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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Mailvox: Answers for MJ 1

This was a long letter from MJ, so I'll have to address it in parts:
I am 21 years old and a student at a small Jesuit college in Ohio. I just recently came across your blog. To be precise it was introduced to me last spring--March, I believe. I wasn't part of your regular traffic until October or so. Now I think hardly a day goes by that I don't read what is stirring in your head. First, thank you both for your insights and your (at least I consider it) courage (maybe you consider it normalcy). To be brief, I grew up in a relatively conservative Roman Catholic household. However, as one who prefers to avoid confrontation, I rarely engage in debates about politics or religion. I'll speak vehemently about such subjects with people with whom I agree. When it comes to others, I prefer to keep quiet or, if necessary, appease. I say this so that my thanks might be better placed. You have no desire to avoid or appease those whom you consider wrong. Your example is a great help.

Perhaps it was divinely ordained, but I had been reading through a handful of literature on science, atheism, and religion at around the same time that I grew fond of your blog (I didn't read any Dawkins; I skimmed the first five chapters of Hitchens's memoir; I gravitated toward Stenger's God the Failed Hypothesis and Cunningham's Decoding the Language of God).... At the time I started this endeavor and even during the initial stages, I probably would have classified myself as an agnostic....

Now, I am not contacting you solely for the sake of encomium; I have a few things that I wish to ask. First, I remember reading some comments you had about the omnipotence, omniscience, etc. of God. You suggested replacing such attributes with ideas about tantipotence, tantiscience, etc. I prefer to think of my theology almost in terms of mathematics (just to note, my theology is incredibly uninformed. A current goal of mine is to become both more biblically literate and theologically literate. The downside of a Catholic upbringing!). I have never been a fan of the arguments of god's nonexistence by means of syllogism (that is, God is A, but A leads to B, and B is inconsistent with well known fact C, so God is not A or something like that) since syllogisms of this sort seem to be equivalent to abusing and mutilating the dictionary. However, since these arguments are out there, I began to consider the following. I don't wish to jeopardize God's infinite nature.

However, pure omnipotence can cause logical problems (if we wish to impose some logical structure on God's nature, something that I think objectionable). In your suggestion of tantipotence, you (I think) mentioned that to the human mind tantipotence would virtually appear to be omnipotence. To the human mind, there is no significant difference between a God who can do all and a God who can do nearly all things. My only qualm is that to the believer this might be an acceptable concession; but I would imagine that the non-believer would love to poke fun at the not-fully-all powerful God. I was wondering what you might think of this idea. In mathematics there are different gradations of infinity (I am sure you are aware). The set of integers has a cardinality of infinity, but this infinity is less than the infinity that is the cardinality of the set of real numbers. That is, there are more real numbers than integers even though both are technically infinite in extent. If we take omnipotence as the cardinality of the real numbers and tantipotence as the cardinality of the integers, then God still remains infinite even if "less so."

My point is to ask your opinion about thinking about theology in terms of mathematics. To some degree I think that mathematics presents the universe (or multiverse, hyperverse, or whatever they are calling it now) with its own mind-body problem of dualism. How is it that mathematics, something so abstract, can interact with the physical world? (I suppose something similar could be said about language; how does an abstract concept such as language reflect, relate, and influence the material world?) I read your post today from Spengler's Decline of the West. I am definitely going to look into that book. As a final point, I am awestruck at one of the most basic ideas in mathematics, continuity, and how continuity affects infinity. For example, I am still puzzled by how an infinitely long number line can be looped up into a circle of radius 1 through a simple compactification method....virtually allowing me to hold infinity in my hand! I am also intrigued that through a few simple lines a mathematician can prove a statement that can solve an infinite number of problems. I suppose it's akin to what you write in The Irrational Atheist that a few lines of programming can generate the infinitely complex Serpinski Triangle.

In relation to the above, I encountered on Richard Dawkins's website the classic argument that atheists make: if god is all-powerful and all-loving, then he should wish to stop and be able to stop evil. You know the rest. Just out of curiosity, does this argument presuppose that God operates on a kind of utilitarian moral code? After all, the alleviation of suffering is precisely Sam-Harrisian...er...I mean utilitarian. Not for a second do I imagine a utilitarian God! If, indeed, this argument presupposes such a God, it seems to me all the more reason to throw it out immediately! 
I'm glad that some people are finding my anti-anti-apologetics to be useful. I'm not going to pretend I don't enjoy beating up on the intellectual cripples of evangelical atheism, as one agnostic described them, but there is a more serious aspect to the activity than my own personal amusement.

First, I think it is important to always keep in mind that whether it is theology, psychology, philosophy, or even history that we are contemplating, we see as though through a glass, darkly. Nothing we do, think, or say can jeopardize God's nature, whatever it actually happens to be, from nonexistence to omnipotent omnipresence. We are not debating the truth, we are not even capable of perceiving the truth, we are merely debating our superficial observations and our momentary perceptions of the truth. The truth is out there, but it is grander and more complicated than we can possibly hope to comprehend.

In other words, don't flatter yourself, sport. Neither God nor nature depend upon MJ's opinion of them. Or mine.

So, the idea of shying away from an idea due to its potential effect on us or anyone else is fundamentally misguided. Anyone who attempts to make hay with regards to the imagined limits of a tantiscient and tantipotent God is doing nothing more than demonstrating himself to be a midwit and a fool. The analogy of the limits of the two infinite sets MJ mentions is a very good one; regardless of whether one is considering integers or real numbers, it is objectively stupid to claim that the number 100 is bigger than the upper limit of either set.

As for the idea that an all-powerful and all-loving God should wish to stop and be able to stop evil, to say nothing of the idea that the existence of evil therefore disproves the existence of such a god, well, that doesn't even rise to the level of midwittery. One has to have a truly average mind and remain ignorant of basic Biblical knowledge to find either of those concepts even remotely convincing.

Imagine the Sisyphean hell that is the existence of a video game character, literally created to die over and over and over again. Does the misery of his existence prove that the video game developer does not exist? Of course not. Does it prove that the developer has any limits upon him that the video game character can observe? Of course not. Does it prove that the developer has any particular enmity for the character? Not at all.

Now, it does prove that the developer is not all-loving. But then, the Christian God is not all-loving. He plays favorites. He loves some and He is very specific about others for whom He harbors not only antipathy, but outright hatred. It is fine to attack the idea of an all-loving god, but it is a mistake to assume any such attack is even remotely relevant to the Christian religion.

The argument is stupid, ignorant, and while it can theoretically rest on a presumption of utilitarianism, more often it rests upon the clueless moral parasitism of the atheist who subscribes to it. It is ironic that the more foolish sort of atheist often attempts to disprove Christianity by an appeal to Christian morality, but then, as MJ has already discovered, we're not dealing with intellectual giants here.

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145 Comments:

Anonymous bob k. mando February 01, 2014 9:01 AM  

VD
It is fine to attack the idea of an all-loving god, but it is a mistake to assume any such attack is even remotely relevant to the Christian religion.
The argument is stupid, ignorant,



we must, however, admit that this argument is often a stupidly 'self-inflicted' wound.

the modern churchianity proclamations for a God of infinite ( and usually unbounded ) love come often enough from a pulpit.

Anonymous jack February 01, 2014 9:04 AM  

Ah, yes. More ammunition. Its interesting and enlightening to open each box of 1.000 caliber offered here at Vox Populi. Keep the sales counter open...

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 01, 2014 9:29 AM  

Jesus did not come to unite, he came to separate. He brought the sword, not a pillow.

Blogger jay-dubya February 01, 2014 9:35 AM  

In reading this I see two words I cannot define, and Bing is no help- tantipotence and tantiscience. Can someone enlighten me?

Anonymous ThirdMonkey February 01, 2014 9:35 AM  

God's nature is lovingkindness and patience. If he were not, He would not have marked Cain, He would not have saved Noah and his boys, He would've left the Israelites to die as slaves in Egypt, he would not have left a remnant behind during times of captivity, and He certainly wouldn't have sent His Son to be born in a stable full of animal shit only to die a horrible death at the town landfill.

God's nature is lovingkindness. His necessity is wrath and judgment.

Blogger Lud VanB February 01, 2014 9:44 AM  

"But then, the Christian God is not all-loving. He plays favorites. He loves some and He is very specific about others for whom He harbors not only antipathy, but outright hatred."

Yes...it is true that your "god" does appear to play favorites just as he does appear to hate all the things that you yourself also happen to hate. And do you really want to know why that is?

Anonymous VD February 01, 2014 9:50 AM  

Yes...it is true that your "god" does appear to play favorites just as he does appear to hate all the things that you yourself also happen to hate. And do you really want to know why that is?

Lud, you could not be more wrong. If I were inventing a God to suit my preferences, the successful seduction of a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader would qualify one for sainthood and record company executives who signed any "singer" under the age of 21 to a record contract would be struck dead by lightning on the spot. That argument is remarkably stupid, even for you.

tantipotence and tantiscience. Can someone enlighten me?

Tantipotence: a lot of power. Tantiscience: a lot of knowledge. I would actually argue that God is voliscient and volipotent, which is as knowledgeable and powerful as He wishes to be.

Anonymous damntull February 01, 2014 9:52 AM  

Dear MJ,

I would caution you about accepting Vox's theology.

I, too, am an avid reader of this blog and AG, and I believe many of Vox's insights are true, insightful, and helpful, and the ease and pleasure with which he slices and dices the modern midwitted atheist is a joy to behold. And Vox is right about this much - it would be nuts to jettison one's belief in God over the so-called logical problem of evil.

For the same reason, it would be just as unnecessary to embrace the ahistorical, heretical theology that you will find at this blog. While I respect Vox's commitment to Christ, whether he likes it or not, the god he worships is less-than-god, because any God who is less than omnipotent is less than God, and any god that is less than Goodness Itself is less than God, and any god who is not Love Itself is less than God.

I would suggest to you, as a fellow Roman Catholic, to head over to Edward Feser's blog. Prof. Feser is an Aristotelian-Thomistic orthodox Catholic philosopher who has been even more vocal and successful in his critiques of modern atheism, and even modern churchianity, than Vox is, while remaining faithful to the witness of Christians throughout the ages.

Anonymous bob k. mando February 01, 2014 9:54 AM  

jay-dubya February 01, 2014 9:35 AM
I cannot define, and Bing is no help- tantipotence and tantiscience. Can someone enlighten me?



'omni-' is the Latin prefix for all or every.

'tanti-' is the prefix form for the Latin 'tantus' which means great or very.


what's wrong with the CIA ... and all the rest of government?
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/20/a-self-licking-ice-cream-cone/

Anonymous E. PERLINE February 01, 2014 9:55 AM  

Regarding religous vs atheist commentary I am intrigued by a third and more likely path of exploration.

It was thought that ancient Egyptians worked inside the pyramids by the light of torches. But there is no depiction of torches on the walls and not a trace of smoke on the ceilings. Also, there is not enough air inside a pyramid to allow even a match to burn. Modern investigators have tried to bring light inside inside pyramids by means of bronze reflectors but after three turns or so, blackness takes over. The only kind of light that works inside a pyramid seems to be electrical. But did ancient people use electricity?

Illustrations on the walls show an oblong container with a wavy filament but its use was not guessed at until recent times.It was a source of light that was probably supported by electricity.

When Moses went up mountain alone and brought down the Commandments, was it God he saw or aliens?

Blogger Mike Idea February 01, 2014 9:57 AM  

"and any god that is less than Goodness Itself is less than God, and any god who is not Love Itself is less than God."

Except God CLEARLY isn't "love itself" you weirdo. He turned people to pillars of salt and punished innocent Egyptians for being ruled by a cruel Pharaoh. He also privileged Abel over Cain.

That's not even touching the subject of evil happening.

Blogger Mike Idea February 01, 2014 9:59 AM  

"When Moses went up mountain alone and brought down the Commandments, was it God he saw or aliens?"

Sup Giorgio. How's your hair doing?

Anonymous bob k. mando February 01, 2014 9:59 AM  

damntull February 01, 2014 9:52 AM
While I respect Vox's commitment to Christ, whether he likes it or not, the god he worships is less-than-god, because any God who is less than omnipotent is less than God, and any god that is less than Goodness Itself is less than God, and any god who is not Love Itself is less than God.



and?

i find it curious that you fail to mention the God of Justice, the God of Wrath, the God of Jealousy, the God of Vengeance, the God who *has* destroyed the whole world by water and who *will* destroy the whole world by fire and who has decreed the destruction of entire nations.

from your elided position it is a very small step indeed to the 'God is all Love' position of Wilde. and Wilde was no Christian.

Anonymous damntull February 01, 2014 10:01 AM  

@Mike Idea
1 Jn 4:8
wierdo

Anonymous damntull February 01, 2014 10:03 AM  

@Bob
I find no contradiction between justice and love, and believe that every single action ascribed to God in the scriptures to be perfectly good and just, OK?

Anonymous Godfrey February 01, 2014 10:07 AM  

"...if god is all-powerful and all-loving, then he should wish to stop and be able to stop evil. You know the rest."


If people are going to criticize Christianity, they should at least first make an effort to understand Christian theology. According to basic Christianity it is a fallen world. The fall of man resulted in the entrance of evil, sin, suffering and death into the world. Adam (i.e. Man), of his own free will, sought to know good and evil. He has found what he sought.

Man has free will. Most of the evil in the world is perpetrated by Man. It is the result of sin, the greatest sin being pride.

According to Christianity God "did do something about it". He came as a Man to redeem the world (i.e. mankind). Love conquered death. God sought Man. The Christian God is a humble god. He gives Man free will. Now you have to "do something about it".

Now you may consider this all mythological nonsense. I can respect that. It may indeed be nonsense. But what I cannot respect, is an ignorant critic.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 10:08 AM  

I can't believe how difficult people are making such a simple thing as omnipotence. The word means "all power". It doesn't mean "might do any given thing, no matter how self-contradictory".

I don't give ten million dollars to my congregation right now, and that is because I lack the power to. However, I don't go out and rape some women, and that is for another reason.

For God, anything he doesn't do, is in the second category. Nothing is for lack of power.

Anonymous bob k. mando February 01, 2014 10:12 AM  

damntull February 01, 2014 10:03 AM
I find no contradiction between justice and love, and believe that every single action ascribed to God in the scriptures to be perfectly good and just, OK?




so you deny that the Bible says that God is jealous, angry, vengeful, etc? i mean, you ARE aware that the number of 'negative' attributes used to describe God outnumber the positive ones, right? and that many of these citations occur in the NT?

also, you're still sidestepping the point of the atheists and what is often enough a stumbling block of Christians:
why all this pain and suffering if God is all powerful, all knowing and all loving? why Job?

because THERE IS NO 'JUSTICE' IN THE STORY OF JOB. he was 'punished', even though blameless.




Lud VanB February 01, 2014 9:44 AM
Yes...it is true that your "god" does appear to play favorites just as he does appear to hate all the things that you yourself also happen to hate.



yes.

because given my druthers, i'd create a God who hated my essential self and wished to destroy that self unless i repent and do those things that i do not wish to do while refusing to do those things which i would prefer.

idiot.

Blogger IM2L844 February 01, 2014 10:14 AM  

I would actually argue that God is voliscient and volipotent, which is as knowledgeable and powerful as He wishes to be.

I like this better. God can think of an infinite number of ways to skin a cat.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 10:14 AM  

because THERE IS NO 'JUSTICE' IN THE STORY OF JOB. he was 'punished', even though blameless.

No, he wasn't, and that's exactly why you put those quotation marks there. Job was given the gift of being allowed to suffer for the glory of God.

Anonymous damntull February 01, 2014 10:24 AM  

@Bob
1. Vengeance belongs to God. In His case, it is not a negative.
2. Ascriptions of human emotions like jealousy to God the Father are instances of anthropomorphic language used to describe the divine.
3. As for Job - see what Markku said.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 10:28 AM  

By the way, we tend to be a bit too hard on Job's friends.

Job 2:13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

They sat with him for a week and shut up. Had they just continued with that plan, they'd have been the best friends ever.

Anonymous Nemo Maximus February 01, 2014 10:29 AM  

@Markku

Or to put it another way, Job was drafted into a heavenly war for the purpose of discrediting Satan.

@VD

Last paragraph, should paratism be parasitism, or is paratism a voxologism?

At the root of the understanding God is the necessity of free will, which leaves Calvinists crippled, and is the reason why the cleverer sort of atheists deny their own nature and experience and claim they are merely, in the word of Scott Adams, meat robots. This is just an excuse to deny responsibility and guilt.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 10:31 AM  

Or to put it another way, Job was drafted into a heavenly war for the purpose of discrediting Satan.

Yes, that would be the "how" part of suffering for the glory of God. Not all suffering is that.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 10:32 AM  

Sure, I'm game for a Calvinist fight. But not right now. Later.

Anonymous Porky February 01, 2014 10:43 AM  

"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Rev 19:6

I don't see any wiggle room for tantipotence in the word "Almighty".

Anonymous darrenl February 01, 2014 10:47 AM  

I'm baffled by the continual confusion of what omnipotence is when it comes to God. God is the very ground of being itself. He is what it is "to be". Being all powerful does not mean he can create a square circle, or make evil good, or...and this is my favorite...the every-childish argument of creating a rock he cannot lift. God's omnipotence comes from His own nature of being, which grounds all of reality...including our own being.

God is all-loving, but most moderns take that as meaning "He will let me do anything that makes me feel tingly". They forget that the act of loving (i.e. willing the good of another) is also an act of justice. So, yes, God is all loving...even when he allows what, in your narrow view of history, you see as "evil".

Anonymous VD February 01, 2014 10:48 AM  

Last paragraph, should paratism be parasitism, or is paratism a voxologism?

Parasitism, will correct, thank you.

Blogger Lud VanB February 01, 2014 10:55 AM  

"Lud, you could not be more wrong. If I were inventing a God to suit my preferences, the successful seduction of a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader would qualify one for sainthood and record company executives who signed any "singer" under the age of 21 to a record contract would be struck dead by lightning on the spot. That argument is remarkably stupid, even for you."

I agree...which is why I did not make this argument at all...you didn't create the god of your religion...the idea was passed down to you by others who came before you did and that idea was passed down to them by others who came before they did all the way up to the first time he/she/it was ever imagined. Granted its earlier incarnations were very different than what they are today as the idea morphed and changed over time, according to whichever culture happened to be doing the passing along at any given time. But its original inception was born of the same things then that sustains its continued existence now...a mixture of fear and vanity.

you see, two of the drawbacks of self-awareness are the ability to fully comprehend the inherent precariousness of human existence and the insignificant place we occupy in the grand scheme of things coupled with the refusal to accept that our ability to reason could have been the result of nothing more than a random accident of nature and that something so magnificent as the human mind and all its accomplishments could simply be washed away into oblivion by another random accident of nature...and the solution to shelter ourselves from these maddeningly frightening thoughts was to invent a narrative where not only are we the culmination of a grand universal design by some supreme celestial architect but also that we can never truly be erased from reality because that very same architect has designed us to forever survive the end to our observable corporeal existence...and thus was born religion.

Anonymous Stilicho February 01, 2014 10:55 AM  

Sup Giorgio. How's your hair doing?

One of my favorite clips was the one where he talked about a lot of references to God and angels in the bible, then, in a logical master stroke, declared that, since he did not believe in God, the Bible must be referencing aliens.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 10:58 AM  

Almighty

pantokratōr: Literally "he who holds sway over all things".

So, the issue isn't that the Bible uses the word omnipotence, but with what definitions of the concept is this expression consistent with.

Blogger Lud VanB February 01, 2014 11:00 AM  

"because given my druthers, i'd create a God who hated my essential self and wished to destroy that self unless i repent and do those things that i do not wish to do while refusing to do those things which i would prefer."

but you didn't invent it...you were saddled with this idea by others.

Anonymous Stilicho February 01, 2014 11:01 AM  

the human mind and all its accomplishments could simply be washed away into oblivion

You have it exactly backwards. The atheist cannot accept that he is not the pinnacle of creation and retreats from the contemplation of the infinite, seeking to define and limit all things to his corporeal existence.

Anonymous bob k. mando February 01, 2014 11:03 AM  

damntull February 01, 2014 10:24 AM
2. Ascriptions of human emotions like jealousy to God the Father are instances of anthropomorphic language used to describe the divine.



so now 'love' is just an instance of anthropomorphic language used to describe the divine?

remember, if you're going to use facile excuses like this for adjectives that you don't like you must ALSO apply these same facile excuses to adjectives which you do like.



Markku February 01, 2014 10:14 AM
of being allowed to suffer


well done, very precise.

i see many fools who assert that it was God who plagued Job ... when it was only ever Satan who asserted that God would stretch forth his hand.

God himself very clearly asserts who has responsibility for the plagues of Job.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+1%3A9-12&version=KJV



Markku February 01, 2014 10:28 AM
By the way, we tend to be a bit too hard on Job's friends.



i dunno about that. it seems they did a pretty good 'job' of pissing God off.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+42%3A7-8&version=KJV

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 11:03 AM  

but you didn't invent it...you were saddled with this idea by others.

As long as those others include God, then yes. But otherwise you are begging the question.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 11:04 AM  

i dunno about that. it seems they did a pretty good 'job' of pissing God off.

Correct, but I'm pretty sure it would have taken us less than a week, day and night, before we pissed God off.

Anonymous damntull February 01, 2014 11:11 AM  

@Bob,

When John the Apostle says God is love, he's not describing a human feeling, he's describing an act of the will. Perhaps you're not familiar with Aquinas' doctrine of analogy. If you understood that, you would see how the Bible can say that God is Love, and that God was "jealous" at a certain point in time.

Anonymous bob k. mando February 01, 2014 11:11 AM  

Lud VanB February 01, 2014 10:55 AM
...and thus was born religion.



this hypothesis being fully scientific and replicated via double blind studies.

or, at least, just as scientific as Marxist politics, Freudian psychology and Keynesian economics.



Lud VanB February 01, 2014 11:00 AM
but you didn't invent it.



Lud VanB February 01, 2014 9:44 AM
Yes...it is true that your "god" does appear to play favorites just as he does appear to hate all the things that you yourself also happen to hate.




so ...
i believe in a religion that conveniently conforms to all the things i 'want'
... except that i'm too stupid to find a religion ( like Tantric yoga or Luciferianism ) that allows me to do the things that i want.

if you're going to spend all this time lying about me, you might want to segregate your mutually exclusive lies to separate discussion threads.

that way you'll have a chance that i'll forget that you are contradicting something you had said earlier.

Blogger Booch Paradise February 01, 2014 11:19 AM  

I believe that you're all wrong about Job. God didn't come down in a whirl wind and tell Job that he was being punished, or that he was being allowed to suffer for God's glory. He was told by God that God's ways are higher than our ways. Job was not given an explanation presumably because it was beyond his understanding. To say that we have answer now as to why Job suffered, whether it's because he was in fact being punished for sin, or it was suffering for God's glory, just cheapens the message. We don't know why God allowed Job to suffer. God sometimes does things that are beyond our understanding. The point of Job is that we need to continue in trusting God, and not fall into the trap of condemning Him in order to justify ourselves.

For MJ's statements of using math to think about theology, be careful, because infinity is not a number.
The set of integers has a cardinality of infinity, but this infinity is less than the infinity that is the cardinality of the set of real numbers. That is, there are more real numbers than integers even though both are technically infinite in extent.

The problem here is that you are trying to use infinity the same way you would use 10. You can kind of use infinity the same as you would any other number, and even put it in equations like you would a number, but it's still distinct. I think of it as being 0's twin. You can do things with both that you can't do with normal numbers like 1, 2, and 3, and there are things you really can't do with them as well. For example you can't divide by 0. 0 is just a lack on numbers, and infinity is just a definition of something that does not have a limit. An infinite set of integers does not mean that if you look at the end of the set you see infinity, it just means that no matter where you look, the set will continue on. To treat it as though there is an end of the set that you could then divide by 2 and get half of the set or something like that is a logical error.

Anonymous VD February 01, 2014 11:26 AM  

While I respect Vox's commitment to Christ, whether he likes it or not, the god he worships is less-than-god, because any God who is less than omnipotent is less than God, and any god that is less than Goodness Itself is less than God, and any god who is not Love Itself is less than God.

(rolls eyes) And truth is beauty and beauty is truth and therefore the beautiful lie is more true than the ugly truth. Spare us the petty jesuitries.

I agree...which is why I did not make this argument at all...you didn't create the god of your religion...the idea was passed down to you by others who came before you did

That's not the point. The point is you made a factually false statement. You said: "he does appear to hate all the things that you yourself also happen to hate." This is not true, as I pointed out.

Anonymous Micah February 01, 2014 11:35 AM  

ThirdMonkey said, "and He certainly wouldn't have sent His Son to be born in a stable full of animal shit only to die a horrible death at the town landfill."

Thank you for this, sometimes life and the enemy tries to make us forget about the glorious & excruciating sacrifice God sent to us. I needed this reminder this morning and the visuals it brought to mind produced tears that are impossible to explain to non-believers.

Christ volunteered to be the atonement for all who want to die so they can live. How humble was He to have displayed the lovingkindness you spoke of after that birthplace and that deathplace.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 11:35 AM  

To say that we have answer now as to why Job suffered, whether it's because he was in fact being punished for sin, or it was suffering for God's glory, just cheapens the message. We don't know why God allowed Job to suffer.

But we do. Because we are privy to the discussion between Satan and God.

However, the fact that Job didn't know at the time is again part of the "how" in glorifying God. That will also be our situation, should we be chosen for that privilege.

Blogger IM2L844 February 01, 2014 11:44 AM  

but you didn't invent it.

Just because men, past and present, understood that God is necessary for civilized society to function in a maximally advantageous way, and as Voltaire pointed out, "if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him", it does not follow, by necessity, that He is in fact an invention of the imagination. That's just what you want to pretend to know without actually knowing.

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 11:49 AM  

But then, the Christian God is not all-loving. He plays favorites. He loves some and He is very specific about others for whom He harbors not only antipathy, but outright hatred.

If anything, one can't deny that Vox has presented a very original response to the argument from evil. It would be interesting to see if christianity remained so popular if all the christian priest and preachers actually used such teodicy in practice.

Preacher who is a fan of Vox: "Oh, hi there old lady. So you say you want to know why your husband died from cancer, your house was devastated by a hurricane, and your cat ran away?. Well is very simple actually: You are not on God's favorite list. Better luck next time."

Anonymous Vic February 01, 2014 11:54 AM  

Don't loose sight of the fact that Job is but a parable type prophesy of Christ himself, who while being sinless, lost his first family only to receive a new family after his ordeal.

Notice also that he received back double all he lost, except his children, which I believe that by the perception of God, he never truly lost his first ones.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 11:58 AM  

Original? But the Bible outright SAYS that God plays favorites. Any Calvinist can tell you that. After all, you guys are always telling us it's our favorite chapter.

However, the application of that fact is not what you say. The preacher cannot know if it happened for that reason, or because the old lady is allowed to suffer for the glory of God, unless God specifically informs the preacher.

Blogger wrf3 February 01, 2014 12:03 PM  

Gara wrote: Preacher who is a fan of Vox: "Oh, hi there old lady. So you say you want to know why your husband died from cancer, your house was devastated by a hurricane, and your cat ran away?. Well is very simple actually: You are not on God's favorite list. Better luck next time."

Except that this isn't what the Bible says. God's "playing favorites" refers to election to salvation; not whether or not trials come our way. As Ecclesiastes says, "time and chance happen to [them] all."

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 12:11 PM  

For example, my mother once received a vision - the only one in her life - that what's going to happen to a family we know is punishment.

It was bad. VERY bad.

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 12:12 PM  

because the old lady is allowed to suffer for the glory of God

Ok, so the christian God is a God that glorifies himself in the suffering of old ladys. Thank you for clarifying that.

whether or not trials come our way.

What do you exactly mean by trials? You mean like tests?? What is the purpose of such trials?

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 12:13 PM  

Ok, so the christian God is a God that glorifies himself in the suffering of old ladys. Thank you for clarifying that.

As I said, not all suffering works that way. There has to be an angle.

Blogger wrf3 February 01, 2014 12:16 PM  

Gara wrote: Ok, so the christian God is a God that glorifies himself in the suffering of old ladys. Thank you for clarifying that.

You're welcome. It's a Catch-22 Gara. You do understand that you're implicitly saying God is wrong for doing this. You do know that this means that, at least in your eyes, you're greater than God. Or that there is something greater than God, to which even God must submit.

Do you really want to say that?

Blogger Booch Paradise February 01, 2014 12:21 PM  

But we do. Because we are privy to the discussion between Satan and God.

We are given this perspective, but God never reveals why He's allowing Satan to test Job. There is no part of the conversation where God says "So I may be glorified, go ahead". From the implications of the discussion you could just as well say that God did it because He was curious as to say that He did it to glorify Himself. Honestly if we are going to dissect the book like that I would say it makes a lot more sense to say that God was purifying Job. The whole time Job did have this remnant of sin nature in him, and to get it out it had to manifest so it could be repented of, and it wouldn't have even come up without God striping him of all he had. But still, God did not say that was the reason.

Anonymous Josh February 01, 2014 12:22 PM  

Preacher who is a fan of Vox: "Oh, hi there old lady. So you say you want to know why your husband died from cancer, your house was devastated by a hurricane, and your cat ran away?. Well is very simple actually: You are not on God's favorite list. Better luck next time."

Are you familiar at all with Calvinism?

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 12:30 PM  

There is no part of the conversation where God says "So I may be glorified, go ahead". From the implications of the discussion you could just as well say that God did it because He was curious as to say that He did it to glorify Himself.

Satan challenges him that he can even get his very best servant to curse God if God were just to give his permission to afflict him. Then God immediately gives permission. Do you suppose this is a coincidence, like God just happened to think of some mysterious unrelated reason to allow it?

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 12:30 PM  

You do understand that you're implicitly saying God is wrong for doing this.

wrf3, how did I say implicitly that God was wrong for doing this? I barely wrote a sentence so I am genuinely curious. What exactly made you conclude that what I said was to be taken as a negative thing about God?

Anonymous Porky February 01, 2014 12:39 PM  

Markku: pantokratōr: Literally "he who holds sway over all things".

So, the issue isn't that the Bible uses the word omnipotence, but with what definitions of the concept is this expression consistent with.


Again, not a lot of wiggle room with "all things".

Anonymous Toby Temple February 01, 2014 12:40 PM  

Are you familiar at all with Calvinism?

Josh. When atheists attempts an attack on the biblical god, it is always an attack against the calvinist god.

Anonymous VD February 01, 2014 12:58 PM  

If anything, one can't deny that Vox has presented a very original response to the argument from evil.

While true, that's the less significant of my two responses to the argument from evil. And you've misunderstood the nature of this one. Remember: I'm neither Calvinist nor omniderigent. And I don't believe God is the prince of this world.

Anonymous VD February 01, 2014 12:59 PM  

Again, not a lot of wiggle room with "all things".

But plenty with "holds sway". Again, Porky, you cannot possibly distinguish between omnipotence, tantipotence, and volipotence from your human perspective. You're attempting the impossible.

Anonymous damntull February 01, 2014 1:09 PM  

@VD
I see your eye-rolling and raise you a snicker.

Blogger jay-dubya February 01, 2014 1:11 PM  

bob k. mando February 01, 2014 9:54 AM

jay-dubya February 01, 2014 9:35 AM
I cannot define, and Bing is no help- tantipotence and tantiscience. Can someone enlighten me?

'omni-' is the Latin prefix for all or every.

'tanti-' is the prefix form for the Latin 'tantus' which means great or very.


Thank you very much!

Blogger Lud VanB February 01, 2014 1:27 PM  

"You have it exactly backwards. The atheist cannot accept that he is not the pinnacle of creation and retreats from the contemplation of the infinite, seeking to define and limit all things to his corporeal existence. "

If an atheist believes himself to be the pinnacle of anything, then he or she is every bit as much of a fool as the theist who believes his or her existence is the culminating result of a grand divine master plan. the reality is far more likely to be that the human animal, along with his entire list of accomplishments will one day join in extinction the 99% of other species that came and went on this little spec of cosmic dust we call earth. and on that day, neither the universe not its potential creator will so much as bat an eyelash as a result. You see, its not that I don't believe in the possibility of God...I just don't believe that if this God really exists it considers us anymore important or worthy of its particular attention than some random burst of EM pulse radiating from a pulsar 7 galaxies in that direction...we simply don't matter enough to warrant eternal existence one way or another

Blogger Lud VanB February 01, 2014 1:35 PM  

"so ...
i believe in a religion that conveniently conforms to all the things i 'want'
... except that i'm too stupid to find a religion ( like Tantric yoga or Luciferianism ) that allows me to do the things that i want."

I didn't call you stupid...you did...I merely pointed out that you did not invent the god of the religion you belong to although the fact that you went there is actually quite revealing...maybe you should give it some thought.

"if you're going to spend all this time lying about me, you might want to segregate your mutually exclusive lies to separate discussion threads.
that way you'll have a chance that i'll forget that you are contradicting something you had said earlier."

And just what is this lie I said about you exactly? and what earlier statement of mine did it contradict?

Anonymous zen0 February 01, 2014 1:44 PM  

@ VD

Again, Porky, you cannot possibly distinguish between omnipotence, tantipotence, and volipotence from your human perspective. You're attempting the impossible.

Which is why it may be best to limit oneself to the names of God used in the O.T.

Elohim
Jehovah
Jah
El
Eloah (Elohim)
Elyon
Shaddai
Adon, Adonai, Adonim

The names can also be used in combination.

All of them describe God in relation to His powers and attributes.
IE, a created being can refer to God as Elohim, and if he is in a covenant relationship he can refer to God as Jehovah, and both occur within a single psalm.

More detailed discussion available in the Companion Bible appendix #4

Blogger Lud VanB February 01, 2014 1:44 PM  

"Just because men, past and present, understood that God is necessary for civilized society to function in a maximally advantageous way, and as Voltaire pointed out, "if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him", it does not follow, by necessity, that He is in fact an invention of the imagination. That's just what you want to pretend to know without actually knowing."

the fact that I can so easily answer you by simply repeating your statement back at you with the following change of "it does not follow, by necessity, that He is in fact an invention of the imagination..." to "it does not follow, by necessity, that He is in fact NOT an invention of the imagination." should give you pause...if society works whether or not God exists, then what reason is there to believe he exists OR that his existence is necessary for society to work?

Anonymous ThirdMonkey February 01, 2014 1:46 PM  

...we simply don't matter enough to warrant eternal existence one way or another

The entire canon of Scripture argues otherwise. But of course, that doesn't really matter, either.

Blogger Kristophr February 01, 2014 2:15 PM  

Another atheist who makes me want to ask of him to stop being on my side, please.

I can think of nothing more evil than forcing all of humanity to march in lockstep like robots, thus preventing all evil.

If God actually existed, I would bloody well hope he had enough sense to respect sentient beings' free will, and leave them to make their own mistakes or make their own good.

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 2:31 PM  

Kristophr: There is also suffering that is not caused by humans, such as earthquakes or diseases. If God wanted to, he could make the Ebola virus immediatly dissapear from earth, for example. Such a thing would be trivial for the creator of the universe, yet he won't do it. Obviously God doesn't care enough about the suffering of the people infected with it.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 2:39 PM  

It's not that He doesn't care, but that He has gone out of His way to make sure we would have things like ebola. See Genesis and the cursing of the earth.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 2:40 PM  

You have a case against liberal kumbahyah Christianity, but not against the real, Biblical one.

Anonymous VD February 01, 2014 2:43 PM  

If God wanted to, he could make the Ebola virus immediatly dissapear from earth, for example. Such a thing would be trivial for the creator of the universe, yet he won't do it. Obviously God doesn't care enough about the suffering of the people infected with it.

Or, and I'm just throwing this out here, God is not in control of the events on this Earth. Now, can you think of any religion that postulates both a Creator God as well as a Creator God that is not presently in control of Earthly events?

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 2:47 PM  

The issue is not whether he is directly controlling the natural events of the earth but whether he could do it, if he wanted to.

Now, are you postluating that God is not capable of killing all the strains of ebola on earth? Thenew testament itself talks about God healing the ill, so there is no question that he is at least able to do it.

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 2:54 PM  

Markku. Whats the point of making sure there are things like ebola, according to your version of christianity?

Also, are you a young earth creationist? Because that is the only way to claim that the Genesis account provides an explanation of why things like ebola exist. From the scientific evidence, he know that humans are relatively very new on the earth, and that there was life (including things like parasites, viruses and pathogens) way before any human could make any kind of trasgression against God.

Of course, if you believe that the earth is 6000 years old and humans coexisted with dinosaurs, then this doesn't apply to you.

Anonymous Salt February 01, 2014 2:58 PM  

If God wanted to, he could make the Ebola virus immediatly dissapear from earth

He could have made it so it never was to begin with. He didn't, just like He didn't make it that we gently and safely fall from great heights or are born with helmets. He didn't say His creation was great, only that it is good.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 3:01 PM  

Also, are you a young earth creationist?

No. But I believe that the events starting from second chapter of Genesis actually happened. I don't know how exactly it came to that point, for example C.S. Lewis hypothesized that God made man by controlling the evolution from monkeys.

However, what I do know, that if there were no Adam and Eve as literal representatives of mankind, then Christianity is just plain false. It should be rejected in its entirety, not cherry-picked into some liberal form.

Anonymous a. athesist February 01, 2014 3:05 PM  

if god was real...
...he'd make me a sammich.
...and not kill puppues.
... and give me a $1 million (and all war)
he does not, and thus your god does not exist

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 3:13 PM  

However, what I do know, that if there were no Adam and Eve as literal representatives of mankind, then Christianity is just plain false. It should be rejected in its entirety, not cherry-picked into some liberal form.

Thats just an opinion, really. A more fundamentalist christian could just as easily say that if the days of creation in Genesis are not literal days and the universal flood was not literaly global-wide, then christianity is just plain false. The tremendous amount of diferent interpretations of scripture and divergent christian groups show that you can basically choose to believe whatever you want and then interpret the scripture in a way that supports your beliefs.

Which of course begs the question of why would a God who wanted to reveal a message to humanity would do it in such an ambiguous way, but thats a completely different argument.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 3:20 PM  

Thats just an opinion, really. A more fundamentalist christian could just as easily say that if the days of creation in Genesis are not literal days and the universal flood was not literaly global-wide, then christianity is just plain false. The tremendous amount of diferent interpretations of scripture and divergent christian groups show that you can basically choose to believe whatever you want and then interpret the scripture in a way that supports your beliefs.

It's a much more informed opinion than that of the hypothetical fundamentalist. Because a) Jesus spoke of Adam as a literal person, and b) based part of the logic of redemption on Adam.

Therefore the center of Christianity falls with Adam. Nothing like that hinges on the seven 24 hour periods. The only consequence of my rejection of YEC back in the day is, that I'm no longer quite as sure that I'll always be able to recognize with 100% accuracy what is literal and what isn't. Annoying, but not central.

Which of course begs the question of why would a God who wanted to reveal a message to humanity would do it in such an ambiguous way, but thats a completely different argument.

RAISES the question.

I wouldn't be a grammar nazi if that was any other error. But begging the question is a specific logical fallacy. Things get confusing when people mix up raising a question and question-begging.

Anonymous Josh February 01, 2014 3:23 PM  

just to note, my theology is incredibly uninformed. A current goal of mine is to become both more biblically literate and theologically literate. The downside of a Catholic upbringing!

Hmmm...

Anonymous AAAS tape #37 - hidden microphone, transcript February 01, 2014 3:29 PM  

"From the scientific evidence, we know that eggs are... wait, good or bad?... Where's the funding coming from again, Bob? ...What?... No, no, warmth is another topic. We don't broach that unless we can get these goddamned graphs under control. File it away for now. ...Yes, higher priority than cladistics and AIDS."

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 3:31 PM  

Yeah, I ment brings up the question. Btw, didn't Jesus refered to the flood story too?

Tell me something, Is there a reason for interpreting the Genesis days as anything other than a 24 hour period? (other than the fact that such an interpretation would be incompatible with current scientific knowledge)

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 3:35 PM  

Tell me something, Is there a reason for interpreting the Genesis days as anything other than a 24 hour period? (other than the fact that such an interpretation would be incompatible with current scientific knowledge)

24 hours is absolutely the default interpretation from my perspective. I'm informed that the tone of the Hebrew changes entirely between the first and the second chapter, and that anyone with experience with Hebrew literature of the era would recognize the change. But that isn't something I can make sure for myself.

Hence my admission that it is annoying, and also which is why I was so reluctant to give up YEC.

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 3:39 PM  

Just out of curiosity, what made you give it up at the end?

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 3:40 PM  

As for the flood, I currently think it happened, albeit it might have destroyed only the known world of the time, which I am informed they sometimes referred to with the original word. However, I am not 100% certain that I won't ever be presented evidence to the contrary that would cause me to change my mind.

For YEC it was the shape of the age differentials of the ocean floor. I just couldn't make them fit the competing YEC explanation. And you can believe I tried.

Blogger wrf3 February 01, 2014 3:47 PM  

Gara asked: What exactly made you conclude that what I said was to be taken as a negative thing about God?

From past experience talking with non-Christians. Your subsequent statement, "Obviously God doesn't care enough about the suffering of the people infected with it." just further confirmed my suspicion.

Blogger Lud VanB February 01, 2014 3:52 PM  

"The entire canon of Scripture argues otherwise. But of course, that doesn't really matter, either."

I does but only in the complete absence of any supporting evidence of any kind to that effect. seriously, can you name me one thing that would occur say on mars, our closest neighboring planet if humanity ceased to exist tomorrow? If the end of our existence cant even leave an impact on our tiny little solar system, how can anyone believe that the universe was created so we could exist in it.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 3:54 PM  

That's how dangerous* non-aspie, intelligent atheists are. It had been so easy to counter the normal, frothing in the mouth platitudes I always received. But that one actually thought about my competing model and presented data that he couldn't fit it. Causing me to publicly retract my position that I had staked a lot of my personal credibility on along the years.

Luckily, those ones are extremely rare. Haven't seen another since.


*I'm being a bit facetious here, truth isn't actually dangerous

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 4:01 PM  

Let me ask a couple of question for you guys:

1. Imagine you are a biochemist working on the lab, and you discover a cure for HIV that could be produced very cheaply and has absolutely no negative side effects on humans. Would you publish your results? Why?

2. Imagine you wake up one day with the supernatural ability to heal the ill of whatever affliction they may have. The kind of healing abilities Jesus was alleged to have (and that some pastors today claim to have). How would you use that gift? Would you heal as many people as possible? Would you heal any friends or family that had some kind of condition? Why?

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 4:09 PM  

1) Yes. Those results would be truth, and by default truth is good. The only situation where it isn't is when you have specific reason to believe it is going to be used completely or mostly for evil. Like the traditional "Where is the Jew?" question in Nazi Germany. Or, alternatively, if God told me not to in completely unambiguous way.

If it was important for the functionality of God's curse, He could make another pandemic virus, or mutate HIV in such a way that the treatment no longer works.

2) By default, I would heal it, except in the conditions listed in 1. The reason being, the Apostles healed by default, without interrogations. Again, God would easily circumvent me whenever this activity interfered with His plans.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 4:11 PM  

In both situations, they would definitely hear about how I'm a Christian and do this in the service of God.

They wouldn't hear the end of it.

Blogger wrf3 February 01, 2014 4:12 PM  

Gara asked: Would you publish your results?
Yes.
Why?
Because Jesus. [John 14:12]

How would you use that gift?
Very, very sparingly. First, Jesus did not heal everyone He came into contact with (Luke 4:27-29:

There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.

Once again, you seem to be laboring under the delusion that all suffering is bad. It may be wrong for us to cause others to suffer; it is not wrong for God to do so.

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 4:29 PM  

So both of you, if you could, would do things that prevent suffering. Most normal, good hearted humans beings would do the same. And yet I am supposed to believe that God, who is infinitely more loving and good than any human, does not do anything comparable.

A guy who discovered the cure for a common, deadly disease but did not allowed others to use it would not be considered good, by any reasonable definition of the word.

Anonymous kh123 February 01, 2014 4:34 PM  

"Let me ask a couple of question for you guys:"

1. Imagine that a random mutation, or several, conferred immunity to HIV to whatever sized population in whatever locale. Imagine the same for several strains of STDs, an abnormally high tolerance for alcohol or various drugs, or an increased physical ability to withstand high speed impacts. Given that human nature is based around the concept of modifying behavior due to limits and consequences, how would any of the above change that nature and everything inbetween, from sports to society. What would the consequences be.

2. In lieu with the above, I would not trust myself with such a limited supply for as large and sought after of a demand (For the more conspiratorially minded, cui bono?), or the ability to arbitrarily erase anyone else's consequences for their actions. How many folks would shoot heroin if methadone or some other chem cocktail was as immediate in negating the consequences as the former is in giving the high. Free is cheap, and cheap is easily thrown away, so the saying goes. As is now, doing good in any of these areas requires sacrifice, from both parties - but I think especially from the one trying to solve the problem by whatever means. With a snap of the fingers... can't help but conclude that something would be lost in that journey, the journey itself for one.

Anonymous kh123 February 01, 2014 4:43 PM  

...I should've said: Who would shoot heroin if methadone or some other chem cocktail was as immediate in negating the consequences as the former is in giving the first high. There's the other can of worms to open once you include the idea that something's efficacy has diminishing returns or a shelf life of some sort.

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 4:52 PM  

kh123: You may not know but we already have these things called condoms. And even without them, nowdays the vast majority of STDs are very easy to treat, with HIV being a big exception. Your implication that the existence of bad consequences is required to keep our behaviour in check is ridiculously silly. Under the same logic, you may as well argue that we should remove seat belts from cars to make people drive more carefully.

I don't get 2 either, Assuming there was a drug that provided a great high and had absolutely zero bad consequences for your body. Why would that be a bad thing?

Blogger tz February 01, 2014 4:56 PM  

The intractable problem is that you can't compare infinities.

(and I'm skeptical of Cantor's transfinite numbers - does .999... equal 1.0 if the infinity is countable? If the infinite toilet paper is 1/2, 1/4, 3/4, ... (in binary) for any irrational number and episilon there will exist N such that there will be an entry closer to the irrational number than epsilon - at >2**n., and the xor diagonal generates in binary 0.0111111 - is that equal to 1/2, the very top entry or not? Every "proof" of Cantor's theorem I've seen requires an infinite construction that "begs the question" - e.g. the toilet paper is wider than it is long - which hasn't been proven).

The problem with "predestination" is not that God knows what will happen, he knows, knew, and will know eternally every possible outcome from every possible combination of choices of the beings he gave free will. There is a universe, but he sees, has seen, and will see every multiverse.

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, who was, and is, and is to come.

Beyond that, while blaming God for not using infinite power to prevent evil, what excuse have men for not using their power - sins of omission can be intentional, culpable, and mortal - to address the evils at their front door. If not actually promoting, helping, or engaging in evil.

Anonymous VD February 01, 2014 4:57 PM  

I am supposed to believe that God, who is infinitely more loving and good than any human, does not do anything comparable.

Yes. Because you have a false conception of good. Think about the terrible things that happen to video game characters. Do you consider the game developers evil because they permit such things to happen to them?

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 5:04 PM  

A video game character is not a sentient being, it doesn't suffer in any way for the things that happen to him.

Humans (and complex animals such as mammals) do experience pain and do have the capacity to suffer.

My conception of "good" is the one that every normal person uses in the every day life, Nobody would consider a person who had discovered a cure for cancer but choosed not to published to be a morally good person, for example.

Blogger tz February 01, 2014 5:05 PM  

To briefly condense my problem with Cantor's transfinites, there are some mathematical problems where we can prove something exists but not easily calculate a specific example.

Can something that requires a finite number of steps or does not contain an infinite construction (such as the diagonal in the "list of all irrationals") show that a set with the cardinality of the integers does NOT suffice to represent all numbers in the set of reals. Or 2 raised to the Nth power.

Remember that it is taught (is ie proven or an assumption) that 1/2+1/4+1/8+...1/2**N... is equal to 1, just as 1/3 +2/3 == 1 though .333... + .666 == .999 - for infinite series, the "infinite' is always the cardinality of the integers.

I'm willing to say either Cantor or (countable infinity only) Calculus, number theory, and the rest is nonsense, but not that both can be (pun intended) rationally held at the same time.

I know, I'll be declared anathematical.

Blogger tz February 01, 2014 5:13 PM  

We humans tend to associate "good and evil" with "pleasure and pain" respectively. But not just pleasure/pain, but immediate, temporal pleasure/pain.

Having to work hard (pain) to experience a greater pleasure - ought it be necessary?

And what of the eternal perspective?

Most people would consider it not merely proper but righteous to not indulging a brat's every whim. Yet the brat can complain (and call child protective services!). But what is the result of discipline?

Finally, God has made promises, and one of those is to be perfectly just (as in justice) - and in a way which is NOT beyond our understanding, though it may appear so now.

This is the fatal flaw in Atheism, including soft-atheism (Schneier's Liars and Outliers which discusses "trust").

We are assured there is no way not to 'get caught", only that it might not occur in this life. Yet if there is no God, (or karma! - the indians may have their revenge against the cowboys and the Viceroy) then simply avoiding temporal problems is a win.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 5:19 PM  

So both of you, if you could, would do things that prevent suffering. Most normal, good hearted humans beings would do the same. And yet I am supposed to believe that God, who is infinitely more loving and good than any human, does not do anything comparable.

We are their peers, we don't get to have plans for them, nor include them in a curse. God is their owner, he does.

And note how I said I would defer to God's plan, if He informed me of it.

Anonymous Gara February 01, 2014 5:23 PM  

We are their peers, we don't get to have plans for them, nor include them in a curse.

But then, if all suffering is part of God's plan, then it follows that by doing any action that prevents or mitigates suffering then you are acting against such plan. If you were consistent with your theodicy, you would never do anything to help someone in need, since God would not allow that person to suffer if there was not a good reason for it.

Anonymous Porphyry February 01, 2014 5:28 PM  

blah blah blah people confusing themselves by talking about infinity, as if it is an actual value, instead of a description of what kind of values something can have. Go read your Aristotle. The modern definition of finite covers all numbers, there's no need for an infinite.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 5:31 PM  

As you said yourself: part. From the example of the apostles, I can tell that the other parts are more important as far as my actions go. Unless told otherwise.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 5:56 PM  

It is important that there is suffering, so that the words about the curse don't become empty. But any GIVEN suffering isn't of crucial importance (again, unless specifically told otherwise). There's still plenty to go around. And that will only be until the Final Judgement.

Blogger Alcuin February 01, 2014 6:36 PM  

Tantipotence: a lot of power. Tantiscience: a lot of knowledge. I would actually argue that God is voliscient and volipotent, which is as knowledgeable and powerful as He wishes to be.

I think I understand the logic behind voliscience (I think of it as God having the power to not know what He wishes to not know, which could make it a necessary part of either omnipotence or volipotence). The problem that I have with volipotency is that it seems to me that a truly volipotent being would have the power to become omnipotent if he wished to be, which, to me, is at the very least only a step or two away from straight omnipotence.

It may seem like this could be easily solved by substituting voliscience for volipotence and then using the same argument for voliscience to support volipotence. The problem that I have with that is that knowledge is not necessarily power, so I'm not sure if the substitution could be completely carried over.

As I understand it, there is nothing that God is prohibited from knowing, but there are some things that God cannot do. If there are some things that God cannot do, is it because He simply has not granted Himself the power to do so, or is it for a more fundamental reason? I'm honestly not sure where to go from here. Could somebody help me clear this up?

Anonymous kh123 February 01, 2014 6:56 PM  

"we already have these things called condoms."

And yet, here you are.

Anonymous kh123 February 01, 2014 7:02 PM  

" you may as well argue that we should remove seat belts from cars to make people drive more carefully."

Actually, and I think it was discussed here, traffic accidents and fatalities have been shown to go down in countries where speed limits and traffic lights/signs were reduced.

Of course, this requires a culture that has fairly long-term preferences, an understanding of the consequences of physics, and lacks an insurance bureaucracy in order to work.

Anonymous zen0 February 01, 2014 7:45 PM  

@ Alcuin

As I understand it, there is nothing that God is prohibited from knowing, but there are some things that God cannot do. If there are some things that God cannot do, is it because He simply has not granted Himself the power to do so, or is it for a more fundamental reason? I'm honestly not sure where to go from here. Could somebody help me clear this up?

If God did not limit himself, all there could be is God. You could not exist. The inhabitable world could not exist. The universe could not exist. Space/Time could not exist.

These threads remind me of the old story about 12 blind men arguing with each other about what an elephant is like by feeling it with their hands.

Anonymous Y not February 01, 2014 9:30 PM  

**Imagine the Sisyphean hell that is the existence of a video game character, literally created to die over and over and over again. Does the misery of his existence prove that the video game developer does not exist? Of course not. Does it prove that the developer has any limits upon him that the video game character can observe? Of course not. Does it prove that the developer has any particular enmity for the character? Not at all**

A video game character is not (so far as we know) conscious, or intelligent, or self aware in any way. If there were a video game character who were self aware, and the game developer knew that, and repeatedly tortured and killed (or specifically directed other characters in the video game to do so) that character, for no good reason, it would not disprove the existence of the developer, but it would definitely show that the developer was a psychopathic monster.

Not necessarily intervening to save that character, when other characters in the video game choose to kill it of their own accord, even for bad reasons, or the character happens to, say, fall down a hole that exists in the video game world, does NOT prove the video game developer is a monster, however.

Anonymous Y Not February 01, 2014 9:41 PM  

--Lud, you could not be more wrong. If I were inventing a God to suit my preferences, the successful seduction of a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader would qualify one for sainthood--

Problem here is, as much as you might like to seduce a cheerleader yourself, theres a strong chance that you would not like someone ELSE successfully seducing the cheerleader.

--and record company executives who signed any "singer" under the age of 21 to a record contract would be struck dead by lightning on the spot. That argument is remarkably stupid, even for you.--

The fact that God hates something cannot be construed to mean that he will instantaneous strike a person who does it dead. Otherwise there would be an awful lot of dead people, and very few atheists or agnostics. That statement is remarkably stupid, even for you.

Anonymous Y not February 01, 2014 9:49 PM  

Gara wrote:
--My conception of "good" is the one that every normal person uses in the every day life, Nobody would consider a person who had discovered a cure for cancer but choosed not to published to be a morally good person, for example.--

That depends. If the person knew that the result of their publishing would be that someone else would be given the credit and the profit from the cure, or that they would be enslaved, tortured, or killed, then they could still be a good person without publishing.

Also, preventing all suffering may have bad long term effects. For instance, if you protect birds from all predators, they will eventually lose the ability to fly.

Anonymous Y Not February 01, 2014 9:57 PM  

VD wrote: --Think about the terrible things that happen to video game characters. Do you consider the game developers evil because they permit such things to happen to them?--

First of all, you are comparing apples and oranges, since video game characters are not self aware (and this false comparison is indicative of a lack of integrity). Secondly, there is a huge difference between permitting something to happen, and causing it to happen. I may for instance, permit hawks to kill sparrows in what is often a painful manner, as part of the normal ecological balance. However, I do not go out and torture sparrows myself for no good reason, nor do I tell children to catch sparrows and cut off their wings.

If a video game developer causes pain to a hypothetical self-aware video game character, or sells the game to players and encourages them to do so, he is *causing* evil. If he simply lets the game run by itself, and does not intervene when various characters in the game attack eachother, he may be *permitting* evil, but he isn't *causing* it.

Blogger wrf3 February 01, 2014 10:12 PM  

Y Not wrote: he is *causing* evil.

It is not evil for God to cause what we happen to think is evil.

Blogger Alcuin February 01, 2014 10:21 PM  

@ zen0

If God did not limit himself, all there could be is God. You could not exist. The inhabitable world could not exist. The universe could not exist. Space/Time could not exist.

Does this mean that He cannot do the things that He is described as not being able to do at all, or that He can do them, but chooses not to in order to ensure that the universe can exist?

Anonymous Edjamacator February 01, 2014 10:21 PM  

I'm just going to put my two cents in and then split because a lot of this is beyond what anyone's going to prove. Anyway, shortie version:
1) God "hates" certain people to a point. The Bible also says that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. It also says he wishes that all could be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. However, he also can take strong stands against individuals and deem that "hate," but apparently he would also still wish such people would allow themselves to be saved. For all of the "but he wiped out Israel fast enough" types, they seem to neglect that he spent a ton of time warning them first.
2) Suffering is part and parcel of living here. We suffer because we have a sin nature, even those who follow Christ. It's part of being here and no one gets an "immunity" card. God's promise is that if it happens to us he will turn it into something that will either benefit us or help us grow. He's also far less concerned with our earthly life than he is with eternity and focuses his efforts on helping us improve for that.
3) We get it, atheists. Your main problem isn't evidence or lack thereof and your oh-so-important sense of rationality. Your problem is spiritual. You simply don't want there to be a God because the logical question after you get that far would be "what does he want of me?" That you don't want to deal with. You don't want what you think would be someone else ordering you around and keeping you from doing whatever you want. That's fine. Live like that if you choose but be "tolerant" and "open-minded" enough to leave those who don't think like you alone. We really don't require your assistance. No matter what you think or feel or desire, the instant your body dies and you suddenly recognize that you still exist is going to be the worst moment (up to that point) of your life. There won't be any questions or arguing "evidence" after that. You'll just know. And no, God won't be there taking any joy in having to give you just want you asked for, either. He isn't spiteful or nasty and is jealous for people because he knows that following after anything else only ends up hurting his creations. And for the whole argument of "why doesn't he just end suffering," well, he plans to. Forever. It's not happening the way you want, but it will happen and suffering will be something not even thought of as a memory. The ironic thing is, unless you give up your human pride you won't be there to see it when it does happen, and will be in the one and only location where suffering will still exist.

Anonymous zen0 February 01, 2014 10:28 PM  

@ Y Not

The fact that God hates something cannot be construed to mean that he will instantaneous strike a person who does it dead. Otherwise there would be an awful lot of dead people, and very few atheists or agnostics. That statement is remarkably stupid, even for you.

Simple idiocy does not a moron make. Nay, he must expound upon his ignorance to truly merit the charge.

"Let the dead bury the dead"

Are you familiar with the quote? To God, the vast majority of humans of the earth are in the default class of "dead" right now.

No use beating a dead horse, now, is there?

Well, is there, punk?

Anonymous zen0 February 01, 2014 10:33 PM  

@ Alcuin

Does this mean that He cannot do the things that He is described as not being able to do at all, or that He can do them, but chooses not to in order to ensure that the universe can exist?

If I understand you aright, I would say Yes to the latter proposition.

Blogger Markku February 01, 2014 10:47 PM  

I would definitely say the latter also. I mean, don't read complex theology into a simple, ambiguous word. If someone asks me, "can you murder that kid over there for me?", I'm going to say "no can do". Even though I probably could, in an ultra-literal reading of the question.

Blogger Alcuin February 01, 2014 11:52 PM  

Thanks for both your responses. It really helped.

I see your point about not summing up theology into single words, Markku. Even now, I can see how arguments could be made for both volipotence and omnipotence based on this, but it really depends on how you approach it in the first place.

Blogger Alcuin February 02, 2014 12:12 AM  

The point I was really trying to make was that the difference between volipotence and omnipotence seems to me to be marginal, if not negligible, whereas the difference between voliscience and omniscience is more substantial and carries more consequences. Where I got lost was in trying to figure out how specifically God couldn't (or won't) do certain things.

Blogger Lud VanB February 02, 2014 12:25 AM  

"We get it, atheists. Your main problem isn't evidence or lack thereof and your oh-so-important sense of rationality. Your problem is spiritual. You simply don't want there to be a God because the logical question after you get that far would be "what does he want of me?" That you don't want to deal with."

no...you really dont get it at all...you are simply doing the tired, age old tactic of trying to shift the burden of proof without getting caught doing so and you have just been caught

Blogger Lud VanB February 02, 2014 12:29 AM  

"It is not evil for God to cause what we happen to think is evil."

the only way for this to be true is if what we think is evil isent in fact inherently evil...otherwise, it is evil for anyone to cause evil, not matter who it is.

Anonymous ChicagoRefugee February 02, 2014 1:43 AM  

By what standard does an atheist call anything "evil?" What non-subjective measuring stick can you possibly use?

Oh, and I haven't seen anyone address this idiocy from the top of the thread:

Also, there is not enough air inside a pyramid to allow even a match to burn.

Whuuut? We have photographs of Egyptologists working in tombs that go back at least a century. In none of them have I seen them working in oxygen masks.

Blogger Lud VanB February 02, 2014 3:31 AM  

"By what standard does an atheist call anything "evil?" What non-subjective measuring stick can you possibly use? "

I don't know what standards an atheist would use to define evil although I can guess it would be very similar to my own...namely that is every bit as subjective and as dependent of the circumstances in which it occurs as good is. The existence or none existence of God has absolutely no impact on the inherent subjectivity of good and evil.

Anonymous Toby Temple February 02, 2014 5:59 AM  

If you guys are too stupid to understand the video game analogy then you are simply not tall enough for this ride.

Blogger Lud VanB February 02, 2014 6:53 AM  

"If you guys are too stupid to understand the video game analogy then you are simply not tall enough for this ride."

actually I would say its pretty stupid of you to not understand why the analogy completely fails...VD's a big boy...he doesn't need you to come to his defense when he F**ks up

Anonymous Gara February 02, 2014 7:17 AM  

"we already have these things called condoms."

And yet, here you are.


Well, thats because my parents were responsible people who planned to have me. I'm sorry if this was not your case, but you shouldn't project your own situations onto other people.

Actually, and I think it was discussed here, traffic accidents and fatalities have been shown to go down in countries where speed limits and traffic lights/signs were reduced.

There is quite a diference between traffic lights and seat belts, isn't it?

Anonymous Gara February 02, 2014 7:29 AM  

It is important that there is suffering, so that the words about the curse don't become empty.

But that only raises the question of why was the curse necessary in the first place. To say that suffering is necessary so a curse about suffering is not meaningless is a bit circular to say the least.

That without speaking about the fairness of making a curse that would cause suffering to millions of people because of the actions of two people.

Anonymous Porky February 02, 2014 7:33 AM  

VD: But plenty with "holds sway". Again, Porky, you cannot possibly distinguish between omnipotence, tantipotence, and volipotence from your human perspective. You're attempting the impossible.

Actually, I'm not. I'm exegeting the scriptures. pantokratōr comes from two roots: pan, meaning "all", and kratos, meaning "strength", or "power".

All power. All mighty. Omni potent.

zen0: "Which is why it may be best to limit oneself to the names of God used in the O.T."

The most common translation of "El Shaddai" is Almighty.

I think it's important to know who one worships. We worship the Almighty. He is not simply a Superbeing. He is THE Superbeing. He is it. Beginning and End.

Whoo! Get me some snakes I'm about to preach!!!

Blogger Markku February 02, 2014 7:39 AM  

meaning "strength", or "power".

Or "dominion".

Anonymous Jimmy February 02, 2014 8:26 AM  

"The existence or none existence of God has absolutely no impact on the inherent subjectivity of good and evil."

So if God exists, evil is still subjective. Unbelievable.

Short theology. Man exists, Evil exists.

Anonymous Porky February 02, 2014 8:51 AM  

Or "dominion".

Root word dominus. Master. Lord.

The real key though seems to be the root pan. It clearly means "all" when there's plenty of words that could have been used to imply "great" or "a lot of". 'All mighty' is used as a descriptor for God in the septuagint and by multiple writers in the new testament as well.

He's Almighty. Omnipotent.

Anonymous Toby Temple February 02, 2014 9:49 AM  

actually I would say its pretty stupid of you to not understand why the analogy completely fails

Still too short aren't you, Lud...

Anonymous Toby Temple February 02, 2014 10:04 AM  

Porky. It boils down in the definition of omnipotent. If we stick to this defintion:

able to do anything

Then the biblical God is not omnipotent due to the fact that He cannot lie.

Anonymous zen0 February 02, 2014 11:08 AM  

Big Brother Butts In: I would add one more thing that Jimmy pointed out to me when he was explaining all of this over the piano. I had always wondered why it is that musical scales have to have those half-steps. Wouldn’t it be easier and more consistent and more orderly for a scale to have all whole steps? It would, but now I know that a scale with all whole steps is actually discordant. Not only that, it has the Devil’s Interval! Which teaches us that perfect regularity is neither beautiful nor good. True beauty–whether of music or art or literature or a person–needs its quirks, its inconsistencies, its surprises, even its flaws. Philosophies and ideologies that demand utterly consistent regularity–think of Marxism–become inhuman, tyrannical, and demonic. As do people when they try to fit their neighbors into some regular pattern of whole notes. And God, who Himself is unutterably complex and confounding to human reason, designed things this way. (And if you think such connection between music and other kinds of cosmic order is just made up, the old music theorists, such as Bach–anyone know if he used the Devil’s Interval?–thought and made music in these terms.

The Devil's interval

Anonymous Porky February 02, 2014 12:57 PM  

Then the biblical God is not omnipotent due to the fact that He cannot lie.

An infinite set of primes cannot contain a negative number. But it will still be infinite.





Anonymous kh123 February 02, 2014 1:06 PM  

"Well, thats because my parents..."

Well no, I didn't mean it that way. But by all means, read into it as you will.

"here is quite a diference between traffic lights and seat belts, isn't it?"

Not necessarily, not for anyone smart enough to understand that universally eliminating the consequences for actions has consequences in and of itself.

And you still technically haven't answered the only question, which I'll spell out a little more slowly for you:

-Given that people still suffer from the above even with current man-made safeguards and campaigns in place, what would happen if a segment of a population had a favorable mutation that conferred it increased resistance to HIV, all STDs, or high speed impacts. How would their decision making and actions change as a result. Evolutionarily speaking, would this mutation spread and become dominant.

Anonymous Gara February 02, 2014 2:59 PM  

"here is quite a diference between traffic lights and seat belts, isn't it?"

Not necessarily, not for anyone smart enough to understand that universally eliminating the consequences for actions has consequences in and of itself.


How do traffic lights elmininate consequences in any way? Again, what would you think of a politician who proposed fabricating cars without seat belts in order to force people to drive more carefuly? That would be the most incredibly stupid proposal you could make, yet this is what you seem to be advocating.

Regarding your question, I actually don't think sexual behaviour in society would change a lot if people were resistant to STD's. Your question implies that society would quickly become (even more) promiscuous, but this is a very ignorant opionion which probably comes from your anti-sex conservative christian background. Consider that:

1. There are already a lot of people who don't give a shit about contracting a possible STD. Specially young people. You would be surprised how many guys don't mind raw fucking a girl they just met at a bar. They just don't care.

2. The men and women who want to have sex with a bunch of people but are afraid of STD's can already use condoms, which are cheap and easily avaliable.

3. The men and women who are responsible and avoid having sex with a lot of people would still have something to worry about, namely an unwanted pregnancy.

So the irresponsible people would still be irresponsible and the responsible people would still be responsible.

Now, regarding the resistance to high speed impact. Lets just assume for the shake of the argument that there is a society with some kind of mutation that makes people have a very high chance to survive a high speed traffic accident without serious damages. Maybe people would be more inclined to drive faster in this society, but since people have a high resistance to car crashes, the only problem is that people get more speeding tickets and the part of the insurance costs that deals with auto repairs go up. Seems to me like a preferable situation. Or would you prefer people to die easier so some other people would drive more carefully?


The things you guys come up with never cease to amaze me. Seriously. People dying from STDs and car crashes is a good thing because it keeps the behaviour from other people in check. Awesome. With guys who think like you, is not surprising that countries like scandinavian countries where christianity has become less prevalent have seen their standards of living increase.

Anonymous Y Not February 02, 2014 5:25 PM  

**Again, Porky, you cannot possibly distinguish between omnipotence, tantipotence, and volipotence from your human perspective.**

I disagree. Case in point, from a guppie's point of view, humans are tantipotent, because they can create a glass aquarium, and the guppies can't. I can concieve of a hypothetical intelligent guppy that still would not be able to make a glass aquarium of it's own, but would be aware that even though humans can make a glass aquarium, there are other things that humans can't make.

As for your video game analogy, a far better analogy would be what was going on in the movie 'The Island' (starring, I think, Ewan McGregor).

Anonymous Y Not February 02, 2014 5:27 PM  

Regarding the handwaving about 'lack of consequences', there's a lot of things like that. We can breath oxygen without 'consequences', even though primitive bacteria can't. Your handwaving is simply a poorly disguised 'I hate the thought of anyone, anywhere, actually being happy'.

Blogger Lud VanB February 02, 2014 5:52 PM  

"Still too short aren't you, Lud..."

I m tall enough to realize that all you bring to the table are ad hominem and nothing else

Anonymous kh123 February 02, 2014 9:32 PM  

"Your question implies.."

Second time you've projected yourself into the question/statement.


"There are already a lot of people who don't give a shit about contracting a possible STD."

And yet, ("But,... condoms!") you would that anyone who wouldn't cure these problems with the snap of the fingers is a monster. Partial cookie for you, grasshopper.


"Again, what would you think of a politician who proposed fabricating cars without seat belts in order to force people to drive more carefuly?"

Don't you know, from babies to banks, this would be against everything the government stands for - to protect us at every turn.


"Maybe people would be more inclined to drive faster in this society, but since people have a high resistance to car crashes, the only problem is that people get more speeding tickets and the part of the insurance costs that deals with auto repairs go up."

So there wouldn't be an increase in traffic fatalities for those who lack the mutational advantage; that these high speed ubermenschen, the police, and the bureaucracy of state compelled business wouldn't ascend over the physically weaker and financially meeker within several generations or more.

So which is it, Herr Gara: Behavior would be affected, or it wouldn't with these magical panaceas.





Anonymous Toby Temple February 02, 2014 11:30 PM  

An infinite set of primes cannot contain a negative number. But it will still be infinite.

Nice dance steps you have there, Porky.

Do read it again though:

If we stick to this defintion:

able to do anything

I m tall enough to realize that all you bring to the table are ad hominem and nothing else

Sorry, Lud. But even in that area you are still too short.

Blogger Lud VanB February 03, 2014 4:30 PM  

you can be sorry all you want, you are still proving my point every time you offer nothing but ad hominem.

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