The Head Fake

So what if Jesus was to reappear on Earth and, in a well documented manner, did things like heal amputees?  In other words, what if God did as the atheists demand and they get their sensational, miraculous, unexplainable gaps?  What next?

Atheists like Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins would not acknowledge this as evidence for God.  Instead, they would insist that this “Jesus” could be some ETI trying to deceive us.

But atheists like Jerry Coyne would count this as evidence for God.  Provisionally, that is.  According to Coyne:

 At some point I would just say, “Okay, I’ll tentatively say there’s a God,”

He also added:

If only Christian prayers were answered, and Jesus appeared doing miracles left and right, documented by all kinds of evidence, I would say, “It looks as if some entity that comports with the Christian God is working ‘miracles,’ though I don’t know how she does it.”

So if God were to satisfy atheist demands for “evidence,” many atheists would still not believe and others would offer up some mealy-mouthed concession about it looking like some type of god exists and immediately want to know how she does her miracles.

Once we, as Christians, can recognize how this would play out, it becomes rather obvious that all those demands for evidence are a sham.   I do not think God is all that interested in whether or not someone believes He exists.  He is interested in whether or not someone believes they are a sinner.  So, if the Super-Duper miracles were to occur, note the reaction of the atheists.  Would they repent of their sins?  Would they beg for forgiveness?  Would they choose to worship and follow Christ?  No.  Not at all.  They would simply reassert their sins of pride and arrogance.   They would maintain their self-centered perception as judge of all reality.

The biggest head fake of all is this notion that atheists are atheists because of “the evidence.”  We’ve seen that the non-existence of such “evidence” is a matter of subjective opinion, but what is far more important is whether or not the self-centered views of the atheists can acknowledge the need to repent of their sins.  For it’s not whether or not there is some gap out there that would force some atheists to say “Okay, I’ll tentatively say there’s a God.”  What matters is whether or not atheists can admit their need for salvation.

From the Christian perspective, the core issue here is not, and had never been, “the evidence.”  The core issue is rebellion and the manner in which we love our sin.  So the question that gets us closer to the heart of the matter is not “what type of data would count as evidence for God?”  It is, “if you were convinced God exists, would you repent of your sins and stop rebelling against God?”

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188 Responses to The Head Fake

  1. 22056 says:

    As I once noted on my own little blog, these types of atheists have always struck me the same way as whiny five-year olds do:

    https://investigativeapologetics.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/thought-on-atheists-as-whiny-children/

    Whenever I hear of atheists stamping their feet and “bravely” declaring that they won’t believe in God unless God appears to them, on their terms, and provides them with some arbitrary and subjective but always flashy miracle, I cannot but help thinking of my five year-old child who sometimes looks at me with a pouty face and boldly declares that he simply will not believe that I love him unless I buy him some big and flashy toy that he personally wants and finds subjectively satisfying, and I marvel that my son does make this demand of me even though, to any reasonable person, my love is amply shown by the fact that I brought my son into the world without needing to (something existing rather than nothing), that I provide an orderly and clean and liveable house for him (a well-designed universe fit for life), that I cloth him and provide him with good food (a well-designed and livable Earth), that I institute rules that keep him safe and are in his best interests (the existence of an objective moral law), and so on; thus, when my son does make this ridiculous demand of me–as if I, his father, need to prove my love to him by meeting his arbitrary demands–all I can do is look at him with sternness and ensure that he gets precisely the opposite of what he wants, and so I can only imagine what God–a being infinitely greater in comparison to man than a father is to his child–can think when a man makes such a petulant demand of Him.

  2. Andy says:

    As an atheist, I can only say that if there would be an accessible entity that is benevolent and has God-like powers and knowledge, then of course I would “follow” it – in the sense that I´d try to learn as much as possible from it and try to follow its advice to the best of my abilities.
    Of course I could not know with complete certainty whether this entity truly is metaphysically ultimate (i.e. what “God” is supposed to be) instead of just an unimaginably advanced alien creature, but this difference would be pragmatically meaningless – this being would be benevolent and have God-like powers and knowledge either way – and following it would be the rational thing to do either way.
    And I certainly would say that I am atheist because I find the evidence for any human in history ever being in contact with such an entity to be exceedingly poor, and if Jesus would still be around today and be as accessible to us as he allegedly was for his disciples, this would be completely different.

  3. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Let’s imagine that we were considering “evidence for submarines within forty nautical miles” while navigating a merchant ship across the North Atlantic in 1940.
    Suppose, further, that there is indeed an enemy submarine 35 nautical miles away (just that we don’t know it… yet).
    One could (quite legitimately) state that “the evidence for submarines within forty nautical miles” was “exceedingly poor”.
    But if you were trained in ocean acoustics, equipped with the right technology, and knew how to use it, you could certainly detect a mechanical sound at the distance of 35 nm (in ocean acoustics, it is due to what is called a “convergence zone” — not to be confused with the meteorological phenomenon with the same label). Moreover, if you had the expertise (i.e., intel) on the mechanical characteristics of enemy submarines, you could legitimately state that “the evidence for submarines within forty nautical miles” was “conclusively positive”.
    So we have an example of something for which the evidence is simultaneously “exceedingly poor” and “conclusively positive”. What’s the difference? Perspective. The individual making the first statement is “looking in the wrong place” (not his “fault” — he isn’t aware of the realities of submarine detection). The individual making the second statement has “done due diligence”.
    I guess it is up to you to determine whether you have “done due diligence” when it comes to assessing the evidence for God, and his interaction with humanity… or whether the difficulty might be that you are unaware of the realities of God detection.

  4. Andy says:

    @Doug:
    Your ocean acoustics analogy is inaccurate in some key aspects, we´d have to modify it a little. First, we would have to assume that the ocean acoustics taught in Europe and the USA is different from the ocean acoustics taught in, say, Iran, and completely different from the ocean acoustics taught in India, or China, or Japan. And those different ocean acoustics lead to different results, where the US navy might detect an enemy submarine, the Iranian navy might not, and vice versa – while the Indian navy detects not just one, but rather many submarines. The Dutch navy on the other hand has started to largely do away with ocean acoustics because many of the Dutch started to stop believing in the existence of submarines, and, despite many predictions that this would cause them to lose many ships due to enemy torpedoes, they are doing quite well. Second, we´d have to assume that ocean acoustics cannot possibly be tested under controlled conditions – the only way to know for sure if there actually was an enemy submarine is to be on a ship that is attacked and destroyed by one, so the only people that know for sure are dead and we cannot ask them. Therefore, no school of ocean acoustics can intersubjectively demonstrate that it has the correct approach while all other schools of ocean acoustics are wrong.
    Third, we´d have to assume that no living person has ever built a submarine, been on a submarine, or even just seen a submarine – if they exist at all, then the people that see them die shortly afterwards due to torpedo fire, and they thus can´t tell anyone what they´ve seen (but some claim that this was different two thousand years ago, because a submarine crew back then might have gone ashore and spent some time with the people there – but no submarine crew has done anything like that ever since).

  5. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    No doubt in 1940 there were indeed many “ocean acoustics” – some were undoubtedly quite primitive. In fact, as entertaining as your extension to the analogy might be, it isn’t nearly as far-fetched as you might imagine. For example, one might detect a submarine without any idea what direction that submarine might be in, or without any idea whether it was a submarine rather than a surface vessel. But it would have been unfortunate (for you, in 1940), if you were to conclude, on the basis of the existing disagreements and ambiguities, that there was therefore no submarine within forty nautical miles.

  6. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    But it would have been unfortunate (for you, in 1940), if you were to conclude, on the basis of the existing disagreements and ambiguities, that there was therefore no submarine within forty nautical miles.

    Indeed, and I wouldn´t categorically reject the existence of submarines for that reason – my extensions to your analogy only aimed to demonstrate that “doing due diligence” wrt religious questions does not boil down to applying one method that can be intersubjectively demonstrated to be effective, like ocean acoustics.

  7. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    But rejecting the analogy wholesale on that basis might be a similar mistake…

  8. Andy says:

    @Doug,
    I don´t reject the analogy wholesale – with my extensions, I think it is reasonably accurate.

  9. Dhay says:

    Michael > I do not think God is all that interested in whether or not someone believes He exists. He is interested in whether or not someone believes they are a sinner.

    Here’s Matthew making the same point against people who had had a lifelong rock-solid belief in God; “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance”:

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+3%3A+1-12&version=ESV

    As you point out, the correct response by an atheist to such a do-what-I-say-just-as-I-tell-you miracle as Jerry Coyne apparently requires — the latest version of which is Jesus popping briefly into Coyne’s local hospital — is not belief but repentance and the continued fruits thereof.

    My bet is that Coyne himself wouldn’t believe (let alone anything else) if given as much evidence as he could possibly ask for; it looks very like he received a revelation at 17 whilst out of his mind — he is emphatic that a particular “psychedelic music” Beatles album was the cause, but evidently hasn’t a clue which particular tracks were playing at the time the revelation happened — and is incapable of changing his mind.

  10. dognillo says:

    Why do you think that it’s true that we have a need for salvation?

  11. Michael says:

    As an atheist, I can only say that if there would be an accessible entity that is benevolent and has God-like powers and knowledge, then of course I would “follow” it – in the sense that I´d try to learn as much as possible from it and try to follow its advice to the best of my abilities.

    Why?

  12. Michael says:

    Why do you think that it’s true that we have a need for salvation?

    Ever hear of the Argument from Evil? We are the cause of most of that evil.

  13. Doug says:

    @dognillo,

    Why do you think that it’s true that we have a need for salvation?

    As long as there is a gap between:
    “how things are”
    and
    “how things ought to be”
    there will be a need for salvation.
    Some people look for it in experience, some in technology, some in government…

  14. Andy says:

    Michael,

    Why?

    If there would be a guy who is extremely benevolent, knowledgeable and wise, much more so than I am and much more so than any human has ever been – I would try to learn as much as possible from him and try to follow his advice to the best of my abilities. If it would be not just a guy but rather a being that is either identical to or indistinguishable from omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God itself, then I would do the same, only much, much, MUCH more enthusiastically so. I find the “why” incredibly obvious here – because this would be the best course of action in order to become a better person and because the only reason to not do it would be to have a ridiculously overblown sense of pride.

  15. The original Mr. X says:

    First, we would have to assume that the ocean acoustics taught in Europe and the USA is different from the ocean acoustics taught in, say, Iran, and completely different from the ocean acoustics taught in India, or China, or Japan. And those different ocean acoustics lead to different results, where the US navy might detect an enemy submarine, the Iranian navy might not, and vice versa – while the Indian navy detects not just one, but rather many submarines.

    I think you’re exaggerating a bit here. Whilst I’m not one of those people who think that all religions are really just the same and it makes no difference which one you follow, there has been a remarkable congruity in the theological writings of various different religions. Try reading some Thomas Aquinas, for example; the two authors he cites most are Aristotle (ancient Greek pagan) and Averroes (Muslim).

  16. dognillo says:

    Michael, I’m aware that we all sin. It’s seems to be an unfortunate but unavoidable part of being human. But that doesn’t answer my question. I’m assuming that you must have surmised from somewhere that because we sin therefore we are in need of salvation. Why do you think that what you have heard or read about us needing salvation is true? In other words, if you’re getting it from The Bible, then why do you think that The Bible is true?

    And, since no one I have ever heard of seems capable of living a sin free life, why do you think that’s the way things are? What causes us all to sin, and whatever it is, how did we acquire it?

  17. TFBW says:

    dognillo said:

    I’m assuming that you must have surmised from somewhere that because we sin therefore we are in need of salvation.

    I don’t want to preempt Michael’s response, but I can see two obvious responses to this. One requires that you accept the premise, “the wages of sin is death” — given which, salvation is from death, which should need no further explanation. Even if you want to argue that point, however, sin separates us from perfection (by definition, no additional premises required), so we are in need of salvation from imperfection. Some think, it seems, that perfection is a thing which can be attained through self-improvement, so salvation is not strictly necessary. Argue that point if you will, but I challenge anyone to provide an example.

    What causes us all to sin, and whatever it is, how did we acquire it?

    A complex question, but what makes you think there’s an external cause? The capability to sin is part and parcel of being a moral agent. Nothing forces us to sin; we just uniformly seem to lack the strength of will to choose not to (reliably) in the face of self-serving temptation. Jesus is the exception: tempted, but without sin. Clearly, we need whatever it is that he has.

  18. Michael says:

    Why do you think that what you have heard or read about us needing salvation is true? In other words, if you’re getting it from The Bible, then why do you think that The Bible is true?

    It’s not about what I heard or read about needing salvation. It is what I observed and experienced. When I was an atheist (although I did not use the word “salvation”). The primary reason I became a Christian is because its description of human nature is precisely what I observed prior to ever having read the Bible. And what I have seen and experienced ever since continues to validate my early conclusion. We are the cause of most evil. And there is nothing we can do to stop that.

  19. Andy says:

    Michael,

    We are the cause of most evil.

    Are we? Well, humans obviously did cause quite a lot of evil, but are you sure that all that evil surpasses natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions, hurricanes etc. pp.), infectious diseases, cancer, developmental disorders and predation (note that an omnipotent God could have easily designed a world where no creature has to kill others in order to survive – there are plenty of nonviolent means to generate energy, and it would have been similarly easy for God to design creatures so that their reproductive rates scales with the carrying capacity of their ecosystem, thus preventing creatures starving to death)?
    “Evil” is hard to quantify, but if we select violent death of innocents as a subset of “evil”, then human evil certainly pales in comparison to natural evil – WWI caused 38 million deaths July 1914 – November 1918, the 1918 flu pandemic alone killed 50-100 million. And considering all of human history, Malaria could well have been the most frequent cause of death (a comparatively quite unpleasant death, to put it at its utter mildest) – see http://rdparasites.blogspot.de/2014/04/malaria-killed-half-people-who-have.html .
    So, again, while I´d agree that we do cause quite a lot of evil, I think your claim that this constitutes “most evil”, is unwarranted.

  20. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    You seem to be conflating “evil” and “suffering”. While it might be a convenient conflation, it is by no means warranted. If a woman walks down the street, and a car accidentally loses control (on the ice), and crushes her, we are (naturally) sympathetic. On the other hand, if a woman walks down the street, and a thug jumps her and brutally kills her, we are (naturally) angry. Don’t you think that the difference in reaction indicates a difference in moral quality?

  21. dognillo says:

    Michael, thank you for your response. One thing I have a lot of trouble with is the idea that God gave us the nature we have when He created us and then considers us to be unworthy. That makes no sense to me. Yes, we all commit sin, and should answer to those we sin against, but I don’t see why that should include God, if in fact He created us the way we are.

  22. stcordova says:

    Thanks Michael for your essay. I thank God for the blessing you have been.

    “if you were convinced God exists, would you repent of your sins and stop rebelling against God?”

    I know some won’t. Look at this exchange:

    “If the being you describe as God exists, it is morally abhorrent and not deserving of respect. I’d rather be tortured knowing I’m morally superior than eternally serve such a monster.”

  23. Michael says:

    Andy,

    As an atheist, I can only say that if there would be an accessible entity that is benevolent and has God-like powers and knowledge, then of course I would “follow” it – in the sense that I´d try to learn as much as possible from it and try to follow its advice to the best of my abilities.
    Of course I could not know with complete certainty whether this entity truly is metaphysically ultimate (i.e. what “God” is supposed to be) instead of just an unimaginably advanced alien creature, but this difference would be pragmatically meaningless – this being would be benevolent and have God-like powers and knowledge either way – and following it would be the rational thing to do either way.

    If there would be a guy who is extremely benevolent, knowledgeable and wise, much more so than I am and much more so than any human has ever been – I would try to learn as much as possible from him and try to follow his advice to the best of my abilities. If it would be not just a guy but rather a being that is either identical to or indistinguishable from omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God itself, then I would do the same, only much, much, MUCH more enthusiastically so. I find the “why” incredibly obvious here – because this would be the best course of action in order to become a better person and because the only reason to not do it would be to have a ridiculously overblown sense of pride.

    I find it interesting that your reaction is essentially the same whether or not the “accessible entity” would be a guy, an alien, a god, or God. It’s like it doesn’t matter. From where I sit, it looks like you are focused on what you could get from the guy/alien/god/God ; it would be rational to follow the guidance of this superior being because it would help you become “a better person.” It’s all about you. Still in the driver’s seat. I note not one hint or suggestion that you would repent.

    But I acknowledge those are just my subjective impressions, so feel free to dismiss them. Let me instead simply rephrase things – if the God of the Bible showed Himself to you, would you repent, beg for mercy, and worship Him?

  24. Michael says:

    Andy,

    Are we? Well, humans obviously did cause quite a lot of evil, but are you sure that all that evil surpasses natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions, hurricanes etc. pp.), infectious diseases, cancer, developmental disorders and predation

    Are you saying that geological processes, the weather, and viruses are evil?

    “RUN!!! Here comes the Evil Tornado!”

    From the atheistic perspective, don’t you think it a little silly to describe such natural phenomena as evil? From the atheistic perspective, there is only one source of evil – humans.

    So, again, while I´d agree that we do cause quite a lot of evil, I think your claim that this constitutes “most evil”, is unwarranted.

    Unless you are going to argue that certain clouds are evil and certain nucleotide sequences are evil, what are the other causes of evil other than humans?

  25. Michael says:

    dognillo,

    Michael, thank you for your response. One thing I have a lot of trouble with is the idea that God gave us the nature we have when He created us and then considers us to be unworthy. That makes no sense to me. Yes, we all commit sin, and should answer to those we sin against, but I don’t see why that should include God, if in fact He created us the way we are.

    If God did consider us worthy, I would be deeply dismayed. It would mean the Creator of all that exists doesn’t seem to care about all the evil that we have done.

    As for creating us the way we are, how could it be any different? The only alternative is our non-existence. Sure, God could have created entities that never sinned and never did any evil, entities that conformed perfectly to his will. But whoever those beings would be, they simply can’t be us.

  26. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    You seem to be conflating “evil” and “suffering”. While it might be a convenient conflation, it is by no means warranted. If a woman walks down the street, and a car accidentally loses control (on the ice), and crushes her, we are (naturally) sympathetic. On the other hand, if a woman walks down the street, and a thug jumps her and brutally kills her, we are (naturally) angry. Don’t you think that the difference in reaction indicates a difference in moral quality?

    That depends. If we assume that the forces of nature that lead to us having, say, cancer, are completely indifferent wrt our wellbeing – then cancer would indeed have a very different moral quality then, say, a human killing another in order to steal his stuff. However, if we assume that there is intentionality underlying natural processes – that they were designed to be that way – then there wouldn´t be any difference in moral quality at all, at least I cannot discern any. What is the difference in moral quality between, for example, me sloppily building a house that later collapses and kills its inhabitants and God designing our world in a way that makes predation, starvation, disease and natural disasters unavoidable? One could say that creatures could not have been designed any better – but that amounts to saying that predation is necessary despite non-violent means of energy production being demonstrably possible, that starvation is necessary despite it being demonstrably possible that reproductive suppression as a consequence of an ecosystem reaching its carrying capacits is possible (it does happen in some species, including humans to a very limited degree), that cancer is necessary despite it being demonstrably possible for creatures to be virtually immune to cancer (the naked mole rat for example) and so on and so forth ad nauseam.

  27. Andy says:

    Michael,

    I find it interesting that your reaction is essentially the same whether or not the “accessible entity” would be a guy, an alien, a god, or God. It’s like it doesn’t matter.

    Epistemologically, it does not matter and can not matter – because the difference is unknowable. It would even be unknowable if you could demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that there indeed is a God, there is no way for you to distinguish between this God itself and an entity that is not identical to God, but appears to be, from your limited perspective, to be ultimately powerful, knowledgeable, wise and benevolent.

    From where I sit, it looks like you are focused on what you could get from the guy/alien/god/God ; it would be rational to follow the guidance of this superior being because it would help you become “a better person.” It’s all about you.

    It is strange that you are parsing “becoming a better person” as essentially “becoming a more selfish person” – we seem to have very different views on what constitutes a “better person”. From my vantage point, whether you have become a better person or not is judged by how you treat others.

    I note not one hint or suggestion that you would repent.

    And where did you get the idea that I do not “repent”? “Repentance” means to experience sincere regret for wrong things you did, an acknowledgment of wrongdoing to yourself and to the people you have wronged, and a commitment to make up for your errors and to avoid them in the future.
    The only difference between an atheist and a Christian in this respect is that you acknowledge your wrongdoings not just to yourself and the people you have wronged, but rather also to God (assuming that there indeed is a personal God who cares about whether you repent or not) – and I don´t do that because there is no God afaict.

    But I acknowledge those are just my subjective impressions, so feel free to dismiss them. Let me instead simply rephrase things – if the God of the Bible showed Himself to you, would you repent [1], beg for mercy [2], and worship Him [3]?

    1. Question is based on the false premise that I do not repent already. Correct question would be if I would start to involve God when I repent – and the answer would be, yes, of course.
    2. I see no reason to because I have no desire for something better than I deserve (and to me, that contradicts a little question #1 – if you are begging for mercy, then I´d suspect that you are not truly repentant, because repentance involves acknowledging and facing the consequences of what you did, not begging to avoid them)
    3. Of course! Wasn´t that clear from my earlier comment?

  28. Andy says:

    Michael,

    Are you saying that geological processes, the weather, and viruses are evil?

    “RUN!!! Here comes the Evil Tornado!”

    From the atheistic perspective, don’t you think it a little silly to describe such natural phenomena as evil? From the atheistic perspective, there is only one source of evil – humans.

    So you changed your mind and accept that atheism is indeed true? Well, that was easy 😉

  29. Zaparozhets says:

    What is the difference in moral quality between, for example, me sloppily building a house that later collapses and kills its inhabitants and God designing our world in a way that makes predation, starvation, disease and natural disasters unavoidable?

    Perhaps the analogy isn’t 100% accurate. As it stands it doesn’t look like it reflects the fact that God is supposed to make everything from nothing. It would need to involve you sloppily building a house, but also being responsible for creating the inhabitants from scratch, bringing into existence all the materials the house was going to be constructed from and the place where it was going to be constructed, as well as things like the moral sense of the inhabitants and onlookers that makes them judge sloppily constructed houses that squash their inhabitants badly etc.

    Taking that into account, things seem to me to be a bit wierder. Possibly it’s because design analogies get overstretched in that God is supposed to do/have done things no human designer is capable of in situations no human designer ever finds themselves in.

  30. TFBW says:

    @dognillo:

    One thing I have a lot of trouble with is the idea that God gave us the nature we have when He created us and then considers us to be unworthy.

    I don’t know how aware of it you are, but from my perspective, you are dancing on the edge of a knife here. We can go one of two ways with regards to moral responsibility: we can hold God morally responsible for everything that we do on the grounds that He is the Creator, and therefore ultimately responsible for all affairs in the universe; or we can accept the idea that He created us as moral beings, responsible and accountable for our own actions to some extent.

    While it’s relatively easy to shirk all moral responsibility by passing the buck to God, it comes at the cost of denying your own moral agency, which is pretty much to abdicate “personhood” itself. By way of illustration, when a dog mauls a child, the dog is not held morally responsible: the owner is. By deferring all moral responsibility to God, you put yourself in the role of the dog, and Him in the role of owner. Are you prepared to embrace the full consequences of that?

    You might imagine that you have certain innate rights as a person, and that God is a moral monster if he violates those rights. That may be so, but the rights come at the price of responsibilities and accountability. It’s not a free lunch.

    Be clear as to which side of the cut you stand, or how you intend to straddle the knife, if that’s what you think you can do.

    The nature that God gave us is that of a moral agent: the kind of being which is uniquely capable of intentional good or evil. As it turns out, we all do evil from time to time. That’s an unpleasant truth, but consider your response carefully, particularly given that God’s plan for this outcome was to take the consequences on Himself and offer forgiveness freely.

  31. Dhay says:

    Andy > God designing our world in a way that makes predation, starvation, disease and natural disasters unavoidable? One could say that creatures could not have been designed any better – but that amounts to saying that predation is necessary despite non-violent means of energy production being demonstrably possible, that starvation is necessary despite it being demonstrably possible that reproductive suppression as a consequence of an ecosystem reaching its carrying capacity is possible (it does happen in some species, including humans to a very limited degree), that cancer is necessary despite it being demonstrably possible for creatures to be virtually immune to cancer (the naked mole rat for example) and so on and so forth ad nauseam.

    The predation, starvation, even cancer etc etc, that you mention are, as I understand it, essential for evolution by natural selection. I suspect that your proposed humane ecological system could not support evolution, and its alternatives might be rather similar to the YEC universe where humankind was created as-is six-thousand years ago. At least we can dispense with the idea of buried fake dinosaur etc fossils, for without natural selection and evolution these would serve no purpose. Note that without natural selection and evolution, sexual reproduction and the sexes would be unnecessary, presumably absent.

    Of course, without these, the death rate would still be the currently inevitable 100%, so to avoid the cruelty of death you would presumably have God had made us either immortal or instead innately possessing that full enlightenment which is allegedly possible and in which one has (allegedly) no aversion to suffering.

    Then there’s the cruelty of death by car crash, etc etc; so your cruelty-avoiding God would ensure that we all always walked, or else instinctively put on our seat-belts every trip, not to mention always driving with due care and attention; indeed, God would surely make us very very health and safety conscious and risk-averse in absolutely everything we do, lest we suffer the avoidable cruelty of injury and suffering.

    So no risk-unconscious teenagers, then; but no problem, as there’s no babies and children needed in a death-absent non-evolving ideal world, nor any intermediate child-adult stage either.

    Then there’s the major redesign of plate tectonics needed to prevent the death and suffering resulting from earthquakes and tsunamis; add in weather systems and all other causes of natural disasters and the resulting death and suffering. The Earth would have to change out of all recognition.

    Then there’s the major redesign of the universe necessary to totally prevent such meteor strikes as wiped out the dinosaurs and would cause untold death and suffering to us, too. And isn’t there a lethal jet of plasma emitted when a star collapses? — I see you need either fundamental changes to the existing laws of physics or a special rule to stop us being in the path. The Universe would have to change out of all recognition.

    Hopefully I have given you pause enough for thought that you will realise that the God-provided ideal world you seem to desire (with yourself as consultant designer) could not be but a minor redesign of our familiar world, one remaining familiar (apart from.perhaps, lions being vegan, or totally absent), but would inevitably be a fundamental redesign that leaves very little or nothing unchanged.

    You may fret over the world being as it is, but I perceive it as good.

  32. Michael says:

    It is strange that you are parsing “becoming a better person” as essentially “becoming a more selfish person” – we seem to have very different views on what constitutes a “better person”. From my vantage point, whether you have become a better person or not is judged by how you treat others.

    I didn’t say you would become more selfish. I just noted how your responses seem focused around you. It was like you expecting God, if He existed, to become your Personal Trainer. A Cosmic Coach. But like I said, it was just the impression I had.

    And where did you get the idea that I do not “repent”? “

    You didn’t say you would. I ended my blog entry with a question: “It is, “if you were convinced God exists, would you repent of your sins and stop rebelling against God?”

    You responded without answering, talking about how it would be “rational” to “follow” “it” regardless of whether “it” was an alien or God. Why follow “it?” So you could become the “better person” by having “access” to that source of knowledge and wisdom. After all, what use is a source of knowledge and wisdom if it is not ” accessible”, right?

    Finally, you say you would repent and worship the God of the Bible if He existed. Does that mean you disagree with Richard Dawkins’ description of God?

    Dawkins: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

  33. Michael says:

    So you changed your mind and accept that atheism is indeed true? Well, that was easy.

    Being a Christian does not entail that I think the weather is evil. I didn’t become a Christian to be saved from tornadoes and viruses. Let me remind you I was asked what it is we need saved from. So I responded. I said that we need saved from ourselves and others, since we are the most common source of evil. Your point about the weather/viruses would be relevant in a full blown argument from evil discussion, but here it is quite tangential.

  34. Doug says:

    @Andy,

    What is the difference in moral quality between, for example, me sloppily building a house that later collapses and kills its inhabitants and God designing our world in a way that makes predation, starvation, disease and natural disasters unavoidable?

    This is where things get interesting. Let’s consider your example in many possible worlds. In each of these possible worlds, you “sloppily” build a house. But there is a different set of subsequent inhabitants in every world. These various inhabitants cover the spectrum of construction-savviness, risk-awareness, and luck. As a result, only a subset of the possible worlds involve the house collapsing, and a subset of those involve fatalities. Yet in each case, your moral responsibility would appear to be identical. What do you make of this thought experiment, and how do you think it informs our understanding of “God designing our world in a way that…”?

  35. Zaparozhets says:

    <em If we assume that the forces of nature that lead to us having, say, cancer, are completely indifferent wrt our wellbeing – then cancer would indeed have a very different moral quality then, say, a human killing another in order to steal his stuff. However, if we assume that there is intentionality underlying natural processes – that they were designed to be that way – then there wouldn´t be any difference in moral quality at all, at least I cannot discern any.

    I was going to put this in my earlier post but didn’t have time…

    Possibly God is neither like forces of nature nor like the human who kills another to steal their stuff. Particularly in the latter case, because while the killer kills and steals to satisfy his own needs and desires at the expenses of fellow humans, God has no needs and desires that require satisfying and does not act in order to satisfy his needs and desires. In this circumstance God’s decision to create any kind of world seems genuinely gratuitous.

    Again, this kind of totally gratuitous activity seems unusual, or perhaps in fact can’t occur among humans and other animals. I’m not totally clear how to judge the morality of it; but it doesn’t seem like it is obviously of the same moral quality as the killer thief example given above.

    A side point, while it might be difficult to judge natural forces that act indifferent to our well being morally, I think negative judgements of some kind against natural forces that on the one hand produce our desire and strong need for well being at the same time as frustrating it and inflicting a lot of suffering on us could be justified.

  36. Doug says:

    @Zaparozhets.
    Sure, we’re made with a desire and need for well-being, and sure, it is often frustrated. But perhaps the frustration is due to our refusing to look for the fulfillment to that well-being in the right place! Negative judgments of the kind you describe then amount to that very common human phenomenon of a child negatively judging his parent because said child’s needs are not met when, where, and how said child prefers.

  37. Talon says:

    “From the atheistic perspective, don’t you think it a little silly to describe such natural phenomena as evil? From the atheistic perspective, there is only one source of evil – humans.”

    From a naturalistic (atheist) perspective morality is an illusion, so humans could not be evil, viruses could not be evil, earthquakes could not be evil and so forth, things are just as they are, there is no yardstick Nature might fail to measure up to. Of course, a given Atheist might insist something is evil but he is only appealing to his own culturally conditioned self-delusions, programmed into him by Natural Selection because similar fictions resulted in a reproductive benefit to his ancestors. Any discussion of evil in a naturalistic context must either be grounded in the empirical (a basis which has yet to be provided) or accepted as utterly subjective owing entirely to the blind and indifferent processes of Nature (irrational).

  38. dognillo says:

    TFBW, I don’t deny my moral accountability to my fellow human beings, so long as my moral decisions affect them. But what I have a hard time swallowing is the idea that I am accountable to God for my moral shortcomings, when God presumably made me with the propensity to sin. As far as I can tell, my moral shortcomings don’t affect Him one bit other than perhaps displeasing Him. It just doesn’t strike me as believable that God would create us the way He did and then expect us to ask for His forgiveness for what came of it. Particularly when none of us asked to be created as we are in the first place.

  39. dognillo says:

    Michael, I have a question for both you and any commenters that want to respond. I know it is off topic, so please feel free to ignore it if you wish (although somehow I don’t think that will happen).

    What is your view of Bible verses such as 1 Samuel 15:3 and Leviticus 25:44-46? Do you really believe that God commanded those things to be done? To me those verses read as human beings from long ago writing down their thoughts and deeds and ascribing them to their God, as a way of justifying them. Instead of saying the devil made me do it they were saying God told me to do it. I can’t see it any other way.

  40. Doug says:

    @dognillo,
    Guessing that you “can’t see it any other way” because you consider those verses to suggest that God was either commanding (first case) or condoning (second case) what you (and most other people) consider evil (as opposed to Talon, who imagines evil to be an illusion). If that’s true, let me return the favor by asking you a question: given that evil exists, what is the appropriate response to evil? Is it ever the right thing to do (i.e., “good”) to violently stop evil? Was it “good” to declare war on Hitler?

  41. dognillo says:

    Doug, I would say that it’s good to do the things that are necessary to protect innocent people from being harmed, and no more. It would not have been good to kill every German, including infants and toddlers and even livestock. That would not have been necessary to stop Hitler from harming innocent people.

  42. TFBW says:

    @dognillo:

    But what I have a hard time swallowing is the idea that I am accountable to God for my moral shortcomings, when God presumably made me with the propensity to sin.

    This is blame-shifting. You’re saying that you should be excused for your moral shortcomings because God made you do it, or at least because God made your more inclined to do it than you could resist. What evidence brought you to the conclusion that your moral shortcomings were God’s fault, rather than your own?

    It just doesn’t strike me as believable that God would create us the way He did and then expect us to ask for His forgiveness for what came of it.

    If you’re right about your moral shortcomings being God’s fault, then this is understandable. The crux of the matter remains the question of whether you have a case for blaming God, and your key complaint there seems to be that it was improper for him to create you such that you were capable of moral failure. Am I missing anything important?

    Particularly when none of us asked to be created as we are in the first place.

    That’s on a par with the petulant teenager who tells his parents that he didn’t ask to be born. Get over it: the relationship between clay and potter is massively asymmetric whether the clay likes it or not. By your own power you would not exist at all.

  43. dognillo says:

    TFBW, it’s not that I feel it would have been improper for God to have created me capable of moral failure. That was His decision. It’s that, having created me that way, God shouldn’t expect me to shoulder the blame for not living up to His expectations.

    In regard to the teenager: Yes he didn’t ask to be born. He has absolutely no obligation to live up to his parent’s expectations for his life accomplishments. His parents are the one with the obligations to nurture and care for him until he can take care of himself, since they brought him into the world without his consent. His obligations are to treat his fellow humans as he would like to be treated.

  44. Doug says:

    @dognillo,

    Doug, I would say that it’s good to do the things that are necessary to protect innocent people from being harmed, and no more. It would not have been good to kill every German, including infants and toddlers and even livestock. That would not have been necessary to stop Hitler from harming innocent people.

    Sure — we all agree… but that’s too easy. The verb tense gives it away: “would not have been” leverages 20-20 hindsight. And I wasn’t asking about it “as if you were God” in this case. I was asking about it “as if you participated in Allied High Command”. You see — that fine line of “necessity” wasn’t exactly obvious at the time. In fact, that fine line is only slightly less fuzzy in retrospect. It simply is not accessible to lowly humans. And while we can presume that it is accessible to God (should He exist), it might land in a very different place than where we’d estimate it to be.

  45. TFBW says:

    @dognillo:

    It’s that, having created me that way, God shouldn’t expect me to shoulder the blame for not living up to His expectations.

    So, on the one hand, if God had created you incapable of moral failure, then you would be morally blameless. On the other hand, if He created you capable of moral failure, and you do fail, you ought to be morally blameless on the grounds that He shouldn’t expect you to shoulder the blame for not living up to His expectations. In other words, God can’t blame anyone for anything, ever. Smacks of reductio ad absurdum to me.

    In any case, He doesn’t require you to shoulder the blame. As I said earlier, He offers to take the consequences on Himself and forgive freely. But you want more than that: you don’t want a pardon, you want diplomatic immunity. Am I right?

    Also, you say “His expectations” as though they are some arbitrary thing. This is not the equivalent of arbitrary parental expectations we are talking about here: it’s moral rights and wrongs.

    His obligations are to treat his fellow humans as he would like to be treated.

    The “I didn’t ask to be born” line always happens in a context where the teenager in question is failing to treat his fellow humans (his parents) as he would like to be treated (although he probably lacks understanding of what that means in this context). The whole point of that line is to shirk responsibilities that come with existence (like minor household chores) on the basis that you never asked to exist in the first place, so why should you have to do chores? It’s the universal “justify selfish behaviour” excuse for use against parents.

  46. dognillo says:

    TFBW, if I sin, then how does it harm God? To say that I owe forgiveness to God for sinning is like saying that if I sin against the neighbor on my left then I need to seek forgiveness from the neighbor on my right. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Doug, are you saying that it was possible that killing the infants and toddlers and killing all the livestock in 1 Samuel 15:3 was something that God knew was necessary? If so, then how is that true? To say that only God knows the answer is not helpful to me. If God wants me to believe, then He has to tell me the answer. Otherwise, I think that it’s just a case of humans acting horribly wrong and blaming it on their God.

  47. Doug says:

    @dognillo,
    People die. It happens. It happens to all of us. Some die before others. That’s life. God has it covered. While indignation might feel appropriate in the edge cases (i.e., those that seem unambiguous to us), how do we deal with the Jack-dies-before-Jane day-to-day reality? There is a continuum here, and we don’t have the privilege of pretending that one end of that continuum is “obvious” while operating in blissful ignorance of the “magic line” beyond which things get messier.

  48. Doug says:

    @dognillo,
    Rereading, I was likely too subtle.

    Let me spell it out more clearly:
    Universe#0: — everyone lives until they are eighty. they die on their eightieth birthday. No other suffering.
    Universe#1: — there is a distribution of sudden death with a mean around eighty years old.
    Universe#2: — the standard deviation of that distribution is larger than in U#1.
    Universe#3: — folks get colds and flus. some suffer more than others for it.

    Universe#N: — the universe we find ourselves in.

    The point is this: you require an explanation for the suffering in U#N. Would you require it for U#0? (imagining the answer is “no”, and proceeding on that assumption). How about U#1? At which U# would you find the requirement for an explanation to magically appear? Why that one? Why not more or less? If you don’t have answers for those questions, you don’t have grounds to make the requirement in the first place!

    If God can be good in the context of U#0, and God can be good in the context of U#(k+1) given that God can be good in the context of U#k, then “by mathematical induction” ;-), we have proved that God can be good in the context of any U#!

  49. TFBW says:

    @dognillo:

    TFBW, if I sin, then how does it harm God?

    This is new. Where did this question come from? Are you now shifting to a “no harm, no foul” model of culpability, with the theory that God is invulnerable to harm, and therefore has no claim against anyone, ever?

    Let’s back up a little. Earlier, you said the following.

    TFBW, I don’t deny my moral accountability to my fellow human beings, so long as my moral decisions affect them.

    What do you mean by “moral accountability” here? What does it mean, at the end of the day, to be morally accountable? Suppose Cain kills his bother, Abel, in a fit of jealous rage. Presumably this murder entails some moral accountability. Who has a claim against Cain under these conditions, and does the claim have any real force? What’s God’s stake in the matter, if any?

  50. Michael says:

    To say that I owe forgiveness to God for sinning is like saying that if I sin against the neighbor on my left then I need to seek forgiveness from the neighbor on my right. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

    It’s all connected. You sin against your neighbor on the left. Can you be sure you know all the consequences of that sin? Perhaps your sin caused your neighbor to become angry and feel a desire to lash out. And as it happens, the neighbor on the right happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, so neighbor on left sins against neighbor on the right, all because your sin set everything in motion.

  51. dognillo says:

    Doug, I didn’t ask for an explanation for suffering in the universe we live in. I was asking for an explanation as to why it would have been necessary to kill infants and toddlers and livestock. That explanation has to do with whether or not I can accept that The Bible is from God and not from man. Without a reasonable explanation as to why those terrible acts were necessary, I see it as almost certain that (at least that passage of) The Bible is from man and not from God.

  52. dognillo says:

    Michael & TFBW, you make some good points. I’ll have to think about that some more.

  53. dognillo says:

    Michael, couldn’t your argument about it all being connected be used to blame God for creating us imperfect in the first place? In that the consequences for creating us imperfect included all the sins we would ever commit. And if God is considered to be omniscient then He would be even more blameworthy for our sins.

  54. Kevin says:

    Dognillo, my take on the bible verses in question has always been that unlike Christians, Israel was not only judged individually but also as a nation. The reason Israel got spanked so many times is because it (as a whole) allowed corruption to take root and become rampant in its society – that corruption often taking the form of idolatry resulting from influence from other societies.

    Wiping out every last trace of a wicked, idolatrous society was not only symbolic of wiping the slate clean and replacing it with a society designed by God, but also a hedge against allowing unrighteous influence from seeping in. On a societal level, sparing certain portions of the wicked society is akin to an individual Christian declaring that bearing false witness is okay because he doesn’t murder, steal, or commit adultery, and so bearing false witness isn’t a big enough deal to make him unrighteous to the point that he needs Christ. What else might be spared if they didn’t do scorched earth? Golden idols perhaps?

    A final point I would throw out is that to us, death has a finality that God does not experience. We describe death as having lost someone, while there is no relational difference to God. He has access in whatever state we might be in, thus a mass killing looks much different to God than it does to us humans. The infants, in particular, earned a free ride and will suffer no judgment.

  55. Michael says:

    Michael, couldn’t your argument about it all being connected be used to blame God for creating us imperfect in the first place?

    Imperfection is a necessary part of our identity. So it’s not that He created us imperfect (since the creation of perfect beings, whoever they would be, could never be us). It’s that he created us. Are you trying to say that none of us should have ever been created?

  56. dognillo says:

    I’m saying that our sins are a consequence of our being created imperfect, which would connect our creator to our sins. I can’t say whether or not we should have been created. But I don’t understand why you say that imperfection is a necessary part of our identity. Are you implying that God could not have created us as perfect beings?

  57. Michael says:

    If God created perfect beings, how could they be us? You and I are not perfect beings. It has never been part of our identity. Are you saying your identity is found in something other than your genetics, your past, your experiences, your memories and your choices.

  58. TFBW says:

    There’s some heavy-duty philosophy of personal identity in that argument. It hinges on the question, “if I had been created without the capacity to do evil, would that actually be me, or someone else created instead of me?” I’m not sure I can answer that, but it’s clear that such a person would be vastly different from the “me” that I identify as.

    I hope that you’re still considering your answer to my questions, dognillo.

  59. dognillo says:

    Well, my point, borrowing from Michael’s argument about things being connected, was that God chose to create us with our imperfections, instead of creating something else in our place, and a consequence of Him creating us with our imperfections was that we sin. And if we can be blamed for the consequences of our sins, then why can’t God also be blamed for the consequences of His creation, in which our sins manifest?.

  60. TFBW says:

    I think you’ve reiterated your arguments as to why everything is ultimately God’s fault enough times. I’d like to see you explain what you mean by, “my moral accountability to my fellow human beings,” as requested earlier (the Cain and Abel example), as I don’t see how you can have any such thing if God is ultimately to blame for everything.

  61. Michael says:

    Well, my point, borrowing from Michael’s argument about things being connected, was that God chose to create us with our imperfections, instead of creating something else in our place, and a consequence of Him creating us with our imperfections was that we sin. And if we can be blamed for the consequences of our sins, then why can’t God also be blamed for the consequences of His creation, in which our sins manifest?.

    So you want to blame God for your sins and existence. It seems to me there are only two options:

    1. God should not have created us.
    2. God should blot us out from the face of the land.

    Which one do you favor?

  62. dognillo says:

    TFBW, we should be accountable to our fellow human beings for the wrongs we commit against them. And that’s it. Why should we need God’s forgiveness, if He put us in this position in the first place? Why shouldn’t God share in the blame? If human justice is not enough, then I’m sorry but that’s just the way it is. We can’t do any more.

    I liked your diplomatic immunity idea, TFBW. Doesn’t everyone want diplomatic immunity:)

  63. dognillo says:

    Michael, what about a third option: God corrects our faults and we all live in peace and happiness, loving each other as ourselves, just as Jesus said we should. Couldn’t He do that if He wanted to?

  64. Michael says:

    Michael, what about a third option: God corrects our faults and we all live in peace and happiness, loving each other as ourselves, just as Jesus said we should. Couldn’t He do that if He wanted to?

    Very good. But to “correct our faults” would entail a New Creation. Which is the option God has chosen. Remember, it’s all connected: past, present, and future. You don’t see the correction because you are locked in time. The key, however, is that God immensely values our freedom. For as evil as our nature is, we, and we alone, can choose God or choose against God. This makes love possible. Our desire to be “corrected” is one that we get to make. The question is whether you choose to be corrected and participate in the unfolding of the New Creation, and thus be part of the New Creation. Or do you choose to stay as you are and blame something else for your decision?

  65. Jonathan says:

    Michael,I think there is an argument that atheists could use here:

    But how can I choose God or choose to go against God if I don’t believe he exists in the first place?

    It doesn’t seem possible for someone to accept or reject something consciously if he simply doesn’t believe in it’s existence in the first place in order to make a decision.

    In order words,atheists don’t ”reject” God because there is nothing to reject for them because they don’t believe in His existence in the first place.

  66. Jonathan says:

    I’ve also seen other arguments atheists use to bring into question even the entire system of how we choose God.

    Some atheists question the entire concept of choosing God in this lifetime.

    After you die,if Christianity is true,you will continue to live forever.

    Yet Christians believe after you die your choice is settled and you either inevitably go to Heaven or to Hell.

    But why is it that we can’t choose God after we die?

    We’ve got an infinite amount of time left,so surely someone who rejected God during this lifetime could eventually change his mind and admit he needs to be saved.

    Some will end up in Hell,but why is it nobody can change their mind and enter Heaven?

    Since God wants to make a New Creation,why is it that death is the limit in terms of the time left for choice?

    It kind of seems arbitrary.Some people die earlier then others.There is even the possibility that some people would have converted were they alive for more then their actual lives allowed it.

    And then the atheist would then go on to complain that a just God would allow to and be able to correct our faults in any time frame and if he loved us,he would allow us to choose Him after we die as well for however long it takes.

    I’ve also seen some atheists complain about how God must leave people in Hell for eternity while he could have just created another paradise for those who reject Him so that everyone would enjoy eternity forever and so on.

  67. Michael says:

    Michael,I think there is an argument that atheists could use here:

    But how can I choose God or choose to go against God if I don’t believe he exists in the first place?

    Then we are back full circle to the argument I laid out in the blog entry.

    Or, we can ask a simple question to the atheist – If the God of the Bible did in fact exist, would you repent, worhip and submit to Him?

  68. Michael says:

    I’ve also seen other arguments atheists use to bring into question even the entire system of how we choose God.

    Some atheists question the entire concept of choosing God in this lifetime.

    After you die,if Christianity is true,you will continue to live forever.

    Yet Christians believe after you die your choice is settled and you either inevitably go to Heaven or to Hell.

    But why is it that we can’t choose God after we die?

    The way I see it (which is different from many other Christians) is that we don’t continue to live after we die. Instead, we are resurrected as part of the New Creation. Thus, two kinds are resurrected: those who chose God and chose to participate in the New Creation and those who chose self (and chose against God) who did not want to participate in the New Creation (but preferred to keep things as is). The former accepted the blame and chose forgiveness while the latter misdirected the blame and thus chose judgment.

  69. dognillo says:

    My reply to Michael is very similar to Jonathan’s first comment. If I truly believed that Christianity was true, then I would do whatever God asked me to do. But I don’t, at this time, believe that Christianity is true. Perhaps one day I will change my mind. And I can’t say what it is that would make me change my mind. In an earlier post I speculated about what might make me change my mind, but I don’t really know what would do it.

    I just want to say, Michael, that I appreciate the calm, civil, intelligent discussion that goes on here. Your approach, and the approach of the commenters here, is much more likely to cause me to change my mind than having arguments with people who tell me that I am lost, or that only fools don’t believe, or that I am going to spend eternity suffering in hell. I can’t help but feel that these people do their faith no favors, just as the new atheist crowd does their worldview no favors when they call Christians idiots. You and those who comment here are obviously very intelligent, and have given lots and lots of serious thought to these topics.

  70. Michael says:

    My reply to Michael is very similar to Jonathan’s first comment. If I truly believed that Christianity was true, then I would do whatever God asked me to do. But I don’t, at this time, believe that Christianity is true. Perhaps one day I will change my mind. And I can’t say what it is that would make me change my mind. In an earlier post I speculated about what might make me change my mind, but I don’t really know what would do it.

    That sounds reasonable to me. I’m not trying to change your mind or “convert you.” In the end, all we can do is try to explain where each one of us is coming from. And the choices we all make are one of the very few things we truly own.

    And I too have enjoyed talking to you, dognillo. As I have noted in the past, I don’t have a problem with atheists. It’s the New Atheist approach I focus on.

    the approach of the commenters here

    It’s the reason I actually read my own blog. 😉

  71. TFBW says:

    @dognillo:

    TFBW, we should be accountable to our fellow human beings for the wrongs we commit against them.

    Why? Aren’t the wrongs we commit against our fellow humans every bit as much God’s fault as everything else, given the reasoning you have employed so far? You’ve already denied responsibility for the secondary (e.g. knock-on) effects of your actions as they affect others, so why make a special case for the primary effects?

    Also, what does it mean to be accountable? Does it mean that you deserve to be punished for your wrongs? Can you give the details in relation to the Cain and Abel scenario? Does Cain deserve to die for taking another life, or is it something else? And what’s the story if Cain manages to avoid receiving his just desserts for his evil act?

    I liked your diplomatic immunity idea, TFBW. Doesn’t everyone want diplomatic immunity:)

    Perhaps, but do the math: if everyone has diplomatic immunity, that’s just lawlessness, which is not so appealing. It only works when it’s applied to a privileged few. Nice work if you can get it.

  72. dognillo says:

    TFBW, I thought the smiley face at the end of the diplomatic immunity line indicated that I was just kidding you. Sorry if it wasn’t that clear. Of course we can’t all have diplomatic immunity. I’m not even sure that anyone should have diplomatic immunity. Lighten up, please.

  73. TFBW says:

    Sorry if I came across as humourless. I thought it worth mentioning just because not everyone might see the down-side, obvious though it is.

    I look forward to your response on the other points.

  74. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    The predation, starvation, even cancer etc etc, that you mention are, as I understand it, essential for evolution by natural selection. I suspect that your proposed humane ecological system could not support evolution, and its alternatives might be rather similar to the YEC universe where humankind was created as-is six-thousand years ago. At least we can dispense with the idea of buried fake dinosaur etc fossils, for without natural selection and evolution these would serve no purpose. Note that without natural selection and evolution, sexual reproduction and the sexes would be unnecessary, presumably absent.

    1. Sexual reproduction would still be very much necessary as long as we wouldn´t be immortal (else the population would be gone after just one generation 😉 ).
    2. Evolution by natural selection would indeed not be possible. But that would be a good thing, or wouldn´t it? It is kind of strange that God would resort to using evolution as a creation method. Think about the situations where we humans do and do not use evolutionary methods. We use them if, and ONLY if, we don´t know the optimal solution to a problem and also don´t know an algorithm to calculate the optimal solution within an acceptable time (examples: genetic algorithms for optimization problems or directed protein evolution for protein design problems). Using evolutionary methods for such problems are pretty much guaranteed to deliver a “good” solution (i.e. something MUCH better than a random guess), but they are also pretty much guaranteed to not find the single best “optimal” solution for any sufficiently complex problem. So saying that God chose evolution amounts to saying that God knew the optimal “solutions” to his design problems, but chose a method that is unnecessarily wasteful (because the vast majority of species that ever lived are extinct), cruel and inefficient anyway.

    Of course, without these, the death rate would still be the currently inevitable 100%, so to avoid the cruelty of death you would presumably have God had made us either immortal or instead innately possessing that full enlightenment which is allegedly possible and in which one has (allegedly) no aversion to suffering.

    Death doesn´t have to be “cruel”. I´ve had relatives that died peacefully in their sleep after a very long life.

    Then there’s the cruelty of death by car crash, etc etc; so your cruelty-avoiding God would ensure that we all always walked, or else instinctively put on our seat-belts every trip, not to mention always driving with due care and attention; indeed, God would surely make us very very health and safety conscious and risk-averse in absolutely everything we do, lest we suffer the avoidable cruelty of injury and suffering.

    Do you think that there will be car accidents or something like it in heaven? If not, why do you think that there won´ t be such things? But that is a tangent anyway because I was focussing on natural evil.

    Then there’s the major redesign of plate tectonics needed to prevent the death and suffering resulting from earthquakes and tsunamis; add in weather systems and all other causes of natural disasters and the resulting death and suffering. The Earth would have to change out of all recognition.

    Then there’s the major redesign of the universe necessary to totally prevent such meteor strikes as wiped out the dinosaurs and would cause untold death and suffering to us, too. And isn’t there a lethal jet of plasma emitted when a star collapses? — I see you need either fundamental changes to the existing laws of physics or a special rule to stop us being in the path. The Universe would have to change out of all recognition.

    Yes, it would have to change from a Universe that is governed by laws which are utterly indifferent towards our wellbeing to a Universe that was purposefully made for us.

    Hopefully I have given you pause enough for thought that you will realise that the God-provided ideal world you seem to desire (with yourself as consultant designer) could not be but a minor redesign of our familiar world, one remaining familiar (apart from.perhaps, lions being vegan, or totally absent), but would inevitably be a fundamental redesign that leaves very little or nothing unchanged.

    Yes. So….? Note that the examples I already provided are all demonstrably possible (like e.g. it being demonstrably possible to design a mammalian creature that is virtually immune to cancer because there already ARE such creatures) – so your objection here amounts to “yes, that might be possible, but then the world would be very different compared to what it is now”.

  75. Andy says:

    Michael,

    Finally, you say you would repent and worship the God of the Bible if He existed. Does that mean you disagree with Richard Dawkins’ description of God?

    Dawkins: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    Not really, no. By “God of the Bible” I presumed you meant the NT version of “God”. I find the OT and NT descriptions of what God is to be irreconcilably different. If God would reveal himself to us as he did to, say, Job, then I would find it obvious that this cannot possibly be a “supreme” being in any sense of the word because he indeed is a capriciously malevolent bully and also completely ignorant, even by lowly human standards. He might be powerful but even his power doesn´t seem to be very impressive (note that all the stuff that he did to torture Job and then “reward” him for being a spineless coward, is something we could do to people as well, there is nothing even remotely miraculous about it). So for that “God”, I would find the explanation infinitely more likely that this is not a deity, but rather some psychopath who escaped from an alien mental institution, stole some advanced technology, and now travels the universe to torture random alien creatures in order to satisfy his sadistic urges.
    For the NT version of God, I stand by everything I said above.

  76. dognillo says:

    TFBW, I don’t think that I can offer anything that will satisfy you. The way I see it, you’re looking for ultimate justice and morality. I don’t think that those things exist. We have human justice and human morality, which are tied to human needs and desires, and that’s all there is. I’ve been able to reconcile myself to that. Sometimes it’s very difficult.

    By the way, yes, I do think that Cain deserved to lose his life.

  77. TFBW says:

    @dognillo:

    The way I see it, you’re looking for ultimate justice and morality.

    Not “ultimate” so much as “objectively real”, in the sense of “not mere illusion or desire”. As far as I can tell, you are not a moral realist, in that there is nothing outside of our beliefs and desires in which “morality” might consist. Is there anything more to your “human justice and morality” than instinctual desire for revenge and retribution? Would murder still be wrong if the only people left standing took the attitude that any victim of murder had it coming to them? That is to say, if someone disagreed with your moral judgements, would you have anything to which you could appeal beyond your own felt needs and desires, and the same in others?

  78. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Andy:

    So I see Andy is again trotting out the “God fails the 101 Engineering exam test, so he does not exist”.

    “Think about the situations where we humans do and do not use evolutionary methods.”

    God is not an engineer, not even a very smart and powerful one.

    “We use them if, and ONLY if, we don´t know the optimal solution to a problem and also don´t know an algorithm to calculate the optimal solution within an acceptable time”

    This presumes that the “problem” has a solution, that the solution is algorithmic, and that there is an optimum algorithm. And that God is an engineer trying to solve a problem in the most efficient way.

    “unnecessarily wasteful (because the vast majority of species that ever lived are extinct), cruel and inefficient anyway.”

    So it is “wasteful” and “inefficient” because “vast majority of species that ever lived are extinct”, and even “cruel”. In other words, it would be better if God had not created dinossaurs at all, then letting them live for a few millions of years and then die banged by a meteor. By the same logic, if Andy’s mother was capable of foreseeing the future and know that Andy will die in the next year a horrible death then it would be better for her to have aborted him. Here, ladies and gents, is moral mobtuseness in all its rank sordidness.

    “Death doesn´t have to be “cruel”. I´ve had relatives that died peacefully in their sleep after a very long life.”

    Death — which I will take it here as ceasing to exist — is not a bad thing as long as we go out peacefully in our sleep. So in the previous, we have that God letting all those species go to waste (meaning, letting entire populations die, or cease to exist) was “cruel”, now death doesn’t have to be “cruel” and can be peaceful.

    “If not, why do you think that there won´t be such things? But that is a tangent anyway because I was focussing on natural evil.”

    Car accidents exist because of the natural laws we have. So by your own logic, God should have changed change them so that we can have the goods (cars, planes, etc.) but not the bad (crashes).

    “Yes, it would have to change from a Universe that is governed by laws which are utterly indifferent towards our wellbeing to a Universe that was purposefully made for us.”

    Change the universe, change its laws, and it would not be *us* that would be here but some other creatures.

    “So your objection here amounts to “yes, that might be possible, but then the world would be very different compared to what it is now”.”

    Yes, it would be a universe where *we* would not be here. If you think your own existence is a thing of such low importance you can always throw yourself from a bridge.

    —–

    @Andy:

    “Not really, no. By “God of the Bible” I presumed you meant the NT version of “God”. I find the OT and NT descriptions of what God is to be irreconcilably different. If God would reveal himself to us as he did to, say, Job, then I would find it obvious that this cannot possibly be a “supreme” being in any sense of the word because he indeed is a capriciously malevolent bully and also completely ignorant, even by lowly human standards. He might be powerful but even his power doesn´t seem to be very impressive (note that all the stuff that he did to torture Job and then “reward” him for being a spineless coward, is something we could do to people as well, there is nothing even remotely miraculous about it). So for that “God”, I would find the explanation infinitely more likely that this is not a deity, but rather some psychopath who escaped from an alien mental institution, stole some advanced technology, and now travels the universe to torture random alien creatures in order to satisfy his sadistic urges.”

    This must be the most blinded, ignorant, idiotic reading of the book of Job I have ever read (and I have read *many*, since it is one of my favorite books). But it is well known that Gnus lack the intelligence or charity to be able to read competently.

  79. Andy says:

    G. Rodrigues,
    “This presumes that the “problem” has a solution, that the solution is algorithmic, and that there is an optimum algorithm. And that God is an engineer trying to solve a problem in the most efficient way.”
    – You could translate this to “this presumes that there is a God who created this world and had a plan for it.”

    “So it is “wasteful” and “inefficient” because “vast majority of species that ever lived are extinct”, and even “cruel”. In other words, it would be better if God had not created dinossaurs at all, then letting them live for a few millions of years and then die banged by a meteor. By the same logic, if Andy’s mother was capable of foreseeing the future and know that Andy will die in the next year a horrible death then it would be better for her to have aborted him. Here, ladies and gents, is moral mobtuseness in all its rank sordidness.”
    – Your reading comprehension is abysmal and your pathetic attempt at drawing an “analogy” fails on every level. In that scenario, God didn´t create “dinossaurs”[sic] at all, he rather set a process in motion that eventually produced creatures that are capable of worshipping him – and if that was the purpose of that process, then the process was cruel, wasteful and inefficient at reaching that goal.

    “Death — which I will take it here as ceasing to exist — is not a bad thing as long as we go out peacefully in our sleep. So in the previous, we have that God letting all those species go to waste (meaning, letting entire populations die, or cease to exist) was “cruel”, now death doesn’t have to be “cruel” and can be peaceful.”
    – Yes, because your baby son being eaten alive by a Dingo and your Grandmother peacefully passing away in her sleep are equally cruel, obviously.

    “Car accidents exist because of the natural laws we have. So by your own logic, God should have changed change them so that we can have the goods (cars, planes, etc.) but not the bad (crashes).”
    – Nope. Because I explicitly only talked about natural evil and pointed out that stuff like that is only tangentially related to what I am saying. I would still discuss it, but I´d prefer discussing it with a person that can read English with comprehension and isn´t a complete assclown.

    “Change the universe, change its laws, and it would not be *us* that would be here but some other creatures.”
    – Yes indeed. Creatures that would be immune to cancer for example, like the naked mole rat is.

    “Yes, it would be a universe where *we* would not be here. If you think your own existence is a thing of such low importance you can always throw yourself from a bridge.”
    – No. Rather a universe where creatures like us would be here that would not suffer from completely gratuitous evils but rather only from the evils that they themselves caused to each other.

    “This must be the most blinded, ignorant, idiotic reading of the book of Job I have ever read (and I have read *many*, since it is one of my favorite books). But it is well known that Gnus lack the intelligence or charity to be able to read competently.”
    – Given your demonstrated inability to read English comments with comprehension, I couldn´t care any less about your opinion in this regard.

  80. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Andy:

    ‘You could translate this to “this presumes that there is a God who created this world and had a plan for it.”’

    No you cannot do such a translation unless you were also (1) arguing that God must be able to do the impossible and (2) to conceive the issue was you conceive it, which is what Christians deny, or some Christians, such as virtually everyone in the classical tradition.

    ‘Your reading comprehension is abysmal and your pathetic attempt at drawing an “analogy” fails on every level. In that scenario, God didn´t create “dinossaurs”[sic] at all, he rather set a process in motion that eventually produced creatures that are capable of worshipping him – and if that was the purpose of that process, then the process was cruel, wasteful and inefficient at reaching that goal.’

    If my reading comprehension is abysmal then you are an illiterate moron with the IQ in the negative range, so I guess it is not too bad. What I did is draw the implications of the logic of your scenario. And the analogy rather than being an “abysmal failure” is a complete success, because you confirm it below when you smugly say: “Yes, because your baby son being eaten alive by a Dingo and your Grandmother peacefully passing away in her sleep are equally cruel, obviously.” So the issue, and what the logic of your scenario relies on, is the suffering. Which is precisely what I illuminated.

    Furthermore, you are completely ignorant of Christian theology, because it is a *trivial conclusion* that God not merely intended the existence of creatures capable of worshipping Himk but the *whole process* by which such creatures are produced, in the same way that God not merely intended the existence of adult human beings, but, since they undergo a process of growth and maturation instead of spawning fully formed from the ground up, said process as well.

    “Yes, because your baby son being eaten alive by a Dingo and your Grandmother peacefully passing away in her sleep are equally cruel, obviously.”

    So your problem is not with death, presumably something of little import, but with suffering, which — to repeat myself — speaks volumes about your moral idiocy.

    “Rather a universe where creatures like us would be here that would not suffer from completely gratuitous evils but rather only from the evils that they themselves caused to each other.”

    Well, quite obviously you have difficulties grasping what is a quite elementary point, so I will repeat it in the unlikely event that you will understand it. Yes, there would be creatures passingly similar to us, but it would not be *us*; me, you, Mike and the rest of humanity down to our own day. For me to exist it is logically necessary that my fathers exist, and for them to exist it is logically necessary that their fathers exist, and on and so on. So change the universe and its laws, or even so much as its history, along with its procession of misery and suffering, and another set of beings would be here, not us. So once again, you think your own existence is a thing of such low importance, even a cruel mistake since it necessitated so much misery, that God should not have created you, you can always undo his work (to a point) and throw yourself from a bridge.

    “Given your demonstrated inability to read English comments with comprehension, I couldn´t care any less about your opinion in this regard.”

    Which is basically what I said about your own ignorant, idiotic opinion — that nobody should care about it.

  81. Doug says:

    Occasionally, it seems that atheists want very much to construct a lose-lose for God (imagining, I suppose, that if they do so with sufficient cleverness that God will “vanish is a puff of logic”)

    So on the one hand, they seem to be quite put out if God should contravene His own “laws” (as if God must be subservient to his creation).
    And on the other, they seem to be quite put out if God’s “laws” should (with suitable hand-waving) appear “wasteful” or “inefficient” (as if those metrics were the least bit meaningful).

  82. TFBW says:

    @Doug: I, for one, appreciate your Douglas Adams reference.

  83. Andy says:

    G. Rodrigues

    No you cannot do such a translation unless you were also (1) arguing that God must be able to do the impossible and (2) to conceive the issue was you conceive it, which is what Christians deny, or some Christians, such as virtually everyone in the classical tradition.

    The first part of what you say here is bullshit because I carefully selected examples that are demonstrably possible – creating a mammal that is virtuallly immune to cancer is demonstrably not “impossible” because there already are such creatures. The second part – “conceive the issue was you conceive it…” – is gibberish.

    If my reading comprehension is abysmal then you are an illiterate moron with the IQ in the negative range

    I presume you meant “an IQ” instead of “the IQ” because the latter makes very little sense. What makes even less sense is to talk about a negative IQ – that is like saying “you are so small, your height is -50cm!!11!”. An IQ is, by definition, always positive.

    What I did is draw the implications of the logic of your scenario.

    That might well have been what you aimed for, but you failed miserably.

    And the analogy rather than being an “abysmal failure” is a complete success, because you confirm it below when you smugly say: “Yes, because your baby son being eaten alive by a Dingo and your Grandmother peacefully passing away in her sleep are equally cruel, obviously.” So the issue, and what the logic of your scenario relies on, is the suffering. Which is precisely what I illuminated.

    Yes, I indeed did talk about “suffering” – using that exact word even! Good that you managed to read at least one word with comprehension, here´s a cookie for you. That I talked about “suffering” however doesn´t mean that your attempt at drawing an analogy succeeded – it still had nothing whatsoever to do with what I actually said.

    Furthermore, you are completely ignorant of Christian theology, because it is a *trivial conclusion* that God not merely intended the existence of creatures capable of worshipping Himk but the *whole process* by which such creatures are produced, in the same way that God not merely intended the existence of adult human beings, but, since they undergo a process of growth and maturation instead of spawning fully formed from the ground up, said process as well.

    That is cute. And doesn´t contradict my point that the process that your “God” intended was cruel, wasteful and inefficient, at all.

    So your problem is not with death, presumably something of little import, but with suffering, which — to repeat myself — speaks volumes about your moral idiocy.

    Caring about suffering is moral idiocy. Delicious! But I´m not surprised that it comes from the same guy who counts the book of Job among his favorite literature.

    Well, quite obviously you have difficulties grasping what is a quite elementary point, so I will repeat it in the unlikely event that you will understand it. Yes, there would be creatures passingly similar to us, but it would not be *us*; me, you, Mike and the rest of humanity down to our own day. For me to exist it is logically necessary that my fathers exist, and for them to exist it is logically necessary that their fathers exist, and on and so on. So change the universe and its laws, or even so much as its history, along with its procession of misery and suffering, and another set of beings would be here, not us. So once again, you think your own existence is a thing of such low importance, even a cruel mistake since it necessitated so much misery, that God should not have created you, you can always undo his work (to a point) and throw yourself from a bridge.

    No what I actually think is that there is no God who could have created me or anyone else. And among the reasons for why I think that is the fact that we experience suffering that is a) completely gratuitous, that b) we are not ourselves responsible for and that c) a creator God could have easily prevented (again, I carefully selected examples that are all demonstrably possible and do not require any hypothetical God to create square circles or something like that).
    You respond to that by saying that I apparently think that God should not have created me and that I should therefore kill myself – which has literally nothing to do with what I argued for, the point flew right over your head due to your abysmal reading comprehension.

    Which is basically what I said about your own ignorant, idiotic opinion — that nobody should care about it.

    Oh, resorting to “I know what you are but what am I!”, eh? 😉 Got some more schoolyard taunts where that one came from?

  84. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    So on the one hand, they seem to be quite put out if God should contravene His own “laws” (as if God must be subservient to his creation).[1]
    And on the other, they seem to be quite put out if God’s “laws” should (with suitable hand-waving [2]) appear “wasteful” or “inefficient” (as if those metrics were the least bit meaningful) [3].

    1. Where did I say that?
    2. “Suitable hand-waving” like for example….?
    3. Lets say that John and Tom both want to build a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. John orders all the relevant parts from automotive suppliers and proceeds to build the car within a week. Tom uses a genetic algorithm that uses random changes in the car design coupled with a function that favors designs which work well, this produces countless car models that have precious little to do with the E-Class that Tom wants, but after a few billion years and trillions of cars that were trashed and recycled, Tom´s endeavors finally succeeded and result in E-Class like cars. Would you say that John´s and Tom´s methods were equally effiicent? If not, on what grounds would you say that?

  85. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    The problem isn’t that one option is more efficient than another. The problem is that “efficient” isn’t necessarily even a thing. If God were to build all subsequent evolution into his spectacularly elegant creation of first life, would you really quibble about “efficiency”?

  86. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Andy:

    “The first part of what you say here is bullshit because I carefully selected examples that are demonstrably possible – creating a mammal that is virtuallly immune to cancer is demonstrably not “impossible” because there already are such creatures.”

    For someone constantly decrying my putative “abysmal reading comprehension”, you show a remarkable inability to read. I mentioned possibility in two arguments. One is below. The other was when I addressed (1) your particular conception of the issue as an Engineering problem which God supposedly fails to solve competently and (2) the neighboring claims added in support by mentioning the reasons persons make use of evolutionary algorithms, as evinced by “We use them if, and ONLY if, we don´t know the optimal solution to a problem and also don´t know an algorithm to calculate the optimal solution within an acceptable time”. This presumes that: “the “problem” has a solution, that the solution is algorithmic, and that there is an optimum algorithm.” Algorithm is a mathematical concept. It is standard mathematics that: (1) There are problems with no solution (2) There are problems where a solution exists but no algorithm that computes the solution exists and (3) There are problems for which a solution exists, an algorithm that computes the solution exists, but there is no optimum algorithm. And I should add (4) There are problems for which a solution exists, an optimum algorithm that computes the solution exists, but the algorithm is not practically feasible. It is a standard consequence in Classical Theism (of the Scholastic persuasion) that there is no best possible world. There is no world so good that God is necessitated in creating it, neither one so bad that God is necessitated in not actualizing it. Thus why I said: “arguing that God must be able to do the impossible”. And it is no good mentioning that *some other* creatures are cancer-immune: (1) because well, they are *other* creatures, not human beings (and before someone interjects, it is also a standard consequence from the Biblical account that pre-lapsarian human beings suffered physical pain) and (2) while they are cancer-immune, they are not immune to corruption and the attending suffering.

    As far “The second part – “conceive the issue was you conceive it…” – is gibberish.” No it is not gibberish, it is you that either does not understand plain, elementary English, or is feigning such a misunderstanding to score a point.

    “An IQ is, by definition, always positive.”

    And you are also humor impaired (admittedly it was not *terribly* funny).

    “That I talked about “suffering” however doesn´t mean that your attempt at drawing an analogy succeeded – it still had nothing whatsoever to do with what I actually said.”

    And you cannot follow an argument either.

    “And doesn´t contradict my point that the process that your “God” intended was cruel, wasteful and inefficient, at all.”

    No? Since God’s purpose is not *merely* the end result of producing “creatures that are capable of worshipping him”, your calculus of wastefulness and inefficiency is wrong — or at the very least unsubstantiated.

    “Caring about suffering is moral idiocy.”

    I did not say or implied that “Caring about suffering is moral idiocy”. Anywhere. But this is typical: response by misreading. What I said was “your problem is not with death, presumably something of little import, but with suffering, which — to repeat myself — speaks volumes about your moral idiocy” which is a different thing as everyone with basic reading ability can readily comprehend.

    “No what I actually think is that there is no God who could have created me or anyone else. And among the reasons for why I think that is the fact that we experience suffering that is a) completely gratuitous, that b) we are not ourselves responsible for and that c) a creator God could have easily prevented (again, I carefully selected examples that are all demonstrably possible and do not require any hypothetical God to create square circles or something like that). You respond to that by saying that I apparently think that God should not have created me and that I should therefore kill myself – which has literally nothing to do with what I argued for, the point flew right over your head due to your abysmal reading comprehension.”

    You have nowehere demonstrated any of those premises. At any rate, I was not attacking them *directly*, but rather indirectly. Since the general form of your argument is a reductio, I pointed out that: if God ought have created a different world in which all those things did not exist (cancer, suffering, whatever), it would be a world that did not contain us, ergo God ought not have created us. In other words, our own value is so little that it would be a moral imperative for God not creating us. And since you are one of “us”, your value is next to nil and He ought not have created you. One man’s modus ponen’s us another man’s modus tollens so if (a) – (c) are necessary for the existence of me, you, Mike and all the rest of humanity, well, it cannot be *that* bad. They refute (a) and (c).

  87. Talon says:

    Andy is a sort of example of the moralizing but likely self-deluded atheist mentioned above, in that he believes his moral judgements on various things (suffering, “ineffeciency”) have immense weight. If naturalism is true, Andy may be genuine in his displeasure, but it amounts to “sound and fury” signifying nothing but a byproduct of Natural Selection, not an objective truth. However, if one entertains Theism is potentially true, Andy (or a similar atheist) must explain why his version of a good creation (one I assume exists with no suffering, no potential moral failure) is one God must create, lest He fail to be Good or fail to exist. Isn’t said atheist then pushing a kind of Theism here, a God theory of a sort which he must justify? On what basis can said atheist decide something like suffering is so gratuitous an evil as to be evidence against God, rather than merely something s/he attempts to avoid, like say a dentist appointment? Why conflate the perspectives and morally obligations of man and Creator which would hold under Theism?

  88. Talon says:

    Correction for above: “Why conflate the perspectives and moral obligations of man and Creator…”

  89. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Talon:

    “Why conflate the perspectives and morally obligations of man and Creator which would hold under Theism?”

    I should add that I reject viewing God as a moral agent, subject to a moral law, with any obligations to us. At any rate, I was (trying to) address Andy’s arguments on their own terms, without bringing up extraneous considerations as much as possible.

  90. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    The problem isn’t that one option is more efficient than another.[1] The problem is that “efficient” isn’t necessarily even a thing. If God were to build all subsequent evolution into his spectacularly elegant creation of first life, would you really quibble about “efficiency”?[2]

    1. But for that specific example, do you think that the former method is more efficient than the latter, yes or no?
    2. As long as the hypothetical scenario involves God resorting to evolution at all, I would quibble about “efficiency” – because evolution is intrinsically wasteful and inefficient (and cruel if it involves sentient creatures).

  91. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    No doubt you’ve been trained to value “efficiency” — but there is a reason for it: resources have a cost associated with them. But for the One Who is the source of all resources, it might not be that big a deal. As Talon suggests, the suggestion that such things have significant weight is delusional.

  92. Andy says:

    Talon,

    Andy is a sort of example of the moralizing but likely self-deluded atheist mentioned above, in that he believes his moral judgements on various things (suffering, “ineffeciency”) have immense weight. If naturalism is true,

    I never even mentioned “naturalism”. Nor do I subscribe to naturalism or am interested in defending it. I´d even grant that naturalism is most certainly false for the sake of the argument, doesn´t affect anything I said in any way whatsoever.
    You seem to be an example for the kind of person that reflexively pigeonholes everyone who doesn´t agree with you about everything and then proceed to attack a construct built out of nothing but your own prejudices.

    Andy may be genuine in his displeasure, but it amounts to “sound and fury” signifying nothing but a byproduct of Natural Selection, not an objective truth.

    There are so many assumptions hidden in here, but I don´t want to interrupt your jousting against windmills (i.e. your prejudices).

    However, if one entertains Theism is potentially true, Andy (or a similar atheist) must explain why his version of a good creation (one I assume exists with no suffering, no potential moral failure) is one God must create,

    Because a being that is omnipotent is able to prevent gratuitous suffering (within the limits of what is logically possible) and a being that is omnibenevolent would prevent gratuitous suffering if it could. Theist philosophers tend to recognize that and that´s why they usually try to demonstrate that there is no gratuitous evil instead of trying to demonstrate that God´s existence is compatible with the existence of gratuitous evil.

    On what basis can said atheist decide something like suffering is so gratuitous an evil as to be evidence against God, rather than merely something s/he attempts to avoid, like say a dentist appointment?

    If x causes suffering without serving any reason or purpose that would justify this suffering, then the suffering caused by x is “gratuitous suffering” – and this atheist can “decide” this because he knows how to read an entry in an English dictionary. If I say for example that infectious diseases cause gratuitous suffering, then a common theistic response is that infectious diseases might serve a purpose in that they provide us with a challenge to overcome and “grow” through overcoming it – but then I just have to point out that Malaria, Tuberculosis etc. have already been causing misery tens of thousands of years ago among our ancestors, *long* before they had any means to even begin to understand what is causing this misery and how they could possibly fight it. Their suffering thus cannot have served the purpose of humans growing through overcoming a challenge because they didn´t have any chance whatsoever to even begin to tackle this “challenge”, they didn´t learn anything from it, they didn´t “grow”, they just suffered and died miserably without even so much as knowing why this is happening to them. I´ve seen several other theist objections and wasn´t exactly impressed – the position that there indeed is at least some gratuitous suffering in this world is not very hard to defend.

  93. Andy says:

    @Doug

    No doubt you’ve been trained to value “efficiency” — but there is a reason for it: resources have a cost associated with them. But for the One Who is the source of all resources, it might not be that big a deal.

    If you have lots to spare, then you can indeed afford to be wasteful – but calling someone who acts that way “supreme” / “ultimate” would be just laughable.

  94. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    So you’re suggesting that (what amounts to) having an unlimited supply of resources precludes being “supreme”. And that’s laughable? 😀

  95. Andy says:

    G. Rodrigues:

    For someone constantly decrying my putative “abysmal reading comprehension”, you show a remarkable inability to read. I mentioned possibility in two arguments. One is below. The other was when I addressed (1) your particular conception of the issue as an Engineering problem which God supposedly fails to solve competently and (2) the neighboring claims added in support by mentioning the reasons persons make use of evolutionary algorithms, as evinced by “We use them if, and ONLY if, we don´t know the optimal solution to a problem and also don´t know an algorithm to calculate the optimal solution within an acceptable time”. This presumes that: “the “problem” has a solution, that the solution is algorithmic, and that there is an optimum algorithm.” Algorithm is a mathematical concept. It is standard mathematics that: (1) There are problems with no solution (2) There are problems where a solution exists but no algorithm that computes the solution exists and (3) There are problems for which a solution exists, an algorithm that computes the solution exists, but there is no optimum algorithm. And I should add (4) There are problems for which a solution exists, an optimum algorithm that computes the solution exists, but the algorithm is not practically feasible.

    If we could agree on the notion that if there is a God, he had no plan whatsoever about what he was doing and what he wanted to accomplish, then we can stop here. If you disagree with that however, then all what you are saying here is completely and utterly irrelevant. If the scenario involves God having a “plan” for his creation – was intending for it to be the way it is – then we don´t need to “presume” that there is a “problem” with possible “solutions” here, because addressing a “problem” with a possible “solution” for that problem is what “having a plan” means.

    It is a standard consequence in Classical Theism (of the Scholastic persuasion) that there is no best possible world. There is no world so good that God is necessitated in creating it, neither one so bad that God is necessitated in not actualizing it. Thus why I said: “arguing that God must be able to do the impossible”.

    You can repeat that until you are blue in the face. Doesn´t change the fact that the examples I selected are demonstrably not “impossible” but rather very much “possible”.

    And it is no good mentioning that *some other* creatures are cancer-immune: (1) because well, they are *other* creatures, not human beings (and before someone interjects, it is also a standard consequence from the Biblical account that pre-lapsarian human beings suffered physical pain) and (2) while they are cancer-immune, they are not immune to corruption and the attending suffering.

    That is almost too silly to address. This is every bit as ludicrous as hearing someone say “it is possible for Ford to build a 6×6 SUV, Mercedes-Benz did it already” and then responding with “yeah well that means nothing because Ford isn´t Mercedes-Benz”.

    As far “The second part – “conceive the issue was you conceive it…” – is gibberish.” No it is not gibberish, it is you that either does not understand plain, elementary English….

    ….plain, elementary English like “…conceive the issue was[sic] you conceive it…”

    And you are also humor impaired (admittedly it was not *terribly* funny).

    Not really. I just can´t imagine you trying to be funny instead of insulting – doesn´t really fit your perpetually angry and belligerent online persona.

    And you cannot follow an argument either.

    If you could construct one logically, I might be able to follow it.

    I did not say or implied that “Caring about suffering is moral idiocy”. Anywhere. But this is typical: response by misreading. What I said was “your problem is not with death, presumably something of little import, but with suffering, which — to repeat myself — speaks volumes about your moral idiocy” which is a different thing as everyone with basic reading ability can readily comprehend.

    Must be so – why don´t we ask one of your fellow theist here to explain, in his own words, just what the hell you are trying to say here, something along the line “I totally get what G. Rodrigues meant by “moral idiocy” here! He meant [insert explanation here]”

    You have nowehere demonstrated any of those premises. At any rate, I was not attacking them *directly*, but rather indirectly. Since the general form of your argument is a reductio,

    Wrong. It´s actually a modus tollens.

    I pointed out that: if God ought have created a different world in which all those things did not exist (cancer, suffering, whatever), it would be a world that did not contain us, ergo God ought not have created us. In other words, our own value is so little that it would be a moral imperative for God not creating us. And since you are one of “us”, your value is next to nil and He ought not have created you.

    So in a hypothetical world where God would give everyone cancer as soon as they reach age 15 because he loves to hear people scream in agony, this wouldn´t indicate at all that there either is no God or if there is, he isn´t benevolent. Saying that it would indicate that amounts to saying that we have no value at all because the only alternative to creating us and giving all of us cancer at age 15 for the lulz would be to not create us at all.
    Hint: there is a false dichotomy, think a little about it and you might figure it out.

  96. Andy says:

    Doug,

    So you’re suggesting that (what amounts to) having an unlimited supply of resources precludes being “supreme”. And that’s laughable? 😀

    Nope. I said that being wasteful with your unlimited supply precludes you from being “supreme” (think Q from Star Trek – TNG, he had virtually unlimited power and ressources, and it would still be laughable to call him “supreme”)

  97. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Sorry: “wasteful” is in the eye of the beholder. Kinda like “pretty”. It is no less compelling to claim that God couldn’t have created things this way because they aren’t pretty enough. Agreed that calling Q from TNG “supreme” is laughable. Also irrelevant.

  98. TFBW says:

    I just want to mention that the above exchange has become so full of ad hominem and devoid of charity that I’ve resorted to skimming over it.

  99. G. Rodrigues says:

    @TBFW:

    “I just want to mention that the above exchange has become so full of ad hominem and devoid of charity that I’ve resorted to skimming over it.”

    Well, then apologies are in order to you, Andy, and the rest of the audience. So as far as I am concerned this “exchange” is over.

  100. Andy says:

    G. Rodrigues:

    Well, then apologies are in order to you, Andy, and the rest of the audience.

    Then I´ll accept that apology and extend one to you as well.

  101. Andy says:

    @Doug

    Sorry: “wasteful” is in the eye of the beholder. Kinda like “pretty”. It is no less compelling to claim that God couldn’t have created things this way because they aren’t pretty enough. Agreed that calling Q from TNG “supreme” is laughable. Also irrelevant.

    Hmm… I´d be honestly interested to know why exactly you´d consider it laughable to call a being like Q “supreme”. Q was, from a human perspective, all-powerful – there was no limit (none discernible by a human mind) as to what he could do. He could bend reality to his will and even just create new realities from nothing (at least as far as a human observer is concerned). So on what grounds *exactly* would you say that it is laughable to consider Q supreme while it isn´t laughable to consider Yahweh, as he is described in, say, the Book of Job, a supreme being?
    And please base your answer not on *definitions* (like the definition of “God” according to classical theism), but rather on specific observations that human observers are making in stories like the TNG episodes involving Q and the OT stories about Yahweh.

  102. TFBW says:

    Thanks for keeping it classy, folks.

    It seems way off topic to me, Andy, but I’d say that Q from STNG is clearly not “supreme” because he’s just one of many, and there’s reason to think that he’s something of an underling among his kind at that (he is punished by them at one point). He’s a useful sci-fi representation of a god, but not God. That’s not a minor detail.

  103. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    A supreme being cannot be conceived by humans. Of course, reality is not circumscribed by our conceptual abilities. At the same time, our descriptions of anything (supreme beings included) are circumscribed by our conceptual abilities. So please pardon me for declining to fulfill the impossible request (viz: to describe a supreme being that fits neatly inside our conceptual abilities).

  104. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    A supreme being cannot be conceived by humans. Of course, reality is not circumscribed by our conceptual abilities. At the same time, our descriptions of anything (supreme beings included) are circumscribed by our conceptual abilities. So please pardon me for declining to fulfill the impossible request (viz: to describe a supreme being that fits neatly inside our conceptual abilities).

    I see your point and I´d fully agree that a supreme being is too vast to be grasped by a human mind. However, when it comes to a putative divine revelation, I´m sure you´ll see that this scenario is extremely relevant. If we just agree for the sake of the argument that there indeed is one ultimate being – God. And now some entity “reveals” itself to you that is, from your perspective, infinitely powerful. It seems that this, per se, would be insufficient for you to conclude that this entity must therefore be identical to God. And I´d agree. Where we´d disagree is that I would similarly not consider Yahweh to be an ultimate being if he´d reveal himself to me similarly to the OT stories about him (note that I am only talking about the OT here). And I´m very curious why we agree on the former (that Q is most definitely not God) while we´d disagree about the latter.

    @TFBW:
    Good point. But could we for the sake of the argument imagine that the stories where different so that Q is, as far as human observers in the story can tell, the only one of his kind? See what I wrote to Doug above – I find that to be a highly interesting question and I´d really like to know why it is that we evaluate a character like Q so similarly but a character like Yahweh so differently.

  105. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    For starters, factors in our evaluation of Q might include:
    – he is a fiction (willing to bracket this one off for purposes of discussion)
    – he was written for the purpose of comparison to a god or God. (similarly)
    – he was written with “supreme ambiguity”
    – his power is limited to physical/external “tricks”
    – he seems to be largely unaware of the minds of those around him
    – he seems to have nothing to offer those he encounters (apart from entertainment value)
    – he does not enrich those with whom he interacts
    – he does not seem to have participated in human origins, or care about human destiny

  106. Doug says:

    @Andy (please appreciate that I am going by relatively vague recollection here — it has, after all, been >20? years since TNG aired)

  107. TFBW says:

    But could we for the sake of the argument imagine that the stories where different so that Q is, as far as human observers in the story can tell, the only one of his kind?

    Star Trek has more characters than just the Q who are godlike, so that doesn’t help much. In any case, like the Greek pantheon, all the godlike beings in the Trek universe have had their share of finite limitations and/or foibles, despite their incredible powers. If they ever had a “transcendent creator of the universe” character, I missed it (but then I missed lots of Star Trek, being more of a B5 and SG fan).

  108. Andy says:

    Doug,
    I numbered your points for convenience:

    For starters, factors in our evaluation of Q might include:
    1. he is a fiction (willing to bracket this one off for purposes of discussion)
    2. he was written for the purpose of comparison to a god or God. (similarly)
    3. he was written with “supreme ambiguity”
    4. his power is limited to physical/external “tricks”
    5. he seems to be largely unaware of the minds of those around him
    6. he seems to have nothing to offer those he encounters (apart from entertainment value)
    7. he does not enrich those with whom he interacts
    8. he does not seem to have participated in human origins, or care about human destiny

    1. Not any less fictional than Yahweh afaict but I agree we can just brack this off.
    2. See above.
    3. Not sure what that means.
    4. Lets take Job as an example again, wasn´t Yahweh´s power similarly limited to physical tricks as far as Job could tell? Would you say that Yahweh as he appeared to Job demonstrated more power than Q as he appeared to the crew of the Enterprise? I think not – I´d say that Q if anything demonstrated even more power than Yahweh did.
    5. Well, in Genesis 3:9 for example, God asks Adam “Where are you?”. You can interpret that as a rethorical question, in the sense that Yahweh was of course aware of Adam´s physical location and of what he was thinking and that he is just asking Adam that to make Adam aware that he is looking for him. But if you´d do that, then you could similarly argue that Q might very well know everything and if he asks questions, he only does so for rethorical purposes because he already knows the answer anyway.
    6. That´s not quite correct, Q is capricious and self-centered (but not anymore than Yahweh is I would say), but he also has been benevolent and has helped humans to understand themselves better and even helped Picard to save all of mankind(!) in the series finale.
    7. Not quite, see my response to #6.
    8. That much is correct, but if he would claim that he indeed was the creator of mankind – why wouldn´t you believe him? Q certainly is able to demonstrate the capacity to do it and HAS demonstrated that he can conjure virtually everything he wants into existence from (at least seemingly) nothing.

    This mainly seems to boil down about power and benevolence – and it doesn´t seem to me that Q and Yahweh are different in those respects, both are, from a human perspective, infinitely powerful, and both are capricious, self-centered and sometimes outright cruel while being benevolent at other times. Jesus on the other hand seems to be very different from both Q and Yahweh.

  109. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    I’m losing the relevance of all this. Perhaps your argument is something like:
    – a fictional character has been constructed to resemble a god
    – Andy cannot tell the difference between a fictional character and the God of the Bible
    – therefore, the God of the Bible is a fictional character
    ?
    If not, please clarify?

  110. Andy says:

    @Doug:
    I´m not arguing. I´m just curious – curious why you would evaluate a hypothetical revelation from Q so differently than a revelation from Yahweh, finding the claim that the former would be a supreme being laughable but finding the claim that the latter is a supreme being absolutely plausible.
    Regarding “Andy cannot tell the difference between a fictional character and the God of the Bible”
    – Not quite. I can tell the difference between them just fine, but I would conclude for “revelations” from both that, while they might be extremely powerful, they are certainly not “supreme” / “ultimate”, and I would conclude that for the exact same reasons in both scenarios. You would conclude differently but you seem to have a hard time to explain *why* you would do so.

  111. Doug says:

    @Andy,

    you seem to have a hard time to explain…

    Not really. Q is fiction. He appeared on television. The credits roll after the episode.

    But setting that aside, suppose we were to agree that many aspects of Q and (say) Jesus are similar (inexplicable/surprising words/actions; apparently higher-plane existence), it isn’t at all clear where you think that gets us…

  112. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    After all, the history of fiction is full of “Messiah” characters whose similarities to Jesus are intentional. One of my favorites is “the Iron Giant” 🙂 It would appear, though, that you are struggling over the connection between the revelation and the conclusion of supremity. Fair enough. If Jesus were to have been exactly as he was in a context that did not have millenia of monotheism to ground it, no doubt few, if any, would have come to the conclusion that he represented anything “supreme”. Still not sure where that acknowledgement gets us…

  113. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    Not really. Q is fiction. He appeared on television. The credits roll after the episode.

    Erm… you do realize what a thought experiment is, don´t you? 😉 The question was what you would do IF such a scenario WOULD happen, and the scenario was not you watching TV but rather you yourself *experiencing* this story as the protagonist.

    But setting that aside, suppose we were to agree that many aspects of Q and (say) Jesus are similar (inexplicable/surprising words/actions; apparently higher-plane existence), it isn’t at all clear where you think that gets us…

    Wrt Michael´s original post, he posed the question at atheists if they would accept a revelation from the “God of the Bible” and indeed consider him as God and worship him as God. For me personally, I can only say that I would most certainly do that for some biblical descriptions of God but not for others. For “God” as he is described in the Book of Job, I would most certainly *not* consider this entity to be God and would not worship him for the exact same reasons for why I wouldn´t consider Q to be God (if he´d claim to be God) and would not worship him.

  114. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    But the *experience* of the story would necessarily put me in another universe altogether. Hard to jump between two universes and come to meaningful conclusions! 🙂
    Incidentally, I’m quite willing to accept your answer to the O/P throughout this thread: it is indeed the most sensible course of action to turn one’s life over to the God you know to exist. The trick, however, is to extend the conclusion to when one does not know if God exists. Presumably, there is a locus of “sensible”, at which one’s confidence (<100%) in the proposal and one's understanding of God (also <100% accurate) are sufficient to justify such a course of action.

  115. TFBW says:

    Andy, if you’re really struggling to see why someone might think of one account of God as real, and another as fiction, despite certain similarities in the accounts, then perhaps you could look into some of C. S. Lewis’ writings on the subject. If he can’t answer your questions to your satisfaction, then I’m pretty sure none of us can. Alas, I can’t tell you off the top of my head which of his works is most relevant to the subject. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  116. TFBW says:

    Andy said:

    This mainly seems to boil down about power and benevolence – and it doesn´t seem to me that Q and Yahweh are different in those respects, both are, from a human perspective, infinitely powerful, and both are capricious, self-centered and sometimes outright cruel while being benevolent at other times. Jesus on the other hand seems to be very different from both Q and Yahweh.

    If you think there’s such a great difference between Yahweh and Jesus, then your evaluation of the matter is diametrically opposed to that of Jesus himself — ref: John 14:6-11. Perhaps you should consider the possibility that you haven’t properly understood either Yahweh or Jesus.

  117. Michael says:

    Andy:

    Not really, no. By “God of the Bible” I presumed you meant the NT version of “God”. I find the OT and NT descriptions of what God is to be irreconcilably different. If God would reveal himself to us as he did to, say, Job, then I would find it obvious that this cannot possibly be a “supreme” being in any sense of the word because he indeed is a capriciously malevolent bully and also completely ignorant, even by lowly human standards. He might be powerful but even his power doesn´t seem to be very impressive (note that all the stuff that he did to torture Job and then “reward” him for being a spineless coward, is something we could do to people as well, there is nothing even remotely miraculous about it). So for that “God”, I would find the explanation infinitely more likely that this is not a deity, but rather some psychopath who escaped from an alien mental institution, stole some advanced technology, and now travels the universe to torture random alien creatures in order to satisfy his sadistic urges.

    Okay, so you won’t follow or worship the OT God.

    For the NT version of God, I stand by everything I said above.

    Hmmm. But it’s the NT version that sends people to Hell.

  118. Andy says:

    @Doug:

    But the *experience* of the story would necessarily put me in another universe altogether. Hard to jump between two universes and come to meaningful conclusions! 🙂

    Well, but then you reject thought experiments quite categorically. Imagine that I had the following conversation with Michael about the OP:
    Michael: If God would reveal himself to you, would you worship him?
    Andy: But he didn´t.
    Michael: Sure. But IF he did, would you?
    Andy: But that “if” would put me into another universe altogether. Hard to jump between two universes and come to meaningful conclusions!

  119. Andy says:

    TFBW:

    Andy, if you’re really struggling to see why someone might think of one account of God as real, and another as fiction

    That wasn´t my point. Whether only some or all of those stories are indeed completely fictional is completely independent of what I talked about – what I talked about was our different reactions to us actually experiencing what happens in those stories.

  120. Andy says:

    Michael

    Hmmm. But it’s the NT version that sends people to Hell.

    Well I´m going with the stuff that Christians can universally agree upon (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount). With regards to sending people to hell – there are so many different interpretations of what that is supposed to mean, and everyone seems to think that his or her own is “obviously” true. My main quarrel with that would be punishing people for having incorrect philosophical beliefs, and the overwhelming majority of Christians tell me that they are certain that God is not going to do that, so I´m assuming that interpretation when I evaluate the NT description of what God is supposedly like.

  121. Andy says:

    Argh, that was of course supposed to mean “so I´m NOT assuming that interpretation…”

  122. TFBW says:

    Andy said:

    … what I talked about was our different reactions to us actually experiencing what happens in those stories.

    Well, there are two observations to make about that. One is that your idea of what “actually happens” in those stories might not bear much resemblance to ours, as illustrated by your views on Yahweh and Jesus, which stand in direct conflict to Jesus’ own views on that subject. That probably makes meaningful communication on the subject extremely difficult for a start, and you’re kidding yourself if you think that you have any capital as an interpreter of scripture relative to Jesus.

    In addition to that, consider the vastly different attitudes we have to “actually experiencing” what happens. You’re looking to such experiences as the primary source of justification for belief, but I think I speak for most Christians represented here when I say that our existing belief is not grounded in exposure to ostentatious displays of godlike power. Thus, any scepticism we might express towards a Q-like being dazzling us with such displays comes from an entirely different perspective than yours. In broad strokes, your approach is to acknowledge the power and then judge the character. My first impulse, as a Christian, would be to wonder whether this was an example of the sort of thing Jesus warned against in Matthew 24.

    You’re presenting us with a thought experiment, but it won’t work because you’re assuming we have similar perspectives in cases where that could hardly be further from the truth. No meaningful result can be obtained from it.

  123. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    You’re looking to such experiences as the primary source of justification for belief, but I think I speak for most Christians represented here when I say that our existing belief is not grounded in exposure to ostentatious displays of godlike power.

    I know that you do not. You could not, not even if you wanted to. Because if there is a God, he doesn´t show his power, ostentatiously or otherwise, at least not anymore.

    In broad strokes, your approach is to acknowledge the power and then judge the character.

    Not at all. I judge the character and based on that, I conclude that someone like Yahweh or Q cannot be an ultimate being – no matter how powerful he might be.

    If you think there’s such a great difference between Yahweh and Jesus, then your evaluation of the matter is diametrically opposed to that of Jesus himself — ref: John 14:6-11. Perhaps you should consider the possibility that you haven’t properly understood either Yahweh or Jesus.

    Lets assume that Jesus indeed did say that. If he did, he was talking about a “Father”. Now, I´m sure you´ve heard of Marcion before. Marcion and his followers believed that Christ indeed was the son of God, but that his “Father” was NOT the God of the hebrews. Quite the contrary, they believed that Jesus actual father was the one true transcended God while the God of the hebrews was an evil Demiurge. Their writings are not preserved (IIRC, scholars believe that they had something very similar to the Gospel of Luke, and a lost Gospel) and most of what we know about them is based on writings by proto-orthodox Christians that denounced Marcionism (i.e., we practically only know them from their sworn enemies). But anyway, I find that much more plausible than the orthodox Christian view (relatively speaking, I don´t find any of this plausible at all but I find some things much more implausible than others).

  124. G. Rodrigues says:

    If I am understanding Andy right, his point, or at least one of his points, is that there is no rational way to distinguish a miracle directly from God from a miracle or spectacular act from god or a lowly demiurge (the charge, as Andy points out in the example of Marcion, of many gnostic heresiarchs against Christians and Jews), and thus by implication, no way to separate revelations from God from revelations from god or gods.

    But there is indeed a rational way: a resurrection is a supernatural event in the strictest sense, that is, not one not merely in contradiction of the ordinary course of things, but one outside the reach of the natural order, with natural order the same as the created order. Since any such god or gods or demiurges or angels or Q or whatever, belong to the created order, such an event could only be brought about by God. I will spare the audience the argument that this is so (because it depends on a precise metaphysics).

  125. Doug says:

    then you reject thought experiments quite categorically.

    No: I reject thought experiments that change too much to maintain focus on the point attempting to be made. The universe of Gene Roddenberry and his successors, as much appeal as it has for a certain demographic, is simply not faithful enough to reality to make it work. Now if the vast majority of the world’s population were convinced that the TNG universe was, in fact, reality, I’d be willing to reconsider.

  126. Andy says:

    G. Rodrigues

    If I am understanding Andy right, his point, or at least one of his points, is that there is no rational way to distinguish a miracle directly from God from a miracle or spectacular act from god or a lowly demiurge (the charge, as Andy points out in the example of Marcion, of many gnostic heresiarchs against Christians and Jews), and thus by implication, no way to separate revelations from God from revelations from god or gods.

    No, not really. I indeed do think that this is strictly true but would accept certain revelations as most likely coming from capital G God anyway (not anything similar to the OT though for example, for the reasons mentioned above).

    But there is indeed a rational way: a resurrection is a supernatural event in the strictest sense, that is, not one not merely in contradiction of the ordinary course of things, but one outside the reach of the natural order, with natural order the same as the created order. Since any such god or gods or demiurges or angels or Q or whatever, belong to the created order, such an event could only be brought about by God. I will spare the audience the argument that this is so (because it depends on a precise metaphysics).

    I *very* much doubt that this is a valid argument because it smells quite strongly like trying to put the resurrection into a special category through special pleading. Why are *some* “contradictions to the ordinary course of things” supposed to be within the reach of the Demiurge while other “contradictions to the ordinary course of things” are not?
    And either way, even if that were true, the Demiurge´s power would still be more than sufficient to fool you into believing that he did resurrect someone when he in fact did not (or are illusions / false memories / whatever also supposed to be outside the reach of the Demiurge for some reason?)
    But, again, that´s just a tangent so we can drop this if you prefer – I do indeed believe that it is strictly impossible to know for *certain* that any given revelation comes from God, but that is not my point here, see above.

  127. Andy says:

    No: I reject thought experiments that change too much to maintain focus on the point attempting to be made.

    Well then….
    Michael: If God would reveal himself to you, would you worship him?
    Andy: But he didn´t.
    Michael: Sure. But IF he did, would you?
    Andy: But that “if” would change to much too maintain focus on the point attempting to be made.

  128. Andy says:

    G. Rodrigues,
    oh btw – I overlooked that you also said this:
    “Since any such god or gods or demiurges or angels or Q or whatever, belong to the created order…”
    – That may be, but in Marcion´s view, the *physical* world is the creation of the Demiurge, he created and maintains it, so there might be a point to be made that the Demiurge cannot destroy or create something non-physical like a “soul”, but resurrecting a physical body should be very much within his power.

  129. Doug says:

    @Andy,

    Andy: But that “if” would change to much too maintain focus on the point attempting to be made.

    As you wish. But the “point being made” in this instance happens to be precisely the IF being proposed. You have to live with your own standards of intellectual honesty, I guess.

  130. Andy says:

    Doug,

    But the “point being made” in this instance happens to be precisely the IF being proposed.

    ???
    Michael´s “IF” was this:
    “So what if Jesus was to reappear on Earth and, in a well documented manner, did things like heal amputees?”
    And you think the “point” he wanted to make with it was this:
    “So what if Jesus was to reappear on Earth and, in a well documented manner, did things like heal amputees?”

    I hope you see that this makes no sense whatsoever.

  131. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Andy:

    “I *very* much doubt that this is a valid argument because it smells quite strongly like trying to put the resurrection into a special category through special pleading.”

    Well, what you doubt or not doubt is irrelevant unless said doubts are backed up by an analysis of the relevant arguments that do indeed place the resurrection in a special category akin to creation, isn’t it? But since I was indeed misreading you, it is all moot and there is no point in pursuing this.

  132. TFBW says:

    Andy said:

    I know that you do not. You could not, not even if you wanted to. Because if there is a God, he doesn´t show his power, ostentatiously or otherwise, at least not anymore.

    Such certainty. Things are very clear and simple for you, aren’t they? They are less so for me. While my belief is not grounded in displays of power, it would be offensively ungrateful of me to assert that I have had no such experience. A hardened sceptic could easily dismiss my experiences as mere coincidence, of course. “Mere coincidence” is a blunt instrument as explanatory tools go: it tends to get applied selectively to unwanted contrary evidence.

    I judge the character and based on that, I conclude that someone like Yahweh or Q cannot be an ultimate being – no matter how powerful he might be.

    My point was that you require the power and the character. Your “thought experiments” included the power as given: you were trying to get us to join you in the same character judgement.

    I find that much more plausible than the orthodox Christian view …

    Yes, but that’s only because it matches your prior beliefs about the character of Yahweh. It has nothing to do with historical evidence. In light of the documentary evidence that’s actually available, it’s a perfectly ludicrous idea, and you’d have to appeal to a massive conspiracy to account for the discrepancy.

    That’s all a bit of a side-show, however. Let us return to a point that you made earlier. In relation to the question posed by the original post, “if you were convinced God exists, would you repent of your sins and stop rebelling against God,” you said the following.

    For me personally, I can only say that I would most certainly do that for some biblical descriptions of God but not for others.

    Granting your premise that there is more than one description, what is it that’s so appealing about the “New Testament” God? It seems that you basically reject the veracity of the New Testament anyhow, so it’s not at all obvious what you think this God is like. Give us a quick precis of this God, and assume that we aren’t familiar with Him, because we probably aren’t.

  133. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    Such certainty. Things are very clear and simple for you, aren’t they? They are less so for me. While my belief is not grounded in displays of power, it would be offensively ungrateful of me to assert that I have had no such experience. A hardened sceptic could easily dismiss my experiences as mere coincidence, of course. “Mere coincidence” is a blunt instrument as explanatory tools go: it tends to get applied selectively to unwanted contrary evidence.

    Well, there are conceptually two different ways for how God could display his power so that a human observer could rationally conclude that it was indeed a display of God´s power. One would be a violation of the laws of nature (like for example the resurrection of Jesus Christ) that is theologically meaningful and explicable by (maybe also even predicted by) a specific theological belief system. The other would be events that in principle can and do(!) happen spontaneously, but with a distribution that is exceedingly unlikely if one assumes that this was mere coincidence but very likely given a specific theological belief system (e.g. spontaneous remission of cancer occuring at a significantly higher rate among devout Christians who prayed for healing than they do among comparable groups (like e.g. devout Muslims living in areas with comparable quality of healthcare)). You seem to have neither the former nor the latter, and that´s why it doesn´t take a “hardened skeptic” to dismiss your experiences as mere coincidence, not even just a “skeptic”, it really just takes someone who understands and applies elementary probability theory.
    And “mere coincidence” is not a blunt instrument at all btw, if you do the math properly, it´s a very sharp knife – and if you don´t understand the underlying math at all (or understand it but don´t use it), then you are prone to make plenty of irrational choices (the Gambler´s fallacy is only the most popular and easiest to understand one).

    My point was that you require the power and the character. Your “thought experiments” included the power as given: you were trying to get us to join you in the same character judgement.

    Well you specifically said “In broad strokes, your approach is to acknowledge the power and THEN judge the character” [emphasis added], but alright.
    And yes, I indeed do require a display of the power because I find it exceedingly irrational to meet someone who is, as far as you can tell, incredibly kind, intelligent and wise, more so than any human you´ve ever met, but still evidently just a guy, and then believe him without hesitation when he tells you that he is actually identical to God.

    Yes, but that’s only because it matches your prior beliefs about the character of Yahweh.

    I had no prior beliefs about the character of Yahweh because I wasn´t a Christian when I read the OT and also wasn´t raised in a Christian tradition. It was only after reading the OT and the NT that I had the belief that the OT and NT cannot refer to the same God.

    In light of the documentary evidence that’s actually available, it’s a perfectly ludicrous idea, and you’d have to appeal to a massive conspiracy to account for the discrepancy.

    I don´t have to appeal to a “massive conspiracy” at all, not even a “big conspiracy”, if anything, it was a “teeny tiny conspiracy” – at the time when this would have happened, Christianity was still a tiny fringe cult (not just based on estimations by atheist scholars, just take Rodney Stark´s estimations if you prefer) with barely 1000 members. Now substract from those 1000 everyone who couldn´t read. And from that substract everyone who couldn´t write. That´s how “big” the hypothetical conspiracy would have been.
    And that there was some infighting among the young Christian community with some “false brothers” trying to falsify scriptures to further their agenda indeed seems to be the case, see Galatians 2:4. And you can also make an extremely good case for the Gospel authors at least occasionally fabricating things with the intention to make the story congruent with the OT – the most obvious example for this are the infancy narratives (and note that this again isn´t an atheist / skeptic evaluation, what I just said falls very much into the mainstream of NT scholarship – see for example Raymond Brown´s Magnum Opus “The Birth of the Messiah”).

    Granting your premise that there is more than one description, what is it that’s so appealing about the “New Testament” God? It seems that you basically reject the veracity of the New Testament anyhow, so it’s not at all obvious what you think this God is like. Give us a quick precis of this God, and assume that we aren’t familiar with Him, because we probably aren’t.

    Be careful to not cast your net of “we” to wide 😉 Christian opinions about what Jesus / God´s character is are not monolithic after all.
    Regarding the character of the NT God, he seems to value love higher than anything else (Matthew 22:36-40, John 13:34-35), he is a fan of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31), he thinks forgiveness is better than revenge (Matthew 5:43-48), he wants us to live in an egalitarian manner (Matthew 20:25–26, Mark 10:42, Luke 22:25), he wants us to help those less fortunate than ourselves (Luke 3:11, Luke 14:12-14) and he hates lies, hypocracy and greediness (too lazy to look up verses now) – would you agree with that assessment so far?

  134. Michael says:

    Well I´m going with the stuff that Christians can universally agree upon (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount). With regards to sending people to hell – there are so many different interpretations of what that is supposed to mean, and everyone seems to think that his or her own is “obviously” true. My main quarrel with that would be punishing people for having incorrect philosophical beliefs, and the overwhelming majority of Christians tell me that they are certain that God is not going to do that, so I´m assuming that interpretation when I evaluate the NT description of what God is supposedly like.

    I’m not clear about your response. Almost every atheist I have encountered argues that Hell is intrinsically immoral. In fact, Dawkins argues that teaching children about hell is child abuse (and child abuse is illegal). Are you saying you don’t agree with any of this?

  135. Michael says:

    he is a fan of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31)

    Luke 6:31: Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

    Leviticus 19:18: You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

    [scratches head]. Why do I get this feeling that Andy’s OT Bad God/NT Good God distinction depends on some……cherry picking?

  136. Andy says:

    Michael,

    I’m not clear about your response. Almost every atheist I have encountered argues that Hell is intrinsically immoral.

    And what exactly is “hell”? How do you get there? What is it like to be there? Do you ever get “out”? If not, why don´t you get out? There are so many different Christian conceptions of what “hell” means – and I see no reason to settle for any specific one here. And I don´t find all possibilities intrinsically immoral – if I take CS Lewis’ “Hell is locked from the inside” view for example, I would have some quarrels with that (mostly in the sense that it seems psychologically very implausible), but I wouldn´t call it intrinsically immoral.

  137. Andy says:

    Michael,

    [scratches head]. Why do I get this feeling that Andy’s OT Bad God/NT Good God distinction depends on some……cherry picking?

    I don´t know. Maybe because you ignore the “your people” qualification in Leviticus 19:18. What if it isn´t about one of “your people”? Is it then still all Golden Rule and turn the other cheek or maybe rather….
    This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.
    Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”

    Similarly with slavery, if it is about “the others”, then:
    “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life…”
    but if it is about one of “your people” (i.e. a fellow hebrew), then
    “…but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”
    And:
    “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.”

  138. TFBW says:

    Andy:

    Well, there are conceptually two different ways for how God could display his power so that a human observer could rationally conclude that it was indeed a display of God´s power.

    Without getting into an argument over whether that particular epistemological assertion is true, I note that it’s not the statement I was addressing with my response. The statement I was responding to did not contain the “so that” qualifier: it was simply, “if there is a God, he doesn´t show his power, ostentatiously or otherwise, at least not anymore.” I deny that statement, specifically. I also specifically disclaimed that my experiences of God’s power would be of a sort that could persuade you, hoping that I might pre-empt this very response.

    What you should realise, however, is that there is a distinct difference between the sceptic who requires a “violation of the laws of nature” (an ostentatious display of godlike power) or statistical support for answered prayer correlating with profession of specific religious beliefs, and the person who actually prays for healing from cancer and goes into “spontaneous” remission. That latter class of person runs the risk of being an offensive ingrate towards God if they fall back on the sceptic’s evidential demands after receiving an answer to prayer.

    I had no prior beliefs about the character of Yahweh because I wasn´t a Christian when I read the OT and also wasn´t raised in a Christian tradition.

    You’ve misunderstood what I meant by “prior beliefs” in this case. I mean that you had already formulated your character judgement of Yahweh at the time you considered the plausibility of Marcion’s claims, and that the primary grounds for your preference of his claims over the orthodox ones was the coherence it offered with your character judgement, as opposed to any historical evidence. If that’s wrong, then I will stand corrected.

    I don´t have to appeal to a “massive conspiracy” at all, not even a “big conspiracy”, if anything, it was a “teeny tiny conspiracy” – at the time when this would have happened, Christianity was still a tiny fringe cult (not just based on estimations by atheist scholars, just take Rodney Stark´s estimations if you prefer) with barely 1000 members.

    I’m afraid those figures don’t make a lot of sense to me if we’re talking about Marcion, since he wasn’t even born until around A.D. 110, but it’s not the number of participants that really raises my eyebrows in any case: it’s the whole nature of the doctrine in question.

    The Jews were deadly serious about their monotheism. If Jesus had taught some other God, he’d have been promoting flagrant blasphemy, and yet the Sanhedrin struggled to pin a charge of blasphemy on him. Ultimately, it was his claim to be the Son of God on which the charge of blasphemy was based. The Sanhedrin recognised only one God (obviously), so if Jesus recognised some other God as “Father”, then he was effectively lying at his own trial (misleading them into thinking that he was the son of their God) in order to get convicted of blasphemy, when it would have been much easier to blaspheme by denouncing Yahweh as a false God. This makes no sense at all. You have to start layering on the conspiracies for it to hold even the slightest bit of water.

    The whole thing is such a crock that I don’t want to waste any more time on it. It only reinforces my belief that you lean towards this theory because it validates your “two Gods” theory.

    Regarding the character of the NT God … would you agree with that assessment so far?

    There’s nothing conspicuously wrong with it, as far as it goes, except for the fact that a lot of those N.T. references are cases where Jesus was quoting (or citing) the O.T. approvingly, and that seems severely detrimental to your “two Gods” argument. But, for my part, I wasn’t really asking you to defend that argument: I just wanted to know what you thought the N.T. God was like.

    There might be additional questions on the subject later, but for now the most important question is simply to make sure I’ve understood your position thus far. Given the “NT God” you’ve just described, if you were convinced He exists, you would “repent of your sins and stop rebelling against God,” yes? And I suppose we can also take it as given that in order for you to be convinced, He would need to clear the bar of evidence you mentioned (“conceptually two different ways”).

  139. Andy says:

    What you should realise, however, is that there is a distinct difference between the sceptic who requires a “violation of the laws of nature” (an ostentatious display of godlike power) or statistical support for answered prayer correlating with profession of specific religious beliefs…

    A minor addition here. The prayer => healing thingy was just an example. The general principle would be that if the alleged divine action(s) corresponds to events that can happen spontaneously (i.e. are perfectly in line with what could happen naturally), then the conclusion that those events were indeed caused by divine action is *only* warranted if there is a statistically significant *pattern* that can be explained (maybe even predicted) by a specific theological belief system.

    …and the person who actually prays for healing from cancer and goes into “spontaneous” remission. That latter class of person runs the risk of being an offensive ingrate towards God if they fall back on the sceptic’s evidential demands after receiving an answer to prayer.

    I disagree. If you received gift x from y, but cannot possibly know that you did receive it from y because it is perfectly possible that you got x from someone else or just got it through sheer luck, then you cannot know which option it is because y never talked to you, so you also cannot possibly be “ungrateful” towards y if you don´t thank him.
    Specific example:
    You have a gambling addiction and after your last losing streak at the Roullete table, you have lost so much that you would have to sell your house. You go to some quiet corner in the Casino and whisper a prayer where you tell God that you will be betting everything you have left on the number 3, and if he would just let you win this one round so that your wife and kids don´t lose their home, you swear that you will never ever gamble again and will become the best husband and father you can be. And after that, you bet everything on three and actually win. How could that have happened?
    a) God listened to your prayer, knew that you are sincere about what you said and therefore gave you that chance and let you win.
    b) Unbeknownst to you, the Casino owner overheard your prayer and felt pity for you, so he told his employee to let you win this one round (similarly to how Rick let that one guy win in the movie Casablanca).
    c) It was just dumb luck.
    Would you be an “offensive ingrate” by not thanking the Casino owner in that situation? No, of course not – because you have no way to know that he indeed did let you win. And he apparently doesn´t want any thanks or something like that from you because else he would have *told you* that he did let you win. And it´s no different with God.

    I mean that you had already formulated your character judgement of Yahweh at the time you considered the plausibility of Marcion’s claims, and that the primary grounds for your preference of his claims over the orthodox ones was the coherence it offered with your character judgement, as opposed to any historical evidence.

    There is no historical evidence about Yahweh´s character, the parts of the OT that are historical say nothing about him.

    I’m afraid those figures don’t make a lot of sense to me if we’re talking about Marcion, since he wasn’t even born until around A.D. 110 [1], but it’s not the number of participants that really raises my eyebrows in any case: it’s the whole nature of the doctrine in question.

    The Jews were deadly serious about their monotheism [2]. If Jesus had taught some other God, he’d have been promoting flagrant blasphemy, and yet the Sanhedrin struggled to pin a charge of blasphemy on him.[3]

    1. Nope, around 85. And by the time he was an adult, the number of Christians was no bigger than ~1000 people.
    2. Yes. And Marcion´s view is closer to monotheism than orthodox Christianity is (because the former isn´t trinitarian). The “god” of the Hebrews in Marcion´s view is not very different from Satan in orthodox Christianity – note 2 Corinthians 4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”, the “god of this age” that Paul talked about here is Satan, but it´s clear that Satan, despite being very powerful, is not conceived here to be comparable to the one capital-G-God. And it was very similar with the god of the hebrews in Marcionism – he wasn´t conceived to be supreme, the *only* supreme being was the “Father” of Christ.
    3. And which eyewitness was there at the trial with Jesus to record that? (and remember, Marcion believed that the scriptures had been corrupted)

    Given the “NT God” you’ve just described, if you were convinced He exists, you would “repent of your sins and stop rebelling against God,” yes?

    See my earlier comment here:
    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/the-head-fake-2/#comment-11132

  140. TFBW says:

    Andy:

    I disagree.

    Suit yourself. I think your analogy is weak, and I’m mildly surprised that you’re going to such lengths to defend the position. I don’t want to belabour the point, though.

    There is no historical evidence about Yahweh´s character, the parts of the OT that are historical say nothing about him.

    So I guess I was right, then, for what that’s worth.

    Nope, around 85. And by the time he was an adult, the number of Christians was no bigger than ~1000 people.

    I’d ask for citations, and provide my own contrary ones, but I really don’t care.

    … and remember, Marcion believed that the scriptures had been corrupted …

    Of course he did, because they are thoroughly devastating to his case if they haven’t been. Like I said, you have to start piling on the conspiracies in order for the idea to hold any water. And, of course, he knew which parts were reliable and which parts were corrupt by how well they supported his theory — although he probably didn’t put it that way. It’s a familiar refrain.

    See my earlier comment here …

    In which you say that you’re not interested in mercy or salvation. Huh. Specifically, you said, “if you are begging for mercy, then I´d suspect that you are not truly repentant, because repentance involves acknowledging and facing the consequences of what you did, not begging to avoid them.”

    I find that perspective a little odd. Sure, if you are pleading that you don’t deserve the punishment, then you’re not repentant, but repentance and a desire for mercy aren’t incompatible. Rather, I see the alternative (i.e. stoically accepting the consequences) as indicative of pride. It’s how you behave if you want to maintain your dignity at all costs, because begging for mercy is anything but dignified.

    So, how determined are you to bear the costs of your own sins, exactly?

  141. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    I find that perspective a little odd. Sure, if you are pleading that you don’t deserve the punishment, then you’re not repentant, but repentance and a desire for mercy aren’t incompatible.

    I disagree. I think repentance and a desire for mercy are incompatible. As I said “repentance involves acknowledging and facing the consequences of what you did, not begging to avoid them” – if you do the latter, then I don´t see how you could simultaneously do the former because you are clearly desperate to NOT face the consequences of what you did.

    Rather, I see the alternative (i.e. stoically accepting the consequences) as indicative of pride.

    No, you keep your pride by refusing to admit that you did anything wrong, you have to swallow your pride to admit to yourself and to others that you indeed did something wrong, to ask for their forgiveness and to honestly face the consequences of what you did.

    So, how determined are you to bear the costs of your own sins, exactly?

    On a scale of 1 to 10. 10.

  142. John says:

    TFBW: ”Rather, I see the alternative (i.e. stoically accepting the consequences) as indicative of pride. It’s how you behave if you want to maintain your dignity at all costs, because begging for mercy is anything but dignified.”

    I can already imagine some skeptics posing questions such as: Do we have to lose all personal dignity in order to be saved?Can’t I preserve at least a little bit of it?Isn’t begging for mercy indicative of you being afraid of God and/or the consequences of sin,and thus you believing in God out of fear and/or self-interest?

  143. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    … if you do the latter, then I don´t see how you could simultaneously do the former because you are clearly desperate to NOT face the consequences of what you did.

    It comes down to being prepared to ask for something that you know you don’t deserve (and which you could quite reasonably be denied). You seem to think that the request is proof that the one asking has some sense of entitlement. It’s not necessarily so.

    … you keep your pride by refusing to admit that you did anything wrong …

    Sure, flat denial is another approach. That seems to have been the approach dognillo was favouring: God was held to blame under every possible permutation of ideas. But that’s not the only form of pride. Another form of pride is to refuse to beg, and refuse to accept charity.

    … to ask for their forgiveness and to honestly face the consequences of what you did.

    What do you think forgiveness is, exactly? If you want to face the consequences, you don’t need to be forgiven.

  144. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    It comes down to being prepared to ask for something that you know you don’t deserve (and which you could quite reasonably be denied). You seem to think that the request is proof that the one asking has some sense of entitlement. It’s not necessarily so.

    And how could it not be? Lets say your little son breaks a window of the elderly Lady next door. He says that he´s very sorry for what he did and wants to make up for it. So you tell him that he is forgiven but that he has to either pay for the damage with the money from his paper route or work it off by, say, mowing the Lady´s lawn, helping her shop groceries etc. And then he says “What?? Mercy please!! I was saving that money for a new bike!” Would you still believe that he´s truly repentant?

    Another form of pride is to refuse to beg

    If you could feed your starving family by begging for alms, but don´t do it because, to you, feeding your family isn´t worth losing your sense of dignity, then that would indeed be pride. If you don´t beg to avoid the consequences of your wrongdoings, that isn´t pride but rather being sincerely repentant instead of feigning repentance.

    What do you think forgiveness is, exactly? If you want to face the consequences, you don’t need to be forgiven.

    “Forgiveness”: “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.”
    – See my example above. That you accept the apology of your son and “forgive” him doesn´t magically erase the consequences of what he did – the two are completely different things.

  145. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Actually, “forgiveness” does “magically erase the consequences of what [one does]” — for the one experiencing forgiveness. That’s what forgiveness is.

  146. Andy says:

    Doug,

    Actually, “forgiveness” does “magically erase the consequences of what [one does]” — for the one experiencing forgiveness. That’s what forgiveness is.

    So if you text while driving, cause an accident and kill a father of two – and his wife and children accept your apology and forgive you, the consequences are magically erased and their husband / father is no longer gone? I´d disagree, forgiveness has nothing to do with the consequences of your actions, they exist either way. And, to stay in the previous example, if you are sincerely repentant for killing that man, you would realize that you obviously can´t replace him – but you´d still at least try to support his family materially, with as much as you can afford without hurting your own family, or wouldn´t you?

  147. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    Let me repeat: if you are forgiven, the consequences are erased for you. If you break my window and I forgive you, you never have to think about the window or the expense of its replacement. By forgiving you, I’m explicitly saying that I will cover it.
    The case of accidental death is a little trickier — but only because God is involved. Let’s agree on the easy cases first?

  148. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    Would you still believe that he´s truly repentant?

    I’m not sure that I care for the number and kind of facts dictated by your example, but yes, I don’t see that remark as cause to doubt the sincerity of his repentance. Rather, he’s just starting to realise the actual cost of his actions, and the sacrifices involved. Are you telling me that I should reject his earlier claim of repentance as clearly a lie given with the intention of avoiding consequences?

    If you could feed your starving family by begging for alms, but don´t do it because, to you, feeding your family isn´t worth losing your sense of dignity, then that would indeed be pride.

    What about starving yourself to death rather than accepting charity? The whole “starving your family” thing loads the example with excess emotional baggage.

    … a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense …

    Oh, you’re limiting “forgiveness” to a purely psychological thing, as in, “I hold no ill will towards you for wrecking my car, but I’m still going to sue you for damages, because it was your fault, and you’re making excuses as to why you can’t pay. It’s nothing personal — I forgive you — just don’t expect me to shoulder the costs.”

    Out of curiosity, when you say that you are ten-out-of-ten committed to bearing the costs of your own sins, what do you imagine those costs to be, roughly speaking?

  149. Andy says:

    Doug,

    Let me repeat: if you are forgiven, the consequences are erased for you. If you break my window and I forgive you, you never have to think about the window or the expense of its replacement. By forgiving you, I’m explicitly saying that I will cover it.

    No you are not. That´s not what the word “forgiveness” means.

    The case of accidental death is a little trickier — but only because God is involved. Let’s agree on the easy cases first?

    I have no idea why you think that this has anything to do with God but I don´t find it “trickier” at all – it´s the same principle, the act of forgiveness does not erase the consequences of your actions and doesn´t remove your moral obligation to face those consequences.

  150. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    Rather, he’s just starting to realise the actual cost of his actions, and the sacrifices involved. Are you telling me that I should reject his earlier claim of repentance as clearly a lie given with the intention of avoiding consequences?

    Absolutely, if he would be sincerely repentant, then he would not beg to avoid the consequences of his actions.

    What about starving yourself to death rather than accepting charity?

    Same thing.

    Oh, you’re limiting “forgiveness to a purely psychological thing….”

    No, not me. I just copied that definition (hence the quotes). And that is what “forgiveness” means in this context.

    , as in, “I hold no ill will towards you for wrecking my car, but I’m still going to sue you for damages, because it was your fault, and you’re making excuses as to why you can’t pay. It’s nothing personal — I forgive you — just don’t expect me to shoulder the costs.”

    ?? “because it was your fault” – well if it wasn´t my fault, then I don´t need to ask for forgiveness, and if my apology is accepted, that doesn´t magically turn it from “my fault” to “no longer my fault”. And wrecking a car is not really anything I´d ask forgiveness for anyway, wrecking a car and crippling or killing someone however very much would be. And for the latter, I would very much hope that my plea for forgiveness would eventually be accepted because it would lift at least part of the guilt I´d experience from me – that wouldn´t change anything whatsoever about the fact that the consequences of my actions remain, that I´m responsible for them and that I have a moral duty to ameliorate them to the best of my abilities.

    Out of curiosity, when you say that you are ten-out-of-ten committed to bearing the costs of your own sins, what do you imagine those costs to be, roughly speaking?

    I could tell you what the costs have been so far, but that´s not really any of your business – and how it´s going to be in the future is something I can´t possibly know without knowing what I´m going to do in the future.

  151. Andy says:

    Little clarification:

    And wrecking a car is not really anything I´d ask forgiveness for anyway…

    I would of course say that I´m sorry – but as long as I didn´t hurt, cripple or kill anyone here, this would be something where I very much could live with just paying for the damages without my apology being accepted, it´s just a car after all.

  152. Doug says:

    @Andy,

    That´s not what the word “forgiveness” means.

    On the contrary: that’s entirely congruent with what the word “forgiveness” means. Your reticence to consider such a definition suggests that you have been deprived of the (wonderful) experience of (actually) being forgiven. That’s sad.

  153. Andy says:

    Doug,
    you do realize that the definition you have in mind is limited towards money?
    From your link:
    “forgive”
    : to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone)
    : to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong)
    : to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)

    What you have in mind is not forgiveness but rather a refusal to own your actions – irresponsibility, that might feel liberating, but it´s morally quite problematic if you are unwilling to take responsibility for what you do.

  154. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    You quoted the “simple definition”, the first “full definition” says:

    a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for
    b : to grant relief from payment of

    (emphasis mine)
    You can pretend that “what I have in mind” is not “forgiveness”, but the definition is there for anyone to read for themselves! Besides: where did you acquire your ideas concerning what is “morally … problematic”? 🙂

  155. Andy says:

    Doug,

    You can pretend that “what I have in mind” is not “forgiveness”, but the definition is there for anyone to read for themselves!

    Indeed it is.

    Besides: where did you acquire your ideas concerning what is “morally … problematic”?

    The idea that it is morally quite problematic if people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions is based on the simple logic that this leads to no one taking responsibility for anything.

  156. Doug says:

    @Andy,
    You are partly correct; but there is a “taking responsibility” that is consistent with a “debt-cancelling” forgiveness:

    Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him [a truckload of gold]. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him [a few dollars], and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

  157. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    Absolutely, if he would be sincerely repentant, then he would not beg to avoid the consequences of his actions.

    Wow. Harsh. If anyone thought that legalism was the sole domain of theists, then take note.

    Same thing.

    Then we are agreed that refusing charity can be a matter of pride, even when the consequences are limited to oneself. This creates a tension between your determination to pay your dues in the name of sincere repentance, and the pride of doing so even if the consequences are death. Under your philosophy, it seems, there are cases where one is faced with the dilemma of being unrepentant (since begging pardon is tantamount to being unrepentant), or being prideful unto death.

    I just copied that definition (hence the quotes).

    What is the source? You probably copy-pasted Wikipedia, but it seems to be citing an American Psychological Association source: I can’t verify that due to broken link, but the second citation does not contain the quote, so it’s either the first source or the citations are totally bogus. This would therefore appear to be a “purely psychological” definition, as I said (unless it’s just totally bogus).

    And wrecking a car is not really anything I´d ask forgiveness for anyway, wrecking a car and crippling or killing someone however very much would be.

    I suppose you’re assuming that the car is within your financial capacity to replace — perhaps without rendering you destitute (there are some really expensive cars out there). This suggests that forgiveness is something you only care about selectively, perhaps based on whether or not you can “fully” address the damage — with “fully” in quotes, because you can never undo what happened, only make reparations for it. A car can be replaced (mostly — try replacing a limited edition luxury car); a life can’t.

    Of course, if I’ve understood you right, and the forgiveness aspect is something you desire when you can’t make full reparation, and yet forgiveness does not include a pardon for the balance of damages, then what’s the story with “balances owing”, as it were? In the final accounting, you could easily have an outstanding debt of sin that you are unable to address, and which no amount of psychological forgiveness will alter. What does this mean?

  158. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    Wow. Harsh. If anyone thought that legalism was the sole domain of theists, then take note.

    Legalism means to value the letter of the law higher than the spirit of the law, and therefore, I have no idea why you think that this has anything to do with legalism. An example of “legalism” would be if you go with your son to a Football game, buy him “Mike’s Hard Lemonade”, not knowing that it is an alcoholic beverage, and then getting the maximum punishment allowed for providing alcohol to minors and having your son placed in CPS custody, at least temporarily (such cases actually happened). That is “legalism” because the authorities here stubbornly followed the law to the letter despite this being a) completely unjust and b) making everything much worse (there was no or at best negligible harm done before applying the law, but there is very significant harm done as a consequence of applying the law – it didn´t make anything better but rather made everything worse). *That* is legalism.

    Then we are agreed that refusing charity can be a matter of pride…

    I didn´t talk about refusing charity. I talked about begging to avoid the consequences of your actions – completely different thing.

    This creates a tension between your determination to pay your dues in the name of sincere repentance, and the pride of doing so even if the consequences are death. Under your philosophy, it seems, there are cases where one is faced with the dilemma of being unrepentant (since begging pardon is tantamount to being unrepentant), or being prideful unto death.

    You keep using the word “pride” here, yet you consistently fail to show what any of this is supposed to have to do with pride. And I don´t see the alleged connection here between begging for alms when you are starving and begging to avoid the consequences of your actions – I don´t see any similarity between the two. If I put others in mortal danger through my actions, the only way to save them is one person sacrificing him- or herself, and I start begging “please, I know it was my fault that brought you into this mess, but still, I don´t want to die here, so can one of you please take one for the team? Pleeeeaaaase??”, how is that similar to begging for alms when you are starving, in your opinion?

    I suppose you’re assuming that the car is within your financial capacity to replace — perhaps without rendering you destitute (there are some really expensive cars out there). This suggests that forgiveness is something you only care about selectively, perhaps based on whether or not you can “fully” address the damage — with “fully” in quotes

    There are plenty of hypothetical cases where neither I nor anyone else could “fully” address the damage because doing so is not possible, not even in principle – for my earlier example of killing a father of two, I can´t “fully” address the damage. That you think that I therefore have no moral duty to do whatever I CAN to ameliorate the consequences of my actions is downright weird, and that you think that this means I care about forgiveness only selectively is just bizzare.

    Of course, if I’ve understood you right, and the forgiveness aspect is something you desire when you can’t make full reparation,

    No, you didn´t understand me at all. “Forgiveness” has *nothing* to do whatsoever with how much of the consequences of my actions I can (or cannot) ameliorate – I´d desire forgiveness either way, completely independent of whether I can ameliorate all, most, little, or none of the harm I caused. And I guess you didn´t understand it because “forgiveness” to you is synonymous to cancel a debt, for me it means that the people I wronged accept my apology, believe me that I´m being repentant about what I have done and no longer think ill of me for what I have done (and, yet again, this doesn´t magically mean that something I was responsible now magically is no longer something I am responsible for).

    In the final accounting, you could easily have an outstanding debt of sin that you are unable to address, and which no amount of psychological forgiveness will alter. What does this mean?

    This is completely unintelligible to me, I don´t know what a “final accounting” is supposed to be, I don´t see any of this as “debts” or “payments” because we are not talking about fungible things here, and I don´t think nor did I ever suggest that forgiveness changes anything about the consequences of your actions and your moral obligations that arise from them.

  159. Michael says:

    Andy:
    I think repentance and a desire for mercy are incompatible. As I said “repentance involves acknowledging and facing the consequences of what you did, not begging to avoid them” – if you do the latter, then I don´t see how you could simultaneously do the former because you are clearly desperate to NOT face the consequences of what you did.

    So what makes you think you can bear the consequences of your own sin? Is it because you are so strong, or because your sins are so little and so rare?

    I sense in your position a rejection the core Christian message – Jesus died for our sins. This becomes even more clear when TFBW asked you, ” how determined are you to bear the costs of your own sins, exactly?” You replied: “On a scale of 1 to 10. 10.”

    So you would reject the salvation offer that entailed Jesus bearing the costs of your sins?

  160. Michael says:

    Andy:
    I don´t know. Maybe because you ignore the “your people” qualification in Leviticus 19:18. What if it isn´t about one of “your people”? Is it then still all Golden Rule and turn the other cheek or maybe rather….
    This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.
    Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

    Actually, I don’t ignore it. What I see is the same radical idea with a qualification that cannot hold forever. That is, in Leviticus, the seed is planted. It germinates over time. In Christ, it blooms. Perhaps this is why Matthew put it this way: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

    Look, if you plant Luke 6:31 in a Mad Max world, you’ve condemned the recipients of the message to extermination. Better to plant the seed, prop it up with a qualification, then let the seed do its work incrementally across time. Of course, even today, with all our technology and progress, no nation lives by the Golden Rule. It’s quite fascinating, actually. We all have this inner sense of the Golden Rule being true, yet no one truly lives it and it clearly does not fit our reality.

  161. Michael says:

    Andy:

    Hmm… I´d be honestly interested to know why exactly you´d consider it laughable to call a being like Q “supreme”.

    He is part of a continuum and loses his powers in one episode. How could he be supreme when his powers come from someplace else? Also, he is constantly being outsmarted by Picard and the rest.

  162. Andy says:

    Michael,

    So what makes you think you can bear the consequences of your own sin? Is it because you are so strong, or because your sins are so little and so rare?

    Be a little more specific, what “sin” and what “consequence” would you have in mind for example?

    So you would reject the salvation offer that entailed Jesus bearing the costs of your sins?

    That is one of the aspects of Christianity that I find to be completely unintelligible. First of all, there is a difference between “costs” and “consequences” – I find the latter intelligible in the context of actions and moral obligations, the former however is gibberish to me in this context because we are not talking about money here. Second, what is “Jesus bearing the costs of your sins” even supposed to mean? How do you think could Jesus take over responsibility for what you did? (and if he does not or cannot, how can this even in principle be “just”?) And how exactly does Jesus deal with the consequences of your actions? To go back to a specific example – if I text while driving, cause an accident and kill a father of two, what does it mean for Jesus to “bear the cost of that”? What exactly do you think would Jesus do and how exactly does it ameliorate the consequences of what I did?

  163. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    Legalism means to value the letter of the law higher than the spirit of the law …

    That is one of its meanings, yes, but not the one I was using. I’m sure the sentence was understood by its intended audience, though, so I’m not going to argue semantics with you.

    You keep using the word “pride” here, yet you consistently fail to show what any of this is supposed to have to do with pride.

    There’s only so many train wrecks of miscommunication I can handle simultaneously, so I might have to let that one slide for the time being.

    That you think that I therefore have no moral duty to do whatever I CAN to ameliorate the consequences of my actions is downright weird …

    What on earth did I say which gave you that impression?

    “Forgiveness” has *nothing* to do whatsoever with how much of the consequences of my actions I can (or cannot) ameliorate – I´d desire forgiveness either way, completely independent of whether I can ameliorate all, most, little, or none of the harm I caused.

    In that case, can you explain what’s going on when you say, “wrecking a car is not really anything I´d ask forgiveness for anyway, wrecking a car and crippling or killing someone however very much would be.” I tried to read between the lines to determine what triggered the desire for forgiveness, but apparently I’m way off. You’ll have to spell it out for me.

    This is completely unintelligible to me, I don´t know what a “final accounting” is supposed to be, I don´t see any of this as “debts” or “payments” because we are not talking about fungible things here, and I don´t think nor did I ever suggest that forgiveness changes anything about the consequences of your actions and your moral obligations that arise from them.

    Well, you seem to recognise some sort of moral obligation arising in one person as a result of them doing “wrong” by another. It may not be exactly like a monetary debt, but I’d have thought it a useful analogy. If you have some radically different interpretation, then you’d better spell it out, because things like a “debt to society” being paid off by a prison term is common parlance.

    I understood quite clearly that “forgiveness” changes nothing in your model, but it leaves me wondering if any of this “moral obligation” or “forgiveness” stuff of which you are speaking has any substance outside of psychology. A common interpretation of Christian morality is that our sins are a kind of debt against God, but one which we lack the means to repay, and the just consequence of that delinquency is that we should die (the wages of sin is death). There is a “final accounting” in the sense that God takes into consideration all our acts: there are no loose ends, or issues left outstanding. Every detail matters and has consequences. Does your model of morality and forgiveness contain anything of such enduring substance, or is it all just states of mind which pass into oblivion with the death of the host?

  164. Michael says:

    Be a little more specific, what “sin” and what “consequence” would you have in mind for example?

    I don’t need to be specific. You are the one who insisted “”repentance and a desire for mercy are incompatible. As I said “repentance involves acknowledging and facing the consequences of what you did, not begging to avoid them”’. I’m just wondering how you can be so sure you are able to bear the consequences.

    That is one of the aspects of Christianity that I find to be completely unintelligible. First of all,

    I didn’t ask if you would find it intelligible. I asked if “you would reject the salvation offer that entailed Jesus bearing the costs of your sins?” It would seem clear the answer is yes as you told us you are determined as can be to bear the costs of your own sins.

  165. Andy says:

    Michael,

    Actually, I don’t ignore it. What I see is the same radical idea with a qualification that cannot hold forever.

    Be nice to people like you and be a dick to everyone else (or how else would you call, say, enslaving and keeping someone as property?) is not a radical idea – that is rather the exact same tribalism that every other civilization also practiced.

    Look, if you plant Luke 6:31 in a Mad Max world, you’ve condemned the recipients of the message to extermination.

    And how exactly was the 1st century Near East any less of a Mad Max world than the Near East before that? And how would Christianity not have been exterminated if they actually had systematically practiced the turn-the-other-cheek doctrine instead of occasionally going to war, plenty of times even aggressively so instead of defensively?

    Of course, even today, with all our technology and progress, no nation lives by the Golden Rule. It’s quite fascinating, actually. We all have this inner sense of the Golden Rule being true, yet no one truly lives it and it clearly does not fit our reality.

    Well, not everyone – sociopaths and psychopaths do exist after all. But yes, it is intuitively plausible for pretty much everyone, that´s why many civilizations came up with it long before Christianity arrived on the scence.

  166. Andy says:

    Michael,

    I don’t need to be specific. You are the one who insisted “”repentance and a desire for mercy are incompatible. As I said “repentance involves acknowledging and facing the consequences of what you did, not begging to avoid them”’. I’m just wondering how you can be so sure you are able to bear the consequences.

    So if you accidently killed someone, and find facing the consequences of what you did to be very hard to bear, you think that would make it right for you to beg “Please!! Let someone else deal with this – I can´t bear it anymore.”?

    I didn’t ask if you would find it intelligible. I asked if “you would reject the salvation offer that entailed Jesus bearing the costs of your sins?” It would seem clear the answer is yes as you told us you are determined as can be to bear the costs of your own sins.

    Nope, the answer is rather “I have no clue what that is even supposed to mean”.

  167. Michael says:

    So if you accidently killed someone, and find facing the consequences of what you did to be very hard to bear, you think that would make it right for you to beg “Please!! Let someone else deal with this – I can´t bear it anymore.”?

    Doesn’t help me. I’m still left wondering how you can be so sure you are able to bear the consequences of your sins.

    Nope, the answer is rather “I have no clue what that is even supposed to mean”.

    Hogwash. Now you are playing dumb. You were quite clear: “how determined are you to bear the costs of your own sins, exactly?” You replied: “On a scale of 1 to 10. 10.” Jesus bearing the costs of your sins would violate your own sense of morality. You have been making that clear for days. To the point where you are subtlely mocking Christians with “hypothetical” examples involving the guilty pleading, “Please!! Let someone else deal with this – I can´t bear it anymore.”

  168. Michael says:

    Andy:

    And what exactly is “hell”? How do you get there? What is it like to be there? Do you ever get “out”? If not, why don´t you get out? There are so many different Christian conceptions of what “hell” means – and I see no reason to settle for any specific one here.

    You don’t? You are the one who claimed, “As an atheist, I can only say that if there would be an accessible entity that is benevolent and has God-like powers and knowledge, then of course I would “follow” it – in the sense that I´d try to learn as much as possible from it and try to follow its advice to the best of my abilities.”

    But it turns out that this pledge came with some significant strings. That is, “it” has to first pass your tests. You agreed with Richard Dawkins in that you would not follow the OT God. You then assure us that it would be different with the NT God. I find this odd, as you seemed very bitter and angry about the temporal suffering of Job, yet come across rather unconcerned about the eternal suffering of the myriads who will go to hell.

    Now, it would seem to me that you need to answer your own questions to determine whether or not you would truly follow the NT God. You’ve already partially answered your second question – You would not a follow a God who sends people to hell “for having incorrect philosophical beliefs.” That, of course, could mean many things. And then we’re left wondering if it’s okay for God to send someone to hell for anything other than having incorrect philosophical beliefs.

    Look, apparently you have four tests for this NT God when it comes to the question of hell alone. If you are pledging to follow a God who does send people to hell, but only under certain conditions, don’t you think you should spell out those conditions and tell us what answers to your four questions would cause you to withdraw your pledge?

  169. Andy says:

    Michael,

    Hogwash. Now you are playing dumb. You were quite clear: “how determined are you to bear the costs of your own sins, exactly?” You replied: “On a scale of 1 to 10. 10.” Jesus bearing the costs of your sins would violate your own sense of morality.

    I know what it means to me to deal with the consequences of wrong things I did, I also have an idea how, say, you could deal with those consequences in my stead, I have no idea what-so-ever though how “Jesus” could deal with them because even if he exists, he doesn´t seem to be around to do anything at all. Explain to me exactly what Jesus would do in order to “bear the costs of my sins”, if you cannot, then this is just gibberish to me.

  170. Andy says:

    Michael,

    You don’t? You are the one who claimed, “As an atheist, I can only say that if there would be an accessible entity that is benevolent and has God-like powers and knowledge, then of course I would “follow” it – in the sense that I´d try to learn as much as possible from it and try to follow its advice to the best of my abilities.”

    But it turns out that this pledge came with some significant strings. That is, “it” has to first pass your tests. You agreed with Richard Dawkins in that you would not follow the OT God. You then assure us that it would be different with the NT God. I find this odd, as you seemed very bitter and angry about the temporal suffering of Job, yet come across rather unconcerned about the eternal suffering of the myriads who will go to hell.

    Still not seeing any reason to suppose that you got it right wrt hell while everyone who has a different opinion about it is wrong.

    Now, it would seem to me that you need to answer your own questions to determine whether or not you would truly follow the NT God. You’ve already partially answered your second question – You would not a follow a God who sends people to hell “for having incorrect philosophical beliefs.” That, of course, could mean many things. And then we’re left wondering if it’s okay for God to send someone to hell for anything other than having incorrect philosophical beliefs.

    Look, apparently you have four tests for this NT God when it comes to the question of hell alone.

    Really? Which four would that have been so far?
    Also, btw, if God would condemn everyone to eternal torture who has a low IQ, is shorter than 1.60m, is left-handed, or has red hair, would you worship him? If not – so much for your “tests”. If yes, what is wrong with you?

    If you are pledging to follow a God who does send people to hell, but only under certain conditions, don’t you think you should spell out those conditions and tell us what answers to your four questions would cause you to withdraw your pledge?

    Still not sure what those four questions are, but regarding whether I should spell out the answers for them – do you think you should have given your answer about my “low IQ, is shorter than 1.60m, is left-handed, or has red hair” question above before I asked you? If not, why?

  171. Michael says:

    I know what it means to me to deal with the consequences of wrong things I did, I also have an idea how, say, you could deal with those consequences in my stead, I have no idea what-so-ever though how “Jesus” could deal with them because even if he exists, he doesn´t seem to be around to do anything at all. Explain to me exactly what Jesus would do in order to “bear the costs of my sins”, if you cannot, then this is just gibberish to me.

    Still dodging the question. You were clear. When asked, “how determined are you to bear the costs of your own sins, exactly?” you replied: “On a scale of 1 to 10. 10.”

    10.

    Ten.

    No need to make this needlessly complex (unless you are trying that obfuscate, that is). You insist that YOU are supposed to bear the consequences of your sins. Jesus is not you. Thus, your own moral posture entails that you reject any salvation offer that centers around someone else (Jesus) bearing the costs of your sins.

  172. Michael says:

    Really? Which four would that have been so far?
    According to you:

    1. And what exactly is “hell”?
    2. How do you get there?
    3. What is it like to be there?
    4. Do you ever get “out”? If not, why don´t you get out?

    Before you decide whether you will repent and follow the NT “it”, aren’t you demanding answers to these questions?

  173. Michael says:

    Andy,

    I don’t have as much free time as you do to comment, so let me just summarize my perceptions for you and others.

    As far as I am concerned, my analysis in the blog entry is spot on accurate. I see nothing to indicate I am wrong.

    But you did drop by to offer yourself up as an outlier:

    “As an atheist, I can only say that if there would be an accessible entity that is benevolent and has God-like powers and knowledge, then of course I would “follow” it – in the sense that I´d try to learn as much as possible from it and try to follow its advice to the best of my abilities.”

    Now, there is no evidence to back up your claim. And despite the way that atheists bash faith, I was willing to accept your claim on faith. But something didn’t smell right. It wasn’t important to you whether or not the being you pledged to follow was God or an alien. Of course, that makes sense if you are coming to this issue with a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. So sure, if this entity can become your accessible source of knowledge and wisdom so you can become a “better person,” then yeah, it would be “rational” to tap into it. Self still sits on the throne.

    So I asked if the pledge to repent and follow would still apply if the God of the Bible was the One who existed. It turned out that you would withdraw the pledge if the God of the OT existed because of the way Job was treated. But then you said it would be different if it was the God of the NT.

    But this didn’t make sense, as teachings about hell are from the NT. You seemed very bitter and angry about the temporal suffering of Job, yet come across rather unconcerned about the eternal suffering of the myriads who will go to hell. You were clear and unequivocal about the OT God, but when it comes to the NT God and hell, you come across as someone trying to deflect the issue with a series of questions and challenges. It’s as if you want to say, “No, I would not follow a God who sends people to hell” but don’t want to admit it because then it becomes clear you would not repent and follow the God of the Bible.

    What then nails it is when you begin to moralize about repentance and mercy, insisting they are incompatible. This, of course, stabs directly at the heart of Christianity (and I’m pretty sure you know this; it’s the very reason you raise and defend it so hard). So after insisting that you are 100% committed to paying for your own sins, I ask if this means you would reject divine salvation if it entails someone else (Jesus) paying for your sins. The answer is obvious and follows from the logic of your moral posturing – Yes. But you won’t say it and instead act as if you, the guy you quotes scripture and debates about Marcion, have no idea what this means.

    Look, I don’t care what you believe. That’s up to you. It’s your life, your choices. I’m just focused on the points I raised in my blog entry and your insistence that you are an outlier. It turns out that if the God of the Bible did exist, and even made himself known to you, you would reject him. For what He did to Job; for sending people to Hell, and for daring to violate your own moral beliefs about paying for your sins, putting you in the position where all you can do is plead for mercy. That, at least, is what the evidence is telling me. And it’s not a reach, as stcordova showed.

  174. Andy says:

    Michael,

    According to you:

    1. And what exactly is “hell”?
    2. How do you get there?
    3. What is it like to be there?
    4. Do you ever get “out”? If not, why don´t you get out?

    Before you decide whether you will repent and follow the NT “it”, aren’t you demanding answers to these questions?

    I do “repent” either way – whether there is a God or not has no effect on that whatsoever. And I already pointed out to you that these kind of “tests” as you call them is something that you would do as well – if you would find out that God creates left-handed people just to eternally torture them for fun, you would no longer believe that he is supremely good and you would no longer worship him, or would you?

  175. Andy says:

    Michael,
    regarding your last long comment – you are being incredibly uncharitable and, contrary to your claim that you would be willing to accept my statement “on faith”, you rather desperately search for something, anything, to say “AHA! I knew it! You´d reject God either way!”. And it is pointless for me to continue engaging with it because you stubbornly ignore what I say but rather repeat the same point over and over and over and over and over again.
    It´s like this:
    Michael: “I’m not clear about your response. Almost every atheist I have encountered argues that Hell is intrinsically immoral. In fact, Dawkins argues that teaching children about hell is child abuse (and child abuse is illegal). Are you saying you don’t agree with any of this?”
    Andy: “There are so many different Christian conceptions of what “hell” means – and I see no reason to settle for any specific one here. And I don´t find all possibilities intrinsically immoral – if I take CS Lewis’ “Hell is locked from the inside” view for example, I would have some quarrels with that (mostly in the sense that it seems psychologically very implausible), but I wouldn´t call it intrinsically immoral.”
    Michael: “But so many suffering… And Dawkins… You must find it immoral!!” [paraphrased]
    Andy: “See earlier answer”
    And on and on it goes ad nauseam.

    You can keep your precious prejudices as far as I am concerned, but don´t pretend that you are actually *listening* to what people with different beliefs than your own have to say or to understand anything about what they believe.

  176. Andy says:

    @TFBW,

    That is one of its meanings, yes, but not the one I was using. I’m sure the sentence was understood by its intended audience, though, so I’m not going to argue semantics with you.

    I have no idea what alleged meaning of legalism you have in mind. Could you please spell it out?

    There’s only so many train wrecks of miscommunication I can handle simultaneously, so I might have to let that one slide for the time being.

    That you think that I therefore have no moral duty to do whatever I CAN to ameliorate the consequences of my actions is downright weird …

    What on earth did I say which gave you that impression?

    That you, unlike me, believe that “forgiveness” for something is like cancelling a debt, as evident in quotes like:
    “Of course, if I’ve understood you right, and the forgiveness aspect is something you desire when you can’t make full reparation, and yet forgiveness does not include a pardon for the balance of damages, then what’s the story with “balances owing”, as it were?”
    or:
    “Oh, you’re limiting “forgiveness” to a purely psychological thing, as in, “I hold no ill will towards you for wrecking my car, but I’m still going to sue you for damages, because it was your fault, and you’re making excuses as to why you can’t pay. It’s nothing personal — I forgive you — just don’t expect me to shoulder the costs.””

    In that case, can you explain what’s going on when you say, “wrecking a car is not really anything I´d ask forgiveness for anyway, wrecking a car and crippling or killing someone however very much would be.” I tried to read between the lines to determine what triggered the desire for forgiveness, but apparently I’m way off. You’ll have to spell it out for me.

    I anticipated that misunderstanding and that´s why I immediately posted this little clarification afterwards:
    ” “And wrecking a car is not really anything I´d ask forgiveness for anyway…”
    – I would of course say that I´m sorry – but as long as I didn´t hurt, cripple or kill anyone here, this would be something where I very much could live with just paying for the damages without my apology being accepted, it´s just a car after all.”

    Well, you seem to recognise some sort of moral obligation arising in one person as a result of them doing “wrong” by another. It may not be exactly like a monetary debt, but I’d have thought it a useful analogy. If you have some radically different interpretation, then you’d better spell it out, because things like a “debt to society” being paid off by a prison term is common parlance.

    And that analogy stops working as soon as you treat those things literally like money – like something that is fungible, it isn´t. It´s not like me owing someone 100$ where you could step in to give said someone 100$ in my stead to annul the debt. “Moral debts” are not transferable, *unlike* monetary debts, you can´t pass your “moral debts” on to your wife, or kids, or friends or whatever. And a “moral debt” cannot be annulled in the same way as a monetary debt can, if you owe me 100$ and give me 100$, the debt is *gone*. But if you, say, lie to your wife, thus betray her trust and hurt her feelings, then you cannot “unlie” this act, the damage is done. You have a moral obligation to ameliorate the damage you have done, to apologize and try to regain your wife´s trust, but if you do, it still doesn´t magically change history and “annuls” the harm you have caused. And the “debt to society” that a prisoner pays is also not like paying back owed money, the prison sentence doesn´t change the harm that the prisoner has caused, if he is in prison because he killed someone for example, that someone will still be just as dead after the prison sentence is over as he was before.
    IMO, you are taking the analogy of a “debt” way too far.

    I understood quite clearly that “forgiveness” changes nothing in your model, but it leaves me wondering if any of this “moral obligation” or “forgiveness” stuff of which you are speaking has any substance outside of psychology. A common interpretation of Christian morality is that our sins are a kind of debt against God, but one which we lack the means to repay, and the just consequence of that delinquency is that we should die (the wages of sin is death). There is a “final accounting” in the sense that God takes into consideration all our acts: there are no loose ends, or issues left outstanding. Every detail matters and has consequences. Does your model of morality and forgiveness contain anything of such enduring substance, or is it all just states of mind which pass into oblivion with the death of the host?

    Lets take a specific example again. Lets say that I go to the store next door and steal a six-pack. Now, we´ll consider those three possibilities:
    1. After leaving the store, I get hit by a car and die.
    2. After leaving the store, I realize that stealing was wrong and accept Jesus’ offer to “pay for my sins”, and then I get hit by a car and die.
    3. After leaving the store, I realize that stealing was wrong, go back inside the store to apologize to the owner, give him 50$ for his troubles, and tell him that I won´t ever come back to his store unless he can find it in his heart to forgive me (which is his prerogative, not something I can demand), and then I turn myself in to the police and do some hours of community service as punishment.

    What you say here sounds like #1 and #2 would be “paying for the debt I owe”, but #3 would not. And that makes no sense to me whatsoever on multiple levels. Most importantly because the damage I´ve done is *not addressed at all* in #1 and #2 – it changes literally *nothing* about the damage that has been done. In other words, there absolutely are “outstanding issues”, my death neither reimburses the store owner nor does my death constitute a sincere apology to him. So I would disagree with you, I don´t think that your model addresses the consequences and I very much do think that it leaves open plenty of loose ends. And I would further disagree with you about the “every detail matters” because it seems as if I could substitute literally ANY sin in the scenario above – everything from taking something from the cookie jar without asking to ordering a slow and cruel death of six million Jews – and the “cost” would always be the same, either I die or ask Jesus to somehow “pay for it” (how exactly Jesus plans to “pay for it” is also not clear to me), so the “details” seem to be 100% irrelevant because the “cost” and hypothetical means of “paying” for this “cost” are invariable, they are always under all circumstances exactly the same.

  177. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    I have no idea what alleged meaning of legalism you have in mind. Could you please spell it out?

    See here, definition 2b. It stands in contrast with “grace”.

    That you, unlike me, believe that “forgiveness” for something is like cancelling a debt …

    Oh, I see: you think that because there’s no moral debt, there’s no reason to do anything at all. Is that how you think in cases where there is no moral debt: “I owe you nothing, therefore I will give you nothing?” Or are you just expecting me and my ilk to be that selfish?

    “Moral debts” are not transferable, *unlike* monetary debts, you can´t pass your “moral debts” on to your wife, or kids, or friends or whatever.

    In some cases they are transferable, or at least they are recognised as such by certain cultures. One party can be under the protection of another, and you have to take up the issue with the guardian. If you want to assert the absolute non-transferability of moral debts, then go right ahead, but please explain the grounds of the assertion, and how you know it to be a fundamental law of morality, as it were. I don’t often get to see such moral realism argued from the atheistic position.

    But if you, say, lie to your wife, thus betray her trust and hurt her feelings, then you cannot “unlie” this act, the damage is done. You have a moral obligation to ameliorate the damage you have done, to apologize and try to regain your wife´s trust, but if you do, it still doesn´t magically change history and “annuls” the harm you have caused.

    That is a very interesting observation about the nature of moral debts. On the one hand, the debt can’t be repaid, but on the other hand, it seems that we are compelled to try to make amends for the act through good works, even though any attempt to do so is futile by definition. A manipulative person can use this to their advantage: if you sin against them, they will use that moral debt as leverage against you, using guilt to goad you into serving them, but it’s emotional blackmail with no escape precisely because no amount of servitude repays the debt.

    What does seem to satisfy the debt is punishment. Make no mistake: this does not undo the effects of the sin either, but it does address the debt. This is why a prison sentence is described as “paying a debt to society”: the transgressor has received punishment which is deemed commensurate with the crime, and justice is served — in principle, at least. It’s also why concepts of justice are so connected to revenge and payback. In those cases where one person has a right (or obligation) to stand in place of another to receive punishment, the proxy punishment settles the debt.

    IMO, you are taking the analogy of a “debt” way too far.

    I never pushed it as far as you suggest, but I’m glad we had this discussion to illuminate the differences. Every analogy can only be pushed so far — that’s a fundamental property of analogies.

    What you say here sounds like #1 and #2 would be “paying for the debt I owe”, but #3 would not.

    I’m not quite sure how you interpreted what I said that way, but I hope by now you realise that’s not the case.

    To be explicit, #1 is a case where there is an outstanding debt: the matter was not resolved before you died. In the absence of a God who can address such outstanding moral debts post mortem, you effectively “got away with it” (for what it’s worth, given your immediate demise), and the illusion that morality has any ultimate significance dissolves like the last puff of smoke from an extinguished candle as you cease to be. In the presence of a God who can address such outstanding moral debts post mortem, the shopkeeper will have his day in court (so to speak) come Judgement Day, and you’ll be there, your demise notwithstanding.

    In situation #2, let us assume that God exists (or else it’s the same as #1 without God, with the addition of some meaningless, ineffectual utterance). The shopkeeper still has an outstanding sin-claim against you, and is entitled to his day in court come Judgement Day. He can either demand retribution, or waive it (“forgive”). In the former case, however, Jesus will be within his rights to stand in as a proxy for the punishment owed to you. Justice will be served one way or another. (This my summary of the situation as I grasp it, presently, not a definitive statement of Christian doctrine.)

    Situation #3 serves as a good illustration of my distinction between trying to make amends, and receiving punishment. While trying to make amends is a good thing, and one ought to do it for that reason alone, it doesn’t ever seem to be sufficient in and of itself to address the moral debt. In this scenario, there are three distinct actions you take which differ from the previous two scenarios: you (a) make reparations, (b) admit guilt and express remorse, and (c) hand yourself over for punishment. The reparations and remorse are insufficient on their own: punishment is what seals the deal. In the case of an unrepentant criminal, the punishment is likely to include reparation in full (for such a petty crime), but it’s the punishment which settles the score, and while the shopkeeper may ban that person for life from his shop, he has no further claim once punishment is dealt.

    So, for situation #3, it’s possible that (repentant or not), the moral debt is already paid by punishment in this life. Personally, I’m not sure that God will settle for the kind of imperfect justice delivered in this world: I suspect he will deal with the outstanding difference Himself. That being so, this scenario isn’t all that different from the others. Possibly, however, the shopkeeper has no sin-claim in this case (it’s already settled).

    But here’s a question for you: suppose you find yourself enacting scenario #3, and at the point where you’re about to go hand yourself in to the police for your crimes, the shopkeeper says, “look, I appreciate your willingness to confess, and I’ve decided to forgive you this time, so don’t worry about the police — I’m not going to press charges.” Do you accept this, or do you insist that you must go and hand yourself in because those are the consequences due to you?

  178. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    See here, definition 2b. It stands in contrast with “grace”.

    And that has nothing to do with what I talked about.

    Oh, I see: you think that because there’s no moral debt, there’s no reason to do anything at all. Is that how you think in cases where there is no moral debt: “I owe you nothing, therefore I will give you nothing?” Or are you just expecting me and my ilk to be that selfish?

    I don´t see how that follows from anything I said or addresses anything I said.

    In some cases they are transferable, or at least they are recognised as such by certain cultures. One party can be under the protection of another, and you have to take up the issue with the guardian.

    There is no “transfer” in that case. When your six-year old plays with matches and burns down the neighbor´s house, then you might be prosecuted for negligence but not for arson (i.e. you are *not* treated as if you had done what your son did).

    If you want to assert the absolute non-transferability of moral debts, then go right ahead, but please explain the grounds of the assertion, and how you know it to be a fundamental law of morality, as it were. I don’t often get to see such moral realism argued from the atheistic position.

    It seems to me that people universally agree on holding person x accountable for event y if x´s actions are a proximate cause of y. I´m not asserting that this is a necessary truth, but if you want to say that you are aware of exceptions to it – then explain how exactly the alleged “transfer” is supposed to work.

    That is a very interesting observation about the nature of moral debts. On the one hand, the debt can’t be repaid, but on the other hand, it seems that we are compelled to try to make amends for the act through good works, even though any attempt to do so is futile by definition. A manipulative person can use this to their advantage: if you sin against them, they will use that moral debt as leverage against you, using guilt to goad you into serving them, but it’s emotional blackmail with no escape precisely because no amount of servitude repays the debt.

    What does seem to satisfy the debt is punishment. Make no mistake: this does not undo the effects of the sin either, but it does address the debt. This is why a prison sentence is described as “paying a debt to society”: the transgressor has received punishment which is deemed commensurate with the crime, and justice is served — in principle, at least. It’s also why concepts of justice are so connected to revenge and payback. In those cases where one person has a right (or obligation) to stand in place of another to receive punishment, the proxy punishment settles the debt.

    Many would say that this is a shallow and counterproductive view of “punishment”. Look up the differences between “retributive justice” and “restorative justice” and note that western societies increasingly strive to promote the latter, not the former. *Mere* punishment accomplishes nothing other than pleasing an urge for revenge – it promotes vindictiveness (and it doesn´t sound as if Jesus was a fan of that).

    To be explicit, #1 is a case where there is an outstanding debt: the matter was not resolved before you died. In the absence of a God who can address such outstanding moral debts post mortem, you effectively “got away with it” (for what it’s worth, given your immediate demise)

    Then what exactly is “the wages of sin is death” supposed to mean? It is definitely not phrased very accurately because “death” apparently cannot pay for “sin” after all.

    In situation #2, let us assume that God exists (or else it’s the same as #1 without God, with the addition of some meaningless, ineffectual utterance). The shopkeeper still has an outstanding sin-claim against you, and is entitled to his day in court come Judgement Day. He can either demand retribution, or waive it (“forgive”). In the former case, however, Jesus will be within his rights to stand in as a proxy for the punishment owed to you. Justice will be served one way or another.
    What does it mean to “stand in as a proxy for the punishment owed to someone else”, can you give a specific example out of human history where such a thing has happened?

    But here’s a question for you: suppose you find yourself enacting scenario #3, and at the point where you’re about to go hand yourself in to the police for your crimes, the shopkeeper says, “look, I appreciate your willingness to confess, and I’ve decided to forgive you this time, so don’t worry about the police — I’m not going to press charges.” Do you accept this, or do you insist that you must go and hand yourself in because those are the consequences due to you?

    That depends. In this context (not just this specific scenario here, but rather moral issues in general), I see only value in an improvement of character through sincere repentance, in reconciliation through forgiveness, and in amelioration of harm. I see punishment only as valuable indirectly, if it can serve to advance the previously mentioned issues, I see no value whatsoever in punishment for punishment´s sake (and that would be “legalism” btw).

  179. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    I don´t see how that follows from anything I said or addresses anything I said.

    Nor do I see how you managed to reach your conclusion from what I said, unless by tacit application of a rule like, “no debt means no action.”

    There is no “transfer” in that case. When your six-year old plays with matches and burns down the neighbor´s house, then you might be prosecuted for negligence but not for arson (i.e. you are *not* treated as if you had done what your son did).

    That is an adequate example. While you are technically correct that there is no “transfer” in this case, it still serves as an example of one person justly receiving punishment for another’s actions. I don’t require that the charge and/or punishment be identical, only that the primary actor be shielded from punishment by another. If you have a theory as to why such redirection of guilt is not possible in the case of Jesus, then by all means, show us your proof. Clearly you have a strong dislike for the idea, but that’s a long way from proving anything.

    It seems to me that people universally agree on holding person x accountable for event y if x´s actions are a proximate cause of y.

    Aside from the counter-example you’ve already given (and others of its sort), I believe the legal concept you are looking for is “vicarious liability”.

    Look up the differences between “retributive justice” and “restorative justice” and note that western societies increasingly strive to promote the latter, not the former. *Mere* punishment accomplishes nothing other than pleasing an urge for revenge – it promotes vindictiveness (and it doesn´t sound as if Jesus was a fan of that).

    Jesus was a fan of forgiveness — the kind that waives one’s claim to retribution and/or restoration, and to which you seem adamantly opposed. I don’t have a problem with “restorative” justice: the requirement that the offender undo some of the damage caused by his actions is a sensible form of punishment where viable, and the OT law contains elements of that. The fact that the burden of restoration is imposed as a form of punishment remains key, however. I have a problem with theories of justice which reduce offenders to broken machines.

    Then what exactly is “the wages of sin is death” supposed to mean? It is definitely not phrased very accurately because “death” apparently cannot pay for “sin” after all.

    Your death in that example was not a punishment: you just got hit by a car at random. That might be “karma” in the view of some, but it’s an irrelevant detail as far as I’m concerned.

    I see punishment only as valuable indirectly, if it can serve to advance the previously mentioned issues, I see no value whatsoever in punishment for punishment´s sake (and that would be “legalism” btw).

    This seems a little different from your earlier stance on your determination to bear the costs of your own sins, or at least it puts a different slant on it. Punishment is never for the sake of punishment: it is for the sake of justice. While I agree that punishment which has the side-effect of restoration is greatly preferable to punishment which merely hurts the offender, you seem to have discounted punishment itself into near irrelevance, putting the emphasis back on good works (which can never settle the moral debt).

    Do you fundamentally disagree with me when I say that it is the punishment aspect which settles the moral debt? You’ve expressed some objections to it, but you haven’t made a clear commitment one way or another.

  180. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    That is an adequate example. While you are technically correct that there is no “transfer” in this case, it still serves as an example of one person justly receiving punishment for another’s actions.

    Nope, you had a duty of supervision and you are punished for breaching that duty. Again, that´s why you would be punished for negligence and not for arson.

    I don’t require that the charge and/or punishment be identical, only that the primary actor be shielded from punishment by another.

    That´s also not what is happening. What would be “shielding” your six-year old from punishment would be his *age*, not his parents (if you and your wife would have died in the fire, then your six-year old still wouldn´t be punished for arson).

    If you have a theory as to why such redirection of guilt is not possible in the case of Jesus, then by all means, show us your proof.

    My case is very simple:
    – Jesus` actions do not constitute a proximate cause for my “sins”. Ergo, if Jesus is punished for them, we are abandoning the principle of proximate causes leading to accountability – and that is the same as moral anarchy where anyone could be “justly” punished for anything (example: I steal something and decide that Napoleon was bearing the punishment for that when he was exiled to Elba because why not? Napoleon didn´t have anything to do with my crime but we´ve just established that this is irrelevant for whether he can bear the punishment for that or not)
    – You can neither think of any single example in human history where such a “transfer” has ever been done, nor can you think of a mechanism for how it could be done in a non-arbitrary way (i.e. without macking a complete travesty of the concept of “justice”).

    Aside from the counter-example you’ve already given (and others of its sort), I believe the legal concept you are looking for is “vicarious liability”.

    Let me first quote this from the conclusions of that article:
    “As a general rule, the criminal law does not employ vicarious liability. Such liability would often run afoul of basic precepts that require an actus reus and fault for criminal responsibility. Although vicarious liability is employed in limited circumstances, its wisdom and constitutionality are open to question when its use creates too extreme an affront to these principles.”
    And second, all examples within that context similarly do not constitute a “transfer”, because they never involve x being treated as if he had committed y´s actions (they rather, for example, punish x for breaching duties of supervision for y or something similar) and they never involve x being “shielded” from punishment by y. So you are still lacking even just a single concrete example where something like what Jesus allegedly can do for your sins has been done in human history.

    Your death in that example was not a punishment: you just got hit by a car at random. That might be “karma” in the view of some, but it’s an irrelevant detail as far as I’m concerned.

    So, if I went back in the store, tell the owner that I just stole something from him and will now kill myself to pay for that sin, and then slit my throat – would that be a universal way to pay for any sin in your view, in the sense that I can annul any sin by acknowledging it, offering my death as payment, and then killing myself? If not, what the “wages of sin is death” means to you is still unclear to me.

    This seems a little different from your earlier stance on your determination to bear the costs of your own sins, or at least it puts a different slant on it.

    Why?

    Punishment is never for the sake of punishment: it is for the sake of justice.

    Only if it is delivered by a just Judge operating under just rules – the US criminal justice system for example delivers punishment for punishment´s sake quite frequently.

    While I agree that punishment which has the side-effect of restoration is greatly preferable to punishment which merely hurts the offender, you seem to have discounted punishment itself into near irrelevance, putting the emphasis back on good works (which can never settle the moral debt).

    1. As I said, punishment *in itself* has no value at all from my vantage point, it is only valuable in an *instrumental* manner, insofar as it can promote the issues I mentioned.
    2. The “moral debt” very often can´t be settled, period. When I text while driving and kill a father of two, then neither repentance, reconciliation and working to ameliorate the damage I´ve caused (for example by financially supporting his family and trying to create more public awareness of how dangerous texting while driving is) nor me being executed for my crime will “settle the debt”. Because, again, it is not *literally* a debt that could be “settled”. But the former would be a form of justice that helps people and makes the world a better place while the latter would be a form of justice that doesn´t accomplish anything beyond satisfying abstract principles that are completely detached from actual human wellbeing.

    Do you fundamentally disagree with me when I say that it is the punishment aspect which settles the moral debt?

    I fundamentally disagree with you about moral debts being *literally* debts that could be “settled”, see above. And even if I´d agree for the sake of the argument that they could be “settled”, I´d disagree that they could be settled through punishment because while a transfer of money can balance an unbalanced account, no punishment will unlie a lie or unkill a corpse.

  181. Andy says:

    @TFBW

    One other thing:
    The biblical “eye for an eye” is widely understood as a restriction – in the sense that punishment should be symmetrical and not exceed the crimes that have been committed. Quote from Wiki:
    “In the Code of Hammurabi and Hebrew Law, the “eye for eye” was to restrict compensation to the value of the loss. Thus, it might be better read ‘only one eye for one eye’.[2] The biblical phrase “an eye for an eye” in Exodus and Leviticus (עין תחת עין, ayin tachat ayin) literally means ‘an eye in place of an eye’ while a slightly different phrase (עַיִן בְּעַיִן שֵׁן בְּשֵׁן, literally “eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth”) is used another passage (in Deuteronomy) of the Hebrew Bible, specifically, in the first of its three subdivisions, the Torah.[8][9][10] For example, a passage in Leviticus states, “And a man who injures his countryman — as he has done, so it shall be done to him [namely,] fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Just as he has injured a person, so it shall be done to him.” (Lev. 24:19–21)[8]”
    So, if I´d agree for the sake of the argument that moral “debts” can be “settled” through punishment and further agree that justice always demands full symmetrical punishment, even if that would vastly exceed what would be necessary for the offender to “learn his lesson” and repent, that still leaves me wondering why you would say that one has to “beg for mercy” here. It is for any sufficiently complex sin / crime not possible to deliver perfectly symmetrical punishment for human judges, but an omnipotent God should easily be able to deliver just that. So your “just punishment” would be to experience *exactly* the consequences of the sins / crimes that you committed – so for a murder, you´d not just spend a life sentence in confinement, but rather experience *all* the anger, loss, despair etc. of *everyone* close to the person you killed (which could take centuries or even much longer for just a single crime). If that is your just fate, would you beg to avoid it and for someone else to experience it in your stead? If so, why would you? I see how that could be quite unpleasant, to put it at its mildest – but wouldn´t you agree that it is still only just if YOU suffered those consequences instead of someone else in your stead?

  182. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    … we are abandoning the principle of proximate causes leading to accountability – and that is the same as moral anarchy where anyone could be “justly” punished for anything …

    Not so. The principle of proximate causes leading to accountability remains. Where we differ is on the question as to whether there is any principle whereby justice can be served while transferring the consequences from the accountable party. However, our disagreement is becoming increasingly confused, partly because you are arguing from two incompatible positions.

    Sometimes you take the posture of a moral realist, speaking as though there really is such a thing as justice, and that there can be such a thing as “a just Judge operating under just rules,” but often you take the posture of a utilitarian, speaking as though justice lacks value unless it “helps people and makes the world a better place.” On the one hand you speak of “moral obligations”, but on the other, you denigrate the idea of “satisfying abstract principles that are completely detached from actual human wellbeing.”

    It’s like seeing double.

    You can neither think of any single example in human history where such a “transfer” has ever been done …

    Okay, I’ll grant you that. My knowledge of history is weak, my knowledge of the history of law in particular is even weaker, my Google-fu isn’t up to snuff to compensate for that (either to confirm or refute the theory), and I’ve only heard of relevant examples anecdotally. I’ll avoid basing my argument on such hearsay.

    What, then, of the analogy of a person who enters another country, with a different government? What does your model of morality and justice say of that, in relation to whatever wrongs were committed in the old country? Suppose that there is no extradition treaty, but the king of the new country has a reputation for fairness and justice, and is willing to hear grievances against his subjects from outsiders. What do you say he may and may not do as a just king, and on what grounds?

    So, if I went back in the store, tell the owner that I just stole something from him and will now kill myself to pay for that sin, and then slit my throat – would that be a universal way to pay for any sin in your view, in the sense that I can annul any sin by acknowledging it, offering my death as payment, and then killing myself? If not, what the “wages of sin is death” means to you is still unclear to me.

    No, you would merely compound the sin of theft with the sin of suicide. You can’t be your own judge and mete out your own punishment. I honestly don’t think that I have the raw teaching capability to clarify things for you if that’s what you’ve understood so far. Best to forget about it: there’s no salvaging that tragic wreck.

    I fundamentally disagree with you about moral debts being *literally* debts that could be “settled”, see above. And even if I´d agree for the sake of the argument that they could be “settled”, I´d disagree that they could be settled through punishment because while a transfer of money can balance an unbalanced account, no punishment will unlie a lie or unkill a corpse.

    Ah — I keep trying to use debt as an analogy, and you keep taking it literally, so you keep disagreeing with “me” over something I haven’t said. Why is that?

    In any case, my question was, “do you fundamentally disagree with me when I say that it is the punishment aspect which settles the moral debt?” I think that the clear answer to that is, “yes”. Apparently, for you to be satisfied that a moral debt was paid, it would have to erase the transgression from history, which is impossible. Your position is that moral “debts” aren’t debts; they are more like permanent stains: you can live with them, but you can’t be entirely rid of them.

    You can’t un-lie, you can’t un-kill, and you can’t even un-steal: giving back what you have stolen does not mean nothing was stolen, only that it was stolen and then recovered. Giving it back and apologising for it doesn’t un-steal it. Giving it back, apologising, and handing yourself in to the authorities for punishment does not un-steal it. Even if the person you stole it from accepts your apology and forgives the theft, that does not un-steal it. It’s not a moral debt: it’s a moral stain which nothing can shift.

    Is that a fair summary? If I haven’t understood you correctly on that point by now, then we should probably just give up for lack of ability to communicate ideas.

  183. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    Not so. The principle of proximate causes leading to accountability remains. Where we differ is on the question as to whether there is any principle whereby justice can be served while transferring the consequences from the accountable party.

    So you want to only transfer punishment but *not* accountability and then call the result “justice”? Interesting, please explain how that is supposed to work, even just in principle.

    However, our disagreement is becoming increasingly confused, partly because you are arguing from two incompatible positions.

    Sometimes you take the posture of a moral realist, speaking as though there really is such a thing as justice, and that there can be such a thing as “a just Judge operating under just rules,” but often you take the posture of a utilitarian, speaking as though justice lacks value unless it “helps people and makes the world a better place.” On the one hand you speak of “moral obligations”, but on the other, you denigrate the idea of “satisfying abstract principles that are completely detached from actual human wellbeing.”

    What you do here is silently assuming that “justice exists, therefore, justice is *intrinsically* (i.e. in itself) valuable” – I have quite explicitly denied that this is so and said that I rather believe justice to be valuable in an instrumental manner. And I´ve explained why I believe this to be so with specific examples. And without that assumption of yours, there would be no confusion here.

    Okay, I’ll grant you that. My knowledge of history is weak, my knowledge of the history of law in particular is even weaker, my Google-fu isn’t up to snuff to compensate for that (either to confirm or refute the theory), and I’ve only heard of relevant examples anecdotally. I’ll avoid basing my argument on such hearsay.

    But do you have an idea for how it could be done *in principle* – a mechanism that justly(!) transfers punishment but not accountability. When I kill someone and my son – who had nothing to do with the crime whatsoever – would freely offer to bear the punishment for my crime, then we would call a judge who accepted such an offer *completely* unjust. Why is it supposed to be different when Jesus does it? Jesus might have divine powers but even an omnipotent God cannot make a square circle.

    What, then, of the analogy of a person who enters another country, with a different government? What does your model of morality and justice say of that, in relation to whatever wrongs were committed in the old country? Suppose that there is no extradition treaty, but the king of the new country has a reputation for fairness and justice, and is willing to hear grievances against his subjects from outsiders. What do you say he may and may not do as a just king, and on what grounds?

    If George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet and various other former US Government officials leave the country, I think they should be arrested and prosecuted for torture – even if they enter a country that has an extradition treaty with the US because the US has amply demonstrated that they consider their own, and only their own, citizens to be above the law wrt torture.
    Does that answer your question?

    No, you would merely compound the sin of theft with the sin of suicide. You can’t be your own judge and mete out your own punishment. I honestly don’t think that I have the raw teaching capability to clarify things for you if that’s what you’ve understood so far. Best to forget about it: there’s no salvaging that tragic wreck.

    Are you sure that you yourself have any idea what this “wages of sin is death” is supposed to mean or are you just parroting a line here that doesn´t have any real meaning for you either?

    Ah — I keep trying to use debt as an analogy, and you keep taking it literally, so you keep disagreeing with “me” over something I haven’t said. Why is that?

    That is because I didn´t know that you meant “settling a debt” metaphorically, and even if I would have, I don´t know what “settling a debt” could mean metaphorically. Please explain what *exactly* you have in mind when you say that you have metaphorically “settled” a moral “debt”.

    You can’t un-lie, you can’t un-kill, and you can’t even un-steal: giving back what you have stolen does not mean nothing was stolen, only that it was stolen and then recovered. Giving it back and apologising for it doesn’t un-steal it. Giving it back, apologising, and handing yourself in to the authorities for punishment does not un-steal it. Even if the person you stole it from accepts your apology and forgives the theft, that does not un-steal it. It’s not a moral debt: it’s a moral stain which nothing can shift.

    Is that a fair summary?

    Well it is a “debt” in the sense that obligations / duties arise from it but except for that – yup.

  184. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    What you do here is silently assuming that “justice exists, therefore, justice is *intrinsically* (i.e. in itself) valuable” – I have quite explicitly denied that this is so and said that I rather believe justice to be valuable in an instrumental manner.

    Let us be very clear about what I mean here, and let me distinguish between “Justice”, a metaphysical reality, and “justice”, the process of the judicial system — whatever that happens to be on any given day and in any given place.

    If “Justice exists” is a true metaphysical statement, then its “value” is not open to discussion: it is given. If “Justice” exists, then it is an intrinsic good, such that conformance to Justice is good, and violating Justice is evil. If “Justice” does not exist in the sense that conforming to it is intrinsically good, and violating it is intrinsically evil, then “Justice” simply does not exist at all. This also applies to Good and Evil. If Good exists, in a metaphysical sense, then it cannot be tested for value by some other yardstick: it is Good — end of story.

    So, I take it that you deny the existence of Justice. Instead, we have “justice” — the process of the judicial system — which can be judged to be good or bad depending on how effectively it serves some purpose — the promotion human well-being, in your case. Thus, when you speak of “a just Judge operating under just rules,” you are co-opting “just” into the role of “promoting human well-being” rather than, “conforming to Justice”. The sentence would be clearer if you said, “a humanist Judge operating under humanist rules,” given “humanist” in the sense of, “of or relating to human welfare.”

    From now on, I will interpret you as a strict instrumentalist in this regard, even if the terms you use are suggestive of realism.

    But do you have an idea for how it could be done *in principle* – a mechanism that justly(!) transfers punishment but not accountability. When I kill someone and my son – who had nothing to do with the crime whatsoever – would freely offer to bear the punishment for my crime, then we would call a judge who accepted such an offer *completely* unjust. Why is it supposed to be different when Jesus does it? Jesus might have divine powers but even an omnipotent God cannot make a square circle.

    Colour me baffled: how am I supposed to interpret something which uses the analogy, “even an omnipotent God cannot make a square circle,” in instrumentalist terms? If ever there were a clear appeal to metaphysical Justice, you have just expressed it.

    But why do you make this sound like such an insurmountable problem when, from an instrumentalist perspective, the answer practically writes itself? Instrumentally speaking, the Judge who accepted the offer would be entirely justified if he had solid grounds to believe that killing the son served the interests of humanity more than killing the father. This would be a simple decision in the case that the father were a great political leader, scientist, engineer, etc., whose contributions to the benefit of society were clear and on-going, whereas the son was a relative nobody.

    Now, if we assume (as your example does) that one death or the other is necessary, instrumentally speaking, then that death probably serves the purpose of “deterrent”. As such, the death of the son must also serve that end, or we’ve undermined the rationale for killing anyone in the first place. Luckily, this is quite easy to justify as well. By killing the son, we arguably hurt the father more than we would by killing the father himself. Confronted with such an offer as you describe — a son offering to die in place of the father — what father wouldn’t be mortified and refuse the offer? It’s the survivors that suffer, not the deceased. It may seem unfair to the son, but he volunteered, and even if he hadn’t volunteered, we could make a good instrumental argument that he’ll suffer less by dying painlessly than by losing his father.

    Under this argument, the father doesn’t even need to be worth conspicuously more to society than the son in order to justify killing the son: the outcome merely has to be the more effective deterrent. Heck, killing both of them isn’t out of the question, so long as long-term benefits are expected, relative to the alternatives. In general, I wouldn’t expect it to be better, but never say never.

    This explanation doesn’t really help us with the question as it relates to Jesus, but that’s the fault of your analogy: it should have been the Judge’s son offering himself in place of you. And the Judge would have to be God. In fact, we’d probably be best served by not using analogies at all, and just asking if God punishing Jesus in lieu of sinners serves any instrumentalist purpose. I’m sure I can think of some, but I’m not sure what it would prove.

    If George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet and various other former US Government officials leave the country, I think they should be arrested and prosecuted for torture – even if they enter a country that has an extradition treaty with the US because the US has amply demonstrated that they consider their own, and only their own, citizens to be above the law wrt torture.
    Does that answer your question?

    No. You’ve given a very specific example from which I have to surmise the underlying principles, but it doesn’t follow the pattern of the question, which was, “person with outstanding crimes or moral grievances against him enters a new country with a new law; what constraints does the king of that new country face in dealing with an outside grievance against this person justly?” Your example doesn’t even mention that king, and he was meant to be the focus of the question.

    Are you sure that you yourself have any idea what this “wages of sin is death” is supposed to mean or are you just parroting a line here that doesn´t have any real meaning for you either?

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure that I have a basic grasp of what it means. It really doesn’t seem all that complex.

    That is because I didn´t know that you meant “settling a debt” metaphorically, and even if I would have, I don´t know what “settling a debt” could mean metaphorically. Please explain what *exactly* you have in mind when you say that you have metaphorically “settled” a moral “debt”.

    You knew I didn’t mean it literally. Earlier you said that I was “taking the analogy of a ‘debt’ way too far.” I denied that I had intended it to be taken so far, and subsequent to that you accused me of meaning it literally. I’m going to chalk it up to a combination of carelessness and lack of charity, but it’s wearing thin.

    In any case, as you, yourself, say, “it is a ‘debt’ in the sense that obligations / duties arise from it.” Another word we might use is “liabilities”. Unfortunately, this is where we start talking at cross purposes: you’re saying that these things “arise from it”, but under an instrumentalist view they do no such thing. Under realism, they literally arise from it, but on the instrumentalist view, we impose such duties and obligations on people in these conditions — or we decide not to — for utilitarian reasons. For the instrumentalist, they are not intrinsic, but extrinsic.

    The liability to which I refer is one’s proper dues, given the demands of Justice, to be administered Justly. That latter point is one you have missed in previous examples, but you really shouldn’t have: if a judge sentences someone to death, that doesn’t mean anyone can kill them, or that they have served justice if they kill themselves, despite the fact that those actions would make them equally dead. That’s understandable even from an instrumentalist perspective, surely? The impact on the criminal is the same, but the impact on society is not. Likewise under realism: Justice implies a Law, and Due Process. You can’t ignore Due Process.

    Please feel free to deny that Justice and Due Process exist, but please tell me that you at least understand roughly what I mean. This whole “you are speaking unintelligible nonsense” lark is getting wearisome.

  185. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    If “Justice exists” is a true metaphysical statement, then its “value” is not open to discussion: it is given. If “Justice” exists, then it is an intrinsic good,

    That is illogical. Saying that “if x exists, then x is intrinsically good” is a non sequitur and it doesn´t cease being a non sequitur by calling it a metaphysical statement.

    If “Justice” does not exist in the sense that conforming to it is intrinsically good, and violating it is intrinsically evil, then “Justice” simply does not exist at all.

    That is also illogical. What you say here would be true if “it is intrinsically good” would be a sine qua non of the definition of “justice”, but it isn´t.

    This also applies to Good and Evil. If Good exists, in a metaphysical sense, then it cannot be tested for value by some other yardstick: it is Good — end of story.

    That indeed is true but has nothing to do with the two former illogical statements about justice.

    So, I take it that you deny the existence of Justice.

    That is false.

    Instead, we have “justice” — the process of the judicial system…

    Also false which makes your following statements based on this moot.

    From now on, I will interpret you as a strict instrumentalist in this regard, even if the terms you use are suggestive of realism.

    Moral realism has literally nothing to do with what we talked so far wrt justice and that you are so convinced that it has something to do it with suggests that you do not understand what that term actually means. Yes, I consider justice to be valuable in an instrumental manner and only in an instrumental manner, and no, that has *literally nothing* (yes, literally nothing what-so-ever) to do with whether I accept or reject moral realism.

    Colour me baffled: how am I supposed to interpret something which uses the analogy, “even an omnipotent God cannot make a square circle,” in instrumentalist terms? If ever there were a clear appeal to metaphysical Justice, you have just expressed it.

    ????

    But why do you make this sound like such an insurmountable problem when, from an instrumentalist perspective, the answer practically writes itself? Instrumentally speaking, the Judge who accepted the offer would be entirely justified if he had solid grounds to believe that killing the son served the interests of humanity more than killing the father. This would be a simple decision in the case that the father were a great political leader, scientist, engineer, etc., whose contributions to the benefit of society were clear and on-going, whereas the son was a relative nobody.

    This is a sandwich of absurdities.
    First of all, you are basing your “answer” on accepting my position wrt justice and its value, but you actually completely disagree with it – based on that alone, your answer here is ridiculous and deserves no response beyond “please try to make up your mind first about whether you agree or disagree with me wrt justice and its value”.
    Second, even if we´d ignore that your answer is based on you holding two mutually contradictory beliefs simultaneously, it would still be completely absurd because it quite literally claims that punishing people for crimes they had nothing to do with while allowing sufficiently powerful people to be above *every* law – including literally getting away with murder – would be good(!) for humanity.

    Now, if we assume (as your example does) that one death or the other is necessary, instrumentally speaking, then that death probably serves the purpose of “deterrent”. As such, the death of the son must also serve that end, or we’ve undermined the rationale for killing anyone in the first place. Luckily, this is quite easy to justify as well. By killing the son, we arguably hurt the father more than we would by killing the father himself. Confronted with such an offer as you describe — a son offering to die in place of the father — what father wouldn’t be mortified and refuse the offer? It’s the survivors that suffer, not the deceased. It may seem unfair to the son, but he volunteered, and even if he hadn’t volunteered, we could make a good instrumental argument that he’ll suffer less by dying painlessly than by losing his father.

    So…. the father needs to get away with it because of his “contributions to society”, but we need to also punish him by killing his son (which presumably doesn´t contradict the getting away with it part because….something), and killing his son is actually more humane than not killing him and rather executing his father for murder because then he doesn´t have to grieve for his executed father and…. WTF? Seriously, WTF?

    Under this argument, the father doesn’t even need to be worth conspicuously more to society than the son in order to justify killing the son: the outcome merely has to be the more effective deterrent. Heck, killing both of them isn’t out of the question, so long as long-term benefits are expected, relative to the alternatives. In general, I wouldn’t expect it to be better, but never say never.

    Sure, why not kill both and make a stew out of them for the hungry? Or sacrifice them to Ra? And why don´t we all get naked afterwards and do a rain dance? Never, say never.

    This explanation doesn’t really help us with the question as it relates to Jesus, but that’s the fault of your analogy: it should have been the Judge’s son offering himself in place of you. And the Judge would have to be God. In fact, we’d probably be best served by not using analogies at all, and just asking if God punishing Jesus in lieu of sinners serves any instrumentalist purpose. I’m sure I can think of some, but I’m not sure what it would prove.

    Well that is practically an admission that unless you concede first that justice is valuable only in an instrumental manner, you cannot answer this question at all.

    No. You’ve given a very specific example from which I have to surmise the underlying principles, but it doesn’t follow the pattern of the question, which was, “person with outstanding crimes or moral grievances against him enters a new country with a new law; what constraints does the king of that new country face in dealing with an outside grievance against this person justly?” Your example doesn’t even mention that king, and he was meant to be the focus of the question.

    I don´t see any constraints for that king at all that would not also apply to his own citizens.

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure that I have a basic grasp of what it means. It really doesn’t seem all that complex.

    Strange that you are completely unable to explain what it is supposed to mean then (so far, you did not even try and rather suggested that it takes amazing teaching skills – surpassing your own – to explain this “really not all that complex” idea).

    In any case, as you, yourself, say, “it is a ‘debt’ in the sense that obligations / duties arise from it.” Another word we might use is “liabilities”. Unfortunately, this is where we start talking at cross purposes: you’re saying that these things “arise from it”, but under an instrumentalist view they do no such thing. Under realism,

    Still not understanding what moral realism means I see…

    they literally arise from it, but on the instrumentalist view, we impose such duties and obligations on people in these conditions — or we decide not to — for utilitarian reasons. For the instrumentalist, they are not intrinsic, but extrinsic.

    Now we are throwing utilitarianism in the mix of fallacies for no reason at all…

    Please feel free to deny that Justice and Due Process exist…

    I never did and see no reason to do so now.

    , but please tell me that you at least understand roughly what I mean.

    I hate to disappoint you but I don´t, and I´m quite confident that you don´t understand what you are saying either – certainly every sentence that includes the word “realism”.

  186. TFBW says:

    Andy,

    Saying that “if x exists, then x is intrinsically good” is a non sequitur …

    No, it is an attempt to define a term. If I can’t even be allowed to define the terms of my own argument, communication is not possible.

    The rest of your comment is just a prolonged demonstration of that fact, so forget it: I’m done trying.

  187. Andy says:

    TFBW,

    No, it is an attempt to define a term. If I can’t even be allowed to define the terms of my own argument, communication is not possible.

    Actually, that is not what you have been doing, what you rather did was:
    “If “Justice exists” is a true metaphysical statement, then its “value” is not open to discussion: it is given.”
    – i.e. this is what “justice” means and it isn´t negotiable. And that is wrong on several levels, it is wrong because you either assume that I have to accept your definition or should accept it despite you giving me no reasons at all to do so. And it is also misguided because this definition is incredibly idiosyncratic, that justice is intriniscally good rather than being an instrument to promote goodness is most emphatically *not* how that term is commonly understood (there is no universal definition of “justice” but I didn´t find a single one that defines “justice” to be intrinsically good), in other words, you are playing Humpty Dumpty here and *that* – completely redefining terms on the spot to suit the argument you try to make – is what makes communication impossible.

    I´ll close by pointing out that not even with your attempt to redefine terms have you come anywhere close to arguing that it is “just” to punish someone for something he is not responsible for. You say:
    “This explanation doesn’t really help us with the question as it relates to Jesus, but that’s the fault of your analogy: it should have been the Judge’s son offering himself in place of you. And the Judge would have to be God.”
    – and I can only respond “so…..?”. You would consider it to be completely unjust if the son of a human judge would make that offer and the offer would be accepted, and you cannot provide anything even remotely resembling a *reason* for why that should be *any* different if the judge would not be human but rather God allmighty. In some sense, you tried to give one by abandoning your own conception of justice and substituting it with mine (which is dishonest at best since you clearly do not accept my conception of justice and just adopt it in a completely ad hoc fashion only to abandon it immediately afterwards) and even then, your justification would be ridiculous.

  188. Dhay says:

    Browsing through, I see that Andy replied to my response dated 29 January. He mistakenly addressed that reply to Doug, instead of to me, and in flipping through the torrent of responses covering a subject of no great interest to me, I missed it.

    I see the capable G. Rodrigues made counter-replies at or near the time, so in view of that, and the fact that Andy is now banned (plus I’ll reply only when I want to, and to what I want to — I’ll not be jerked around), I will make no reply myself.

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