The Omnimalevolent Creator and the Problem of Good

John Zande’s post is a brilliant work of satire that shows the problems of trying to match the state of our universe to the existence of an omni-benevolent god. Definitely worth a read.

An adaptation of Christopher New’s 1993 essay: Antitheism, A Reflection

 man_drought_20090718If we found a bomb concealed in a children’s kindergarten, primed and set to detonate when it would wreak the greatest possible carnage, we would reasonably assume that someone vicious and vile – someone evil – had designed the device and had purposefully put it there maximise suffering. How much more reasonable must it be for the impartial observer to then attribute the world as we know it to a vicious and vile, non-contingent, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnimalevolentdesigner? Is this not, after all, the most likely explanation for the world before us?

Who else but a perfectly malevolent being would arrange for the enormous suffering present and guaranteed in our perilously thin, blisteringly violent biosphere? Think of the pain and destruction wrought by earthquakes, floods, cyclones, tornadoes, droughts, famines and disease. Would a benevolent designer have made provision for…

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120 thoughts on “The Omnimalevolent Creator and the Problem of Good”

  1. HILARIOUS! Also, it is almost disturbing how easily the original argument can be turned on its head like this. The Natural World is nothing BUT suffering and evil–not just the Food Chain, but it even extends to unthinking (or are they?) Plants, who compete with each other for the maximal sunlight, thus starving their neighbors. It is a Shade or Be Shaded world…

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  2. Makes one wonder, though, in a world that seems to have evolved both through, and to be full of, contention and suffering, why any being that exists in that world would care about the well-being of any other being. Unless there are indeed instances of goodwill and self-sacrifice that creep into this world that is seemingly “nothing but suffering and evil”? In which case, we’re talking about a different kind of world. One with both good and evil. Then, one has to account for the existence both of those things in the world that stands before us. Not easily explained by either side of the aisle, I think.

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  3. Hey Josh, great to hear from you!

    You’re absolutely right that we obviously have both good and evil in this world. There are examples of both selflessness and suffering. I think what John’s post is saying, when we look past the satire, is that the simplest explanation is that there is neither an omnimalevolent nor an omnibenevolent god out there. The state of our world doesn’t seem to support either idea. From there, one is left with a few options: either there’s no god at all, there’s a deistic or pantheistic god, or there’s a more personal god who is neither all-evil nor all-good.

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  4. A dilemma for sure, no matter how you slice it. I appreciated the satirical look to explore the other side of the discussion 🙂

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  5. Hi Nate, I wanted to let you know I replied to John Zande in his blog, and since we had a conversation about “endpoints” in design, I wanted to invite you to see what I wrote to John if you are interested. Overall I find myself more in agreement with Josh (above), that this satire advances the concept that we are in a state of having too little knowledge to either convict God or provide theodicy. If this assessment is correct, then we find ourselves in a humbled position, not knowing (in an epistemological sense) if a personal deity exists or is good or evil (or both), we must both believe God exists and trust his character. Of course this is frustrating for us in the scientific age where knowledge is exponentially growing and becoming more accessible via the internets. Anyway, cheers, and thanks for reblogging such an interesting article.
    -Brandon

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  6. The thing was obviously satire. Nobody is saying that this is an all-evil world (with good slipping in just to help maximize the evil, as in the funny, yet thought-provoking re-blog). The hilarious thing is that the arguments first put forward to prove an omniBENEVOLENT god can be used to argue for an omniMALEVOLENT god. But that is, as has been noted, simply b/c there is Good and Evil in the world.

    We may not know much about god (assuming the Abrahamic god for the moment), but therein lies the problem: we’ve all painted ourselves into a corner of Knowing that God is this, that, and another thing. But the world we see around us doesn’t support that. Even throwing the Argument from Satan into the mix doesn’t help. So, perfect world, but then Satan came and botched it up…but he only screwed it up as much as God would allow, which just happens to be the extent to which the evidence would then indicate that neither one existed. Hmmm…

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  7. […] If we found a bomb concealed in a children’s kindergarten, primed and set to detonate when it would wreak the greatest possible carnage, we would reasonably assume that someone vicious and vile – someone evil – had designed the device and had purposefully put it there maximise suffering. How much more reasonable must it be for the impartial observer to then attribute the world as we know it to a vicious and vile, non-contingent, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnimalevolent designer? [Read more] […]

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  8. Thanks for chiming in, Brandon. I’ll try to get over and check out your discussion with John soon. For what it’s worth, I am in complete agreement with what eSell said. In a way, I even agree with you and Josh, in that, if there’s a god, we don’t know enough about him to make hard judgments either way.

    The problem this creates for Christianity, which is what eSell was saying, is that the Bible has set bounds for God: all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful, wants all to be saved, etc. These characteristics run completely counter to the world we see around us. That’s why I can completely understand why someone believes in a god, but have trouble seeing why anyone would believe it’s the god of the Bible.

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  9. I read this paper. I have to admit that there were communities in ancient Greece, such as Gnostics who did consider the creator of the world to be the Demiurge. Who is an entity who “fashioned and shaped” the material world. The demiurge is not necessarily considered good. If I searched I could probably find other examples (I have one in my mind from Iran but nothing to back it up, I think they were accused in archaic times of worshipping evil. Although I could very much be wrong). Anyway, for what its worth I have to say I can think of a at least a few ancient communities who considered their god not entirely good.

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  10. This reminds me of the story of Jesus’ friend.

    They were walking along the beach and Jesus’ friend (let’s call him Jay) became dehydrated, woozy and kind of blacked out. When he came to, he saw footprints in the sand. There were two sets for awhile and then only one set of prints.

    Jay asked Jesus about it and Jesus said, “You were incapable of going on, so I picked you up and carried you”.

    That night, they went to a beach party. A girl there had a video of the whole thing. Jay saw Jesus in the video walking along the beach and then saw himself go woozy. The next thing he knew, Jesus made Jay pick him up and Jay carried Jesus along the beach. Jay couldn’t remember doing it.

    They all laughed at Jay for being the patsy for Jesus.

    After that, Jay ended his friendship with Jesus and never talked to him again.

    The story pretty much illustrates Christianity — at least the part where the people who love Jesus have to carry the brunt of doing his work.

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  11. Hey Nate/John:

    Hopefully, you’ve read enough of my comments and enough posts on my blog to realize that I’m more than happy to call out Christians and other believers when their reasoning is lame. More often than not, my gripe with these believers centers around their utter passivity — their expectation that God does all and that their efforts are unnecessary.

    Weirdly, I find that I have to make the same criticism of this piece. Simply put, the “evils” you enumerate here, and assign God responsibility for, are all matters that are within human control. You’re right in asserting that we live in a world of hatred and violence and cruelty and neglect and injustice; but how should we account for that? Christians “explain it away”. You explanation is that that a god of goodness and love would never allow us to get into such a state — and that either there is no god, or god is evil. I differ with both camps.

    The world will change when WE change. The world will improve when WE improve. God’s purported goodness or malevolence is immaterial.

    Frankly, I think that a world where a “good” god intervened to save us from the consequences of our own actions would be hell. Without agency, without free will, without the POSSIBILITY that we could choose to let our selfishness, vindictiveness and willfulness trump any divine plan for justice, there is no life. As I stated in my own blog, such an arrangement would drain us of our humanity and leave us all robots.

    Yuck!!

    I’m neither refuting nor endorsing your opinion about God’s existence. I’m simply pointing out that the reasoning in this article is the reasoning of immature, lazy whiners.

    Paul

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  12. Paul, you’re exactly correct.

    However, this article was mostly poking fun at the opposite argument that christians make. It’s illustrating how absurd the argument is – John wasn’t really stating his case – he was mocking theirs.

    Hope this clarifies.

    William

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  13. @Nate : March 12, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Hi

    “The problem this creates for Christianity, which is what eSell was saying, is that the Bible has set bounds for God: all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful, wants all to be saved, etc. These characteristics run completely counter to the world we see around us.”

    The concept of the attributes of the One-True-God is in line with what, I think, you have described.

    Over all He is the *Gracious the *Merciful and hence the introductory verse in the beginning of Quran has been repeated in the start of almost every chapter of Quran.

    *[1:1] In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.
    http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/showChapter.php?ch=1

    And He has set scheme of evolution in such a way that life is meant to receive due rewards from Him if one does positive or good deeds, else one suffers. He mention that “He has taken upon Himself to show **mercy”.

    **[6:13] Say, ‘To whom belongs what is in the heavens and the earth?’ Say, ‘To Allah.’ He has taken upon Himself to show mercy. He will certainly continue to assemble you till the Day of Resurrection. There is no doubt in it. Those who ruin their souls will not believe.

    http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/showChapter.php?submitCh=Read+from+verse%3A&ch=6&verse=12

    As the One-True-God bestowed consciousness or life to us drawing it out from death (annihilation or from a state of non-being to the state of a being); as a shadow of his unblemished attributes; if we sin due to temptation, we have to suffer.

    The reward being everlasting (Heaven) the punishment (hell) is relatively also for a long time. The shadow or the evil temptation has been named as Devil or Satan for our understanding. Like we humans name typhoons. Everybody knows that a typhoon or a cyclone is not a living being; if I have correctly understood.

    How is a typhoon named?
    http://www.cwb.gov.tw/V7e/knowledge/encyclopedia/ty005.htm

    One may like to read the following essay on “The Question of Suffering” by Mirza Tahir Ahmad

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/revelation/part_2_section_6.html

    Many of the attributes of the One-True-God (Allah Yahweh Ahura-Mazda Parmeshawara Ishawara) are therefore expressed in reciprocals for our understanding. All work within the bigger circle of The Gracious and The Merciful; with perfect cohesion.

    Thanks and regards

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  14. Also, Captain, it is difficult to conceive an all powerful, loving, etc, god when there are innumerable natural disasters and disease epidemics. Those are out of human control, so it has nothing to do w/ us mucking up god’s good job. Well, we are doing something about disease, now that we’ve figured out that dumping our chamber pots out the window onto the street (and passers-by) isn’t really that wise…but yeah, the evidence surely does not support an omni, well, anything, type of god. Of course, he/she/it might be all-powerful, and all-good/bad, and just allowing a mix of everything (choosing not to exercise its omnipotence), but that’s just wild speculation based on no evidence whatsoever.

    Black Ops: I had never heard that version of the story…hilarious! It is a funny point how People are always doing “the Work of God”. And as Carlin is famous for saying “and He always needs MONEY”…

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  15. Thanks for the links, paarsurrey. It will take me a while to read everything, but just a quick question based on my very limited understanding of Islam…your links speak of “Allah the Merciful”; how true is it that the faithful are commanded to kill the unbeliever? For the Bible, one can take a scripture “out of context”, or “interpret” it to say whatever. Is that what is happening with those “kill the Infidel” scriptures, or is that something else? How do they show the Mercy of Allah?

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  16. @eSell,

    Thanks for the response.

    Here’s my thought: What would an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present god actually look like? Does ‘all powerful’ mean, “capable of overruling the laws of cause and effect”? Does ‘all knowing’ mean, “knowing everything that’s going to happen before it does”? Does ever-present mean, “abiding always in every part of the material universe”?

    I think those are the definitions most people use — whether they are arguing for or against the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity.

    I differ. In the first place, I don’t think those are the only, or even the best, definitions to use. In the second, I don’t think those concepts derive either from Judaism or Christianity. I think they’re imports from paganism. I think these pagan concepts are wrong; but who am I to say?

    I can say, however, that this concept of the chronically intervening Almighty is ‘almighty distasteful’ to me personally. Given a choice between living in a world where my fuck-ups cause real suffering to real people (including myself, of course) or living in a world where my fuck-ups were irrelevant based on the fact that God’s omnipotence, rather than the causes I initiate (not to mention your initiative and everyone else’s) is ultimately responsible for everything that occurs, I would certainly choose the former.

    I have no argument against the accepted version of divine attributes. I can only say that they strike me as hellish.

    Paul

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  17. Paul,

    I think a lot of confusion comes from some theists wanting to keep the same terminology but redefining the terms.

    Just come out with it and say God is very-powerful, very-knowing, very-present but it isn’t perfect and maybe you’ve got something. But if you want to stick with the old “all” and “Omni” and then say “oh but I don’t really mean all or Omni” then you’re asking to be misunderstood. I’m not sure if it is due to a desire to hold on to traditional wording or what, but it certainly doesn’t help when people are trying to understand what you believe.

    I’d have to say your “who am I to say” is spot on and I am not saying that to jab at you, because that is something that I say about myself all the time, and I honestly mean it.

    It seems in your next to last paragraph you are expressing your personal preference which I think is great as long as you know that everyone has different preferences. As Nate likes to point out a lot, there are many Christians who have different preferences and their beliefs about what Heaven will be like show that – I don’t see anything wrong with that since everyone’s preferences will be different.

    Another thing is that your response to eSell only responds to the issue of your choices but doesn’t seem to respond to the fact that there are tons of horrifically painful events in the world that are completely natural like diseases and natural disasters. As I’ve said before believing that there are not any gods seems to make much more sense of all of those things. It’s very difficult to rationalize a good God who would have created a world where some children are born with things like severe epidermolysis bullosa.

    Any other thoughts on this?

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  18. The problem, with chritianity anyways, is that when pressed on this issue the Christians all of a sudden want to act as if nothing in this life matters, and that it’s not the physical life of man that god will take care of, but the spiritual life. They do this because plenty of good people suffer greatly while plenty of bad people prosper.

    They’ll act as if someone dying is no real big deal to god, because in death he actually liberates man from the problems of this physical life and frees him to live the eternally blissful spiritual life. It sounds nice on the surface but it doesn’t take much effort to see that it’s bogus.

    For one thing, the bible is full of examples where god takes care of people’s physical needs and blesses them with material goods. Job is a weird story where god apparently demonstrates that possessions and children are basically the same when he tears both away from job and then replaces them later. This is sad because these new children are more beautiful than the first ones – must have made it all worthwhile; trade out the uglier kids for the better ones. This story is just a mess; the material life isn’t what it’s all about, but then rewards Job with new material things.

    And we have passages like Proverbs 3:27 that says we should do good to people when it’s in our power to give it. Is that what god does? When my kids are fighting, I intervene and straighten them out. I don’t sit back in the distance and only watch, taking notes to deal out punishments and rewards when they’re old men – I take action before it gets anymore out of hand. If I can help someone, I try to.

    When I see sick and dying children, I wish I could take their place. I, and plenty of others, are wishing that if only we could take on their horrible and life-taking diseases, we would. Don’t get me wrong, we’d rather just cure them, but we’d settle for taking their place. I’m only a man. Am I more merciful than god then, since he is the one who supposedly has the power to help, but does not? We don’t like old people dying, but we recognize that happens and are willing to accept that and even our own mortality – but why let the young suffer so much and so long, only to die, leaving devastated family members, friends and parents? Because god only helps the soul, right? Because he loves us so much?

    If we believe the bible, god helps some people, but not others, and still isn’t a respecter of persons – god surely works in mysterious ways.

    Esell is exactly correct. The bible paints this picture of god that just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. We can pretend the bible means different things than what it says, but that fantasy doesn’t change the fact the bible is a mess, that it says god helps the physical problems of those who rely on him, which is demonstrably false, and that it also sets higher expectations for man than it does on god. And we’re forced to pretend that he’s so merciful because we don’t want him to banish us to eternal hell flames if we say he is not.

    Am I insane? why dont more people see the problems here?

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  19. Very well said, William.

    paarsurrey — I think William’s points apply to Islam as well. It’s one thing for a religious text to claim that their god is merciful and gracious, but where’s the evidence for it? William (and Howie and eSell) have pointed out all the areas in this life that are far outside human control, but that lead to suffering and torment. Where is God’s “mercy” and “grace” in those matters?

    Furthermore, what does Islam teach about Heaven and Hell? Who will go there? As you’ve spent time interacting with people of many different faiths, do you think all non-Muslims deserve to go to Hell? Again, where does mercy and grace fit within such a system?

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  20. @Nate : March 20, 2014 at 9:26 am

    “Furthermore, what does Islam teach about Heaven and Hell? Who will go there? As you’ve spent time interacting with people of many different faiths, do you think all non-Muslims deserve to go to Hell? Again, where does mercy and grace fit within such a system?”

    There is a purpose of life set forth by the One-True-God; one who fulfills it gets to heaven or attains nearness to God and gets happiness due to this nearness.

    Those who don’t fulfill the purpose of life when they realize that it was within their reach to achieve it but they are far away from it; the torment of that realization is their Hell.

    “Absence of comfort is torment and the recovery of comfort and prosperity is salvation. As darkness means absence of light, suffering means absence of well-being. Illness is the name of the condition when the body does not function properly and health is the name of the condition when all natural functions revert to normal. When the spiritual condition of a person moves away from the normal, this disturbance is called torment.

    When a limb like a hand or foot moves away from its proper position a pain is felt and the limb becomes unable to perform its allotted function and if it is neglected it gradually becomes useless or becomes infected and falls away. Very often there is apprehension of its neighboring limbs being affected also. The pain that this limb generates does not come from outside but results naturally from its diseased condition.

    The same is the case with spiritual torment. When a person departs from the religion of nature and loses steadfastness, spiritual torment begins, though an ignorant heedless one may not feel it. In that condition the affected soul is disabled from performing spiritual service. If this condition lasts for a time the soul becomes useless and becomes dangerous for its neighbors.

    The torment with which it is afflicted does not come from outside, but is generated by its diseased condition. No doubt it is the act of God, but it is like the case when a person takes a fatal dose of arsenic, God Almighty kills him. Or when a person shuts all the windows of his room, God Almighty makes the room dark, or if a person were to cut off his tongue, God Almighty would deprive him of the power of speech. These are all the acts of God which follow upon the acts of man.

    In the same way, spiritual torment is the act of God Almighty which follows upon a person’s own action. This is indicated in the verse: It is Allah’s kindled fire which rises over the hearts (I04:8). This means that the root of the torment is in the heart of man and that the impure thoughts of the heart are the fuel of this hell. As the seed of the torment is the foulness of one’s being which becomes personified as torment, it follows that that which removes this torment is righteousness and purity.”

    It is also reasonable to believe that hell is not eternal in the same sense as heaven is eternal; hell is like a hospital where the wrong-doers will get opportunity to get cured from their sins or wrong thoughts; and ultimately its inmates will come out like a child comes out the womb of a mother when it is due to be delivered.

    Quran also gives us a hint on it:

    [101:7] Then, as for him whose scales are heavy,
    [101:8] He will have a pleasant life.
    [101:9] But as for him whose scales are light,
    [101:10] Hell will be his nursing mother.

    http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/showChapter.php?ch=101&verse=0

    We don’t judge anybody; the heaven is for all the human beings who have true faith in Him and do good deeds. It is His Mercy and at His discretion and His judgement.

    If one wants to know details about Heaven, Hell and the Purpose of life one could access the following:

    17- HEAVEN AND HELL Pages 427-460

    18-THE PURPOSE OF CREATION Pages 460-473

    Excerpts from the writing of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

    https://alislam.org/books/Essence-2.pdf

    Does it help?

    Thanks and regards

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  21. @paarsurrey–

    You’re helping me to understand Islam and I appreciate that. I suspect that, just as it is with Christianity, some adherents are stubborn and shallow in their thinking and say thoughtless things that sound completely outrageous to intelligent people who are honestly trying to get at the truth; whereas some (I would count you in this group) have done a little bit of thinking on their own and therefore look for a deeper meaning or a more profound truth behind the teachings of their own tradition.

    I don’t think the religious split is between Muslims and Christians and Jews and Atheists and . I think the religious split is between the narrow minded and the open minded in any system of belief.

    @Nate–

    I think it says something good about YOU that people of such different beliefs can conduct a (somewhat) rational conversation on your blog!

    Paul

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  22. @Paul

    Some ideas you have expressed at different times on Nate’s blog are very unique and I’m interested in understanding a little more. Here are a couple of questions:

    1) You’ve mentioned on a different post before that you don’t quite believe in the supernatural (sorry, I’m likely misquoting because I can’t remember exactly, but that was the gist). Will you give another shot at trying to explain what you mean by God in that kind of context?

    2) I’ve been able to learn more about Josh’s beliefs after he recommended Robert Capon’s books, and I’m familiar with C.S. Lewis’ stuff so from that I partially have an idea of where UnkleE is coming from. Is there an author, book or online video that might help me understand your worldview a little better? I’m not trying to minimize your worldview by saying it can be explained in 1 book or 1 video, I’m just trying to at least see if I can get a little closer at understanding your viewpoints.

    Thanks,
    Howie

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  23. @Howie,

    I run the risk of being called for a ‘foul’ on this ‘site; but I’ll give a pedantic response to your sincere question about what ‘supernatural’ means. The upside of my pedantry is that I’m giving all you atheists an opportunity to prove that you understand the Bible better than 99.99999999% of Christians.

    No obscure verse here. I’ll pick the very verse that Christians refer to when they want to validate claims of God’s supernatural power. It’s the verse they refer to when they encourage each other to pray for a miraculous healing or a spectacular reversal of fortune or the removal of a seemingly invincible obstacle from their lives. It’s a well quoted verse and it’s repeated in all the synoptic gospels; but it’s relentlessly misinterpreted even though a short consideration of the context in which it appears would lead to a correct (and spectacularly useful) understanding.

    OK, here goes…

    Matt 19, 26. ; Luke 18, 27 ; Mark 10, 27 … You can’t miss it because Christians are always quoting it:

    “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” (With inconsequential differences of wording depending up which book you pick.)

    This verse shows up in the Bible within the context of one particular, very important story — a story about a supernatural event that DIDN’T happen; but which makes it abundantly clear what it is that Jesus is talking about when he talks about supernatural miracles.

    What Jesus is talking about isn’t at all what the voodoo crowd talks about and it doesn’t offend an educated persons understanding of science.

    Do me proud and explain it back to me.

    Paul

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  24. Oooops!!!

    I was using a public computer and forgot to log the previous user out. Or whatever. Anyway, the above post is from me, Captain Catholic, despite the weird icon.

    Paul

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  25. When you drink a fatal dose of Arsenic, it is God (Allah) who kills you? Wow, God sounds like the laws of physics and chemistry…

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  26. Here’s more heartburn for you:

    John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

    And yet… and yet…

    II Corinthians 12:7-9 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

    Let me get this straight — Jesus says that whatever the believer asks in his name will be granted (with some caveats like, say, you are obeying God [whatever that means, subject to narrow interpretations by legalists] and you have the right faith [which has to be granted to you by God in the first place — which puts the onus on God]), but then the Apostle Paul comes along and says he did ask and was (in the words of Suzi Orman) DENIED!.

    So what are Christians supposed to believe? That God will grant whatever they ask in Jesus’ name unless it isn’t His Will? How in the heck are we supposed to know what His Will will be? Isn’t this rather arbitrary? What faith can you have when there is unreliability built in? How can you ever know whether God intervenes, or is it all some how natural when things go right?

    This is downright confusing if you’re expecting one shred of consistency (and have you really looked at the Bible lately? It gets worse…).

    More relevant today is whether or not God is good and powerful enough to intervene to stop the wickedness of evil corporate conglomerations doing damage to Christian believers (or at least draining their money supply and giving less than the best goods and services — I mean, have you see the 1-star ratings at Amazon.com? It’s awful, just awful. Just what sort of carpet cleaner should I buy? Will God help me make the right choice if I ask in Jesus’ name?).

    And how about bad government? If God ever needed to intervene, it’s to stop the corruption.

    Ah, well.

    I remember well the opinion of the Chairman of the Board of the United Church of God an International Association (UC Gaia, the only church to be named after the goddess of the earth): There will be no justice on earth until Christ returns (and therefore United wasn’t about to give their own members justice when there was stalking going on in the church, even though they could have done something about it and the members getting stalked by another member had to get a court order). The real question is, will Jesus return to render justice if we ask God in his name?

    Or do we have to rely on the old adage, God only helps those who help themselves — leaving you wondering if you didn’t do it all yourself in the first place.

    The apathetic need not believe that God is going to do one thing for them, we just wonder about the rest of us.

    Meanwhile, there’s a built in excuse for God not intervening.

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  27. IMO, Mikey’s comment is EXCELLENT! it hits not only the proverbial nail on the head, but several more nails as well.

    I’m seriously considering re-posting it to my own blog, with Mike’s permission, of course.

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  28. Nan, OK to repost.

    Here’s some more heartburn:

    As near as we can get from Scripture, God, The Father, has always existed and designed everything (reference the new series on ABC, Cosmos, for the grandeur of it all, replete with galaxies, quasars, complex math, DNA, etc, etc). Somehow, The Word popped up somewhere in eternity (a clone; a subdivide like a paramecium?), being Divine but not as great as God (My Father is greater than I…) and created everything (including angels, if you believe Hebrews). Now, God, The Father, seems to be like some sort of Supreme Technologist, happily geeking through all eternity, exploring combinations of things, performing experiments, making projects and He is extremely rich, owning like just EVERYTHING! So He was instrumental in creating our Universe with all those galaxies which has a black hole at the center of every one of them to hold each one together.

    Well, you know, Super Dad didn’t really know what it was like to be human. Oh sure, He watched everything develop and saw humanity from the beginning, but wasn’t much involved directly because His Son, The Word, who was to become Jesus Christ, was the god of the Old Testament — and he was a mighty retentive god who insisted that everything was perfect or else he’d lower the boom! It’s clear he was never really married and he didn’t have any kids, or else he’d know better than to throw hissy fits when people didn’t do EXACTLY what he wanted them to do: It was Blessings and Cursings, a la Deuteronomy 28. It’s pretty obvious that wasn’t working because those darned Israelites could never get it right: “In whom there was no faith” and “it is impossible to please God without faith” and, of course, faith is the gift of God, so there’s no winners there.

    So Jesus came along and lo and behold, he discovered pain. Hebrews says he learned from what he suffered. He was tempted in all ways as we are as frail human flesh.

    Oh yeah?!

    Let’s see now, he had, what, about 24 hours of intense pain and suffering in his 33 years on earth as a mortal. How does that compare with 40 years of chronic pain? Did he experience the pain of child birth, pray do tell? What, no broken bones? No days waiting out your life with cancer in a convalescent home? No Altzheimer’s where you can’t remember who you are, let alone your parents? No children? No marriage (and spare me the rubbish that he was ‘married’ to Israel, because that won’t fly)?

    And how about modern ethical dilemmas? Did he have to violate Federal Law to pollute in order to save his own job and that of his coworkers so he and they could feed their families? How about being involved in determining whether a corporation can patent someone’s DNA right out beneath them? Or determining that if you allow 10 people to die you can save millions?

    Not a problem because you can go back to being eternal and suffer no more pain after your 24 hours of pain and being dead for 3 days.

    There’s no accounting for those Israelites who suffered innocently at the hands of others and not really having done anything wrong except to be born at the wrong place at the wrong time as a slave in Egypt. So much for the promises.

    Speaking of the promises, just what are we to make of the promise that at the end of it all, just before all eternity kicks off for the rest of us (who made it), where there aren’t going to be any more tears and God will be our God and we will be His people — all happy, happy?

    We seem to have some pretty sloppy documentation and those proponents of the Christian religion aren’t helping much, introducing more obvious errors as time goes along.

    What level of confidence should we have that God really cares for us when He is a dead-beat dad, a long way off, sort of like Clark Kent in Superman Returns? He’s extremely wealthy and we are to be heirs. Would it be too much trouble if He could help us cover the bills when we get into trouble? If He has the power to heal, why doesn’t He? A real dad would if he could. He’s never suffered and has everything. It’s like we’re His genetic experiment and He’s watching us because He’s fascinated by the drama.

    Yes, He probably does care about every sparrow that falls. The question is, what is He going to do to the cat that made the sparrow fall in the first place?

    I’m not trying to be insulting, but it would sure be nice if someone could answer these questions and I’m pretty sure, based on my experience, that we won’t be hearing from any Christians in the near future about the answers.

    Like

  29. Hi Captain,

    Thanks for your response.

    I was kinda wanting your perspective so feeding you back mine probably will end up just mixing my perspectives in with yours. 🙂 But I get it – you are a teacher and this is the technique that teachers use. The people who wrote the gospels seemed to like that technique too.

    Also my question was more related to whether or not you thought God itself was a supernatural being, or a natural being, or maybe just a thought that humans have in their minds to describe the majesty of the natural world. Is God an actual being that thinks and causes things to happen in our world, or again is it just a concept for us? Is it supernatural or not?

    As far as that verse I didn’t speak to the writers so I can only make my best guess at the wisdom they wanted to impart. It looks like the impossible thing they are talking about is having the ability to get into the kingdom of God. Of course the writers didn’t like being very clear so they also liked to mix in talking about things like giving up everything to follow God. So we’ve got groups saying there isn’t anything at all we can do to get into this kingdom they were talking about, and then we’ve got other groups saying there are things we have to do – like give up all our stuff. So it’s impossible for us to give up all our stuff on our own but God can cause some people to give up all their stuff – that’s another possible interpretation which might fit in with the 2 verses that follow the one you quoted. Some claim allegory some don’t. And then there’s the fact that phrases back then could have meant things entirely different than what those phrases mean today and the true meaning could very possibly be lost forever in ancient history. For example, right in this passage itself there is debate over what “eye of the needle” might have actually meant, and whether or not that changes the context.

    Can you answer my 2nd question from my last comment? I thought it was a very fair question in an effort to try and uncover some of the mystery of what you believe.

    Like

  30. @charonsaide

    I’m giving all you atheists an opportunity to prove that you understand the Bible better than 99.99999999% of Christians.

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear…..

    Now, this is the same gospel writer, ( whoever this was) that ripped off Isiah and claimed it was a prophecy for a Messiah and that was Yeshua.

    The same writer that offers a cocked up genealogy for Jesus.

    This is the same gospel writer that cites the slaughter of the innocents, an act not recorded by any other historian.

    This is the same gospel writer that claims there was a Zombie Apocalypse at the time of the crucifixion of the character, Jesus. An event so stupendous (sic) it went unnoticed by every single contemporary writer and every other Christian writer. Zombies going for a stroll being an everyday occurrence in 1st Century Jerusalem, I suppose?
    So authentic(sic) in fact, that the Catholic Church regard it as nonsense, yet Christian Apologist, Mike Licona lost his job ( twice?) because he wrote in his 2010 book that it was not a literal event. Now fundamentalist colleagues got a tad miffed over this. One sentence from the whole damn book! They considered he was undermining the bible and their ( inerrancy) position and demanded he issue a retraction.
    He didn’t. Oops…bye…Mike.

    This is the same gospel writer that ripped off 600 verses from the writer of ‘Mark’

    Excuse my impertinence, but are you really expecting any normal person to afford credence and respect for this piece of nonsense?

    So, you were saying…..?

    Like

  31. Ah..I just read the next comment from Paul. Lol…..Oh, I am so glad this lady didn’t write this as she seems quite nice.

    Rereading it now, it comes across as exactly the type of tripe Paul would write.

    Like

  32. @Mikey

    II Corinthians 12:7-9 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

    I’ve been a Christian for, what, fifty nine years now. Imagine how many times I’ve heard that particular reading, or heard homilies drawn from that passage, or read comments in books or other writings about it, or been involved in discussions about it. The famous, and utterly mysterious, “thorn in the flesh”.

    At some point along the road I figured out that Paul wasn’t doing anything different than Christians have been doing for the nearly two millennia since he died — namely, concocting some sort of explanation to allow a person to go on believing the very things that experience itself demonstrated was false.

    Here’s the thing that has always struck me as odd: He prayed once, didn’t get what he expected, but he didn’t let it go — then he prayed a second time, didn’t get what he expected, and still didn’t let it go — finally he prayed a third time, got the same result (or non-result) and decided, finally, to throw in the towel. How did he figure out that three was the ‘magic number’? He could have stopped praying after one rejection, but didn’t. He could have continued to pray after three rejections, but didn’t.

    Then there’s the concocted explanation itself. Supposedly God had to go out of his way to keep Paul from becoming too much of an egotist — which strikes me as a pretty damn egotistical explanation, do you agree?

    Ark describes my writing as “tripe” (thank you Ark!) but I keep trying to hammer home the same point. Christianity isn’t about us learning to get God to do what we want Him to do, it’s about Him teaching us to do what He wants us to do. My problem is that I don’t understand why OTHER Christians have so much trouble understanding what “Thy will be done” means.

    🙂

    Paul

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  33. Ark describes my writing as “tripe” (thank you Ark!)

    My absolute pleasure, Paul.
    However, I should qualify. I am not criticizing your style of writing, which, although obscure, has the right amount of commas and full stops and is quite entertaining, if somewhat obscure.

    When I say ”tripe”, I am , of course, referring to the content, which, if it were fertilizer that could be shoveled around my garden, would be steaming nicely and bringing up my roses and dahlias a treat.

    Like

  34. @captaincatholic ; March 20, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    “paarsurrey–
    You’re helping me to understand Islam and I appreciate that. I suspect that, just as it is with Christianity, some adherents are stubborn and shallow in their thinking and say thoughtless things that sound completely outrageous to intelligent people who are honestly trying to get at the truth; whereas some (I would count you in this group) have done a little bit of thinking on their own and therefore look for a deeper meaning or a more profound truth behind the teachings of their own tradition.

    I don’t think the religious split is between Muslims and Christians and Jews and Atheists and . I think the religious split is between the narrow minded and the open minded in any system of belief.” Unquote

    I think I agree with you; except that Atheists say that they don’t follow any belief system; if I have correctly understood them.

    It is good that they prefer reason and that is good, not a bad thing; it is one bounty that the One-True-God has bestowed us the human beings and is common to everybody, some use it most while some don’t use it much. As one sees with eyes things that are physical and material; for inner reflection reason is sort of inner tool of seeing.

    Like eyes cannot see clearly even things material and physical that are very close or that are far-off from the eyes; so the reason has its limitations also; it cannot go beyond that.
    One should not believe in myths; myths could be reasoned out and that is very good.

    I think you are a reasonable CatholicChristian.

    Pleasure to meet you.

    Thanks and regards

    P.S.I visited your blog.
    Thanks

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  35. I think, Paul, the reason people get confused is b/c what we read is confusing. Yes, “THY will be done” (the Thou being spoken of being, of course, the Biblical God), but then there are verses like “ask anything in my name and it will be done” or “if you have faith even as a grain of mustard seed you can move mountains” or “the prayer of faith will save the sick”, etc. But, of course, if it isn’t His will to do those things, then those promises are meaningless. Nice caveat (as Mikey covered so well)…”that doesn’t prove I don’t exist, it just means I’m saying NO”.

    Of course, occasionally, God will heal somebody (cancer, or eye problems, etc), but he doesn’t like amputees, so he NEVER EVER does anything about that (and DON’T say “ahh, but he’s giving us the Science and Technology to finally make something better than the ol’ Peg Leg”…that doesn’t fly).

    So that, I think, is why people get confused, even your co-religionists…

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  36. @Eric,

    You’re right. That is, you WOULD be right if all we had was a book to read; but we’ve also got the example and guidance of other believers who’ve been on the road of discipleship for a while.

    And there, I’m afraid, is the rub. It’s one thing for someone reading scripture for the first time to find the verse that says, “ask anything…” and think he’s fallen upon Aladdin’s lamp. That’s OK for a first timer; but folks who’ve been around for a while have more than just a verse to reference. They have their own lived experience.

    Yeah, yeah. It says what it says (more on that later); but what good is faith if you lack intellectual honesty? At a certain point your beliefs becomes your own responsibility. You can’t go on forever saying, “well, it says in such a book in such a chapter in such a verse…”. Sooner or later you have to grow up and say, “I know this because I’ve lived it.”

    I know the good that comes of yielding to the will of God. I know it, not from the book only, but from my life. I also know the limitations to the “magical verses” you point to.

    Here’s something I wrote a few years ago: http://reflectionsofacatholicchristian.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/making-christ-my-master/
    I’m talking, here, about repentance. Not superficial repentance; but the kind of repentance that can transform.

    The person who’s on his knees, giving orders to the Almighty, betraying his own selfishness with the narrowness of his concerns, is unrepentant. In the truest sense, that person doesn’t even have faith. Wishful thinking, more like it….

    Read what I wrote and then let’s talk more.

    Paul

    Like

  37. Nicely written little piece, CC. And I understand the bit you’re commenting here about “why can’t they understand THY will be done”? And no, it is not about making god do what WE want. But still, god didn’t say “the prayer of faith shall save the sick, if it is my will”. Of course, the church I grew up in said that if you died in Faith, believing in the promises, then you were Sealed and would be raised Whole (or raised as a Spirit Being) when the time was right–so it wasn’t a case of “that person wasn’t healed b/c they died”–they WERE healed, for they had faith, and faith is the evidence of things not seen…but now I say “that makes the claim non-falsifiable”.

    Right?

    So, what you’re saying is that as long as we figure out what GOD wants, and then pray for things based on our best understanding of that, then there’s answered prayer. But, of course, if you’ll look around even the US (not to mention the world in general), you’ll find a lot of people who reckon they are doing god’s will. It appears to not be an easy thing to discipher. And so far as answered prayer goes, I used to figure I got answers fairly often (I was, after all, part of God’s One True Church), but then a friend of mine said something about Confirmation Bias and a scientific test that included praying to Zeus. I don’t know if I was doing Zeus’ Will, but the things I considered “answered prayer” (or what I would have considered instances of answered prayer under my old belief system) appeared to happen almost as often.

    Of course, all this is far from the main topic, though having god heal at least ONE amputee would go a long way to proving his existence…of course, if he only healed ONE, then everyone would be like “why didn’t he heal more than one?” and it still wouldn’t prove which god was the one that healed that person…unless he accompanied the healing by a Public message of some type (private visions are inadmissible as evidence, as I’m sure you understand).

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  38. Back to the main point you were making with one of your first comments, not all the evils in the world are Human. Remember natural disasters?

    Not just that, but have you watched much NatGeo? Have you? The predator-prey relationship is pretty Evil. Here this poor gazelle is running for its life only to have the Large African Cat catch it and crush its windpipe in its jaws.

    Or salmon going upstream to spawn getting ripped apart, while still alive, by a hungry bear…so IT can live through the winter.

    There are ants in South America (the Camponotus leonardi) that get infected with a fungus that turns them into “zombie ants” (easy to google if you haven’t heard of it yet).

    There are dozens more things. Again, the “omnimalevolent god” argument is just a satire, but one can clearly see from such examples in the Natural World that there certainly isn’t an “omniBenevolent” god.

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  39. “Thy Will be done”

    Let’s be clear here: In context, this is Jesus (or someone writing as if they were quoting Jesus) who has (according to the… Scripture) the GREATEST commission anyone ever had: To suffer and die for all humanity (and cats? will my cat be resurrected too?) for redemption and reconciliation so that all people can get to know God The Father, who, up to that point, no one had a clue that such a Being existed. He absolutely KNEW what God’s Will was, but would rather not go through it. Oh well, he only had to suffer for, what?, 36 hours tops, be dead for 3 days and be Divine again.

    And which one of us can have that confidence? Yes — who can KNOW what God’s Will really is? We have examples of Islamists who are certain God’s (Allah’s) Will is suicide bombing to kill off the infidel and themselves with it — and hey will gain a place where they have 72 virgins for all eternity (who can say they are wrong about that — it just seems improbable). The list goes on and on — a great script for Law and Order Criminal Intent.

    Now excuse my skepticism. You must understand that I was a Lutheran who attended a Catholic Parochial School from the age of 5 for 11 years. I watched while my classmates bowed down to graven images. It was clear to me that they were violating the Second Commandment but since they excised that one in favor of doubling up on Lust at the end of the list, they had the built in EXCUSE that they were NOT committing idolatry and that they just had the images to remind them of the saints to whom they are praying (which the Scripture in Acts says is rubbish because they are all dead until the resurrection). Particularly odious to many Protestants (the protesting daughters coming out of the great whore of Revelation in the view of many), Maryolatry is the pits because you pray to her (she’s dead) so she can go ask Christ so he can ask the Father. Let’s see now — Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and Mary is on the right hand of Jesus and they all have beautiful thrones together in a line in front of all those angels singing their praises? That must be some song.

    Of course, there is some question about the validity of the New Testament, some believing that the Catholic Church got a bunch of guys together to write down all the myths of Tradition and put into a collection. Maybe. Maybe not. It does appear that the Catholics are responsible for the “preservation” of the New Testament, but given their track record of idolatry (and other forums have had this discussion and the Catholics generally get flamed royally while the Catholics themselves seem to be clueless) there is question why we should trust one word of it, particularly Revelation, which seems to give the RCC a bad rep. Sorry, but it’s hard to accept the word of Catholics for me because of my (perhaps distorted) perception that they just don’t have the truth. And anyway, it wasn’t until the 20th Century that the RCC took the Bible off the banned list of books, if read, would result in MORTAL sin (as opposed to those venial sins which only land you in Purgatory, which is not mentioned in Scripture but is passed down as Tradition and we know how the “Gossip Game” works, don’t we?).

    “Hear O Israel, God is One God”

    Oh sure, until you get to the New Testament, then there are two. If you count Mary, maybe three. Whose Will is to be done here? Is there a tie breaker? (“My Father is Greater than I” — What? If your God, you’re God? Isn’t that equality? How is consensus supposed to be created here?)

    So you can see that saying it’s simple, “Thy will be done” is a lot more complicated that it may seem at first blush. How can we really know God’s Will (if there is one)? How do we make decisions if we can’t really know? Do we just keep God’s Law (which part — are you keeping the Sabbath and the Holy Days?) and expect that God is bound to give you what you ask as long as it doesn’t violate His Law?

    I think this is going to be a long day for someone.

    Like

  40. @Black Ops Mikey,

    “It was clear to me that they were violating the Second Commandment but since they excised that one in favor of doubling up on Lust at the end of the list”

    C’mon, Mikey, if you’re going to call us out for the sneaky tricks we pull you might as well get the details right! We doubled up on “covetousness” at the end of the list. We’ve been able to sexually frustrate billions of women and men without needing more than one anti-lust commandment. If we had two there wouldn’t be any challenge to it at all!

    I’ll give as elaborate a response to your comment as you want; but the basic problem here, as always, is literalism. I’m not saying that Catholics are any less prone to literalism than anybody else, literalism is a human failing; but if you actually want to have a fruitful discussion on these points you have to disregard the comments of the literalist Catholics, the literalist Protestants and the literalist Atheists.

    Is this even making sense to you?

    This morning, after Mass, I walked toward the altar, made the sign of the cross, and bowed before the huge crucifix that hangs in the most conspicuous part of the sanctuary. After that, I knelt in front of the golden tabernacle where we keep the consecrated bread that’s used during communion. Did I violate the prohibition against idolatry? The proper answer is, “You don’t know if I committed idolatry or not because I haven’t told you enough about what was going on.” The walk, the bow, the touching of head and chest and shoulders, the kneeling, the genuflecting — those are only external manifestations of what actually happened in that moment.

    If you really think that everyone who bows before a religious statue is committing idolatry and every one who refrains from such demonstrations of piety is avoiding idolatry, your understanding of idolatry is very, very, very superficial.

    Let’s us both try to do some thinking about what idolatry actually is, how it is manifested in contemporary society, and why it ought to be prohibited.

    Arguments over superficial details get really boring really quick.

    Paul

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  41. Yes, I was right the first time… Catholics are clueless. When I was in High School in a free period between accounting and typing class taught by Sister Loyola, I took the opportunity to inspect the Catholic Encyclopedia in the library. I found that eventually the Catholic church apologized to Galileo — 400 years after he died, of course — we wouldn’t want to rush these things (no such apology was issued to Bruno as near as I can tell). For hundreds of years, the Catholic Church didn’t know the earth was not the center of the universe and resisted science with all their might because… well, because… um, you know, I don’t know. And remember the Bible was a banned book until the 20th Century. Clueless. Catholics are clueless.

    This blog posting reminds me of The Onion with their satire article on “God Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder”:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/god-diagnosed-with-bipolar-disorder,348/

    I think we do have an explanation: A binary God! Yes, friends, there are two Gods in One (even if the Scripture says “Hear O Israel, God is one God”). There is that nasty Old Testament retentive God, throwing a hissy fit (or worse) at the slightest provocation and then there’s Jesus — a kind, nice sort of easy going fellow, except of course, when he’s throwing money changers out of the Temple. See — that’s the solution to this dilemma. Of course, the Catholics and a lot (I mean a LOT) of Protestants change things up with 3 Gods in One with the Trinity, but while I understand binary, octal and hexadecimal, I’m not much for base 3 systems, and, besides, the Holy Spirit isn’t very interesting as a personality — it’s not like we know His favorite color or what restaurant to take Him to if He shows up (but, thankfully, no one, but no one has ever seen him, not even in the pages of Revelation which talks about both God The Father AND Jesus as being real personalities with a body and everything [Jesus has a beard — important for you guys out there who are going to be his bride and need to prepare for the first evening of the honeymoon]).

    But wait!

    The Apostle Paul makes it clear that the Rock — the God of the Old Testament — is really Jesus! Isn’t that confusing? The Father only really makes ‘an appearance’ in the New Testament to be portrayed by Jesus, who is the very first to bring us the news that there are really two Gods — him and the Father. And not to worry — the Church is the mother, but given the Inquisition, I’m thinking that if Mother is the Catholic Church, she’s not a very good mother.

    Say, you know, maybe the problem isn’t so much with God as it is with religions which are speaking for God — the Inquisition, death to the infidel — that sort of thing. Maybe these religions invented god and then puts the whole thing on him (or her / it) when things gangs aftly with persecutions and purges. Yes, yes, there are ‘natural disasters’ (of the which liberals say Global Warming — if it exists — we brought on ourselves, so how can it be a ‘natural’ disaster as opposed to a man-made one), but the Apostle Paul explains that all away by saying “Time and chance happen to all”, clearly violating the spirit of the thing for insurance companies which do not insure against ‘Acts of God’.

    Hey, now!

    We can’t ignore Satan in all this. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, unless it’s a genetic based poison that only acts on the male of the species. Satan is free will gone wrong, at least according to the theory, and he’s (it’s? Satan isn’t supposed to be able to have sex, which may explain why he is so cranky) the one who’s the source of most, if not all, of our problems. You see, like this healing thing: The disease, like cancer, might be caused by demons and a lot of these ‘come not out, but by prayer and fasting’. Question: Have you really tried prayer AND fasting to get rid of the cancer? You never know — by dispelling the demons you might find the cure.

    Yes, it’s all crazy — over the top. Take a premise not in league with any sort of reality and run with it. Eric and I could tell you the story of a cultist who claims that demons are flying UFOs over the earth and taking species to other planets to develop something nefarious and the story of another cultist who teaches that demons are coming to infest the earth through a Stargate under the ocean (I forget which ocean). Not that this is so different from the dark ages where priests used an axe to split open a head containing demons (the axe was supposed to make an “X”) when the poor guy was just disoriented (from diet) — a sad tale related to us by the Ancient History teacher in College.

    I’m not so very sure that we’ve come very far since the days that Roman Catholics insisted by doctrine (accompanied by burning at the stake) that the earth was the center of the universe. And I’m not so sure that the Catholic Church was not involved with creating some of the terrors to maximize pain, destruction and carnage. Yes, I do realize that (reluctantly) these man made horrors have passed (mostly because the Catholic Church doesn’t have as much power now as it did then) and we need to move on (and hope like heck they or someone else doesn’t gain these dictatorial powers over the world like the leader of North Korea with the “winner effect”).

    If anyone or any group has the power of the ‘winner effect’ — in the words of Psychology Today: We should be worried.

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  42. Quite Epic, Mikey…though I think Paul (Captain Catholic) has you cornered on this one. You see, he is a great “believer” (that’s probably the wrong word, which is why it is in quotes) in anti-literalism–nothing means what it looks like it means, which means it means whatever we interpret it to mean.

    When Ex. 20 or Deut. 5 talk about “thou shalt not make any graven image…to bow down to them or serve them”, well, you know, “bowing” before graven images of Mother Mary, or even Jesus, or a Roman-era torture-and-execution device, well, that’s not really breaking the commandment b/c you’re taking it too literally.

    Of course, CC is right–just b/c he did all those actions doesn’t mean he was committing idolatry; he might be a Secret Atheist who is only a Cultural Catholic (a possibility that has been tossed about occasionally by some who do not yet fully Grasp his “you take everything too literally” Message). 😉

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  43. Yes, Eric, and if there is a God, he’s in real trouble.

    The solution to all your problems: Just redefine them as being “too literal” and they will just go away. Whatever you think in your own mind is what is reality and nothing else.

    It reminds me of my son’s psychotic break where he believed that he was re creating the universe and became the uber God to recreate God. He also believed that he had to turn off the main power to the house to leave it “grounded” so evil couldn’t get in. He used our poor cat’s tail to ground the universe by bulling on his tail while the cat was on a chair (it’s unfortunate that poor Kitty didn’t understand his great role in saving the Universe). And, in fact, neither did the County Mental Health professionals who came to assess him.

    Yes, reality is exactly what we define it to be in our own heads. The cult you belong to has the ultimate truth and you don’t need to reference external realities.

    Until they put you on your meds.

    I guess mental health professionals and the law enforcement people just take things too literally. Just because you shot someone and they fell over means that they are not dead if you sincerely believe otherwise. You can’t be convicted of murder because in your mind he’s still alive.

    The earth is still the center of the universe because a church believes it to be true — this business about science is just to much literalism.

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing though, if the Catholics became like the Buddhists who cheerfully admit they are idolaters and take great joy in it — and the world is better off as a result of their teachings. Just ask Brad Pitt. Sorry. Sorry. Bad example.

    I reference my former boss’s favorite wisdom: “Lies, it’s all lies”.

    But only if you don’t take it literally (and, say, the word literal has two contradictory meanings — quite the paradox, if you get my drift).

    Eric, I do believe you have mastered sarcasm.

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  44. I’ve been deliberately dense when I know better: Up until a few scant decades ago, the Catholics could not eat meat on Friday, but they could eat fish, because, as we all know, fish is not meat.

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  45. Eric,

    You see, he is a great “believer” (that’s probably the wrong word, which is why it is in quotes) in anti-literalism–nothing means what it looks like it means, which means it means whatever we interpret it to mean.

    That’s exactly what I was thinking Eric. Paul (aka Captain Catholic) underestimates how easy it is to interpret passages to mean whatever we would like them to mean. I also believe that using the exact same techniques of interpretation that Christians use, all religions can very easy be validated as true as well.

    It’s hard to objectively quantify this ability to interpret passages to mean whatever we want them to mean, but it can be demonstrated, and to me is easily seen practically by the fact that there are so many different denominations with differing interpretations of scriptures. This hit home for me many years ago when I was in a small study group on the book of James led by my pastor. We each had homework to take a couple of chapters and as research had to read several different related commentaries. Our pastor made sure that the books we chose were all within the small range of the “moderate” Christian evangelical pocket that our church fit in. What was shocking was how even within that small pocket there was so much disagreement on how each passage could be interpreted. In fact even each individual author would often lay out all of the different varieties of interpretations that other scholars had written about. Then expand outside the small pocket of the range of our church and the ability to interpret the way you would like becomes very easy to recognize.

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  46. I think I have heard it said he is some sort of Mental Health Professional, though I didn’t hear that from him so I may have my information wrong.

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  47. Or we could just accept that Captain has faith.

    Don’t we all have foundations that rest primarily on faith? Don’t believe me? then I’ll attempt to unpack this a bit more.

    All epistemology rests on a first premise, that as a starting point cannot be validated.

    For example, Descartes famous “I think therefore I am” includes within it the belief that our cognition is our own. So the question of “how do I know I’m here and what is real” for Descarte seems to partly rest on the belief that we have ownership over our thoughts, in the sense that we have free will.

    But How does Descarte know this?

    He doesn’t. Actually I don’t think anyone can, at least not objectively. There is no external way we can prove that our cognition, identity and preferences are our own. This is because we are all walking around brimming with the impressions of our parents, our friends, work mates and our culture.

    we are an assortment of influences. What we react to, accept or deny, are not distinctions from all these influences but a intrinsic part of them.

    Whether you agree with Descartes starting assertion or not “Cogito ergo sum” is faith based, since it cannot be proven objectively.

    First premises through which all information we receive is processed can only be accepted by faith, since starting premises cannot validate themselves. If I am wrong, please name me one foundational premise that doesn’t.

    To use a slightly absurd example, there is no way to prove whether we are not in actuality just all brains in a collective vat, and that our impressions are just an illusion. People may find this idea silly. However, there is no way we can discount that we aren’t just brains in a vat and all stimulus is an illusion.

    Epistemology in all its forms begins with assertions that are accepted without proof, because it is the primary starting point. Call that what you want, but that is faith.

    Epistemological Dualism. Monism even Empiricism have foundational assumptions that cannot be validated in themselves, and are therefore a starting belief.

    These beliefs are fleshed out, applied and systemically presented with evidence supporting their starting point, but each can only do this if that leap of faith from is made, which shapes the way corresponding information is processed and interpreted. These as starting points cannot be proven, only built from and acted upon.

    http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/phil/blphil_epist_theories.htm

    So why are people critical of Captains hope?

    we all have hopes, and many of us are driven by our hopes.

    Kind regards, Ryan

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  48. I have tend to write in a disorganised way in the past, trying to change that 😛

    A quick edit.

    “First premises through which all information we receive is processed can only be accepted by faith, since starting premises cannot validate themselves.

    If I am wrong, Please name me one foundational premise that does*”

    I would love to be pointed towards a more accurate perspective. Always eager for revision.

    It does seem to me though that Epistemology in all its forms begins with assertions that are accepted without proof. Is that not faith?

    Kind regards

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  49. Hey Ryan – I agree very much with a lot of what you said, although Descartes’ cogito may not be the best example because I agree with Descartes that we can know that there is something that exists given that I am asking the question (that is what he meant).

    But you are very right, given the problem of infinite regress in epistemology we all have to come down to some very basic beliefs that have no justification – philosophers say they can be justified only in the sense that they are “self-evident”. These are called foundational beliefs, aka properly basic beliefs, or axioms. I don’t mind using the word faith to describe belief in these axioms. But the axioms I believe in are a whittled down list that I believe practically everyone on this blog and everyone I interact with would agree with. It is that list that I try my best to build the rest of my knowledge from (yes, easier said than done, I know). “gods do NOT exist” is NOT on my list of axioms, and “gods exist” is also not on that list of mine.

    But just because we agree that we all have axioms that we believe because they seem self-evident does not mean that absolutely any belief is a properly basic belief. Let’s take the law of non-contradiction. That is often said to be a properly basic belief. First thing we know about this law is that it is practically universally believed to be true by all humans (nothing at all is perfectly universal). Second thing is that if I were to deny that the law of non-contradiction was true then anything I tried to do in life would be absurd and meaningless. Even the language that I use would be meaningless because language is based on that law.

    If we were to allow any belief to be declared as an axiom then that would also lead us to absurdity. That would mean we would have to say that any belief whatsoever that anyone has should be acceptable – but then that leads to a violation of the law of non-contradiction. So surely we have to come up with some criteria for what “self-evident” means. I’ve given my idea of the 2 criteria I use in my last paragraph. What is your criteria?

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  50. Hi Howie,

    Thanks for clearing up the example on Descarte,

    Although I’d add that even if a person does ask this question “do I exist?” this still doesn’t prove that they actually exists. Its not a proof.

    We are still left with the dilemma of identifying the identity of the questioner. What I mean by this is, where exactly does this question come from?

    A response could be “The question comes from the person themselves, it need not be more complicated”

    Okay, but on the topic of language, assuming that all our inner thoughts, reflections and outward expressions are constructed through language. Can we really have cognition without a form language? so how do we prove that our inner language of the self is not just a process, that triggers emotions?

    I don’t think we can, again it comes down to faith, we believe or reject the belief that the question we ask is our own. But I admit, this is not really a very practical line of questioning. It just follows an endless regression. Although an interesting case to consider might be Helen Keller, who evidently was able to think (she wrote books!) yet was both deaf and blind!

    Where the heck was her point of reference, apart from touch? What did her internal language “look” like? her cognitive processes? It seems there are indeed many forms of language. Its not just expressed through symbols and sounds. But that’s another topic.

    First, in relation to your question on the Law of non-contradiction? I’d like to first make one point, that the assumption of contradiction can be a misunderstanding in itself.

    For example, the seeming contradiction that a surgeon, in order to heal an eye, must cut into it to remove a cancer, could seem to some who are not informed to be a great contradiction.

    When we don’t have a more rounded understanding on something many things can appear to be a contradiction, when in fact they aren’t. Since we do not have a complete understanding of the nature of many processes, Its not impossible that certain faith, although seemingly a contradiction, could be a paradox, that apparently contradicts itself and yet might be true. but yet not a contradiction.

    Now to the subject of actual contradictions. I can’t argue with you here, my criteria in this case I think is the same as yours, in regards to the law of non-contradiction. With maybe one exception. I propose that there are certain paradoxes that can be mistaken to be contradictions. After all, understanding is a state of flux. Not everything that cannot be proved is false. Furthermore, just because a paradox is labelled a contradiction in one era does not change the paradox into a contradiction. Other than that I agree that the law of non-contradiction is necessary.

    and I have many questions, lots of thoughts that run through my head regarding the subject faith, some organised, some not. some reasonable. some not 🙂 Yet despite all my wandering and questions I cannot escape this:

    Certain Faith or trust in specific teachings can encourage people to do beautiful, kind and beneficial things.

    Certain Faith can also drive people to do cruel, harsh and harmful things

    The Sermon on the Mount encourages the former, the kind and loving things.

    returning to to my first point a post back, I see no reason why we should be critical of such hope.

    As always, kind regards

    Ryan

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  51. Ryan,

    I’m a bit behind on this thread, but I wanted to comment on a point you were making in regard to contradictions, and hopefully I won’t be too far out of context.

    I thought that your example of an eye surgeon cutting on an eye in order to make it healthy was a good point. To someone who doesn’t know about surgery, that concept may seem like a contradiction.

    I do, however, think it is a little different than the contraction we find in the bible.

    1. The bible is supposedly the only inspired word of god, so if something is amiss there, where do we go for clarification? Did god publish another perfect source? All we have to “resolve” biblical contradictions are pure suppositions by those who want the bible to be true – no real source. God has yet to clarify for himself and really, has yet to write his own book. If we believe the bible, he merely talked to a few men once upon a time, but can’t be bothered with it now, since he had a couple of guys pen his book for him. With things like surgery, we can become more educated, in various ways, to learn that sometimes we have to cut into the body in order to heal it of the root cause.

    2. If we are incorrect with our perception of the bible, when we think it holds contradictions, we go to hell or are punished eternally for that misconception. With medicine, there is no eternal consequence for misconceptions – and an opportunity to correct that misconception is often presented.

    Additionally, if we can dismiss the contradictions in the bible by saying “well, maybe there’s a good explanation,” or by inventing imaginary ways to reconcile the issue, then couldn’t we do that with any contradiction? Are we to dismiss all contradictions because, “hey, there may be a valid explanation that is either beyond our comprehension or just beyond our current education?”

    If looks like a contraction doesn’t mean it is one – it just means it looks like one. And because god isn’t talking or offering additional courses, the bible looks like it has contradictions in it.

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  52. Ok, tough topic, not sure I understood your answer fully, but that’s ok.

    I wouldn’t disagree that faith in certain things can lead to good things. Perhaps it all stems from desires though. I myself don’t have faith in some meta-cosmic foundation of goodness (I actually don’t know for sure whether or not such a thing exists), but I know for sure that I desire to treat others kindly. It is simply something I want to do. Doing otherwise makes me feel like shit. So it is my desires that drive that. So if a cosmic foundation for goodness exists outside of humans then I’d go along, and if it doesn’t exist then I’d still act the same way. So in some ways it’s existence is not relevant to me.

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  53. Ross, or Ryan, I don’t think we’re here trying to destroy the Captain’s faith. Faith, I don’t think, is the basic thing under criticism here. The main point, I think, is that someone says “according to scripture such and such, blah blah blah”, to which CC says “well there’s your problem–you’re taking the scripture too literally!”

    He had said that just b/c he did the sign of the cross and bowed and all that stuff, didn’t prove he was committing idolatry, as Mikey had suggested. I then said something about the 10 commandments not saying anything about idolatry when it says “don’t make graven images of anything to bow to them”. I then went on to be sarcastic and suggest that just b/c the scripture says “thus and thus”, well there’s no way to prove it actually means that b/c we can’t take anything too literally. Wink. Wink.

    It is, specifically, the impossible-to-pin-down-on-any-particular-point “anti literalism” that is being criticized, not his faith.

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  54. Dear Friends,

    I stop by to lurk from time to time. I know I’m being waved at and winked at — I also notice that I’m given the one finger salute from time to time.

    I haven’t had an opportunity to respond, nor do I have opportunity now, other than to be amazed at how all you “atheists” are as unimaginative in your approach to scripture as the most blockheaded fundamentalist.

    I certainly have faith, but my faith isn’t in the Bible or in anything that can studied by those who have no faith. That’s my definition of idolatry. Yes, you heard me right. I consider the super fanatic right wing “Christians” to be the idolaters.

    Instead of bowing before a Golden Calf (which is merely a human artifact), they bow before a book (also a human artifact).

    Today’s idolaters are actually in worse shape than the ancient Israelite apostates. The ancients at least had a nice block of gold to spend after they came to the realization that they’d been acting like idiots.

    What have you got once you figure out that it’s crazy to worship a book? You’ve got ash, nothing more.

    Paul

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  55. Cap’n, I think you’re correct, but where do you get your notion of god and jesus, if not that human artifact we call the bible?

    Even you’re clergy follow the book to one degree or another. Any flavor of christian comes to their knowledge of christ through that book.

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  56. So let me get this straight: A person thinks God exists because of confirmation bias, but what if a person has confirmation bias because confirmation bias says that all events that work to our benefit are read as confirmation bias and has confirmation bias to confirm that?

    This seems a lot like those who have no structural visualization trying to make sense of the universe by using superstition rather than science, building superstructures built on premises which have no reality and claiming it has no reality because nothing is real.

    It’s no wonder Steven Hawking claimed “Philosophy is dead”. He can prove it through confirmation bias because with science all those “coincidences” of being able to reproduce experiments and consistent observations (like when Haley’s Comet will appear next) are just random occurrences which don’t mean anything because they are mere coincidences.

    We can’t really know anything at all, so what ever we believe must be true.

    From my point of view, people without structural visualization shouldn’t try to tell us what is.

    And anyway, someone who is a mental health professional must worship the DSM-5 because it is the source of their belief system.

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  57. For what it’s worth, I agree with the Captain’s point about idolatry. Idolatry is a problem of the mind — you can’t really know if someone is a true idolater or not just by watching their actions. You may have a picture of a loved one that you really like to look at. Is it your idol? That’s highly unlikely. It’s not the picture itself that is the object of your affection — it’s the individual that it represents.

    This, as a side note, is one of the things that bothered me about the Old Testament when I was a Christian. The OT railed on and on about “idolaters,” but it seemed to fundamentally misunderstand those people. I’m pretty certain that none of them viewed the actual statue as a literal god — it was just something to focus on when thinking about their god. It’s exactly the same way that people focus on crucifixes, religious paintings, even things like The Passion of the Christ. The Bible’s writers just didn’t understand it.

    And the Captain’s also quite right that many Christians today have actually become true idolaters in the sense that they worship the Bible far more than they worship God. It has become more than just a focus point to them — they look to it directly for inspiration and guidance.

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  58. William and Howie

    I will address your questions, I don’t mean to be rude 🙂

    I just need some time to think about what you wrote.

    Hope you are both going well

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  59. William,

    in regards to the points you made on the Bible, you also said that God has yet to clarify for himself. Perhaps God will clarify Himself, I don’t know.

    And for me, I can’t prove that God exists. I cannot prove that He interacts in a personal way with people.

    Howie and William,

    To me, the bottom line is, we are all just trying to do the best with what we have been given in this mysterious thing we call life. We don’t have all the answers, and I definitely lack the life experience to be claiming that I know all the secrets of this strange place we all find ourselves in.

    But I do know this, we are all in this together, and the more open and honest we can be about our human state, hopefully the more we can encourage and show kindness to those who need it most.

    If a faith encourages people to care about those around them, because they consider others to be a part of the image of God, and not just valuable for what they can do, but who they are.

    then I feel that such faith is valuable.

    Hope you both have a good week

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  60. Hi Ryan – I read your comment twice and there really isn’t much that I’d speak against. In fact there were some things in there you said that resonated quite a bit with me. I particularly liked this:

    To me, the bottom line is, we are all just trying to do the best with what we have been given in this mysterious thing we call life. We don’t have all the answers, and I definitely lack the life experience to be claiming that I know all the secrets of this strange place we all find ourselves in.

    But I do know this, we are all in this together, and the more open and honest we can be about our human state, hopefully the more we can encourage and show kindness to those who need it most.

    I’d say the exact same thing back to you. Have a great week!

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  61. Just one more thing,

    In my experience, religion can eat you up inside, bound you up, heap the weight of the world on you and trigger horrible fear.

    And couple this fear with guilt, and you can have disorganised cognition, anxiety, anger and also for me apathy, which propagates the guilt. It is a horrible thing.

    That is where religion can be toxic, because it leaves no room to breathe,

    and the fear can paralyse you. You become your own guard in your own prison. And to a casual observer you may just seem strange and apathetic, which is probably a fair assessment in some ways.

    Yet faith is different, faith can exist both within and without a religion framework.

    Faith can encourage people to love and learn about the real experiences of others, not what its supposed to be, but what it is. Since Love casts out all fear.

    Religion according to James 1:27 is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

    I admit I don’t do this first thing, and the second thing to me is more about loving people than shunning them. That is a religion that doesn’t bound you up.

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  62. Actually I don’t do the second thing either 🙂

    Another last thing 🙂

    I think one of the main differences can be between faith and religion is within a toxic religion it is often a torment of your own making, that you place rules on yourself and try to be better.

    In my experience, this doesn’t last long, before sliding into apathy and then beating yourself up because you don’t make the cut again and again.

    But I think I’ve realised it wasn’t God that was beating me up, it was me.

    I was trying to build an empire out of ideals. And like Jesus assessment, it came crashing down consistently, but for some reason I always had this this notion in the back of my mind, that this time it will be different.

    Anyway hope that makes some sense. Thanks.

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  63. So there’s the pure and undefiled religion, and then there’s the religion we make for ourselves. And really, if kindness and love isn’t the motivation then what is?

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  64. I guess what I meant before is that along with his other messages Jesus taught that humanity, us, we are not perfect.

    I mean, I want to be compassionate and care for people. But my actions don’t always meet my desires. I want to honour those around me, but if I base this on perfection in my own strength, I lose sight of the whole point of this,

    that its not about checking boxes, its about encouraging people, and getting alongside them. And that will be messy, because humanity is messy.

    I mean, Jesus spoke about freeing people up, and freeing people up so they can love others.

    If a religion is not effective in doing this, then what is the point of all the ritual, words and ceremony?

    I’ll shut up now 🙂 I know I rant on a bit

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  65. Ryan – I think it’s also good to notice that motivational and humanitarian ideals and sayings are not unique to Jesus. Things like the golden rule (and even the platinum rule) are known to have been around in different cultures even before the time of Jesus. In fact as secular humanists have shown, even people who don’t believe in gods have contributed to humanistic thought (and their explanations for moral ontology varies).

    I think it is a common thing for all of us to get caught up in the exceptionalism of our own tribes. I can fall into this as well. But I do make an effort to try and see the beautiful things that come out of many different types of cultures.

    And as you have rightly said no tribe seems to be perfect and some worldviews can be more unhealthy than others. You are right – “We don’t have all the answers”.

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  66. Hey Howie,

    What is the platinum rule? Just curious 🙂

    I agree that we should acknowledge and even celebrate what is considerate and loving in other cultures 🙂 Whether they are shared one way in Iran and another way in China, those teachings that promote genuine charity towards others are something we can all benefit from 🙂 People may express it in different actions, but charity and kindness is a language that goes beyond our cultures.

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  67. Perhaps this problem is just that God gave free will so that He can sit back and watch the drama.

    There He is, sitting on His Throne (where did the Throne come from) and He creates this Word Person. He’s been working on the math for an Eternity and finally has obtained It. He has the plans and has His Word create Heaven and then the Angels. After sitting around for an Eternity listening to the Angels singing His praises, He does some more math as the Supreme Technologist and has the Word create the Universe.

    Another 9 Billion years goes by and He’s getting restless. He does some more math and creates biology. He then has the Word create the earth with life on it.

    Something’s missing. He figures He needs beings that can sort of think like He does, but not with all the mental power of Lucifer who has rebelled and tried to take over, sort of like with Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. So He has the Word create humans and throws in free will.

    Good call: With free will, there’s chaos and the chaos with the irrationality creates great drama.

    He’s been watching it for the last 6,000 years and it’s so good, He’s going to renew it for another season. All those 7 billion people with all their decisions and all their personal stories, with interactions, inventions.

    Of course there’s pain and challenges. You can’t have good drama without it. So what’s a little pain? If you are watching and are all happy with your life with no pain, someone else’s pain doesn’t mean much. Just to be sure though, He sends the Word to become Jesus for 33.5 years and Jesus has to endure lots of suffering for 36 hours and come back and report it all to explain how it feels.

    So there. It’s drama. According to Occam’s Razor the simplest explanation is probably the one that is true. God likes drama. He’s obsessed with it (remember His little thing with Abraham so He could KNOW that Abraham was loyal to Him?). He gets pretty upset when you don’t follow the script. Even the punishment is great drama… for Him.

    A minister of my acquaintance once said, “God has a flair for the dramatic”.

    Go with it — it’s about the most simple brain-dead explanation ever, so it must be right.

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  68. The best thing is, he probably doesn’t have to wait to find out what happens after a cliff-hanger; he just uses his omniscience to watch ahead. He’s probably already on like Walking Dead season 8.

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  69. Say if the Bible was written in a way that satisfied the criticisms people claim,

    say even if all the gospel accounts were aligned in a way that was in accordance to what a number of people expect in a perfect book.

    Wouldn’t the reaction of some still be that the gospels were “too perfect”, that the gospels were too “similar” and then claimed to be forgeries?

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  70. Ryan,

    If the bible were completely and utterly perfect, I may never would have left christianity. Now that i have left, because it isnt perfect, I have seen with clearer eyes the other issues that exist.

    To answer your question, if the bible was perfect and error free, I would not return to christianity. There are too many other problems I see now; like how can my faith really be in god when man wrote, translated, collected and compiled the bible? This means my faith was always and only in the claims of men – not god.

    How can heaven even be a good place if there’s hell? My kids or my wife end up in hell, but i’m supposed to happy that I made it to heaven? Maybe god makes us forget those loved ones – but that doesnt sound good to me. I Miss my dead friends and relatives now and causes me grief; do i want to forget them to make the grief or sense of loss go away? absolutely not! I value my memories of them.

    If the devil and his angels were cast out of heaven due to sin, why do we believe that we, imperfect creations with freewill, thing we wont sin in heaven when we cant seem to avoid it now? Wouldnt it just be a matter of time before everyone is cast out of heaven? This discussion has been had before on nate’s blog, i think.

    There are of course other issues…

    but back to your question regarding a perfect book. If each book looked like it was copied from the other, then that may present questions, but if there were no constrictions or errors? No, I dont think anyone would seriously condemn the book for being too perfect – especially when it supposedly came from a perfect being.

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  71. Jesus taught that, Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

    How God interacts with each of us personally is something each of us can only know in ourselves. Its between each of us and God.

    I hope each of us journey closer to what is real and true

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  72. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you

    What percentage of that actually works that way and how much of the “misses” have to be rationalized and excused.

    If God really has a flair for the dramatic, how much can you solidly depend on Intervention or do you just have to go through the experiences and try to figure out what just happened?

    If someone is always playing for the sake of drama, how much can you put in that person?

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  73. I think this depends on who you trust God to be. If you believe He is Love, then Love isn’t a mere flair for drama.

    I’m in no position to say that I know why bad things happen. There’s countless things I don’t understand.

    Its a position of faith, I admit that. To believe in Jesus and His teachings. To believe that God loves the world. To believe that there is something beyond the horizon. It is faith.

    But I believe this faith is real, because I’ve seen how it gives people hope. I’ve seen how it has freed people, not in a cheesy, hallmark way, but how people who have been living in fear, been living in abuse, how these people have come to realise that they are valuable, that they deserve to be happy, and that they are worth so much that God died for them. I’ve seen someone who was miserable and angry for so long, have moments of joy and peace.

    How her eyes would light up when she would talk about praying to God, to see a peace in them. that she is loved so much and that God cared for them so much. That is beautiful. And that’s the Gospel.

    In terms of arguments, at the end of the day, God can defend Himself far better than I could ever.

    There are so many hurting people out there. And I’ve seen how powerful this faith can be in healing people. sure the bible can be used and abused, anything powerful can.

    sure there’s many questions I have, but the message that Jesus taught, that central message. the Gospel. it changes peoples lives.

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  74. And that probably sounds a bit cliché, but I know of at least one woman who lives by herself, she has had a very hard life. But she doesn’t feel alone any more, and to hear her talk about God, gives me hope. But she’s part of the community now, and she talks to God. And in those moments she gives me a strong impression that she has peace. Does this prove God exists? I don’t know, that depends on each person.

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  75. actually it doesn’t prove that God exists to anyone else apart from those who were present, since it is now secondary information I’m sharing. But I think faith is a culmination of encounters, both primary and secondary. Its not necessarily a single moment alone, but many.

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  76. Hi Ryan,

    To me, that shows that different things work for different people. Take Charity, as an example. She comments on my blog from time to time, and she was raised in a very fundamentalist version of Christianity that was oppressive and filled her with fear. For her, true freedom and happiness came when she left Christianity behind. Now maybe her version of Christianity wasn’t “true” Christianity, but it’s still true that salvation for her involved leaving behind a belief in God and Jesus.

    Charity, and many like her, have called out for God — they have asked, they have knocked, but no one ever opened the door. It took leaving all of it behind to find peace.

    And in every religion or philosophy throughout the world, adherents will say that their lives are so much fuller now that they’ve found “X”. “X” has made them a better person, “X” has given them a sense of purpose, “X” has blessed them with a loving community, etc. Different things work for different people.

    To me, this is exactly what I would expect to see if there was no God at all. Otherwise, why wouldn’t these cases of extreme happiness and enlightenment be centered around one particular religion? And why wouldn’t the followers of that religion be very unified in their understanding of said religion?

    I’m all for being tolerant of people’s beliefs, but when it comes to asking whether or not they’re true, I just don’t feel that the evidence is in their favor.

    As always, thanks for your comments! It’s good to see you posting so much again. 🙂

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  77. If we stick to the premise that human beings are just animals with no inherent purpose

    – Then why are we the only animals that put other animals in zoos to observe them?

    – Why as animals do we categorise ourselves as somehow outside of the systems we see around us?

    – Why do we seem alien from virtually all other animals, to the extent that we feel like our presence imposes on their systems. For example: Industrial developments stripping rainforests ect.

    – Why if we were just animals, do we tame other animals to return balls, sit and ride on other animals, while putting yet fish in bowels, not to eat, but just to feed and stare at?

    granted these question in themselves don’t necessarily validate that we are more than animals. But we at least very much don’t act like we are just animals.

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  78. But then again,

    I guess since if people assert that there is no distinction between human beings to other animals,

    then any behaviour and emotion we exhibit, whether it be empathy, kindness, sharing and compassion would still be considered animal behaviour, but these behaviours would be unique to our species.

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  79. not that empathy, teamwork or sharing is unique to humanity, but the way in which we express these things is unique.

    If you believe in God, these attributes are unique in other ways as well.

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  80. Ryan, in comment you made to Black ops you said it boiled down to faith. And sorry to sound like a broken record, but where did that faith originate?

    You might say hope in god or something similar, but that wouldn’t be so. It would be in the source that told you that you should hope in a god or in salvation. That source is always man. Whether they’re your parents, friends, the men who translated the bible, the men who compiled the bible, or the men who wrote the books of the bible and claimed they were speaking for god.

    Once I realized that, and after seeing many of the problems in the bible, it all became clear that a faith in the christian god only comes in on the back of one’s faith in men first. It’s a house of cards. You must first have faith in those men in order to have a faith in the god they told you about.

    and to your questions, i only will say that there are not only two choices: 1) god of the bible and 2) no god at all. There are an infinite number of other choices – a fact that also makes the problems in the bible harder to dismiss with mere faith – because “faith” can answer anything in such a way.

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  81. Hi William,

    I think faith is something that will always involve trust, and that’s true whatever we place our faith.

    Religions as movements have a lot of benefits, they can bring people together, create community.

    And motivate people to look after and include people they may wouldn’t necessarily consider. Like the homeless, the sick, the dying.

    However, certain religious movements can also exclude people and motivate people to do harmful things. Treating other people groups as “others”.

    I know families who have opened up their houses, beyond their immediate friends or family. And I believe they are motivated to do this through faith. As a consequence they have created a warm household, a valuable space that people in youth group appreciated over the years growing up, where people can go to and find acceptance. We always felt welcome.

    I know I have repeated this point, but a faith where people are not only valued for their use, but instead simply valued because they are made in the image of God, and that Jesus died for them, that God is in control. I believe such a faith is brilliant.

    Starting from that foundation, people can learn more about others without locking up their doors in fear.

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  82. Ryan, I certainly agree that religion has some merits. I can see where a certain type of faith in certain types of religions are very selfless and giving; perhaps even very noble.

    But my point is that faith doesn’t prove anything as fact – as I know you know. I was trying to point out that trust and having faith in people is all we really do… unless of course god himself comes down and speaks to us directly.

    But this indirect book, which contains many (apparent) contradictions and errors, which is highly contested by those who claim to believe in its divine origins, was penned by man, assembled by man, and delivered by man – none of it by god; hence it is not a direct revelation.

    While it may lead people to believe in god and jesus, the way some believe in any of the world’s other deities, that belief only come from a faith in man, not in god. You believe what the men have told you, and you have faith that they speak fact.

    Since god has literally shared nothing with you, how could your faith be in him? Everything you know about god was given to you by man.

    So, I am saying that while people believe in god, their faith is only in man.

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  83. I personally believe in God and also believe that He has done very good and nice things for me — things that could not necessarily be explained by confirmation bias because, in many cases, they were rather unusual and difficult to explain by ordinary means (outside the standard deviation) and some were unexpected.

    Having said that, however, even not being an atheist, agnostic or deist, I recognize that the ONLY proof of God is faith, and according to Scripture, faith is a gift of God — so if you don’t believe in God, it’s because He’s decided that He isn’t going to allow you to. Which I find all so very odd and does nothing to diminish my suspicion that it’s pretty much about drama.

    As for the Bible, well, especially the New Testament, and Jesus being the savior, I have some questions. The great heartburn I have is that apparently the Catholic Church was responsible for the whole thing, which does not inspire a lot of confidence. And then, there seems to be an indication that the New Testament was based on oral stories and fables which some of those in authority in the RC declared should be written down and then the Church would be the final arbiter of what was published and what was not. There are uncomfortable similarities to Mythra (not Mothra, who battled Godzilla) — stories eerily like the story of Jesus. Then there is history and there doesn’t seem to be much written valid historical record of Jesus, unless you count the stories which were created and then counted to support the stories which were about him as self-referent, effectively bootstrapping the whole thing.

    While the New Testament (and who wants the baggage of the Jewish religion corrupted by their little stay in Babylon and thoroughly screwed up by the Pharisees) has much to recommend it as wisdom literature which can certainly be used a life guide (with some adaptations), one wonders at some of the pronouncements which ring hollow in today’s world (which have been discussed here). Was there an Apostle Paul? If there were, was he really taught personally by Jesus in the Arabian desert? If that were true, are we looking for the fourth coming of Jesus (so many forget that after the resurrection he went up to the Father to be accepted and had his second coming already)?

    Yes, yes, I know about the prophecies of Daniel, and even if you say they were written later, it’s tough to explain away certain aspects of them which could not be known even centuries later when it might have been written.

    In a world where we can’t even really agree with happened in 1963 in Houston, Texas, the library and the grassy knoll, how can we be all that certain what happened nearly 2,000 years ago, particularly since there are absolutely no original source documents available (the only thing available are copies of copies of documents and then the Dead(ly) Sea Scrolls, admittedly from heretics way beyond two standard deviations from the norm)? And what about some of the works like the Gospel of Thomas which is absolutely daft?

    And then the Catholics and the Protestants can’t even agree on the Ten Commandments, particularly about bowing down to graven images (we’ve had this discussion before).

    The questions lead us back to one conclusion: It’s all based on faith. The problem is, where did the faith come from? For many in the extreme cults (like the ones where the cultmeister is now serving a prison term as a convicted felon for Income Tax evasion), the answer is that the cult leader defines what faith is and from there on, having accepted that, you have to have faith that everything he says is true and have the faith that whoever disagrees with him is wrong — with absolutely no proof at all, but the hapless borderline personality types following the narcissist, sociopath, psychopath, insane lying false prophet convicted felon all must accept his absolute rulership no matter how psychotic his ramblings might be, or else loose their salvation. Oh, yeah, and in addition to be his narcissistic source, be sure to give him plenty of money for his luxury fund for no particularly good reason except he wants to live the good life without doing much to earn it.

    It’s no wonder that with these sorts of questions, bracketed by the religious cons, that people have adopted skepticism. It’s rational to abide by Dr. Phil’s “Life Code” to avoid the BAITERS. People are chaotic and irrational. There’s not much reason to have faith in some unqualified random stranger.

    It occurs to me that at some point, faith must have some confirmation. Without it, faith is nothing more than empty hope. Here’s the deal: Logic without observation isn’t science — it’s just a mental exercise divorced from the real world (if you believe in such things as a real world). A pope, priest, cultmeister must have some evidence of things not seen beyond just an empty belief.

    I will leave you with this to ponder.

    At the age of 17 (and having a fairly strong background in science), a highly religious widow lady encouraged me to attend a seminar given with a professor looking bearded guy. He had about 15 attendees. His big thing was that the earth was hollow and that the people that lived there came out of middle earth through the North Pole in their flying saucers. He “proved” the earth did not have a molten core with the mind exercise of posing what would happen if you put a wooden box over a campfire (at the time, I was thinking of volcanoes). At the end, I was headed for the door. He stood directly in my way. “What did you think?” he queried. After a pregnant pause I said, “interesting” and bolted around him to the door to escape. I take it the rest of the nim nulls believed his little fantasy. Of course, a decade or two later I encountered a paperbook at K-Mart that told the tales of a man who visited people on other planets in our solar system and gave their characteristics of how the people of Jupiter were different from the people of Venus.

    Give me a break.

    The Reader’s Digest was correct: If you leave your mind sufficiently open, people will throw a lot of trash into it.

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  84. @Mikey — Wow! Paul was taught by Jesus in the Arabian desert? That’s a new one on me. Where in the world did that come from? Oh wait. Let me guess …

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  85. Mikey — The scriptures in Galatians say that Paul “went away at once into Arabia” (no mention of desert) — nothing indicates he was “personally taught” by JC.

    While he speaks of a “revelation” of JC, in truth (and based on the scriptures), all he experienced was a blinding light and a phantom voice. Further, all the “voice” instructed him to do was to continue on to Damascus.

    Not only that, this whole experience was told by the writer of Acts. Paul himself only comments that he “received a revelation” (Galatians 1:12) and in Corinthians 15:8, he writes that “he appeared to me.” I’ve always wondered why he didn’t go into more detail — especially since he built a religion around the event..

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  86. Well, you know, writing with quill pen on lamb skin (using India Ink?) or even papyrus was slow going. Going into unnecessary detail would have given him eye strain.

    Paul was always trying in his epistles (if he wrote them) to establish his authority as one who knew Jesus and as an Apostle — no small feat since he murdered Christians prior to his “conversion”.

    There is some skepticism, since Paul never mentioned the virgin birth. You’d think Jesus would have told him. It’s as though he didn’t know. Of course, the “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” is claimed by many cultists (who we find out later are less than honorable). It isn’t clear whether Paul was among the charlatans or just gave them a ready made excuse for claiming their own “authority”.

    I do understand that by explicitly narrowly accepting only the words and phrases of Galations 1, you could use the passage to shoot down the “personally taught” part of Paul’s epistles, but the hubris speaks for itself, since he claims the authority of apostleship to establish that he speaks for Christ, but if you take the tone of his epistles, there is much less doubt.

    Was it necessary for him to create documentation to establish his credibility? That would be arguable. It doesn’t usually come up, but Paul spent over a decade (some say 18 years) before he went on his first evangelistic tour to evangelize the Gentiles (and irritate the Jews — among those irritated, apparently was Peter).

    The real question about all this is whether we are quibbling about what the Omega 13 does aboard the Protector in Galaxy Quest or not (trying to settle a squabble about fantasy constructs is a favorite pastime among some).

    I am only trying to be helpful (as always), but you seem to have evaded answering my question (or if you did, have done it obliquely).

    Snarky answers to sarcastic questions — it’s hard to know who to root for.

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  87. Answer to your question: No, I didn’t “guess” Galatians because I was being sarcastic when I wrote “let me guess …”. 😉

    My more detailed response was not really directed so much at you as it was to those (few) readers of this blog that take “the word” literally.

    BTW, I really like reading your comments.

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  88. I saw Noah yesterday. He was seriously in need of counseling with a mental health professional. The ones left at the end could have all used family counseling.

    It did bring up interesting perspectives for the sake of this blog entry: Often people either blame God or make fun of Him because He seems to be Omnimalevalent, but seem to completely forget and ignore the problems they cause.

    For example, Jon Stewart on the Daily Show a couple or so years back told us that 30% of the air pollution in San Francisco came from China. It was verified by other news reports. Science is able to ascertain such things. Did we cause global warming? Here’s a thought:

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/not-hot-facts-global-warming-150900216.html

    Nevertheless, it’s not clear that we can blame most forest fires on God. The Roman Catholic Church was responsible for the Inquisition and, in fact, pretty much the Dark Ages until the earth was moved magically from being the center of the universe. Yes, kill off the cats because they are familiars to witches — not to worry about the plague carried by rats that would have been killed by the cats. Clear cut rain forests and watch the ground go hard pan and the oxygen in the atmosphere diminish (one tree provides, on average, enough oxygen for 4 people).

    The movie Noah only touched briefly on the environmental damage done by humans. It would have been fascinating to have gotten more (industrial technology? say what?). But then, if it happened, it certainly didn’t happen that way (racial memory time here).

    So is it true? Mankind does a lot more malevolent damage than the Creator ever thought of?

    Science surveys say that most people aren’t qualified to answer.

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  89. No one’s claiming man is perfect, so while it may be unfortunate, it is not unbelievable when people do bad things or make mistakes.

    If god is perfect, then it should be a surprise if he made mistakes, or when he has done bad things, or when he fails/neglects to help people in dire need – especially when we are led to believe that he expects us and will judge us on how well we avoided mistakes, avoided doing bad things and how well we tried to help those around us.

    Is there a god? perhaps, but it sure isn’t the god of the bible.

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