flow from reason or thoughtful consideration.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:16 PM  

Shild wrote:

"Because if you retain your faculty of judgement you have to condemn something."

Despite the fact that I may disagree with you that murder is evil because god says so, I don't NEED to condemn you for your belief. In fact, I can admire the your ultimate belief about murder despite the path you took to get to it.

Anonymous Toby Temple September 11, 2012 5:17 PM  

The logical consequences of moral relativity don't impact the fact that despite retaining my moral authority, my own set of morals would largely line up pretty closely with the vast majority of those folks who relinquish their moral authority.

You are forgetting the fact the it lines up well with only the majority, forgetting completely about the minority upon which your only way to condemn their actions as "evil" is because "you say so" and "that most people agree with you", which are both fallacious and irrational.

Anonymous Stilicho September 11, 2012 5:19 PM  

Simply because I claim no divine warrant for my beliefs doesn't mean they can't flow from reason or thoughtful consideration.

You cannot have it both ways: either your beliefs regarding good and evil are subjective as you have previously claimed in this thread, or those beliefs are objectively based upon reason. Reason is not subject to your preferences any more than truth is subject to your emotions.

Blogger Giraffe September 11, 2012 5:19 PM  

No it doesn't. Hitler subjectively decides it is good for the Jew to enter the gas chamber, and the Jew subjectively decides that he doesn't like that very much.

See? Works out ok, indeed!


So all that is left who has the power to enforce their preference, and viola, we have might makes right.

Works out well.

Anonymous WinstonWebb September 11, 2012 5:20 PM  

Simply because I claim no divine warrant for my beliefs doesn't mean they can't flow from reason or thoughtful consideration.

Nice try. I don't claim divinity for mine, either. But to declare oneself as the ultimate arbiter of all things good/evil, right/wrong, moral/immoral, is hubris-cum-psychopath.

Anonymous smiley September 11, 2012 5:21 PM  

The argument does not say that evil exists and since Christianity doesn't 'allow' evil, Christianity must not be true. The problem of evil enthusiast acknowledges the fact Christianity allows and 'requires' evil, but, he argues, Christianity is internally inconsistent (and therefore false) because this is inconsistent with the fact of God's benevolence. So I do not think pointing out the fact of Christianity being predicated on the existence of evil is sufficient to disprove the problem.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:22 PM  

Toby:

But where basic moral questions are concerned, my own moral views line up with the vast majority of people on earth, be they christian, atheist, Tao, buddhist, eastern or western.

I don't think I use the excuse, "most people agree" to condemn something as evil. However, "you say so", as you put it, would be closer to the mark. You may find this to be fallacious, but it certainly isn't irrational.

Anonymous Shild September 11, 2012 5:26 PM  

Despite the fact that I may disagree with you that murder is evil because god says so, I don't NEED to condemn you for your belief. In fact, I can admire the your ultimate belief about murder despite the path you took to get to it.

In this example, you must conclude that I am wrong. The standard of truth in this judgement is reality, as perceived by you.

A person who claims no objective morality disavows any standard by which to judge courses of action. At the same time, he can't escape from the responsibility of moral judgement, because he can't escape fromt he necessity of choosing between alternatives. Since he rejects objective morality, he must condemn objective moral expressions by others.

Blogger Giraffe September 11, 2012 5:29 PM  

First deny:

The argument does not say that evil exists and since Christianity doesn't 'allow' evil, Christianity must not be true.


Then affirm:

The problem of evil enthusiast acknowledges the fact Christianity allows and 'requires' evil, but, he argues, Christianity is internally inconsistent (and therefore false) because this is inconsistent with the fact of God's benevolence. So I do not think pointing out the fact of Christianity being predicated on the existence of evil is sufficient to disprove the problem.

Christianity is not internally inconsistent.

Blogger JartStar September 11, 2012 5:30 PM  

I don't claim to be a Satanist in the same way I don't claim to be a Christian or faithful at all. The most you could say is that I have Satanist tendencies, I suppose. But again, I could care less, though not much.

Satanist carries too much baggage, the better term is Luciferianism. It's not about pentagrams and blood rituals, but who you are rooting for, God or Lucifer, or at least who's ideals you agree with most of the time.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:30 PM  

Stilcho wrote:

"You cannot have it both ways: either your beliefs regarding good and evil are subjective as you have previously claimed in this thread, or those beliefs are objectively based upon reason. Reason is not subject to your preferences any more than truth is subject to your emotions."

Once can easily bring reason into the process of coming to a subjective determination about good and evil. One can easily combine both reason and emotion as well as other factors when coming to a determination of good and evil. I'd argue that everyone, Christians included, ultimately use subjectivity in coming to their moral framework. But reason, for the believer and non believer need not be outside the equation entirely.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:32 PM  

Winston wrote:

"I don't claim divinity for mine, either. But to declare oneself as the ultimate arbiter of all things good/evil, right/wrong, moral/immoral, is hubris-cum-psychopath.

I declare myself the ultimate arbiter of what I believe is moral and immoral. If you don't claim divine warrant for what you believe is moral and immoral, nor do you claim yourself to be the ultimate arbiter, then what is the source of your determination of moral and immoral?

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:37 PM  

Shild wrote:

"In this example, you must conclude that I am wrong. The standard of truth in this judgement is reality, as perceived by you."

I only have to conclude that the path you took to determining, like me, that murder is immoral, is incorrect. But I don't really care that much about that.


"A person who claims no objective morality disavows any standard by which to judge courses of action. At the same time, he can't escape from the responsibility of moral judgement, because he can't escape fromt he necessity of choosing between alternatives. Since he rejects objective morality, he must condemn objective moral expressions by others."

No. I claim that my own standards are sufficient to judge a course of action. And I don't need to condemn moral expressions based on concepts of objective morals. However, I do need to condemn actions I deem as immoral, regardless of how they are determined.

Anonymous Stilicho September 11, 2012 5:38 PM  

Once can easily bring reason into the process of coming to a subjective determination about good and evil. One can easily combine both reason and emotion as well as other factors when coming to a determination of good and evil. I'd argue that everyone, Christians included, ultimately use subjectivity in coming to their moral framework. But reason, for the believer and non believer need not be outside the equation entirely.

Nonsense. You are merely claiming that your subjective preferences are based upon an objective framework that is defined by your subjective preferences.

Anonymous Stilicho September 11, 2012 5:40 PM  

No. I claim that my own standards are sufficient to judge a course of action. And I don't need to condemn moral expressions based on concepts of objective morals. However, I do need to condemn actions I deem as immoral, regardless of how they are determined.

Translation: he gets by with a little help from his fiends.

Anonymous pdimov September 11, 2012 5:41 PM  

George: The logical consequences of moral relativity don't impact the fact that despite retaining my moral authority, my own set of morals would largely line up pretty closely with the vast majority of those folks who relinquish their moral authority.

You don't really have any moral authority. If you had, you'd be able to operate under an arbitrary set of morals, and your arbitrary morality would be recognized by others as legitimate. You don't even have moral autonomy; it is not a mere coincidence that you "freely choose" a set of morals that resembles the Christian morality; neither is it a coincidence that most people throughout history have "freely chosen" in a very similar manner.

Only sociopaths have moral autonomy.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:43 PM  

Jarstar said:

"Satanist carries too much baggage"

Well, that's undeniable.


"It's not about pentagrams and blood rituals, but who you are rooting for, God or Lucifer, or at least who's ideals you agree with most of the time."

That sounds fair. However, not knowing exactly what Lucifer's ideals are, it's hard to know if mine line up with his. How does Lucifer feel about allowing a parent to simply perish as they prefer, rather than make every effort to keep them alive? In other words, euthanasia?

How does Lucifer feel about lying, murder and theft? I'd need to know this to see if my ideals line up with his. By the way, is it a "he"?

Anonymous Stilicho September 11, 2012 5:44 PM  

Lucifer arrogates to himself the role of God.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:46 PM  

Stilcho wrote:

"Nonsense. You are merely claiming that your subjective preferences are based upon an objective framework that is defined by your subjective preferences."

Im not claiming how I come to my own moral framework is entirely based on reason. I'm claiming only that reason can play a part in how moral frameworks are come to. For example, one might, in the course of developing their moral framework, ask what causes pain among humans? Do humans prefer physical pain? Are there ways to prevent causing physical pain. With each of these question, logic and reason can be brought to bare on the question and in the end might help develop a moral framework.

Anonymous smiley September 11, 2012 5:47 PM  

"Christianity is not internally inconsistent."

It allows is in the sense that the Bible does not say anywhere that evil does not exist in the world.

But this doesn't necessarily mean that certain other things Christianity dictates are not incompatible with the fact of the existence of evil. This is what the problem of evil enthusiast (a label I do not necessarily assign to myself) will argue, by proposing that that the two facts of God's benevolence and the existence of evil cannot simultaneously be true. Since Christianity requires both, he will argue, it must not be true.

Anonymous Daniel September 11, 2012 5:49 PM  

Who cares if humans prefer pain or not? Your code allows you to inflict it at will to suit your purposes, regardless of their preferences.

Jeff Dahmer developed a very sound moral framework, on your standard.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:51 PM  

Pdimov said:

"You don't really have any moral authority. If you had, you'd be able to operate under an arbitrary set of morals, and your arbitrary morality would be recognized by others as legitimate. You don't even have moral autonomy; it is not a mere coincidence that you "freely choose" a set of morals that resembles the Christian morality; neither is it a coincidence that most people throughout history have "freely chosen" in a very similar manner."

In fact, I possess both moral autonomy and moral authority because I make no demands on anyone else that they agree with me. In this way I am responsible for my own morals and I clearly have the authority to determine my own morals. You may not like my morals. You may find the way I came to them to be offensive, but you can't deny that they are mine. And I'll also note that my own set of morals do in fact match in some ways those of christians, but those particular morals also match that of non christians and non-westerners. Then of course there are other parts of my moral code that most christians would say are incompatible with christianity. So, there's that.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:51 PM  

Stilcho wrote:

"Lucifer arrogates to himself the role of God."

Yeah, but how does he feel about pornography?

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 5:53 PM  

Daniel wrote:

"Who cares if humans prefer pain or not? Your code allows you to inflict it at will to suit your purposes, regardless of their preferences."

Actually, my moral code does not allow me to inflict pain at will. However, the process by which I come to my own set of morals might allow me to justify. There's a difference.

Anonymous Shild September 11, 2012 5:54 PM  

I claim that my own standards are sufficient to judge a course of action. And I don't need to condemn moral expressions based on concepts of objective morals. However, I do need to condemn actions I deem as immoral, regardless of how they are determined.

If you believe that believing or promulgating falsehood is wrong and you believe that objective moral codes are false then you must condemn them.

How exactly did you come by your standards, anyhow? They have to be based on something external to yourself, after all. Otherwise they're just empty pronouncements.

Blogger Giraffe September 11, 2012 5:54 PM  

George, you have no standard, no warrant, and no clue.

Anonymous pdimov September 11, 2012 5:55 PM  

I declare myself the ultimate arbiter of what I believe is moral and immoral.

You still need an explanation for the fact that so many "ultimate arbiters" independently happen to converge around the same set of morals. Were morality completely subjective, one would expect a random distribution. A non-subjective morality source would explain this, and it doesn't contradict your claim. You can still consider yourself the ultimate arbiter of what you believe, even when your beliefs have a source.

Blogger JartStar September 11, 2012 5:58 PM  

I certainly can’t speak for Lucifer, but if you find yourself in opposition to the Judeo-Christian position on ethical issues like euthanasia and pornography then you know which side you are on.

The most significant indication is if you think your moral system is superior and you are in position to judge God.

Anonymous Daniel September 11, 2012 5:59 PM  

How does Lucifer feel about allowing a parent to simply perish as they prefer, rather than make every effort to keep them alive? In other words, euthanasia?

He's for it.

How does Lucifer feel about lying, murder and theft?

His feelings are complex. In certain cases, lying is acceptable, if it is for the greater good as he sees it. Murder of the innocent is generally a bad idea, except, in his wisdom, with those cases when it can actually spare them from greater suffering than murder, and in those relatively rare cases, it is a tragic but preferable lesser of two evils.

Theft is sticky, though, because what is property, after all? Can a man really "own" a farm that was stolen from natives in the distant past? Is not scarcity of goods a significant cause of deprivation and poverty? Should not ownership, therefore, have some divine limit put upon it to prevent social imbalance? Should not people be encouraged to share in wealth equally, or at least more equally? Doesn't the prohibition of theft, at some level, actually promote competition, starvation and divisions between winners and losers? Wasn't man better off without possessions in the first place?

I'd need to know this to see if my ideals line up with his. By the way, is it a "he"?

I think his gender is irrelevant, what with him being a divine and apparently unattached being, but I think the classical use of the pronoun "he" is probably fine.

Blogger JartStar September 11, 2012 6:00 PM  

I declare myself the ultimate arbiter of what I believe is moral and immoral.

I just noticed that you wrote this and it is very Luciferian. There ya go.

Anonymous Daniel September 11, 2012 6:02 PM  

Actually, my moral code does not allow me to inflict pain at will. However, the process by which I come to my own set of morals might allow me to justify. There's a difference.

Yours doesn't, but mine does. I am free to hurt anyone I like. This is my moral code. Who are you to stand in its way?

Anonymous pdimov September 11, 2012 6:04 PM  

In this way I am responsible for my own morals and I clearly have the authority to determine my own morals.

A moral authority resolves conflicts. When you and I disagree on whether something is moral, we ask a moral authority and accept his judgment. It should be obvious that your being a moral authority recognized only by yourself is not a very useful concept.

Anonymous LuxLibertas September 11, 2012 6:07 PM  

Yeah, that was the Gnostics.

Anonymous jack September 11, 2012 6:16 PM  

From up the comment ladder:

I thought the Demi-urge was the evil subcreator deity.

From the Gnostic literature the Demiurge was the entity created by Sophia [pure knowledge]. This entity thought it was the ultimate and only god. The poor thing did not realize that was an ultimate 'Good' that was really God.
Obviously, the demiurge would be the 'god of this world' and could be cloaked with the mantle of 'evil.'
Of the definitions of evil I have read one of the more interesting is that evil is 'error.' IE; if something distracts your thoughts it could be thought of as error and, thus, evil.
The various gradations of evil can, of course, span the range from something that distracts your thought to Hitler's savage Gestapo and their tortures; and, beyond.
Someone with an internet superintelligence should write a book on evil. I would pay good money for it.

Anonymous WinstonWebb September 11, 2012 6:20 PM  

I declare myself the ultimate arbiter of what I believe is moral and immoral.

"I declare myself the ultimate arbiter of what I believe..."

No shit.

That's not the point we're debating.

Anonymous Kickass September 11, 2012 6:22 PM  

Idle spectator just turned into Dr. Hannible.

Anonymous Kickass September 11, 2012 6:29 PM  

So, no one gets that George is an attention whore who is toying with you all?

Anonymous patrick kelly September 11, 2012 6:33 PM  

re: smiley "by proposing that that the two facts of God's benevolence and the existence of evil cannot simultaneously be true. Since Christianity requires both, he will argue, it must not be true."

Sure, if you have a very shallow, hostile understanding of Christianity.

Christianity doesn't require evil any more than a fire needs a dark, stormy night.

Anonymous smiley September 11, 2012 6:45 PM  

It does not matter if you personally happen to think the two propositions are not incompatible; my point was merely that the mere fact Christianity is predicated on the existence of evil is not sufficient to deem the problem of evil illegitimate. This is true irregardless of whether you think it can be disproven through other means. If you happen to think Christianity does not require evil, you are disagreeing with VD.

Anonymous Stilicho September 11, 2012 6:51 PM  

So, no one gets that George is an attention whore who is toying with you all?

Everyone gets it and is amused by it.

Anonymous Mrs. Pilgrim September 11, 2012 7:05 PM  

So, no one gets that George is an attention whore who is toying with you all?

Why do you think I've been ignoring him?

Anonymous VD September 11, 2012 7:13 PM  

I'd humbly suggest its more of a problem for one that contains and all loving, all powerful god.

That's not a problem for the Christian God, of course. He is not all-loving and doesn't claim to be. There is a long, long list of specific individuals and various types of people that He hates.

Anonymous VD September 11, 2012 7:14 PM  

So, no one gets that George is an attention whore who is toying with you all?

He abides by the rules. It's no concern of mine if he wants to play chew toy for the Dread Ilk.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 7:20 PM  

Shild wrote:

"If you believe that believing or promulgating falsehood is wrong and you believe that objective moral codes are false then you must condemn them."

See, I don't really care how a person comes to their moral code, as long as it matches mine. So while I might think your path is false, It's just not that important to condemn beyond noting when it seems reasonable that the path seems unreasonable.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 7:26 PM  

Pdimov said:

"You still need an explanation for the fact that so many "ultimate arbiters" independently happen to converge around the same set of morals. Were morality completely subjective, one would expect a random distribution. A non-subjective morality source would explain this, and it doesn't contradict your claim. You can still consider yourself the ultimate arbiter of what you believe, even when your beliefs have a source."

When I say that moral codes are subjective, I'm primarily saying, a God is not their source. However, I don't believe the fact that most human morals codes are similar is luck or random. There is very good reason why humans would so easily and regularly agree on issues of murder, theft, lying and such.

It's pretty clear that community can't be sustained by endorsing these values. How exactly do you live next to another human who believes that murder or theft is moral? We don't need a god for these kinds of conclusions to be drawn.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 7:29 PM  

Daniel wrote:

"Yours [moral code] doesn't, but mine does. I am free to hurt anyone I like. This is my moral code. Who are you to stand in its way?

Well, I could be part of a community of like believers who would stop you if you carried through on your moral code. But for my own part, I can recognize your proclivities and simply condemn them.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 7:32 PM  

pdimov said:

"A moral authority resolves conflicts. When you and I disagree on whether something is moral, we ask a moral authority and accept his judgment. It should be obvious that your being a moral authority recognized only by yourself is not a very useful concept.

Actually, a moral authority bestows the rules, so to speak. When we have a conflict it may be that our moral authorities also conflict. That doesn't allow any one authority to resolve the situation, unless one of us relents. However, on some issues where we conflict, we might find a way to compromise. Or if there are power centers involved, we might fight it out.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 7:35 PM  

VD said:

"He abides by the rules. It's no concern of mine if he wants to play chew toy for the Dread Ilk."

I'll happily step aside when someone can point to when the chewing began.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 7:41 PM  

VD said:

"That's not a problem for the Christian God, of course. He is not all-loving and doesn't claim to be. There is a long, long list of specific individuals and various types of people that He hates."


"And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters."
Deuteronomy 32:19

Anonymous patrick kelly September 11, 2012 7:45 PM  

re: smiley " If you happen to think Christianity does not require evil, you are disagreeing with VD."

I was mostly rejecting the statement "God's benevolence and the existence of evil cannot simultaneously be true" as somehow being a profound critique of Christianity.

Much of Christianity is responsive or descriptive in relation to the existence of evil. Of course if there is never any evil there is no need of salvation from it, but mere lack of evil doesn't necessarily negate the Christian narrative relating to the existence or nature of God.

Blogger James Dixon September 11, 2012 8:39 PM  

Hmm, George has been busy. With the usual degree of problematic points. This is going to be a long post. And will apparently have to be broken into two posts, as it's rejected as one.

Feel free to skip it if you're not interested in the commentary.

> The concept of evil, and good, however remains alive and well.

Sort of. They become infinitely malleable, however, and I'm not sure you could call that either alive or well.

> That's correct. It works out ok.

At this time and in our society, yes. In other times and other societies, not so much so. You might wish to consider why that is the case. As Nate says, not everyone is like you.

> The individual can unquestionably operate under a healthy framework for good and evil without relinquishing their moral authority to a god.

Whatever shapes that framework is your god, George.

> He didn't either.

And still doesn't, unfortunately.

> I personally think this is how the vast majority of folks get to their concepts of good and evil.

In that, you are almost certainly correct.

> As for nihilism....I'm unconcerned with that label.

See.

> If you are wondering why then you have no grasp of the logical consequence of moral relativity.

No, he doesn't. There is an infinitesimal chance we might teach him. I'm not hopeful, but...

> ...the fact that despite retaining my moral authority, my own set of morals would largely line up pretty closely with the vast majority of those folks who relinquish their moral authority.

The fact that you're a moral parasite living on the hard won teachings of others isn't anything to be proud of, George.

> Simply because I claim no divine warrant for my beliefs doesn't mean they can't flow from reason or thoughtful consideration.

Reason and consideration are tools, George, not sources.

> Despite the fact that I may disagree with you that murder is evil because god says so, I don't NEED to condemn you for your belief.

What if I've chosen not believe in God and decide that murder is perfectly OK as long as I don't get caught. Do you need to condemn that? If so, what is your basis for doing so? It's not like other people haven't done exactly that.

> But to declare oneself as the ultimate arbiter of all things good/evil, right/wrong, moral/immoral, is hubris-cum-psychopath.

But perfectly rational if there are no objective sources. Which George avows there are not. Even claiming it as an absolute truth in an earlier thread.

> No. I claim that my own standards are sufficient to judge a course of action.

And if I make the same claim, and we disagree? Who are you to say I'm wrong?

> However, I do need to condemn actions I deem as immoral, regardless of how they are determined.

But you have absolutely no basis for doing so.

Continued, next post.

Blogger James Dixon September 11, 2012 8:39 PM  

Contunuing...


> In other words, euthanasia?

Like sentience, euthanasia doesn't mean what you think it means, George.
I'll use the OED definition for convenience: "the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma."

Please note that there is nothing at all in there about the patient's preferences.

> Do humans prefer physical pain?

Some humans have been known to, yes.

> Actually, my moral code does not allow me to inflict pain at will. However, the process by which I come to my own set of morals might allow me to justify.

And will when the need arises. As defined subjectively by you, of course.

> So, no one gets that George is an attention whore who is toying with you all?

Possible, but if so he's a poor one. He's too easy to ignore.

> There is very good reason why humans would so easily and regularly agree on issues of murder, theft, lying and such.

Yes. There is. It revolves around the nature of humans, which doesn't really change all that much over the eons. Societies which devise rules which channel that nature properly survive and prosper, those which don't...

> It's pretty clear that community can't be sustained by endorsing these values.

A community can't, no. But those outside the community? There's absolutely no problem there. Just ask the residents of Rwanda.

> How exactly do you live next to another human who believes that murder or theft is moral?

As long as he doesn't believe murdering you or stealing from you is moral, there's no problem. "It works out OK."

> Or if there are power centers involved, we might fight it out.

Which is merely saying "might makes right", as has been pointed out at least once.

Anonymous zen0 September 11, 2012 8:50 PM  

I'll happily step aside when someone can point to when the chewing began.
George

See:

Giraffe September 11, 2012 3:56 PM

Exhibit A: George.





Anonymous LuxLibertas September 11, 2012 8:54 PM  

"He is not all-loving and doesn't claim to be. There is a long, long list of specific individuals and various types of people that He hates."

An all-loving being has to hate evil, or they would not be all-loving. "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor 13:6). The more I love the Vikings, the more I hate the Packers. Only fools and liberals think love is kissing a snake. God shows us what love would look like if it was in our nature (1 John 4:8) -- hating all those who do iniquity (Psalm 5:5) but desiring all to come to repentance (2 Peter 2:9). Hating wickedness but loving justice (Psalm 45:6-7). Hating those that serve false gods (Psalm 31:5) but redeeming all that believe in the only God (John 3:16).

The Cross deals with the only problem of evil that should matter to us -- our own.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 9:06 PM  

James said:

"The fact that you're a moral parasite living on the hard won teachings of others isn't anything to be proud of, George."

If I'm a moral parasite because I adhere to the same basic morals that all people at all times have, both before and after Christianity and in all places, well I can live with that. But perhaps it's not a matter of parasitism, but rather common sense and the natural instincts of humans.


"What if I've chosen not believe in God and decide that murder is perfectly OK as long as I don't get caught. Do you need to condemn that? If so, what is your basis for doing so? It's not like other people haven't done exactly that."

Whether you believe in god or not is of no consequence or care for me. What matters is what you do. That will tell you what you believe and frankly it doesn't matter why you believe it. And yes, I'll condemn it because because it violates my moral framework.

"Which is merely saying "might makes right", as has been pointed out at least once."

No, it means might ends conflicts...for a while.

Anonymous Godfrey September 11, 2012 9:10 PM  

So an irrational atheist does believe in evil. He defines it as the act of disagreeing with his own personal dogma. In spite of everything said to the contrary, he does believe in a deity… himself. I’m not surprised.

Anonymous Redlegben September 11, 2012 9:18 PM  

George is what happens when logic is no longer taught in schools. I had a woman try to convince me she was an expert on rape because she was raped. I asked her if she would be an expert on astronomy if hit by a meteor. Hand waving and histrionics ensued. George is no different. He believes what he believes BECAUSE...and that's it. No great thinking going on there.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 9:26 PM  

James:

Let me ask you a question.

It really doesn't matter to you why I believe what I believe about morals or how I get to them (setting aside any evangelical proclivities you might possess). Isn't it true that all you care about that that I don't harm you, your family or your community with my actions?

There is a curious insistence in this group that I can not retain a coherent moral stance without belief in some sort of higher being, at least not without some sort of faith or assumption or simple belief in some principle that comes without assurances from something authoritative. Yet, it's also true that no one can be absolutely sure that the god to whom they relinquish their moral autonomy is real. They have faith. Strong faith. And tradition to back it up. But not proof.

I understand the difference between the warrant offered by a higher authority and the warrant offered by my own beliefs. But I also understand that in the end, both require a decision to be made to believe one way or another.

I'm struck by the defensiveness of the believers. I'm struck by the somewhat nasty tone of some of the commentators (present company excepted...mostly).

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 9:27 PM  

Godfrey said:

"So an irrational atheist does believe in evil. He defines it as the act of disagreeing with his own personal dogma. In spite of everything said to the contrary, he does believe in a deity… himself."

No different than a christian that chooses their god.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 9:30 PM  

Redlegben Said:

"George is no different. He believes what he believes BECAUSE...and that's it. No great thinking going on there."

It's clear that you are perfectly capable of telling me I'm not thinking straight, yet incapable of telling me how I'm not thinking straight. No surprise there.

Prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt the christian God exists and you'll have made your case that your reliance on God as the moral authority is different from me relying on my own intellect for moral authority. If you can't do that, then at least have self respect to admit we are the same, we just dress ourselves differently.

Anonymous BAJ September 11, 2012 9:32 PM  

I encourage people to look at Alvin Plantinga's moral argument supporting the existence of God.

Anonymous Idle Spectator September 11, 2012 9:52 PM  

Idle spectator just turned into Dr. Hannible.

Hannibal. And thank you. He was so gastronomically dashing with his chianti. The story is an inside joke from the archives about his friend Horn and philosophy.

See here: Vox Popoli, 1/04


Idle Spectator, I think you'd have been dead within the first three paragraphs of your...um...enlightening real-person fic there.

Meanwhile, my brain and a bottle of Clorox have a date. Jerk.

If I were a vindictive woman, I would provide you with a link to a page that, while relevant to the discussion here (because it contains a severe logic-fail on the part of atheists trying to explain why bestiality is immoral), contains worse than what you wrote.


Looks like I am rent free in someone's mind again. Time to put up my disco ball.

Just because you call me a jerk does not mean I want to have sex with you... What about what I want?

Anonymous zen0 September 11, 2012 10:04 PM  

Prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt the christian God exists and you'll have made your case that your reliance on God as the moral authority is different from me relying on my own intellect for moral authority. If you can't do that, then at least have self respect to admit we are the same, we just dress ourselves differently.

Prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that your moral code will survive beyond your personal existence.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 10:04 PM  

"And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters."
Deuteronomy 32:19"

I was just thinking further about this part of scripture that I flung out in response to VD's correct assertion that God hates.

What's interesting about this is that it reveals perfectly that this God is either not omniscient or he's very forgetful or in denial.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 10:06 PM  

Zeno said:

"Prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that your moral code will survive beyond your personal existence."

Survive of be followed by all?

Further, who cares if it does.

And for what it's worth, much of it has survived since the beginning of man is likely to continue long beyond me.

Anonymous Idle Spectator September 11, 2012 10:24 PM  

George sure is curious with all his questions...

A very Curious George.

Did someone write a book about that?

Anonymous zen0 September 11, 2012 10:32 PM  

Survive of be followed by all?


I think you mean "Survive OR....".

"Followed by all" is the logical fallacy of ad populum.

The crux of the matter is that a universal code is not defined by how many people follow it.

So yes, believers are different from you in that they do not indulge in a logical fallacy to justify their choice of moral code.

But of course you say "so what, who cares?"
And yet you spend all this energy to say so.
If you didn't care, you would not be here for the chewing.

Anonymous Gx1080 September 11, 2012 10:35 PM  

"The problem of evil" is also known as "Why bad things happen ;-; ".

Uh, because that's a natural consequence of human beings having free will? Dunno about you, but being an animal only living on instinct doesn't sounds too good. (Lefties can ignore this).

Blogger IM2L844 September 11, 2012 10:41 PM  

It's clear that you are perfectly capable of telling me I'm not thinking straight, yet incapable of telling me how I'm not thinking straight. No surprise there.

Come on, George. Isn't it obvious that everyone can't have their very own custom set of moral standards. Individual rationalization would dominate critical thinking in most instances and it would result in utter chaos wherever opposing individual moral standards met.

Prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt the christian God exists and you'll have made your case.

How about beyond a reasonable doubt - the same standard that has been used to send people to their deaths in many courts of law based on purely circumstantial evidence?

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 10:44 PM  

Zeno:

The point, as you surely realized but probably smartly chose to ignore, is that your question is pointless. I've never appealed to an ad populum argument. You mistook a question of clarification. And of course, whether your moral code survives you, is not a commentary on the faith that is required for you to come to your code or the existence of an already established set of principles that allowed to make your leap of faith in an unproven god.

So, there's that.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 10:50 PM  

IM2LA44 wrote:

"Isn't it obvious that everyone can't have their very own custom set of moral standards. Individual rationalization would dominate critical thinking in most instances and it would result in utter chaos wherever opposing individual moral standards met."

It's not that every has their own custom set of moral standards. It's that everyone is responsible for defining or determining their own set of moral standards."


"How about beyond a reasonable doubt - the same standard that has been used to send people to their deaths in many courts of law based on purely circumstantial evidence?"

Sure. BUT...in making your case, at least make the honest case and also point out where the argument retains a shadow of doubt.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera September 11, 2012 11:00 PM  

(Putting this out there to attract criticism.) Two cents:

Though I'm in the Divine Command theory camp, I don't necessarily agree that objective morality exists (unless we are referring to the Divine Commander as an "object").

I believe that our moral impulses (e.g. Rape is bad.) are human constructs and therefore fallible according to the failings of the human heart, and unrelated to the Divine Commands.

So there is the morality that we create for ourselves out of civilized self interest (e.g. Rape is bad.) and there is the separate morality of God, distinguished only by his categorically different perspective and power. In other words, his ideas about right and wrong are also subjective (and that's the same as our morality), but we have to follow his ideas because we are so inferior and powerless in comparison.

In that way it's the same as before. We follow society's rules to stay on the good side of humanity, and we follow God's rules to stay on his good side.

This necessarily begs the question whether there's any evidence that the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the same as Aristotle's prime mover, aside from his own claims. I'm all ears on that one.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 11:06 PM  

Aeoli:

Would the human moral impulses be a natural consequence of God's design of the world and us?

Anonymous Soga September 11, 2012 11:19 PM  

George wrote:

"No different than a christian that chooses their god."


Man, I love Vox Popoli. It's amusing gems like this that makes you laugh out loud! Do atheists seriously think that's their silver bullet argument against Christianity? "Oh, you chose Christianity! Your daddy and mommy taught you to be a Christian. Therefore, your beliefs are subjective, therefore, Christianity is subjective! Boom (or is it bazinga?)!"

This completely fails to recognize the difference between the subjectivity of a person choosing a belief and the scope described by the doctrines that make up the belief. It also illustrates that you are biased in your own belief system and are using your own beliefs to interpret other beliefs - far from the objectivity for which atheists love to take credit. You have damned yourself by your very own metric.

Even if we accept that Christianity is not externally consistent (that is, consistent with observations of the outside world), examinations of the internal consistency of Christianity vs the internal consistency of atheism demonstrate that atheism is riddled with inconsistencies and gaping holes within its own framework, whereas Christianity offers significantly more consistency.

In short... saying that an atheist deifies himself is nowhere near the same as saying that a Christian chose his God (although I'm sure the Calvinists here will have a word about "choosing God"). In the Christian worldview, he is consistent for worshiping his God, even if that choice was entirely arbitrary. In the atheist worldview, everything is arbitrary and dynamic; "nothing is true, everything is permitted" as the fictional Assassin's Creed states. There is no reason to exclude natural laws from that principle. Even science, the very thing through which atheists seem to receive sexual gratification, is completely illogical and meaningless when atheism is applied to it.

But I digress. You may now resume your histrionics and intellectual menstruating as you shake your fist against a god who you have decreed is fictional.

Anonymous Soga September 11, 2012 11:24 PM  

Aeoli Pera: You obviously don't keep up with the manosphere. Rape is scientifically a successful evolutionary strategy.

Rape - an evolutionary strategy?

And as you know... what works in evolution must be good. Because it's evolution. And because it's science.

Three cheers for moral relativism! Hip hop hooray!!!

Anonymous Mrs. Pilgrim September 11, 2012 11:34 PM  

Looks like I am rent free in someone's mind again. Time to put up my disco ball.

Okay, look, I'm already going to be up all night. Why do you have to add bright lights to my misery? Revolving...flashing...SHINY! OOOOOH!

Just because you call me a jerk does not mean I want to have sex with you... What about what I want?

And the disco ball is good for projection, too, I see.

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 11:37 PM  

Soga said:

"In the atheist worldview, everything is arbitrary and dynamic; "nothing is true, everything is permitted".

When you say "atheist world view", you are referring merely to the fact that they dont' believe in god since that is the totality of the common atheist world view. After that, you really need to deal with the individual's worldview.

In my world view, everything is not permitted, just in your world view, everything is not permitted. The difference is who determines what is permitted.

As for the dynamic nature of the world view of one that claims to be an atheist, it is no more or less potentially dynamic than a person who claims to be a believer. The believer, as we see over and over and over again, is capable of reinterpreting Christianity to suit their desires.

So please, don't be so defensive and so disingenuous to try to claim that whatever "consistency" there is within the Christian paradigm, the believer is still the arbiter of what they believe is right and wrong. It's facile and likely beneath you.

Anonymous Mrs. Pilgrim September 11, 2012 11:37 PM  

Rape is scientifically a successful evolutionary strategy.

Unless guns are involved, in which case it becomes a significantly unsuccessful strategy.

(Uh-oh. I said "guns". Thread is now primed to implode.)

Anonymous Anonymous September 11, 2012 11:44 PM  

The fact that all of you wonder where he gets his idea of right and wrong terrifies me. So what you're saying is if you didn't have the Bible nothing would separate you between yourself and Gacy? You learned your morals from the bible? OH, like the morals of stoning non-virgin women on their wedding day? Or the little rule that a female victim of rape must marry their rapist? That non-believers (even believer of a god, but a different god) must be killed? Nice beliefs you have there. Nice separation of good and bad.

Anonymous Mrs. Pilgrim September 11, 2012 11:48 PM  

So what you're saying is if you didn't have the Bible nothing would separate you between yourself and Gacy?

Poor grammar, failure to understand the point, AND anonymous all in one? Folks, we have a new winner!

Anonymous Idle Spectator, Pulitzer Prize Winner September 11, 2012 11:50 PM  

I wrote this book just now. It is called Curious George Visits Vox Popoli.


//opens book

One day, Curious George was at home and he had nothing to do. He was very sad about this and did not know what to do.

//turns page

His friend, The Man with the Yellow Hat, did not like that George was sad, but he knew what to do.
He decided to surprise Curious George! The Man went to the store and got George a new laptop.

//turns page

The Man brought it home, and Curious George opened it. George was so excited to see it!
The Man helped him plug the laptop in, and set up the internet. He left Curious George alone to have some fun.

//turns page

Curious George then found Google. He then typed in day. What did George find? A magical place called Vox Popoli.

//turns page

Curious George was excited, and he wanted to make new friends. There were so many people there.
He went about talking to them.
But George could not keep up. He made mistakes. He upset his new friends.

//turns page

Curious George was very sad. The other posters acted mean and made fun of him over and over again.
But he would not give up. Then Curious George came up with an idea! He could make them like him after all...

//turns page

George decided to go outside and stop posting. He had new children to play with. Curious George had learned the power of true friendship with friends who respected him.

//turns page

The End.

//closes book


The power of friendship. Beautiful, just beautiful. Brings a tear to my eyes each time I read it out loud.

Anonymous Mrs. Pilgrim September 11, 2012 11:54 PM  

I wrote this book just now. It is called Curious George Visits Vox Popoli.

Okay, Idle Spectator, now I have no choice but to forgive you for your earlier transgression. Now get the disco ball out of my head, kk?

Anonymous George September 11, 2012 11:56 PM  

Idle:

You forgot to mention the part where Curious George makes one of the spectators at vox popoli cry and throw a tantrum. Curious George laughed.

Anonymous Soga September 11, 2012 11:58 PM  

"When you say "atheist world view", you are referring merely to the fact that they dont' believe in god since that is the totality of the common atheist world view. After that, you really need to deal with the individual's worldview."

No, I am not merely referring to the fact that they don't believe in God. I am referring to the worldview that results from such a belief in its entirety. Whether or not a god exists heavily predicates the very nature of the universe itself. A world with a god is a very different world from that of a world without a god. Thus, there is much more to an atheist's worldview that distinguishes it from a Christian's, a Muslim's, a Hindu's, and so on forth than the mere fact that the atheist rejects the existence of a god.

"In my world view, everything is not permitted, just in your world view, everything is not permitted. The difference is who determines what is permitted."

And if you establish yourself as the one who determines what is permitted, then strictly speaking, everything is permissible. You need only arbitrarily decide that you wish to permit yourself to do something. But I wasn't just talking about moral whims, I was also talking about the very nature of the universe. Humans are not who determine the nature of the universe. Christianity posits that God holds the universe together in its current state and bounds the universe to a set of physical laws. Those axioms combine to establish a worldview in which there is actual consistency, in which you can trust that the scientific method will be as valid tomorrow as it is today. In the atheistic universe, there is nothing standing in supremacy to the universe or the entire realm of physical existence. Therefore, the laws of nature must necessarily be properties of the universe itself or coexistent to the universe. But then that brings us back to the problem: what ensures the consistency of the laws of the universe?

Sure, the Christian God, if He so desired, could arbitrarily change the laws of the universe at will. But He has promised us that this will not occur, at least, not for some time. You might argue that He might break His promise -- sure, but at least we have a promise. That's something to predicate the scientific method on, in contrast to a mindless universe that makes no promises, both of nature and of morality.

Remember - atheists don't have faith. Theists do. So what is it? Do you have faith, or do you not?

"The believer, as we see over and over and over again, is capable of reinterpreting Christianity to suit their desires."

We have a name for people like that. We call them heretics. And once again, you miss the point. The point wasn't that beliefs are dynamic, but that the world described by atheist beliefs must necessarily be dynamic and arbitrary, merely because this is the logical nature of a godless world. Even the heretic believes in a world firmly set in place by a god, even if their idea of that god's personality or characteristics are at odds with the orthodox teaching.

Come on, keep going. I'm just getting started.

Anonymous Idle Spectator September 12, 2012 12:04 AM  

You forgot to mention the part where Curious George makes one of the spectators at vox popoli cry and throw a tantrum. Curious George laughed.

Of course Curious George laughed. He thinks everyone else is laughing with him, not at him. Curious George sure is persistent. The Man in the Yellow Hat cringes.


Okay, Idle Spectator, now I have no choice but to forgive you for your earlier transgression. Now get the disco ball out of my head, kk?

Why don't you like my balls?

Anonymous The other skeptic September 12, 2012 12:05 AM  

Hah, Hawaii-5-O says you can't believe everything you read on the internet (in relation to elimination of Smallpox.)

Anonymous Soga September 12, 2012 12:11 AM  

The atheist problem of evil is that one consequence of atheist belief is that nothing can logically be called evil, yet atheists are obsessed about calling fundies evil. So they have to philosophize furiously to figure out how they can get away with calling fundies evil without sounding like a bunch of Curious Georges.

At least you atheists have one thing going for yourselves. You have no moral qualms with sex before marriage. So go on, learn Game! Leave this blog behind, for your postings betray your gammatude.

Anonymous The other skeptic September 12, 2012 12:12 AM  

Current TV programs pretend that returning vets are evil, raging, gun owners.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 12:17 AM  

Soga wrote:

"Whether or not a god exists heavily predicates the very nature of the universe itself. A world with a god is a very different world from that of a world without a god."

Well, what part of this necessary atheist worldview that might of some significance are you referring to?


"And if you establish yourself as the one who determines what is permitted, then strictly speaking, everything is permissible"

No, strictly speaking, every COULD be be permitted, though not all at once obviously.


"Christianity posits that God holds the universe together in its current state and bounds the universe to a set of physical laws. Those axioms combine to establish a worldview in which there is actual consistency"

So we both witness the same physical laws and we are both equally impacted by those physical laws. We merely differ on their origin. It's an academic curiosity, but it doesn't change the fact that we both expect the same thing from increasing the speed at which we impact a stationary wall. The arbitrary nature of your god's moral commands are not significant, other than it means He can do the same thing I can. But this also reminds us that His followers can change their disposition toward god's commands in an equally arbitrary fashion as non-believers can.

"The point wasn't that beliefs are dynamic, but that the world described by atheist beliefs must necessarily be dynamic and arbitrary, merely because this is the logical nature of a godless world."

Is this suppose to be an indictment of the world with no god? The fact that a non-believers universe is not completely explained is called mystery. We don't get all freaked out over mystery. But his does not mean that a non-believers individual morals are necessarily dynamic nor necessarily arbitrary.

By the way, who determines which variations of Christianity are "orthodox?"


Anonymous George September 12, 2012 12:28 AM  

Soga said:

"The atheist problem of evil is that one consequence of atheist belief is that nothing can logically be called evil"

You seem to think an atheist cant simply believe murder is wrong (for any number of reason) and go about living their lives based upon that principle. Why I don't know.

But it begs the question, by what logical formula do you justify your faith? What logic equation was it that proved to you there was no choice but to have faith?

Blogger Kentucky Packrat September 12, 2012 12:39 AM  

George said: There is a curious insistence in this group that I can not retain a coherent moral stance without belief in some sort of higher being, at least not without some sort of faith or assumption or simple belief in some principle that comes without assurances from something authoritative.

Let's pick a psychopath at random. You have to explain to them why their actions are "evil". Appeals to law will fail: the psychopath has no regard for the opinions of the unwashed masses, plus can point to other laws formerly held as obvious but now held as wrong (slavery, etc.). Do unto others will hold no sway; he does what he wishes without regard to others. He already considers others in regards to their own utility to him. You must instead present an objective moral system.

An objective moral system must hold three basic qualities:
* it must be self-consistent
* it must be self-reliant
* it must be universally applicable

Religious-based moral systems have this down. The Bible presents essentially 3 basic moral systems: Noahic commandments, the Mosaic law(*), and Christian/"Pauline" morals, each internally consistent because they basically say "God says thou shalt/shalt not X." Yes, there are things that God commands separate from the system, but those go through rule 0: follow God's commandments to the letter when given.

George, you're handwaving an argument philosophers have been fighting over for 2000 years. You don't just get to say "I know evil when I see it" and declare victory. Start with an "easy" task: define evil and good without reference utilitarianism or subjective personal frames of reference. Until you can do that, you're not describing a moral system: you're describing feelings with an attitude.

(*) To be fair, the Mosaic law clearly put moral law and "how to be a Jew" law into a blender and hit Purée. The Jewish Christians of the first century took decades to reach a comfortable balancing point with this. Even the Talmudic scholars recognized this when they had to rewrite Judaism post-Temple.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 12:54 AM  

Kentucky said:

"Start with an "easy" task: define evil and good without reference utilitarianism or subjective personal frames of reference. Until you can do that, you're not describing a moral system: you're describing feelings with an attitude."

Actually, what's described is a moral system based on personal experience, feelings, reason, culture, etc. Mine is a moral system for sure. Of this there is no doubt. It just doesn't claim objectivity.

And as for your psychopath, there's no reason to believe that an objective moral system will sway him.

Finally, what set of objective moral principles convinced you to believe in God and follow his commands?

Blogger Kentucky Packrat September 12, 2012 12:57 AM  

You seem to think an atheist cant simply believe murder is wrong (for any number of reason) and go about living their lives based upon that principle. Why I don't know.

You misunderstand. We don't think said atheist is wrong. You have to remember that we believe that it is wrong, and would prefer that said atheist continue to do so. However, said atheist has no logical, rational reason for doing so.

You see, you are a Christian atheist. You have grown up surrounded by the Christian morals system, steeped in it like tea leaves in hot water. A fish in the ocean would have no concept of "not water"; water is everything and everywhere.

Likewise, you have no concept of "not moral" except for the previous moral system built on the foundation you have rejected. Perhaps you ignore that pesky "don't look at your neighbor's wife lustily", or you've taken that one little piece of candy off someone's desk without asking, but you're basically a "good" fellow who tries to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. That is all well and good.

However, your moral toolbox is empty. You cannot condemn evil acts by others, because your sole authority left is your own frame of reference. You personally can't even demand justice, since you reject the very foundation of justice, the deliverance of pain. You're stuck relying on the previous system's very language and framework to say "it's not fair", like a child using his father's pens, ink, paper, and stamps to write a letter to the editor condemning his father's evil business empire.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat September 12, 2012 1:16 AM  

Finally, what set of objective moral principles convinced you to believe in God and follow his commands?

When I was younger, I could make all forms of rational arguments for God, based on morality and justice. C. S. Lewis is still a wonderful source for this subject. Watching one child lose half a lung and another with asthma and pleurisy be unable to paint without having an attack, the intellectual arguments hold little joy any more, and I don't make them much online.

Instead, I will quote God talking to Job:

“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?"


I do not claim that God's morality is superior through my own arguments or wisdom. The Lord God of Israel is the creator of the entire universe, and His Son died so that my sins could be forgiven. I accepted said offer made in grace, not on merit. I did not chose to be moral by choosing God. I am choosing God, and He forgives my immorality.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 1:20 AM  

Kentucky said:

"You see, you are a Christian atheist. You have grown up surrounded by the Christian morals system, steeped in it like tea leaves in hot water. A fish in the ocean would have no concept of "not water"; water is everything and everywhere."

I hear this often. But of course it is absurd. The foundational moral principles of Christianity are so remarkably common across cultures and time and space that they could quite simply be called appropriated by Christianity. Christians really believe that humans didn't understand the notions of don't steal, don't murder, don't lie without them? Really?

Yet, I do condemn any number of things and I do identify evil and good quite readily and on a different basis and with a different set of tools than you. And lo and behold, my judgments are equally if not more effective than yours in bringing peace and happiness to myself, my family, my community and my world.

One beauty of my own set of moral principles, for example, is that I am not required to slay a toddler after I relinquish my moral autonomy to a God who I am required to serve, no matter how arbitrary his commands are. Yet you are.

I don't disrespect you for the completely irrational choice you've made to put your faith in an unseen, Iron Age, arbitrary god. I'm concerned with how you act. You too I'm sure are a good fella. But it might be that you've never or have not for a long time given deep thought to why x really is harmful or why Z is nearly always beneficial or why Q is is always generous. If you did, you might have a better understanding of how a non believer can quite easily justify their personal moral codes.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera September 12, 2012 1:26 AM  

@Soga,

I'm familiar with what I call the "Genghis Khan" approach (r-selection). It's not a good example because human morality and God's morality agree. In human terms, rape (possibly) is discouraged because it produces small, unstable societies. Stable societies win out, but Genghis Khan's traits will live on if the stable societies intermarry with his descendants.

I'm half-convinced this is why God told the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites and forbade marriage with them.

But there are times when human morality and God's morality diverge, like when God ordered Abraham to kill Isaac.

@George,

Yes. Assuming the hypothesis of the omniderigent Christian God is true (which I do not), human morality is a direct consequence (as is everything else).

I don't mind playing Euthyphro awhile. Here are a couple more beliefs for you to play with:

-I assume the prime mover plays dice.
-I do not believe the Bible is literally true.
-I'm unsure whether I believe it is the revealed word of God. (I certainly consider it required reading.)

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 1:27 AM  

Kentucky said:

"I do not claim that God's morality is superior through my own arguments or wisdom. The Lord God of Israel is the creator of the entire universe, and His Son died so that my sins could be forgiven. I accepted said offer made in grace, not on merit."


Yes. But is there a rational reason why you chose to follow the arbitrary rules of your christian god who's existence cannot be verified, who's commands are no different than the Pancha Sheela or numerous other gods or creeds, who has not made Himself evident in thousands of years?

You are asking me for a rational basis for my principles? You first.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera September 12, 2012 1:31 AM  

The Lord God of Israel is the creator of the entire universe

@Kentucky Packrat

Can you provide evidence for this? It is logically possible that one is the prime mover and the other is a very powerful being who resides within the created universe.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera September 12, 2012 1:37 AM  

P.S.

In which case you would have moralities providing for an individual's coexistence with 1. the creator, 2. the subdeity, and 3. other humans. You could include others, obviously, but I'd rather not get sidetracked.

According to Jesus, 1 and 2 are the same, or perhaps 2 is a subset of 1. And there's always the possibility that he was wrong or withholding something important.

Anonymous Soga September 12, 2012 1:41 AM  

"Well, what part of this necessary atheist worldview that might of some significance are you referring to?"

I don't understand the question. What you understand to be the world is a product of your beliefs about what facilitates its existence, i.e. what goes on behind the curtains. This applies in both realms of morality and the natural laws. What you understand to be a world produced by randomness, Christians understand to be a world produced by a deliberate order implemented by an orderly Creator God. You deny that a morality exists above humans that is not open to reinterpretation, yet Christians profess that such a thing exists, and that such a morality is enforced in a manner which compels humans to live in accordance with that morality. Law is two things at once: it is declarative and executive/judicial. Laws must declare the nature of the matters they govern, just as laws of human governments declare the nature of conduct within a country. Laws must also have an executive/judicial arm that enforce the law. If a law is not enforced, there is no consequence to breaking the law, and ergo, the law is meaningless. If a law is not declared, then there is nothing to enforce, and ergo, the law is meaningless. Christianity addresses both concerns of law with respect to nature and morality; atheism at its best provides declaration but no enforcement, and at its worst provides neither.

"No, strictly speaking, every COULD be be permitted, though not all at once obviously."

No, no. If you decide to do something and then do that something, you have automatically permitted yourself to do that. In that sense, everything is permissible. What you do, you will arbitrarily declare 'right' because it's you, and you alone decide what's right for you. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you realize everything is permissible to you under the atheistic model.

Sure, there are consequences beyond your control for certain actions. But as long as you can get away with it -- why not?

"So we both witness the same physical laws and we are both equally impacted by those physical laws. We merely differ on their origin."

We also differ on the metaphysics of those laws. Not merely the origin, but what drives those laws to continue to exist, why they exist (if a why exists), and so on forth.

"The arbitrary nature of your god's moral commands are not significant, other than it means He can do the same thing I can. But this also reminds us that His followers can change their disposition toward god's commands in an equally arbitrary fashion as non-believers can."

Except that God can enforce those moral commands on all human beings, whereas your power to enforce your own morality on yourself is... well... pretty shaky. Let's be frank, we humans aren't exactly known for having good self-control. In a moment of weakness, you might decide to hump your cat because you're not getting any action from girls. Whoops! But doesn't that go against your moral sensibilities? Oh well... you seemed to enjoy it. Might as well say it's okay and do it again when nobody's watching!

But if Christianity is true? And let's say you don't repent and believe in God. He's going to say something to the effect of, "You know, that one time you did that thing with your cat...? Yeah, that time..."

Boom. And then you realize you had moral accountability after all!

Anonymous Soga September 12, 2012 1:41 AM  

"Is this suppose to be an indictment of the world with no god? The fact that a non-believers universe is not completely explained is called mystery. We don't get all freaked out over mystery. But his does not mean that a non-believers individual morals are necessarily dynamic nor necessarily arbitrary."

Oh, but I wasn't talking about missing knowledge or mystery. That's the thing, little Curious George, atheism defines a certain kind of world with a certain kind of metaphysics that are easily accessed by logic. A godless world, by definition, has nothing supreme to itself. And if there is indeed a box in which the godless universe fits into, let's call it a superverse, then you haven't solved anything either. You've only moved back the problem to a higher layer of being, but the problem is still there. What is greater than the superverse that enforces the continuity and consistency of the laws of the superverse? A bigger box containing the superverse? Okay, what enforces the continuity and consistency of the laws of the hyperverse? We could go on forever.

"By the way, who determines which variations of Christianity are 'orthodox?'"

God.

"You seem to think an atheist cant simply believe murder is wrong (for any number of reason) and go about living their lives based upon that principle. Why I don't know."

No, I don't think that. I accept that the atheist can believe murder is wrong. The problem is that it's not exactly a very meaningful belief. What is 'wrong'? Does 'wrong' mean personally not appealing to the atheist? What if one day, certain circumstances led up to the atheist seriously contemplating murder? It is significantly easier for an atheist to change his mind about what's personally appealing to him at the moment than it is for a Christian to justify something that he already knows his God has always opposed and will always oppose, and will call him to task for doing.

Law, as I said, has declarative and judical aspects.

"But it begs the question, by what logical formula do you justify your faith? What logic equation was it that proved to you there was no choice but to have faith?"

I've already shown you the logical formula. I find atheism to be an extremely irrational, self-defeating belief system. Logic and science don't even belong in a godless world for the reasons I've given in this thread, yet we clearly have logic and science, and those clearly produce valid results. The rest is logical calculus.

Anonymous pdimov September 12, 2012 4:05 AM  

Soga: I find atheism to be an extremely irrational, self-defeating belief system.

Atheism is not a belief system. It is a category. Atheism, monotheism, polytheism.

Anonymous pdimov September 12, 2012 4:22 AM  

George: Actually, a moral authority bestows the rules, so to speak. When we have a conflict it may be that our moral authorities also conflict. That doesn't allow any one authority to resolve the situation, unless one of us relents.

Everyone being his own "moral authority" is still a useless concept - a useful authority is recognized by more than one person. You being your own moral authority is completely equivalent to you recognizing no moral authorities at all.

It's pretty clear that community can't be sustained by endorsing these values. How exactly do you live next to another human who believes that murder or theft is moral? We don't need a god for these kinds of conclusions to be drawn.

So, you believe that all people start from a blank slate and derive their morality from first (utilitarian) principles? (*) That'd be an amazing accomplishment were it true, but it isn't. Most people use their intuitive sense of right and wrong. And their intuitive senses seem to largely agree.

Internal rational derivation can't possibly work - there are many moral systems that lead to sustainable communities, but only if all members of the communities share the same morals. If all of these people rationally derive, without coordination, the chance that they will produce a sustainable community is slim.

So you have complete moral autonomy, as long as you conform.

(*) People without an intuitive sense of right and wrong are indeed forced to do that, but they are rare. The process is amusing to watch. It's like observing an AI discover morality and deciding to be moral.

Anonymous p-dawg September 12, 2012 4:26 AM  

George, I am very curious. You have derived your system of morality through reason, you say. What I would like you to do is to take one thing that is either good or evil according to your system of morality, and then explain to me the process of reasoning you used to reach that conclusion. This can be any tenet of any scope, as vague or specific as you prefer. All that I ask is that you chart the path of reasoning which led you to establish that particular principle.

Anonymous pdimov September 12, 2012 4:44 AM  

Soga: But as long as you can get away with it -- why not?

Because it's wrong. Atheism does not preclude having a conscience and does not imply immunity from nature and nurture. Or, if you prefer, it does not imply complete inability to sense God's bidding.

I wonder if there are crime stats by religion somewhere. Going by the atheism - high IQ correlation, I'd expect atheists to commit less crime.

Anonymous Soga September 12, 2012 4:51 AM  

pdimov wrote:

"Atheism is not a belief system. It is a category. Atheism, monotheism, polytheism."


Fine, belief systems that fall under the atheist category and are practiced by the majority of those who self-identify as atheists (or more specifically, those who advertise themselves as explicitly being atheists and not merely "non-religious"). In other words, American atheism, New Atheism, or Atheism 2.0. Whatever flavor-of-the-month atheism there may be.

p-dawg wrote:

"All that I ask is that you chart the path of reasoning which led you to establish that particular principle."


I am very interested in this as well.

Anonymous Soga September 12, 2012 5:09 AM  

pdimov wrote:

"Because it's wrong. Atheism does not preclude having a conscience and does not imply immunity from nature and nurture. Or, if you prefer, it does not imply complete inability to sense God's bidding."


Atheism may not preclude having some kind of evolved sense of conscience, but there is no cosmic meaning in this sense of conscience. It may have evolved to prevent us from killing ourselves off as a species, but to argue from an atheist worldview that this is a moral good is absurd. Incumbent in this argument is the warrant that preserving the human species is a moral good, but if there is no God, then there is no bidding to preserve the species. Unless you'd like to argue that nature has a mind, essentially rendering it a pantheistic sort of deity. But that's not atheism as it is commonly understood and practiced. So this point, really, is moot.

"I wonder if there are crime stats by religion somewhere. Going by the atheism - high IQ correlation, I'd expect atheists to commit less crime."

You'd also be missing the fact that many of those populations have a much lower concentration of atheists. Vox touches on this in TIA and in his powerpoint presentation entitled "Against The New Atheism."

Incidentally, the stats he uses also indicate that the average atheist IQ is surprisingly, surprisingly... average!

Unless you meant to say that there is a correlation between atheism and education level attained, in which case, some would argue that has more to do with the amount of indoctrination one is subjected to in institutions of education.

Anonymous VryeDenker September 12, 2012 5:10 AM  

"But is there a rational reason why you chose to follow the arbitrary rules of your christian god who's existence cannot be verified, who's commands are no different than the Pancha Sheela or numerous other gods or creeds, who has not made Himself evident in thousands of years?"

Your superficiality is showing. First, is a car's ECU set up with arbitrary values, or is it set up in such a way that it maximises fuel eficiency, performance or durability? Second, God's existence is pretty easy to verify. You simply need to humble yourself and invite Him to reveal himself to you. Third, if you think that the five principals of peaceful coexistence are no different from the Ten Commandments, you need to take a few months and study the source material.

Anonymous pdimov September 12, 2012 6:55 AM  

Soga: Atheism may not preclude having some kind of evolved sense of conscience, but there is no cosmic meaning in this sense of conscience.

How do you know that? If there is a God, the atheist might well have received his innate sense of right and wrong from Him, lending his conscience a cosmic meaning.

(If there isn't a God, cosmic meaning doesn't exist.)

You can't use the atheist's lack of belief in cosmic meaning as proof that his beliefs lack cosmic meaning.

Anonymous VryeDenker September 12, 2012 9:31 AM  

I would assume that Soga's point is that since Atheists don't believe in God, they therefore cannot appeal to Divine cosmic meaning by their own reasoning. They would either have to admit God is real, or reject cosmic meaning.

Anonymous Toby Temple September 12, 2012 9:40 AM  

I don't think I use the excuse, "most people agree" to condemn something as evil. However, "you say so", as you put it, would be closer to the mark. You may find this to be fallacious, but it certainly isn't irrational.

How idiotic. You have clearly stated that your justification that X is good or evil is because you say so. How you find that "X is good and Y is evil because I think they are" as rational just shows your ignorance.

Another person, and yes there are in existence, would disagree with you and say X is evil and Y is good because he/she say so.

This is just basics on the flaw of subjective morality.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 9:46 AM  

Soga said:

"And if there is indeed a box in which the godless universe fits into, let's call it a superverse, then you haven't solved anything either. You've only moved back the problem to a higher layer of being, but the problem is still there. What is greater than the superverse that enforces the continuity and consistency of the laws of the superverse? A bigger box containing the superverse? Okay, what enforces the continuity and consistency of the laws of the hyperverse? We could go on forever."

You say this as though it's a problem or even some sort of an indictment. Or maybe I'm misinterpreting you. The world you describe isn't bothersome. It's merely something that needs further discovery. But it does beg one question: Who created God?

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 10:14 AM  

Soga wrote:

"What you understand to be the world is.........>atheism at its best provides declaration but no enforcement, and at its worst provides neither."

That's a fairly reasonable explanation of law/lawgiver/enforcement. However, it sounds like believers don't follow impulses to steal and lie because they fear God's enforcement: "compelled." Could the christian, having learned from their god that theft is wrong, also conceive of other reasons for not stealing, apart from the threat of God's punishment, apart from any consideration of God, and apart from the fear of getting caught and punished by temporal forces? Because non-believers can. And they do on a regular basis. OF course, despite this mighty act of will on the part of of non-believers, sometimes they just break down and steal. Of course, despite the commands of a God they know, love and fear, Christians too will break down and steal.

"What you do, you will arbitrarily declare 'right' because it's you, and you alone decide what's right for you. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you realize everything is permissible to you under the atheistic model."

You don't think this conception of the atheist mind is a little facile? It presumes that non-believers possess no sense of guilt, no sense of empathy. This fails because there is clearly a sense of guilt and empathy that resides in non-believers. Take my word for it.

Regarding non-believers and murder, it's not that we change our mind and decide murder is just fine because we want to murder. Rather, we murder despite know it's wrong both before and after the murder. I suspect it's the same with Christians that murder, steal, rape and lie.

"Let's be frank, we humans aren't exactly known for having good self-control. In a moment of weakness, you might decide to hump your cat because you're not getting any action from girls. Whoops! But doesn't that go against your moral sensibilities? Oh well... you seemed to enjoy it. Might as well say it's okay and do it again when nobody's watching!"

Yet there is no indication that the growing number of non-believers that is appearing here in our country has led to a cat humping spree (it's hard to believe I just typed that), let alone a murder spree or theft spree.

You might also consider Buddhism, where there is no eternal punishment awaiting those that fall prey to ego, greed, etc. Rather, the punishment that await those that don't live a proper life is "Dukkha": the experience of unhappiness, fear, sorrow, imbalance, etc. No external punishment. And yet, we don't see a gangs of Buddhist cat humpers roaming the streets either.

My point is that I think you severely underestimate the ability of people to self police their actions without any external threat of punishment.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 10:27 AM  

pdimov wrote:

"So, you believe that all people start from a blank slate and derive their morality from first (utilitarian) principles? (*) That'd be an amazing accomplishment were it true, but it isn't. Most people use their intuitive sense of right and wrong. And their intuitive senses seem to largely agree."

I do believe we all start with a blank slate, strictly speaking about newborns. Of this I have no doubt. Beyond that stage the question is primarily how does a person come to believe things like fidelity, honesty, truth, compassion are good and killing, harming, stealing and lying are bad---the most basic and most important moral imperatives? Keep in mind, these are virtues and vices that are largely agreed upon across time and space, regardless of the dominant faith or belief system. There are a host of ways we come to believe in this way of living and a host of ways this method of living is reinforced. Here in the west, Christianity is one reinforcement mechanism. But there are many others obviously.

But then we have other moral questions not so easy to answer. Suicide? Abortion? Capital punishment? Cloning? Not so agreed upon. What's different is that consensus on these issues is not required in order to uphold the stability of community.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 10:31 AM  

p-dawg wrote:

"George, I am very curious. You have derived your system of morality through reason, you say."

Not entirely, as you suggest I've said. I've noted that reason is but one tool that is at our disposal for adopting a moral system. Clearly other tools come into play: experience, empathy, compassion, utility, etc, etc, etc. It's not as simple as you make out.


"What I would like you to do is to take one thing that is either good or evil according to your system of morality, and then explain to me the process of reasoning you used to reach that conclusion. This can be any tenet of any scope, as vague or specific as you prefer. All that I ask is that you chart the path of reasoning which led you to establish that particular principle."

As I said, it's not entirely reason that leads the non-believer to a moral system, just as it is not entirely reason that leads a believer to what ever moral system they choose to adopt. So, this request of yours, though I understand it what you are getting at, wouldn't result in an answer that has any meaning. Nor of course could I accomplish it.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 10:35 AM  

pdimov wrote:

"I wonder if there are crime stats by religion somewhere. Going by the atheism - high IQ correlation, I'd expect atheists to commit less crime."

That was exactly what I started wondering. In looking it became very quickly clear that the responses and studies are all over the board. In some studies there is over representation in prison, in others there is under representation. One of the issues appears to be "atheists" vs "non-religious" vs. "non believer" mucks up the understanding.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 10:44 AM  

Soga wrote:

"to argue from an atheist worldview that this is a moral good is absurd. Incumbent in this argument is the warrant that preserving the human species is a moral good, but if there is no God, then there is no bidding to preserve the species."

But there is a personal and individual bidding. Each of us individually defines that bidding, that reason. Each of us does, hopefully, consider an ultimate meaning they place on their world/life/universe. With this in place, an individual moral code can be adopted. Yes, it places the individual in the traditional role of "god" as believers understand things. But I don't see any rational alternative to this, nor any danger in this.

Anonymous Toby Temple September 12, 2012 10:49 AM  

But I don't see any rational alternative to this, nor any danger in this.

Really? You see nothing from history that tells you of the danger of following ones own preference as moral standards?

Blogger IM2L844 September 12, 2012 11:44 AM  

I don't see any rational alternative to this, nor any danger in this.

Seriously, George? Practically every societal problem that exists or has ever existed can be directly traced back to wildly differing opinions resulting from moral relativism. Has protecting your atheist blinkers caused your worldview to be so myopic that you can't see this?

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 12:04 PM  

IM2L844 said:

"Seriously, George? Practically every societal problem that exists or has ever existed can be directly traced back to wildly differing opinions resulting from moral relativism. Has protecting your atheist blinkers caused your worldview to be so myopic that you can't see this?"

The differing opinions don't result from moral relativism. Rather, to differing moral systems. Furthermore, some social problems result from different interpretations of the same moral system. Witness those who used christianity to oppose slavery against those that used christianity to support slavery. Witness abortion. Both pro life and pro choice advocates oppose murder.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 12:06 PM  

Toby wrote:

"Really? You see nothing from history that tells you of the danger of following ones own preference as moral standards?"

Correct me if I assume too much, but isn't your own preferred moral standard Christianity. It's not like it was imposed upon you and you have no choice in following it.

Anonymous Toby Temple September 12, 2012 12:10 PM  

Correct me if I assume too much, but isn't your own preferred moral standard Christianity. It's not like it was imposed upon you and you have no choice in following it.

Yes, because I prefer to follow the Christian moral standard all the time. Right? ALL THE TIME. ~facepalm~

Its a simple distinction of what one needs from what one wants, George.

Blogger IM2L844 September 12, 2012 12:52 PM  

The differing opinions don't result from moral relativism. Rather, to differing moral systems. Furthermore, some social problems result from different interpretations of the same moral system. Witness those who used christianity to oppose slavery against those that used christianity to support slavery. Witness abortion. Both pro life and pro choice advocates oppose murder.

George, you can't even equivocate properly. You continue to ignore perfectly valid logical arguments by simply saying "nuh-uh" and re-wording the argument without really changing it's fundamental thrust.

All the information you need to escape your fate has been made readily available to you. Ignore it at your peril. Finito.

Anonymous HH September 12, 2012 1:09 PM  

I am a believer... but I like this George ... he is clearly winning here because you fail to accept the nature of faith based knowledge.

To prove the existence of God as a fact is impossible -- you can have such a strong faith (as many of us do) that you believe him to exist, see his hand everywhere, follows what we believe are his commands but in the end this is faith and not fact. We choose to believe. We can make (and many have for 2000+ years) great intellectual arguments for the existence of God and to explain why he does what he does but in the end we are not 100% sure based on any of the ways that we as humans use to prove fact.

I think George is having fun with you all...




Anonymous Log September 12, 2012 1:11 PM  

Quoting Blake Ostler, LDS philosopher, "(1) God is a perfectly good being who would create a world without any genuine evil if he could; (2) God is an omniscient and all-powerful being who can create a world without genuine evil; and yet (3) genuine evil exists. For this problem to arise, the notion of genuine evil must be grasped. Genuine evil is an act or event the nature of which is such that the world would be better, all things considered, had it not occurred. It is evil that is not justified because it is not a necessary condition to obtain a greater good. Given this understanding of genuine evil, these propositions constitute an inconsistent triad."

Oddly, orthodox theistic philosophers, Christian and otherwise, don't see as VD does that this logical problem doesn't affect them. Now, if VD has indeed addressed this particular argument and successfully defused it, I would like to see. Link, anyone?

Anonymous DarthToolpodicus September 12, 2012 1:35 PM  

I think this construct makes unwarranted assumptions about God's Nature, Timing, and Intent in creating the World; along with same about the nature of Evil.

Evil is by nature parasitic upon good; One have have Good without Evil, but not Evil without Good.

Also, while George is trolling around with snouts-on-hook; his bald claims that the Judeo-Christian tradition is essentially a copy-cat tradition,(prima facie an outgrowth of collective unconscious) and also on the same epistemic rung as other religious traditions just slide on past unremarked.

Anonymous Toby Temple September 12, 2012 1:48 PM  

I am a believer... but I like this George ... he is clearly winning here because you fail to accept the nature of faith based knowledge.

Yes. Because the atheists claim that theists are as rational as them. ~sarcasm~

I think George is having fun with you all...

Failed to read this one? The first comment in this thread?

Giraffe September 11, 2012 3:56 PM
Exhibit A: George.

Anonymous George September 12, 2012 1:51 PM  

Darth said:

"Also, while George is trolling around with snouts-on-hook; his bald claims that the Judeo-Christian tradition is essentially a copy-cat tradition,(prima facie an outgrowth of collective unconscious) and also on the same epistemic rung as other religious traditions just slide on past unremarked."

I think you just put a tentative end to that sliding.

Anonymous Toby Temple September 12, 2012 2:11 PM  

Don't tell me he's thinking about the Mithras Myth?

Blogger Kentucky Packrat September 12, 2012 2:16 PM  

Log said: (2) God is an omniscient and all-powerful being who can create a world without genuine evil;

FINALLY! We have a winner in the dilemma failure sweepstates.

Go look up Plantinga's free will defense. Essentially, it produces a "reasonable doubt" defense against the moral evil dilemma. Plantinga adds one axiom to the LDS proposition: A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Essentially, free will is better than no free will.

Once you've accepted that truth, then the dilemma can fall apart quickly. There are two other propositions Plantinga proposes:

* There are possible worlds that even an omnipotent being can not actualize.
* A world with morally free creatures producing only moral good is such a world.

Essentially, God can either create a world where there is no free will, or God can create a world completely devoid of evil, but it's logically impossible to create both conditions at the same time. Since God prefers the world of free will, a good God can choose to create a world where evil exists because the existence of free moral agents is important to Him.

God is not guilty of the dilemma by reasonable doubt.

Blogger IM2L844 September 12, 2012 4:08 PM  

(1) God is a perfectly good being who would create a world without any genuine evil if he could

This is a false premise that presupposes to know the mind of God and ridiculously employs that presupposition to construct a limitation.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat September 12, 2012 5:11 PM  

George: Actually, what's described is a moral system based on personal experience, feelings, reason, culture, etc. Mine is a moral system for sure. Of this there is no doubt. It just doesn't claim objectivity.

As others have pointed out, you may call it a moral system if you wish. You may also call a peach pie an apple turnover. Still doesn't mean you're right. You have a system of preferences.

George: Yes. But is there a rational reason why you chose to follow the arbitrary rules of your christian god who's existence cannot be verified … who has not made Himself evident in thousands of years?

I will assume momentarily that you mean that God's last interaction with man occurred when John received the vision recorded in Revelation circa AD90. This is, after all, generally recognized by Bible literalists as the last hurrah of the apostolic era (since John died shortly afterwards).

You of course are wrong. God reveals Himself through many avenues, including the existence of the Bible and of the Church. I can personally testify to the existence of angels (as of 1995). I can testify that miracles exist. As of 3 years ago, an acquaintance with severe and incurable nerve damage in her back and legs was called (audibly) to get out of her wheelchair and walk to her husband. Within a week, she was back in heels and has no permanent nerve or muscle damage left. Right now, another friend has been living 2+ years with advanced, metastasized lung cancer, held in check more by the prayers of a faithful Christian community than the chemo she is taking.

You may choose to reject the evidence of God at your own leisure, but do not pretend that it does not exist.

who's commands are no different than the Pancha Sheela or numerous other gods or creeds

Let's reverse this slightly. If there is a creator God who imparts a universal standard of morality upon man (which man is only imperfectly able to follow), then we would expect morality to have some amount of convergence. Though most of the systems we understand about, deviations from moral standards were predicated with the assumption that the exceptions were granted by a higher status (the Pharaoh marrying relatives, killing your enemies as sacrifices, etc.).

Back to the arbitrary point for a moment: if the Lord God of Israel IS the creator of the universe, then doesn't He have the right to set the rules? If so, then they aren't arbitrary.

Aeoli Pera: Can you provide evidence for this? It is logically possible that one is the prime mover and the other is a very powerful being who resides within the created universe.

In which case you would have moralities providing for an individual's coexistence with 1. the creator, 2. the subdeity, and 3. other humans. You could include others, obviously, but I'd rather not get sidetracked.

According to Jesus, 1 and 2 are the same, or perhaps 2 is a subset of 1. And there's always the possibility that he was wrong or withholding something important.


Your argument is very similar to the argument of Islam. Essentially, the Lord God of Israel was really Allah, and the Hebrews wrote it down wrong. Then, the Christians decided to claim that Jesus was divine when he wasn't, and messed it up again.

As a Christian, I happen to believe that Allah and Jabrail (Gabriel) are both Satan. In this case, by my views that makes Islam's Allah one of your subdeities. I also reject Islam's moral stances, so in this case I don't believe that their moral system is worth imposing.

As for the concept that the Lord God of Israel is the first/most powerful of created deities, this is hardly a new concept either. I think that's a little out of scope here, but it's hardly a new concept.

Anonymous Log September 12, 2012 5:30 PM  

Plantinga fails.

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=15&num=1&id=473

Anonymous Log September 12, 2012 5:37 PM  

More reading for the interested on how Mormonism resolves the problem of evil: https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V17N02_67.pdf

Anonymous Outlaw X September 12, 2012 9:11 PM  

I know this sounds OT but it is not. While in a big hospital yesterday they ran me from room to room and the blood lab (last) for pre-op, the blood lab tech asked me if I knew how to get out of the building? I said "yes, just follow the exit signs."


He laughed real hard and said "I never heard that answer before." If you can't see why that is not OT, join the crowd.

Blogger Duke of Earl September 12, 2012 9:56 PM  

So Log, Mormonism solves "the problem of evil" by making it part of God's plan in the first place?

Anonymous Blastman September 12, 2012 10:57 PM  

George wrote: “In fact, I possess both moral autonomy and moral authority because I make no demands on anyone else that they agree with me. “

This is complete rubbish.

If people can make up their own moral code, suppose someone decides stealing is ok for them. And this someone who believes stealing is ok decides to steal something from you - like your car. You of course would want it back. You would then be imposing your belief that stealing is wrong on that person. I can just hear the person who stole a car from an atheistic liberal philosopher like George down the street and got caught…

“I thought you said I could make up my own morals … and that you wouldn’t impose yours on me???”

Your position is one of pure hypocrisy. Quite amusing since you claim to have applied reason to arrive at your position.


You don't think this conception of the atheist mind is a little facile? It presumes that non-believers possess no sense of guilt, no sense of empathy. This fails because there is clearly a sense of guilt and empathy that resides in non-believers. Take my word for it.

Of course non-believers have a sense of guilt and morality -- but why? How is this possible from an atheist POV? An atheist has to believe he is just a bag of carbon blowing in the wind – in other words, people are just a big chemical reaction subject to their environment, just another big chemical reaction. But then, how can one say to a chemical reaction that it ought not to do something? That would be no different from a chemist saying to some chemicals in a beaker that the reaction ought not to happen. And of course, it would be absurd for the chemist to claim that the chemical reaction is morally wrong in doing what it was doing. Yet that is the absurd position the atheist is in.

One of the aspects of Christian theology/philosophy is that God's moral law (the natural law) is written on the hearts of man -- this means the 10 commandments. These laws are common to all men and all cultures. And even primitive pagan and non-religious people know the basics of morality -- that stealing, murder, adultery, lying …etc. … are all wrong. Humans are born with this conscience and as we grow we become naturally aware of this morality as our reason and awareness develops.

But this moral law written on our hearts presupposes both a rational metaphysical soul and the existence of God. Without this soul you would not be free to choose over and above the dictates of your physicality (a chemical reaction) – in other words, man could have no freewill without this metaphysical soul. And without this freewill man could not be held morally responsible for his actions anymore than a chemical reaction could.

Is that all you think you are – a big chemical reaction? A bag of carbon with no metaphysical soul?

Blogger Kentucky Packrat September 12, 2012 11:20 PM  

Plantinga fails

Ostler is a grade A idiot, if not diabolical. First, the free will defense isn't a positive proof of anything (no matter how much Mosser might want it to be one). It just shows that Mackie's dilemma isn't truly a dilemma. As much as I love the free will defense, and as much as (IMHO) it is generally compatible with Christian theology, it is still solely a negation of a theory.

Neither Christian tradition nor Scripture has ever asserted "God ...would create a world without any genuine evil if he could" (emphasis on the "important" part). The enemy sowed thistles ("tares") in the middle of the wheat field, and the workers wanted to go clear the thistles out. The landowner would not lose even a single blade of wheat; he forbade them from pulling the weeds until the wheat was full-grown.

Rather than create perfect automatons, or vanishingly small numbers of perfect individuals, He chose to allow a universe where there have been around 100 billion people alive since Adam (give or take a few billion). Only one has been able to live an absolutely perfect life, and He only came so that some number of these people (including me) would have a chance at eternal live.

Scriptures make it clear that God knew that it would be necessary for Christ to go to the cross before creating the world. I don't know if God "couldn't" create a world where that was necessary, or if He wanted the world we have now more, but He chose it. As He told Job, it was entirely His prerogative as to how He created the world, and that we weren't there.

The problem of evil dilemma is a mental child's attempt to force a Sunday School God into a trap.

Anonymous yukonyon September 12, 2012 11:26 PM  

duke of earl, Mormons believe that it was part of Gods plan for humanity to obtain the knowledge of good and evil. God knew man would use it to sin, but that is entirely man's choice, according to mormons

Blogger Kentucky Packrat September 12, 2012 11:30 PM  

I will follow up on "Ostler is a grade A idiot, if not diabolical." Ostler says Plantinga assumes that God must create morally fallible persons if he creates them free. However, that is not true given the evangelical view of creation ex nihilo, for if God creates ex nihilo, then he can create any persons that it is logically possible to create. He misses Plantinga's entire point: it may not be logical possible to create people who are both perfectly free and perfectly incapable of evil.

Is Ostler supposed to be an LDS apologist? I am having trouble because the paper you link is nearly unreadable in his density, but Ostler basically appears to end his text by saying that Mackie is right and the LDS has no defense against the argument that God is evil. I can't imagine that that's Ostler's desire, but that's where he's headed at first blush.

With friends like Ostler, the Church of LDS hardly needs enemies.

Anonymous yukonyon September 12, 2012 11:36 PM  

darnit i wish i cud link on this phone

Anonymous p-dawg September 13, 2012 12:08 AM  

"So, this request of yours, though I understand it what you are getting at, wouldn't result in an answer that has any meaning. Nor of course could I accomplish it."

Actually, that's exactly what I was getting at. Are you aware of the cognitive dissonance between believing that you have reasonable beliefs but being unable to reasonably explain them?

Anonymous yukonyon September 13, 2012 12:54 AM  

KP, i can't link from the phone (always on the go these days, i am) so i can't read the link. And personally, I've never read Ostler, but it sounds as thought he makes the indirect point that i tried to make directly a few times. A god hypothetically creates something in its entirety (ex nihilo). By the very nature of this creation, this is the negation of free will. When we are simply free to act out the natures endowed by our creator, this does not spell free will. If im entirely created by an intelligent, singular will, how is it free will to simply act out the natures it gave a a person?

Anonymous Anonymous September 13, 2012 1:15 AM  

I've had a sincere unasked question for some time now, and thought this may be an appropriate time to ask it. The question is:

Are priests, pastors, popes, and so forth, more purely good than those "beneath" them, in their religion? If so, specifically why?

Anonymous yukonyon September 13, 2012 1:21 AM  

Judgement is mine, saieth the lord. or something like that

Blogger Spacebunny September 13, 2012 1:35 AM  

Anon - no, they are not.

Anonymous Log September 13, 2012 2:05 AM  

"Is Ostler supposed to be an LDS apologist? I am having trouble because the paper you link is nearly unreadable in his density... With friends like Ostler, the Church of LDS hardly needs enemies."

With enemies who self-admittedly don't understand the arguments they're allegedly responding to, I guess the Church of Jesus Christ doesn't need apologists.

Blogger James Dixon September 13, 2012 8:26 AM  

> Isn't it true that all you care about that that I don't harm you, your family or your community with my actions?

If that's all I cared about, would I bother having this conversation, George?

> But not proof.

Not proof you will accept. That's not quite the same thing.
But no, I can't prove to your satisfaction that a creator God exists.

> I'm struck by the defensiveness of the believers. I'm struck by the somewhat nasty tone of some of the commentators (present company excepted...mostly).

If we're not defensive, you're going to take our comments as nasty. So, that's pretty much an either or proposition. And the mostly is justified. But that's also been true for you. As I noted earlier, responding in kind is one of my faults.

Traveling today, so that's it for the nonce. More when I get when I get where I'm going.


Blogger JDC September 13, 2012 9:46 AM  

Quote: Are priests, pastors, popes, and so forth, more purely good than those "beneath" them, in their religion? If so, specifically why?

They are not "more purely good." They are also not "above" anyone. As Peter writes we are a priesthood of all believers. This doctrine of course varies from denomination to denomination (including non-denominational, for example your RCC friends may take issue with this particular doctrine). But, that doesn't let spiritual leaders in the church off the hook completely...

In James 3:1 there is indication that those who presume to teach the gospel will be held to a higher standard, e.g. "judged more sternly." In Titus and 1 Timothy elders / deacons / spiritual leaders / pastors are to live lives that are blameless, and above reproach. This, IMO does not indicate perfection in any way, but a level of Christian maturity in line with what scripture teaches.

Luther addresses this issue in his Letter to the German Nobility:

That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2[:9] says, "You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom," and Revelation [5:10], "Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings.

IMO, pastors, priests (OK, I'll throw in popes, deacons, elders, spiritual leaders) are not better than anyone - merely set aside for a particular ministry, set aside for a particular task in the body of Christ (where we also hear that all body parts are equal 1 Cor 12:12). Some call it Word and Sacrament ministry, some call in preaching and teaching, some call it delivering God's Word, some call it anointing God's people with the Spirit.

Don't know if your were looking for a treatise here, but my simple answer is no - spiritual leaders in the church are not one iota better in God's eyes than any daughter or son of Christ. If they claim to be - run away and run fast, shaking the dust off your feet.

Anonymous Bobo September 13, 2012 12:23 PM  

Anon: priests, the Pope, the Patriarch, ministers etc. are NOT more moral then those "below" them. In fact they have a greater responsibility to project a good example and teach the correct teachings, but they are not more holy or better people.

Anonymous Bobo September 13, 2012 3:02 PM  

If empathy is basis of morality is one justified in acting immorally when one does not feel empathy in a particular situation, when one's empathy is misdirected, or when one is incapable of empathy? And if empathy compels us to behave in a certain way, are we truly free moral agents - do we have moral autonomy?

Blogger Kentucky Packrat September 13, 2012 3:51 PM  

With enemies who self-admittedly don't understand the arguments they're allegedly responding to, I guess the Church of Jesus Christ doesn't need apologists.

I was trying to be kind to Olster, and admit that I might have been sleep deprived and missing something obvious about his argument. I've just reread Olster's argument. There is no way I can or should be kind: he is absolutely, positively crackers.

Plantinga says "God might not be able to create a universe where he could create free beings incapable of acting evil." Olster asserts First, Plantinga's response does not exonerate the compatibilist position that has been the majority view held by creedal Christians since the time of Augustine. He virtually stomps his feet and said "I said He can, and I'm right, so shut up!".

Except that he's wrong. Orthodox Christianity has always rejected hard determinism and assigned personal blame for sin, so for Orthodox Christianity, Plantinga's free will defense is still valid. The Calvinists come closest to determinism in their compatibilism, and for them the problem of evil becomes a "mu" issue. For a determinist, then Paul's argument of the pot and the potter holds: some pots are fit to use for one thing, some for the other, and some just get thrown back into the fire; the pot has no room to complain about its own use because it is inferior to the maker. It's just what you were made to do.

I fully repent of calling Olster diabolical. He isn't capable of it. He's just a hack scholar.

As an aside: true determinists want to blame God over bad consequences (evil, etc.), but you can often catch them proud of good consequences (good kids, promotions, degrees, etc.). As humans are want to do, they aren't very consistent.

Blogger James Dixon September 13, 2012 10:05 PM  

> The foundational moral principles of Christianity are so remarkably common across cultures and time and space that they could quite simply be called appropriated by Christianity.

A simple perusal of the history of Christendom, and the major differences between it and the systems which preceded it should be sufficient to disabuse you of that notion.

> I do believe we all start with a blank slate, strictly speaking about newborns. Of this I have no doubt.

Having had three siblings myself, and having known several mothers of multiple children, I can confirm that I and they disagree.

Anonymous Anonymous September 14, 2012 12:55 AM  

"Don't know if your were looking for a treatise here, but my simple answer is no - spiritual leaders in the church are not one iota better in God's eyes than any daughter or son of Christ. If they claim to be - run away and run fast, shaking the dust off your feet."


To JDC and the others who have responded, thanks. I wasn't sure since many of these figures appear to be worshipped as well, basically - living gods. I guess it's just because of their status (as a leader, teacher) within the organization, and ego seeking on both sides.

Blogger IM2L844 September 14, 2012 7:31 AM  

I wasn't sure since many of these figures appear to be worshipped as well, basically - living gods. I guess it's just because of their status (as a leader, teacher) within the organization, and ego seeking on both sides.

Anonymous, I'm not sure what you mean by "appear to be worshiped as...living gods". I know of a few televangelists and possibly the Catholic Pope who have received disproportionate attention due to a type of celebrity status, but I'm not aware of any who are actually worshiped in the traditional sense of worship. Could you provide some solid examples of these worshipers and their living gods or is this just more of a general impression that you have (like the apparent worship of the Kardashians or Barack Obama)?

Anonymous Elihu September 14, 2012 9:07 AM  

I consider evil to be a far greater problem for atheists than Christians. Christians acknowledge the existence of evil for its own sake, while the atheist must find a way to pin it all on either self-interest or evolved programming from our EEA gone haywire.

Personally, I struggle to explain the tides of progressive/marxist/democratic chaos sweeping over the world without an appeal to the existence of pure, purposeless evil.

Anonymous revrogers September 14, 2012 9:41 AM  

Are priests, pastors, popes, and so forth, more purely good than those "beneath" them, in their religion? If so, specifically why?

Spacebunny: Anon - no, they are not.

I'm a pastor.
We're not?
Rats.

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