Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Humanism, Morality, Religion, Truth

Collateral Damage

Yesterday, the discussion on this thread got into the subject of the problems of evil and suffering. One of the participants in the discussion suggested that the dilemma could be resolved if God had reasons for allowing evil and suffering to exist, even if we don’t know what those reasons are. On the surface, this is not necessarily a bad suggestion. For instance, we’re familiar with the idea of enduring suffering when there is a larger payoff at the end: surgery and chemotherapy to remove a life-threatening tumor, or even something as mundane as the pain we feel from exercise, knowing it makes us stronger in the long run. There are even cases where we inflict suffering on others for their own well-being, even though they may not be aware of the benefits, such as immunizations for young children.

So is it possible that God uses some of the bad moments in our lives to teach us important lessons and help us grow as individuals? Well, it’s possible that someone could learn how relatively unimportant possessions are if he lost his home in a natural disaster, or spent some time living in poverty. Those experiences could help him grow into a better person. Or perhaps someone could overcome a severe illness, and through that, learn that she wasn’t spending enough quality time with her loved ones. Now, none of those examples are miraculous in nature, so they don’t require God’s involvement to happen. Nevertheless, I can see why some religious people view things like this as an explanation for the evil and suffering that exist in the world.

Unfortunately, examples like the ones above are not the upper limit of the tragedies that can occur in life. If God is real, what is his role when a child dies? Before you say that God doesn’t cause things like that, but only allows them because he’s given man free will, I have two objections:

First of all, children don’t just die because some person kills them. Many children die each year from “acts of God,” like natural disasters, house fires, and illness. God could stop all of those deaths without infringing on anyone’s free will.

Secondly, if God intervened in the murder of a child, he would not be infringing on the free will of the murderer, only on the outcome. The murderer would still have the ability to decide to kill the child, and even to put the plan into action. But just as God supposedly stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac just before the knife made contact, God could similarly act whenever a child is in danger. No harm to free will.

So when children die, is God teaching us a lesson? Are we learning how to become better people for it? Studies have shown that parents have a shorter life expectancy when they suffer the loss of a child (not that we probably need a study to tell us that). They’re more susceptible to illness and depression as well.

But beyond that, let’s talk about the ethics of killing a child in order to “teach the parents a lesson.” We see this kind of rationale in movies, sometimes. How many gangster movies have you seen where someone threatens a character’s family in order to make them do something? Is it the protagonist or the villain that typically does the threatening in those movies? In Gladiator, when Maximus’s wife and child are killed, does he then rally support by trying to kill the wives and children of his enemies? It would be hard to like such a character. We instinctively know that targeting someone’s family, especially their children, is the lowest, vilest act a villain can perform.

So why would Christians be willing to attribute such actions to God? If you think about it, the Book of Job does just that. In the first chapter, Job has 7 sons and 3 daughters, who were apparently all quite close to one another. But when God and Satan make their wager about Job, all of Job’s children are killed. But hey, not to worry, Job gets 7 more sons and 3 more daughters at the end of the story! Happy ending!

Such a story should fill us with revulsion. Don’t harm my children to teach me a lesson — I’ll gladly remain ignorant of whatever education you’re passing out.

But maybe such a story made sense to the people living at that time. There have certainly been other cultures that didn’t seem to value human life (even that of their own children) in the way that we do today. But this is just another reason to see the story of Job as a man-made fable, and not a literal, God-sanctioned event.

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.
— Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

When I see throughout this book, called the Bible, a history of the grossest vices and a collection of the most paltry and contemptible tales and stories, I could not so dishonor my Creator by calling it by His name.
— Thomas Paine, Toward the Mystery

If we think about the level of evil and suffering that exists in our world, it makes the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God seem extremely improbable, if not impossible. And if he allows evil to occur in our world just so a few of us can “learn something” from the experience, then we can certainly cross out the “all-loving” quality. It’s possible that a God exists, but if he/she/it does, it’s not the version we find described in the Bible, so why bother hanging onto it? Yahweh and Jehovah belong in the ranks of mythology, along with Zeus and Thor.

78 thoughts on “Collateral Damage”

  1. @Ark… a step back… do you mean back away from the crazy person slowly but carefully?!

    @Nate: thx. They can also be (and often are) categorized on sites allied with respecting theology (from which I am now banned) as ‘long-winded’, ‘verbose’, ‘ranting’, ‘militant’, ‘rambling’, ‘strident’, and so on. But I have found that my explanations for contrary opinions is not suitable to a few sentences but require paragraphs. Old school in the age of tw…ts, I know, but hey… sometimes people find them useful.

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  2. @Tideb
    No man, I am in awe. That’s why I put up one of your comments from John’s blog as a post.
    I want to see Unklee respond to this.
    I doubt he will as this is just a tad too near the bone for his liking and if you get a response it might well be along the lines of ”agree to disagree.”

    You can be as long-winded as you like as far as I’m concerned. Your stuff is always dead on target and you are one of the few ‘long’ writers that usually holds my attention from start to finish.

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  3. Thx Ark, although I feel a little uncomfortable being complimented because the ideas I express I think are not just mine but widely shared. Your opinions and mine, for example, are very often complimentary regarding theism not because you and I must get along personally because we’re both atheists but because we have arrived at very similar conclusions; we then express them differently in our own styles.

    Like many, uncleE presents ideas about reality as if true that I think are really quite questionable. I know you feel the same. Whenever I come across a claim about reality – especially regarding theology generally and religion specifically (like claims of causal divine agencies and their attributed effects) – I always ask myself two questions: Is this claim true? How can we know? That’s why I tend to write about how reality operates for everyone everywhere all the time is a pretty strong indicator of which direction explanatory answers can begin to be found for those questions… and many theists take what I say not on their merit but on a personal level as if revealing reality’s adjudication of these claims was the same as me militating against religious people. My comments (like those from many atheists) then tend to be taken as being intended to cause discomfort (rather than intended to provide reasons to inquire further) and often assumed to be a threat to those most in need (I think) of having their beliefs about how reality operates honestly questioned (the readers of the theist’s site). Of course, I almost always then get categorized as a malicious atheist troll and ‘moderated’ into oblivion where the echo chamber thus created can be better sustained without challenge… even though what I’ve written I think stands (or is intended to stand) on its own merits (regardless of who says it). In that same vein, then, receiving compliments from readers is really about the quality of those merits I’ve merely expressed, and so I feel gratified when readers ‘get it’. To me, this makes the effort time well spent. So, thanks.

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  4. If you look to idea of wolf is god, then you for sure can no see the idea. You must look into a big picture, The God is The Sustainer of Nature and its law.

    You can look this way, little girls dying is a “deer” and the farming accident is a “wolf”. The accident is a cause of death for girl because bleeding (just for example). When the blood are become less in human body, human die. The law to be sustain here is “No blood, human die” and “Human will die” at the same time God want to take her life. So it was 3 in one single action or maybe more.
    Here the law are not necessarily define as “Ten Commandment” only. The law here compromise everything, law of biology, physics, chemical, process, astronomy. Here, why we called God All Knowing.

    Questioning God? Example: A same case a dying girls and accident.
    God have a law that saying “Everyone will die” and at same time no one know when they die.
    God order to save guard you life and do not kill.
    So, God got His “job” (try to be literate here), we also have our job too.
    Our job is to go hospital when we sick, eat healthy foods, to drive carefully, maintain our life. His job is to take our life when it come or give sickness. All sickness and death have a cause and reason. Then, our job too look on the cause and reason, so we can have a better life and eat a better medicine. To question God is not so wise action because He already give a cause and reason to think.

    The only way you can question God by calling God. “Hello, why you killed the girls”. Is it stupid? Why not you just go and check the cause of death and learn from that.

    Your asking “If God is more merciful and compassionate than we, why does he “kill” us in so many horrible ways?
    In my religion, God giving his name “The Causer of Death; Merciful and Compassionate is another of His character.

    Horrible or not, it giving a cause of death. We may be sad. For us, we have lost a soul, for God, another life have return to Him.
    We do our job, He do His job.

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  5. unkleE,
    Just a question out of curiosity: Many of us who are atheists view atheism as a “default” position, because most of us are not flatly saying that “no god could exist,” but rather that we’re unconvinced by all the god-claims that are currently out there. Do you agree that it seems to be a default position, or is there another position that you think qualifies better?”

    Hi Nate. I don’t think “atheism” is the default position, but that is in part because of ambiguities about definitions.

    It is popular these days to define atheism as absence of belief in any god. Normally I would prefer to allow people to define themselves in whatever way they chose, but I am reluctant to do so in this case because:

    1. The philosophers still tend to define atheism as disbelief, though this is certainly not unanimous. I did 2 years of philosophy at university back in the 60’s, and that was how it was defined then. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines it this way, as does Robin le Poidevin in his little textbook Arguing for atheism.

    2. I find in many cases (not necessarily you or others here) that the “lack of belief/default position” becomes an arguing tactic that can be used dishonestly to avoid giving evidence and reasons. Some atheists argue vehemently against the existence of God, but when you ask for reasons they retreat into “ours is the default position/you have the burden of proof/I just lack belief in one more God than you” etc. Then a minute later they are arguing against God’s existence again.

    3. I think the most useful way to clarify this is to imagine a continuum from +100% (“I am sure God exists”) to -100% (“I am sure no God exists”). I would be about +90% on this scale and Richard Dawkins has said he is about -90%. Clearly the true “default position”, the one “lacking any belief in or about God” would be 0% – the existence of God is an open question, awaiting further evidence.

    Now I wonder where you and others here would sit on that line? I would guess that you are about -50% – i.e. you think there are much better reasons to disbelieve than believe, but you are far from certain. I suggest some others here are even more strongly disbelieving. (You may like to consider posting on this topic and asking people to nominate where they sit on that continuum.)

    But it doesn’t matter. Most atheists are certainly not at the 0% position, and clearly therefore not in the default and not merely “lacking belief”.

    I conclude then that it would be clearer to call the 0% position “agnosticism” (meaning unsure either way) as it used to be, and that would be the default.

    What do you think about it?

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  6. I think my last comment has been somehow misunderstood. I did not mean to imply that my mood determines reality. However, our thoughts determine how we feel about reality. We all have slightly different interpretations (thoughts) about events that occur around us. Death can be interpreted as an awful experience, a liberating process, or simply an end of existence. No matter our interpretation and feeling about it, death simply occurs. It is up to us to accept it or fight it. We still do not fully understand it, which is why many times we choose to interpret it as “God’s will” to alleviate the horror that our interpretations can trigger.

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  7. HIfzan,

    I’m asking whether or not God even exists. You seem to be taking it for granted that he does. Not only that, you seem to take it for granted that he’s a particular god. How do you know that?

    Thanks,

    Nate

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  8. Hi unkleE, thanks for the response.

    I differ with you a bit on the definition thing, as I take atheism to be more absence of belief than disbelief. However, I don’t see a need to get way down in the weeds on that in this particular thread, so I’m okay with using your definition (and continuum) for the sake of argument.

    On your continuum, I’d sit very close to -100% when it comes to the Christian god (for some of the reasons I outlined above) and around -20% on the question of a spiritual realm or some “unknown” god.

    When I make more definitive arguments, I’m arguing against the Abrahamic god, not necessarily the general idea of a god. Does that distinction make sense?

    Thanks

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  9. Nate,

    For sake of discussion, let assume God doesn’t exist and the same event arise “A dying girls died horribly in car accident

    The best answer that I can think secularly: Doctor will diagnose the body, the police will examine the car. Report come out, cause of death is too much bleeding. So, the body will be buried. People take a lesson from that.

    That it… Right.

    But can you prevent death or dying horribly? No…
    But of course, when it happen to ourselves, it sad moments, we will cry, remembering the good this happen between that girl and us.

    I’m asking whether or not God even exists. You seem to be taking it for granted that he does. Not only that, you seem to take it for granted that he’s a particular god. How do you know that?

    Just for discussion,

    If REAL God exist, do you really think, it like tag team match as WWE matches. This century it shall be Zeus, next century it shall be King Jed, another century it will be replace by Jesus?
    He was there from the beginning…

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  10. If there’s no God, then yes, I agree with what you’ve laid out. In fact, I’d say it matches perfectly what we see in this life.

    As to the God question, if he’s real and wants to communicate with us, he could. The fact that we can legitimately question his very existence is awfully telling, in my opinion.

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  11. I don’t think you should worry about that.

    As I understand, if God really exist, everyone will meet Him. At that time, all of us will have Q&A session with Him legitimately.

    My reply may sound sarcasm, but I don’t know to make it softer.

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  12. UncleE, I do not think you understand neural plasticity when you say stuff like So if you focus on things like children starving, you will be training your brain to think atheistically. …. “

    Hi tildeb, you may well be right that I don’t understand neuroplasticity well, I am just learning about it. But when you say “I do not ‘strengthen’ or ‘weaken’ my beliefs about the causal connection between my dancing and the arrival of rain” you seem to be disagreeing not just with me but with author Norman Doidge.

    For example, he shows that habitual use of pornography changes brain structure and hence behaviour, by changing brain maps and replacing one set of images and behaviours with another. And psychoanalysis can help re-wire the brain, for example separating sex and violence in the brain maps of men where their connection led to harmful behaviour, helping them to believe differently about women and allowing them to feel better and act differently.

    Another example is OCD patients, who are trained to ‘relabel’ their fears so they stop believing what they think is happening to them (e.g. an attack by germs) and instead believe it is really an OCD episode.

    Then there are the examples of imagining an action developing the same motor and sensory programs as actually doing the act – so thinking is clearly affecting the brain structure.

    So what we focus on, repeatedly, can and does change the way we think and what we believe, and hence our behaviour. We strengthen the neural pathways associated with that thinking and belief, and weaken alternative neural pathways – as Doidge says, it is a case of “use it or lose it”. There may be reasons why this doesn’t apply to belief in God and the reasons we judge to be important or unimportant, but I cannot see why, and your explanation doesn’t seem to me to show it because it seems generally contrary to what Doidge says. If you really have evidence that I am wrong about this specific, I am keen to hear it because I am still learning.

    pro-social behaviours (morality) that improve the welfare of others is not evidence for god. Good works (ethics) can be attributed to belief in a god, but this is not evidence for god”

    I do not recall saying this, and I don’t believe it. I’m guessing you are equating pro-social behaviours = morality, but I don’t define morality that way at all. I usually talk about objective ethics, which are not behaviours at all, but standards or criteria of right and wrong.

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  13. I take atheism to be more absence of belief than disbelief.”

    I think this is still worth exploring, by way of two questions.

    1. Does “absence of belief” mean absence of any belief about God, either his existence or his non-existence)? If that’s the case, then we are describing the 0% belief – do you agree? Would you call that atheism?

    2. If a person said I lack any belief in God, but I have plenty of reason to believe no God exists, where would you place them on the continuum and what label would you give them?

    When I make more definitive arguments, I’m arguing against the Abrahamic god, not necessarily the general idea of a god. Does that distinction make sense?”

    Makes perfect sense. I don’t think it is always clear in your discussion, but that is partly because blog comments require us to be brief. In my terms, you are more of an agnostic than an atheist, because you disbelieve strongly in one definition of God (Abrahamic), and I daresay you also disbelieve (not just lack belief), as I do, in Zeus. I define myself by the one God I believe in, and I would think you should be defined by the -20% belief you have in some God (say a deistic God).

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  14. uncleE, let’s revisit what you wrote, which was your assertion that if you focus on things like children starving, you will be training your brain to think atheistically.

    Now let’s replace your belief in your god with the belief of another in, say, Huitzilopochtli. Does your assertion still make any sense? Is your non belief in Huitzilopochtli reinforced or mitigated by focusing on starving children? Are you, in fact, training your brain whatsoever in regard to this specific belief?

    Of course not. Specific beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with brain plasticity; acting repeatably on this belief does, which in no way offers us any knowledge value about the veracity of the belief itself. Focusing on starving children does not ‘train the brain to think atheistically’ any more than focusing on puppies and kittens will train the brain to think theistically. What we can do is train the brain to think critically and non-criticially not by identifying specific beliefs we focus on that we may or may not favour but by repeatably practicing a consistent method of HOW we focus, HOW we approach a problem or event, HOW we inquire into reality. That’s why epistemology (how we think) matters a very great deal because this method determines ontology (what we think).

    I use exactly this approach when teaching anything, from math concepts (how to think utilizing numeracy) to reading comprehension (how to think using literacy) that the students of all ages and abilities and IQs and ethnicity and gender and food preferences and so on can then successfully apply to produce consistent, reliable, and trustworthy mapping of the world any way they want to (producing what they think). The relationship between, say, fractions, ratios, percentages, and probabilities is not understood by working with fractions of this particular denominator or that one; it is understood by approaching all of these ideas exactly the same way: of comparing this to that. The categories are simply different ways of expressing the same thing. Once students get it, they are off to the races and can utilize all of these notions interchangeably in ways that are quickly, easily, and consistently accurate (leading most people to exclaim that they should have been taught this way from the onset because it’s so easy to do). What we think is very much determined by how we think and this is where brain’s plasticity allows us to learn better ways, more efficient and accurate ways than assuming some kind of Oogity Boogity must be an active agent in the world because we don’t (yet) understand stuff.

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  15. Now let’s replace your belief in your god with the belief of another in, say, Huitzilopochtli. Does your assertion still make any sense? Is your non belief in Huitzilopochtli reinforced or mitigated by focusing on starving children? Are you, in fact, training your brain whatsoever in regard to this specific belief?

    Of course not. Specific beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with brain plasticity”

    Hi tildeb. It sounds silly the way you express it, but you have ignored the context. What I said was that if you focus on the argument from evil, which connects suffering with disbelief in God, then you will be training your brain to think atheistically. The logic is simple. Focus in suffering and that will colour your belief about the world, and that, via the argument from evil, will strengthen the way you think negatively about God. If you want to remain open minded, you will have to spread your focus wider.

    Leave that context out and what I said is misrepresented.

    And this isn’t just my idea. Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg is Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and he has studied the relationship between neuroplasticity and religion. He says:

    “The more you focus on something — whether that’s math or auto racing or football or God — the more that becomes your reality, the more it becomes written into the neural connections of your brain.”

    It seems Newberg’s research supports exactly what I said. (BTW, he is not a religious believer.)

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  16. uncleE, you claim that your creative interactive god is benevolent and just. Along comes the argument that points out that because there is systemic suffering in the world, this stands contradictory to the notion of the claim, that there really is an omni-potent, omni-present, omniscient creative divine agent active in the world that permits this systemic suffering. Along come the apologists for this agency who wave their hands furiously and think their job done and then the metaphysicians who take up the reins and assume the real-world effects are really explainable by using more words, by formulating the issue to be a question of logical form… a method that produces just enough philosophical wiggle room if squinted at just right so that the plenitude of available contrary evidence is now sufficiently dealt with to make the claim seem reasonable… forgetting that if a person created such a system – guaranteed to sustain great suffering by sentient creatures – we would feel ethically justified to doubt the claim that such a person was a loving character over that creation.

    Now you come along and try to tell us that by focusing on aspects of this very real suffering, we are training our brain to think atheistically. This isn’t silly only if by atheistically you mean non theistically, meaning that we think about reality as it really is unsaddled by beliefs contrary to it, meaning reality really does contain suffering that really is inexplicable if created, overseen, and maintained by some all powerful interventionist agency, an agency you insist is able and capable of intervening and is known to be all-loving. The original claim that there isn’t a discrepancy between real suffering and a believed benevolent god, then, becomes the silly one.

    You then attempt to use brain remapping in support of your claim without thinking critically about what it is you are actually saying: as if the suffering is real only because we have trained our brains to see it, which implies that by training our brains to ignore it will make the suffering go away. I know you don’t think this but your reasoning is based in part on misunderstanding what brain remapping is and granting it power it does not possess: your beliefs do not define reality. But this is a very common methodological flaw in all theistic thinking, that in matters of theology faith stops being the vice it is when exercised in any other area of human endeavor (I believe your drains are clogged because you haven’t sacrificed your daughter to the god of plumbing, I believe my dancing causes rain) and suddenly becomes equivalent to reality (My claim is true because I believe my claim is true). This is why you and other theists insist that non belief is another kind of belief just like we find in theologies, whereas in reality no theist would dare try to argue that a non car is another kind of car (just because this is the only kind of transportation you can possibly imagine).

    You speak of context without appreciating how you border your thinking about reality by your religious beliefs you impose on it, and seem blissfully unaware of just how skewed is the product of your thinking from this broken method that erects these borders to begin with. Theistic thinking about reality (and the hidden agencies supposedly at work in it) reveals this problem inherent in theistic methodology: by producing not one speck of knowledge about reality. Ever. This is a clue too many theists, metaphysicians, and apologists utterly fail to appreciate busy as they are talking amongst themselves and waving their hands furiously. Because how we think affects what we think, an unbiased examination of all theological thinking shows us unequivocally that what theists actually believe is not supported by compelling evidence from reality when we allow reality to arbitrate these beliefs or the method would produce knowledge. It doesn’t. It never has. It doesn’t now. Believing it will in the future is the very definition of crazy: of doing the same thing over and over and believing that someday the results will magically be different.

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  17. ”The more you focus on something — whether that’s math or auto racing or football or God — the more that becomes your reality, the more it becomes written into the neural connections of your brain.”

    I stand corrected here, but this seems to suggest that while you can make football or god your , reality it doesn’t alter the nature/state of the object of focus. Thus, while football is ,real, your god is merely something you make real.
    Just like Santa Claus, in fact.

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  18. Hi tildeb,

    It seems you may now accept what I said about neuroplasticity (which I expressed even-handedly as applying to believers and non-believers alike), and have raised much larger issues. I think I will pass on those for now, because I think the discussion would be never-ending. But thanks for the interaction.

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  19. I think unkleE’s continuum is a good way to explain our positions, but we should probably be more specific when using it. I would place myself at around -98% for the probability of the fundamentalist Christian God existing and around -70% for the liberal Christian god. These are areas I’ve done a lot of research into so I’m quite a ways from 0%. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to bulk “all other unknown possibilities” into a single category (deism). What about the possibility of two deities existing? or a hierarchy of deities existing? What if we are inside a matrix controlled by machine-like beings that don’t possess any feelings? Should we all be at 0% for these ideas? I’m not sure…

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  20. @unkleE, “So if we want to be honest (as you and I both want to be), we have to recognise that we need to rise above that brain conditioning and try to consider both sides. I try to do that by admitting the force of the argument from evil and many other issues relating to the Bible and faith. I wonder whether you and your readers are willing to also enlarge their focus to avoid conditioning their thinking?”

    I posted this 40 minute video on unkleE’s, le Ark, and JohnZ’s blogs. It is a documentary which reveals how people believe things which aren’t necessarily true. I’ve received no comments from those who are religious, yet. Maybe some will care to comment here. I hope you take the time to watch. It is fascinating and truly mind boggling at the same time but I think it explains much of what we discuss here.

    http://www.history.com/shows/your-bleeped-up-brain/videos/your-bleeped-up-brain-superstition

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  21. It will take me a looong time to go through the comments–so much material!

    I write this w/o first seeing the above just to give an example of the teaching I was brought up in (as I doubt there is another former member of my church commenting here):

    The Problem of Evil was solved through the “Seven Thousand Year Plan of God”. Short story is that when Adam and Eve sinned, God kicked them out of the Garden and cut humanity off from him…for 6,000 years (a day to god is as to a thousand years…6 days thou shalt do all they labor, but the seventh is holy to God…the Millennium being a thousand year reign of God’s Kingdom…you get the picture).

    So, God is keeping a Hands Off policy in order to prove to humanity how badly they need his Divine Rule and Instruction in their lives–6,000 years of history will Prove that Man cannot rule Man.

    Of course, I would say that this is a poorly set up Scientific Experiment, b/c Satan is still free to sway humanity nearly as much as he likes (though God won’t allow Satan to influence Humans to kill themselves off as that would interfere w/ God’s Plan). So, it isn’t REALLY a fair test, is it? Now if Satan couldn’t do anything either, then we’re talking good methodology…

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  22. I am maybe half-way through the comments now…

    Quick thing I want to respond to UncleE about, concerning the Problem of Evil only being valid for believers, for how else can there be “evil”?

    One argument I heard was that atheists “know”, and all people “know” what is Good and what is Evil b/c God created us and a Moral Code Detector (or whatever) is built in. Thus, even the CONCEPTS of Good and Evil are proof of God.

    As a counter (I’ve written about this on my blog a while back), what about the Moral Revulsion many feel at the genocides in the Old Testament (sometimes with the specific instruction to save alive all women who have not “known” a man)? If what God does is Good b/c 1) God did it and it is therefore de facto good, or 2) God would not do something Evil, then why does the Moral Outrage center of our brains ring an alarm? True, for some it doesn’t, but similarly whatever Moral Outrages the Prophet Mohammed committed would bother us Infidels (Christian and Atheist alike), but not bother a Believer.

    But more than that, there clearly IS no Objective morality: Incest and Slavery are good examples. People say “God never intended homosexuality b/c it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” (same argument as concerns King David’s wives and concubines…God never intended it b/c at creation is was One Husband, One Wife). Then that shows that God DID intend Incest, as there was no other option, just as there was no other option at the time of the Flood. Additionally, the Father of the Faithful married his half-sister and not a Divine Word was uttered in condemnation. But of course now, we find that morally wrong (as well as biologically bad).

    On slavery, the OT gives instructions on the Proper way to treat and trade slaves (or to sell your daughter as a maid-servant), and the NT says “slaves, obey your masters as unto the Lord”. So, God didn’t appear to have a problem with the practice of slavery, and yet Christians (in America) congratulate themselves on being the Leaders of the Abolition movement and basing it on Christian principles.

    At the risk of being long-winded (sorry, though I see I won’t be the first…), Cannibalism is another good example. Different people view the practice with different levels of revulsion; some will do it in the most extreme need, while others would rather die of starvation than stoop that low…in the West. However, in many other parts of the world, like New Guinea, the practice was common (though only to be practiced upon the neighboring/enemy tribe and never upon your own tribe).

    These moral inconsistencies are exactly what one would expect in the absence of the god taught by the monotheisms, though I think are very difficult to explain from the other side (says I, who grew up on the other side and, like Nate, lost faith later in life).

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  23. @kcchief1: just watched the video, though the link you provided didn’t work for me (unless I wanted to buy the episode). Eventually found it, though.

    Very cool–I think I’ll post about it on my blog, the Perpetual Skeptic, as it is certainly a cautionary tale about the need for skepticism and how easily we can be fooled…and remaining “Perpetually Skeptical” is kind of my theme. 😉

    Of course, being fooled doesn’t just apply to believers. This is why some form of Scientific Method is so important–experimentation, examining the results, and then seeing if other people can independently recreate the same experimental results, as well as being receptive to alternative explanations.

    I can see the brain trick that is part of the Nostradomus predictions was at work in the church I was a part of as how we interpreted biblical prophecies. We believed in British Israelism (the US, UK, and much of western Europe are actually the Lost 10 Tribes of Israel, and Germany is the modern-day Assyrians). How? Well, this name in the bible looks a lot like this name today, a prophecy about “possessing the gates of his enemies” was interpreted as the British Empire controlling many of the most important Sea Gates (Gibralter, Suez Canal, etc), and a few other things I won’t bore you with. This line of reasoning was also used to say there is evidence that Job was actually the one who designed the Great Pyramids…even in my church days that kind of reasoning seemed a bit hard to swallow, but as it had no effect on Doctrine I just ignored it.

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