Religion: The Deuce

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby theonlyjett » Fri Feb 27, 2009 9:55 pm UTC

The Great Hippo, why would you assume that god falls under the same moral standards we do? It's not like we're equals at this point, or in the past.

If he gives life, what's the problem with him ending it? Is hunting deer to prevent them from suffering a worse fate with over population, murder? Do you really think if there's a god that he's on our same level in the food chain? Probably not.

It's sort of like if you had a bunch of monkeys that you wanted to make like men. If you're breeding them, would you not do some selective breeding at certain points along the line? If a certain group of them were being contrary to your goals for their species, would you not stifle that line?

The Great Hippo wrote:"Why the fuck is anyone in their right mind defending a creature that kills your children because you disagree with him?"
Where do you get this at? As so far as I have ever read, agreement was never the issue, it was obedience. In that particular instance, there were plenty of signs and lesser plagues given before hand to turn the Pharaoh’s mind. He was too damn stubborn. Again, God gave them their lives and all their riches, and even allowed Israel to serve them, but when it was Israel’s time to go, Pharaoh refused, and refused, and refused. Pharaoh knew that god was god and was real and even knew what god wanted him to do. There was no disagreement in who god was in what he wanted. He just didn’t want to. It also wasn't as if Pharaoh said no the first time and god started killing right away. God went through a fairly long list of signs and plagues, but Pharaoh’s mind was not swayed, his heart was hard. Even so, in the end, there was nothing that God took away, that he didn’t also give them in the first place.

The important question in my mind is: “Why the fuck would anyone in their right mind talk shit about someone they don’t even know, who quite possibly gave them their very life?” But I guess that’s just my point of view.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Fri Feb 27, 2009 10:27 pm UTC

theonlyjett wrote:
It's sort of like if you had a bunch of monkeys that you wanted to make like men. If you're breeding them, would you not do some selective breeding at certain points along the line? If a certain group of them were being contrary to your goals for their species, would you not stifle that line?


Actually, if a human did perform such experiments and then exterminate (especially in a non-humane fashion) a line of monkeys for not serving their purposes - I would consider that grossly unethical.

theonlyjett wrote:
The important question in my mind is: “Why the fuck would anyone in their right mind talk shit about someone they don’t even know, who quite possibly gave them their very life?” But I guess that’s just my point of view.


If there's not enough info from the alleged source of information about God to talk shit, how is their enough info to talk at all about God? The point is that based on the info of the alleged source, the person described therein is evil by the meaning of the word we mean in common conversation. While it might not be enough to outright condemn God in a trial, it's enough to give cause to an observer trying to form a tentative impression based on limited evidence.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Feb 28, 2009 3:45 am UTC

theonlyjett wrote:It's sort of like if you had a bunch of monkeys that you wanted to make like men. If you're breeding them, would you not do some selective breeding at certain points along the line? If a certain group of them were being contrary to your goals for their species, would you not stifle that line?
...I would consider doing that to be obscenely unethical. Just as I consider breeding dogs (and creating all sorts of horrible fucked up medical problems for said dogs) to be obscenely unethical. So, yeah.
theonlyjett wrote:Where do you get this at? As so far as I have ever read, agreement was never the issue, it was obedience.
Okay, so God kills your children (and all the children of your people) because you disobeyed, rather than disagreed. Huge difference, amirite?
theonlyjett wrote:The important question in my mind is: “Why the fuck would anyone in their right mind talk shit about someone they don’t even know, who quite possibly gave them their very life?” But I guess that’s just my point of view.
Because people are talking about how awesome He is? I mean, let's reverse it: Why the fuck would anyone in their right mind talk about how awesome someone they don't even know is, who quite possibly murdered millions upon millions of people? Also, why do you assume that being granted existence by something ultimately requires you to be grateful to that something? A parent is not entitled to a child's respect merely because they happened to be present during the child's conception; they earn that respect through the relationship they establish with the child. Creation does not carry with it the notion that you must thank your Creator, especially if your Creator does not treat you responsibly. If you think otherwise, I know some parents you should meet.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Comic JK » Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:08 am UTC

It's worth noting that killing people would have to have a different significance for God than it does for us. To us, death is the worst thing that can happen. To God, death is the process of entering a richer and more concrete existence than we have now (or refusing it, an option painfully left open).

Therefore, to someone who believes that the Old Testament writers really knew what God was thinking and doing (which I do not), the fact that he kills people still doesn't make him equivalent to a human soldier or murderer. He can take life and give it back; we can only do the first.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby roc314 » Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:27 am UTC

Comic JK wrote:Therefore, to someone who believes that the Old Testament writers really knew what God was thinking and doing (which I do not), the fact that he kills people still doesn't make him equivalent to a human soldier or murderer. He can take life and give it back; we can only do the first.
That still seems pretty horrible. Besides whatever harm would be caused to the one who died in the time before god brought them back/the pain caused by their death, they would leave behind survivors. God would be causing suffering to those who had to live with the death of a friend/loved one. Even if god gave them life back, it wouldn't mean that everything was made well again. Say that I steal your car for a week. Even if I give it back after a while, that doesn't mean that you getting fired for not being able to travel to your job the week you didn't have a car didn't happen.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby The Great Hippo » Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:24 pm UTC

roc314 wrote:Besides whatever harm would be caused to the one who died in the time before god brought them back/the pain caused by their death, they would leave behind survivors.
That didn't even occur to me. Yeah, it goes a long way to invalidating the notion that God can murder because God can give you free candy forever in the afterlife. When OT God slaughtered all the firstborn of Egypt, he might have given them all ice-cream in Heaven, sure - but what about the countless multitudes of parents who suffered and wept for the loss of a child?

Where was their ice-cream, God?!

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Comic JK » Sat Feb 28, 2009 9:25 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:When OT God slaughtered all the firstborn of Egypt, he might have given them all ice-cream in Heaven, sure - but what about the countless multitudes of parents who suffered and wept for the loss of a child?

Where was their ice-cream, God?!


I'm not sure why you suggest that, at any given moment, God should be optimizing in the direction of maximum ice cream (ice cream being the current symbol of happiness and peace). You might say "but this wasn't just a moment of unhappiness, this was years of loss." Compared to infinity, though, any finite time is the limit of t as t approaches zero. What God is optimizing for, in Christianity, is the creation of perfected immortal beings (us). Presumably the ones who were born to lose children to these plagues, or any of the other plagues in history, were the ones whose self-inflicted failings could only be remedied by this painful measure.

This sounds heartless, and it is; any attempt to analyze the problem of pain with pure logic has to be heartless. I would never tell a grieving person these things. But when I have myself been grieving, this view of the problem, developed in a cooler hour, has been an immense help. Perhaps that's just a function of the kind of person I am.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby roc314 » Sat Feb 28, 2009 9:31 pm UTC

Comic JK wrote:I'm not sure why you suggest that, at any given moment, God should be optimizing in the direction of maximum ice cream (ice cream being the current symbol of happiness and peace). You might say "but this wasn't just a moment of unhappiness, this was years of loss." Compared to infinity, though, any finite time is the limit of t as t approaches zero. What God is optimizing for, in Christianity, is the creation of perfected immortal beings (us). Presumably the ones who were born to lose children to these plagues, or any of the other plagues in history, were the ones whose self-inflicted failings could only be remedied by this painful measure.
If we accept that god is omnipotent, then we have to accept that god could give people sunshine and ice cream for all eternity without causing pain and suffering to those left behind after they die. By choosing to do it this way, god is not optimizing happiness. Optimizing happiness would be making these people happy, while not causing pain to others, something that should be well within god's power.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Sat Feb 28, 2009 9:34 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
roc314 wrote:Besides whatever harm would be caused to the one who died in the time before god brought them back/the pain caused by their death, they would leave behind survivors.
That didn't even occur to me. Yeah, it goes a long way to invalidating the notion that God can murder because God can give you free candy forever in the afterlife. When OT God slaughtered all the firstborn of Egypt, he might have given them all ice-cream in Heaven, sure - but what about the countless multitudes of parents who suffered and wept for the loss of a child?

Where was their ice-cream, God?!


Of course God could also give all the parents a wonderful heaven where they live happily with their children and forget all about their pain and loss. He would still be causing temporary suffering though. Hmm...God could have killed all the children to make the Pharaoh give up, then magically altered the time line so that they never died and it's as if it never happened except that the Jews are still freed and it is still accurately recorded in the Bible.

If fact, you could use that argument to justify every part of the Bible that clashes with evidence - God let it happen as recorded in the Bible and then, for his own mysterious reasons, altered the time line so that the events that actually left non-biblical evidence happened instead.

This is kind of fun actually - when you're trying to defend a hypothetical all-powerful being and don't feel the need to have empirical evidence backing you up, you can make up all sorts of neat arguments.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Comic JK » Sat Feb 28, 2009 9:57 pm UTC

roc314 wrote:If we accept that god is omnipotent, then we have to accept that god could give people sunshine and ice cream for all eternity without causing pain and suffering to those left behind after they die. By choosing to do it this way, god is not optimizing happiness. Optimizing happiness would be making these people happy, while not causing pain to others, something that should be well within god's power.


I think you're misdefining omnipotence. "God can do anything" (oversimplification, but good enough here) doesn't mean that he can do anything by any arbitrary means, or that he can do two logically contradictory things. Thus, we don't
have to accept that god could give people sunshine and ice cream for all eternity without causing pain
since without pain, constructive pain, people might not be capable of accepting the ice cream God gave. You would say, "then why doesn't he make them capable!?" Well, that's just what he does do.

You could argue that God hasn't thought it through enough, and really there are other means that don't involve any pain. However, not being able to judge the states of peoples' souls, you could never tell whether your methods were effective or not. God, having this knowledge, presumably has chosen correctly.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby roc314 » Sat Feb 28, 2009 10:40 pm UTC

Comic JK wrote:since without pain, constructive pain, people might not be capable of accepting the ice cream God gave. You would say, "then why doesn't he make them capable!?" Well, that's just what he does do.

You could argue that God hasn't thought it through enough, and really there are other means that don't involve any pain. However, not being able to judge the states of peoples' souls, you could never tell whether your methods were effective or not. God, having this knowledge, presumably has chosen correctly.
No doubt, if god does exist and have the qualities that religion says it does, it knows much more than we do. It knows so much more than us that of course we can't completely understand its reasoning. However, why doesn't god ever share with us its reasons for doing things? I mean, it should be relatively simple for god to say something like "I let cancer kill your four year old daughter because I knew she would have been kidnapped a year later and brutally murdered. This way, she dies with less pain and gets to have ice cream in failure sooner" (of course, even then, god could just do something to prevent the kidnapping) rather than god saying "trust me, I know what I'm doing". I have a hard time believing that a benevolent deity would think that blind faith is a virtue.

Also, I disagree that it's logically impossible for god to allow everyone to be happy without causing pain. It could always just send everyone straight to heaven, and not bother with earth at all. It's not necessary to have faced unhappiness to be happy, much like you don't have to kill someone to know that murder is bad. God could very well create us with the knowledge of what every emotion is and then put us in utopia, and skip the middleman.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby pooteeweet » Sun Mar 01, 2009 1:24 am UTC

Have you ever read that Johnny the Homicidal Maniac where he dies and visits heaven and hell? JTHM arrives in heaven to find rows of people sitting in chairs. They all have superpowers but nobody uses them cause it's heaven, they just sit there being blissful. Then Johnny flips out and uses his superpowers to make people's heads explode because he's fucking bored.

Uhmm... I'm not sure I'll be able to articulate what I mean, but... Seriously, if the universe was just this blissful, happy place, nothing would ever happen. Without conflict and suffering, none of the cool shit humanity has done over the ages would ever have come about. There would be no history, no invention, no art, no literature, no technology, no sagas to tell, no problems to solve, no reason to create anything. Lack of suffering = nirvana = non-being. Sure, no-one would hurt, but what would be the point of it all? It would be stupid.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Hackfleischkannibale » Sun Mar 01, 2009 1:27 am UTC

Although I must say that in this debate right know which is entirely from a "the bible is true"-point of view is very interesting, I think that the rational way to look at it, "let's look through everyone's eyes and see who explains best" just tells me that it probably isn't the right way. It fits so perfectly to assume that the OT was written by people who had some good ideas (like that you shouldn't let people build idols of your god) but were all in all just as offtrack from the truth about reality as those that actually worshiped idols that I don't see how I could actually hold those texts to be the words of an actual, sensible god.

And I feel the same way about any religious text. I always think that there should be more of a "there is NO WAY!!!1 he could have come up with that except for divine enlightenment"-feeling to a text of truly religious meaning. Religious explanation is so vastly behind science in elegance and depth of explanation that the existence of good science kills religion for me.

@ pooteeweet: You should know that the concept of motivation is a concept brought about by evolution. If we had a god, we/he had no need for a motivational system in our brains (because, really, our computers do without, so why shouldn't we?), so we could have done everything fine about earth just because we wanted to, not because we felt we needed to to impress that chick or show our rivals that yes, our penis really is bigger. If god really wanted us to do good, why would he have made us so lazy?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Comic JK » Sun Mar 01, 2009 3:01 am UTC

Hackfleischkannibale wrote:It fits so perfectly to assume that the OT was written by people who had some good ideas (like that you shouldn't let people build idols of your god) but were all in all just as offtrack from the truth about reality as those that actually worshiped idols that I don't see how I could actually hold those texts to be the words of an actual, sensible god.

Agreed. I was just assuming biblical literalism to be true because it throws the problem of God-inflicted suffering into sharper relief. This problem still exists if you're not a literalist, as long as you're a theist. No matter how you look at it, since God is the source of all reality, then he is the source of suffering as well.
Hackfleischkannibale wrote: Religious explanation is so vastly behind science in elegance and depth of explanation that the existence of good science kills religion for me.

I would say the same, except that I've heard some arguments for God's existence which are quite sound. If you can get a copy, try CS Lewis's Miracles. Even if you come away unconvinced, it still offers a lot of clear thinking and is a fun read.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Mar 01, 2009 3:32 am UTC

pooteeweet wrote:Have you ever read that Johnny the Homicidal Maniac where he dies and visits heaven and hell? JTHM arrives in heaven to find rows of people sitting in chairs. They all have superpowers but nobody uses them cause it's heaven, they just sit there being blissful. Then Johnny flips out and uses his superpowers to make people's heads explode because he's fucking bored.

Uhmm... I'm not sure I'll be able to articulate what I mean, but... Seriously, if the universe was just this blissful, happy place, nothing would ever happen. Without conflict and suffering, none of the cool shit humanity has done over the ages would ever have come about. There would be no history, no invention, no art, no literature, no technology, no sagas to tell, no problems to solve, no reason to create anything. Lack of suffering = nirvana = non-being. Sure, no-one would hurt, but what would be the point of it all? It would be stupid.


Your opinion on all this greatly depends on your experiences. White American guys like me can appreciate art, literature, and technology; Sudanese refugees probably don't have that luxury.

Besides, what makes you confident that we couldn't have art or literature or problem-solving without conflict and suffering? What is the conflict that drives work on the Riemann hypothesis? And what, exactly, is the point of invention or technology if those needs are already taken care of?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Sun Mar 01, 2009 3:49 am UTC

Comic JK wrote:
Hackfleischkannibale wrote: Religious explanation is so vastly behind science in elegance and depth of explanation that the existence of good science kills religion for me.

I would say the same, except that I've heard some arguments for God's existence which are quite sound. If you can get a copy, try CS Lewis's Miracles. Even if you come away unconvinced, it still offers a lot of clear thinking and is a fun read.


I remember thinking the same think when I first read C.S. Lewis, but going back and reading his work again it just seems like kind of sloppy thinking. For me it wasn't science, but philosophy (especially symbolic logic and the analytic philosophers) that led me to feel this way. His reasoning simply lacks rigor.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Comic JK » Sun Mar 01, 2009 5:21 am UTC

setzer777 wrote:I remember thinking the same think when I first read C.S. Lewis, but going back and reading his work again it just seems like kind of sloppy thinking. For me it wasn't science, but philosophy (especially symbolic logic and the analytic philosophers) that led me to feel this way. His reasoning simply lacks rigor.

I'd say it depends which book--that's why I suggested Miracles in particular. In Mere Christianity, for instance, he's aiming for a mass audience, so much of the laying out of definitions, ordered steps, and so on falls by the wayside. But I think that Miracles, if not rigorous, at least contains clear ideas of which a rigorous proof could be made.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby pooteeweet » Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:26 pm UTC

Hackfleischkannibale wrote:@ pooteeweet: You should know that the concept of motivation is a concept brought about by evolution. If we had a god, we/he had no need for a motivational system in our brains (because, really, our computers do without, so why shouldn't we?),


Are you saying evolution and god are mutually exclusive? What would we be without motivational systems? By your logic, god should have just made an array of happy little automatons.

Hackfleischkannibale wrote:so we could have done everything fine about earth just because we wanted to, not because we felt we needed to to impress that chick or show our rivals that yes, our penis really is bigger. If god really wanted us to do good, why would he have made us so lazy?


If we didn't feel the need to "impress that chick", etc, or some other drive, where would our "want" to do anything arise from? It wouldn't be a question of laziness, but of there being no reason to imagine something new to do-- no cause to inspire the beginnings of an idea leading to action or creation. If this world was a paradise, why would we "want" anything? Or, rather, how could we possibly want?

Also: "If god really wanted us to do good"? It would be impossible for us to decide to do "good" if there were no contrasting "bad," and no motivation to sometimes do bad things. There has to be more than one option for there to be a decision; and the decision would be a meaningless foregone conclusion if we weren't ever tempted to pursue the other option. We couldn't ever be good, if we were never sometimes bad. We would, again, be reduced to dumb automatons.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Your opinion on all this greatly depends on your experiences. White American guys like me can appreciate art, literature, and technology; Sudanese refugees probably don't have that luxury.


Yeah, I knew I was setting myself up for that. Sure, if I was living one of the many horrific, painful lives out there, maybe I'd say "fuck all this! I'd rather be a happy little automaton!"

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Besides, what makes you confident that we couldn't have art or literature or problem-solving without conflict and suffering? What is the conflict that drives work on the Riemann hypothesis? And what, exactly, is the point of invention or technology if those needs are already taken care of?


Well, your last sentence pretty much answers the questions. Invention and technology would be pointless. Problem-solving wouldn't happen because there would be no problems to solve. (duh! 8) ) I'm not sure about the Riemann hypothesis specifically, but I'm pretty sure the mathematics it's built on would have had no reason to have been developed past a fairly simple, basic system. If scarcity doesn't exist (because that's a conflict of sorts, which leads to suffering) then why would I care that I've got four oranges and Sally has six? There would be no need to invent a number system, and figure out the complex rules that govern it, if there was no system of trade and taxation to keep tabs on.

As for literature, doesn't every basic "plot formula" assume that you need a conflict of some sort? As for art, maybe it would occur to people to doodle some pretty daisies or something. Maybe. But when you think of all the really important, renowned works of art, aren't a hefty portion of them derived from suffering? Tortured artistic genius.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Hackfleischkannibale » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:29 pm UTC

@ Our brains are hard-wired for conflict, of course, so the notion of a world without it seems stupid and pointless - to us, but not to the happy little automatons. Of course, such a world wouldn't look very interesting to us, but not to the happy little automatons. It would be all great, it's just that you can't appreciate that because you're hard-wired for conflict.

Are you saying evolution and god are mutually exclusive?

If it is a sensible omnipotent benevolent god, then they most definitely they are - because really, evolution is the opposite of benevolence. And if he isn't omnipotent, well, then why follow his rules? If his only way to get me to life was horribly killing myriads of creatures, all the more conscious the closer they come to me, then I don't feel that it would be good if he helped me once more.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Mar 08, 2009 11:22 pm UTC

pooteeweet wrote:Yeah, I knew I was setting myself up for that. Sure, if I was living one of the many horrific, painful lives out there, maybe I'd say "fuck all this! I'd rather be a happy little automaton!"


Actually (and since these are, you know, real people), I think you'd be more likely to say something like "Fuck all this! My life would be so much easier if (water pollution|malaria|religion itself) had never been invented!" You don't need to be an automaton to live in comfort; I can still enjoy math and music without any debilitating diseases to make life interesting.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Weezer » Mon Mar 09, 2009 12:08 am UTC

One thing that has always irritated me was how Christians could claim that there god is all-benevolent, there have been a number of accounts where god has acted in ways that are not benevolent in any way. For example in II Kings 2:23-24:
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.


In this instance "he" refers to Elisha, a prophet. If god is willing to send two bears to tear 42 children into pieces for making fun of a bald man, how is that benevolent. Also in the book of Job god practically dares Satan to torture his most loyal believer.

JOB 1:8-12
8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."
9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."
12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

In this passage god clearly allows Satan to do his worst to torture Job, while he doesn't actually do anything to Job he gives Job entirely into Satan's hands allowing Satan to do anything he would like to Job. How is this benevolent? Turning your most "blameless and upright" servant over to Satan to prove that you have loyal believers seems to me to be rather uncaring to the human condition.

I personally believe that there is some sort of higher power but that he is in no way all benevolent. If you look around at the world there is clearly lots of suffering and pain that could be prevented if god was all benevolent.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Mon Mar 09, 2009 12:54 am UTC

Weezer wrote:One thing that has always irritated me was how Christians could claim that there god is all-benevolent, there have been a number of accounts where god has acted in ways that are not benevolent in any way.

I hope you don't think that the greatest Christian thinkers and the more intellectual Christians just aren't aware of these objections and cases, or that they don't have full-fledged logical explanations for these passages, with full consideration of context, or that there haven't been dozens of theses written about each such story... Because that would just be false.

In this instance "he" refers to Elisha, a prophet. If god is willing to send two bears to tear 42 children into pieces for making fun of a bald man, how is that benevolent.

I've known about this passage for quite some time, and have wondered the same question as you. I could dig up quotes from several commentaries about this if you'd like, but the general consensus is as follows: Apparently, one can take into account several things that aren't immediately obvious: That Bethel was the town Elisha was near, a town that was the focal point of Israel's apostasy at that time; That there were likely more clarifying circumstances around the disrespect committed by the youths, etc. But most importantly, very few details are offered about exactly what happened, so it's hard to say why God would impose such a harsh judgement of what are seemingly otherwise innocent youths. It's only 3 verses, just a short anecdote that claims to be a simple recollection of a real event. 1 and 2 kings are written in the form of historical narrative, rather than theological examination.

Also in the book of Job god practically dares Satan to torture his most loyal believer.


Spoiler:
JOB 1:8-12
8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."
9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."
12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.


In this passage god clearly allows Satan to do his worst to torture Job, while he doesn't actually do anything to Job he gives Job entirely into Satan's hands allowing Satan to do anything he would like to Job. How is this benevolent? Turning your most "blameless and upright" servant over to Satan to prove that you have loyal believers seems to me to be rather uncaring to the human condition.

God didn't need to "prove" anything to anybody. Stating so would be a misrepresentation of the content of the other 39 chapters of Job. The majority of Job, unlike Kings, is extremely theological, and consists of a conversation between Job and his friends, as they attempt to figure out the reasons for why God would allow something like what happened to Job take place. It's a fasinating dialogue, you should give it a good read.

I personally believe that there is some sort of higher power but that he is in no way all benevolent. If you look around at the world there is clearly lots of suffering and pain that could be prevented if god was all benevolent.

The "Problem of Evil" isn't called a "problem" for nothing. It is the most common reason for an objection to Christianity or any other religion with a benevolent God, and is most often the source of my own doubts.

It however, is an extremely complex issue, and isn't something that should be stated as lightly as you have put it. I would be happy to provide my best Christian explanation for any specific objection that you have.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:45 am UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:
I personally believe that there is some sort of higher power but that he is in no way all benevolent. If you look around at the world there is clearly lots of suffering and pain that could be prevented if god was all benevolent.

The "Problem of Evil" isn't called a "problem" for nothing. It is the most common reason for an objection to Christianity or any other religion with a benevolent God, and is most often the source of my own doubts.

It however, is an extremely complex issue, and isn't something that should be stated as lightly as you have put it. I would be happy to provide my best Christian explanation for any specific objection that you have.


I have a question: most Christian attempts to explain the problem of evil simply focus on proving that a benevolent god isn't entirely impossible given the evil in the world. But what about the argument that though an all-benevolent god is possible (after all, we can't possibly have an understanding at the level of a god), a non-benevolent god is more plausible. Since we can't know any god's intentions, all we can do is go by our best guesses, and a non-benevolent god seems like a better guess than a benevolent one.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby McCaber » Mon Mar 09, 2009 5:22 pm UTC

Weezer wrote:For example in II Kings 2:23-24:
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.


In this instance "he" refers to Elisha, a prophet. If god is willing to send two bears to tear 42 children into pieces for making fun of a bald man, how is that benevolent.

Well, if you look at the original language for that passage, the "little children" turn into a gang of older teenagers. Elisha's predecessor in prophecy Elijah had just been taken up into heaven, so that taunt "go on up" turns into more of a death threat, like "You can follow your master up to God." And the group numbered over forty. I count this one as self-defence.
Spoiler:
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby rat4000 » Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:26 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote: I have a question: most Christian attempts to explain the problem of evil simply focus on proving that a benevolent god isn't entirely impossible given the evil in the world. But what about the argument that though an all-benevolent god is possible (after all, we can't possibly have an understanding at the level of a god), a non-benevolent god is more plausible. Since we can't know any god's intentions, all we can do is go by our best guesses, and a non-benevolent god seems like a better guess than a benevolent one.


While you are correct, Christians have faith, not logic. At some level, all you can do is choose what you like best of several possible things. While a non-benevolent god may be more plausible (though I believe that plausible and implausible lose all meaning when we're talking about the reasons behind the decisions of a being we cannot understand), Christians choose to believe in the benevolent one. I have yet to see a non-fundamental Christian saying that there is concrete evidence of a benevolent god that we can understand; I've only seen them deny the idea that there can be no such god.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:23 pm UTC

rat4000 wrote:While you are correct, Christians have faith, not logic.

You can't go around trying to figure out what you think is the only possible way somebody would believe something, and then classify all of them with that conclusion. Christians have logic and faith.

At some level, all you can do is choose what you like best of several possible things. While a non-benevolent god may be more plausible (though I believe that plausible and implausible lose all meaning when we're talking about the reasons behind the decisions of a being we cannot understand)

This is silly, and is a conclusion that is never found in any other field of study. Just because we don't understand the inner workings of subatomic interations, doesn't mean we can't classify theories in order of plausibility or likelyhood. This result has no change when we go from "don't fully understand" (as in the case of subatomic theory) to "can't fully understand" in the case of God. The key word here is "fully." There is absolutely nothing to stop humans from understanding God or God's plan to the extent that he wants to reveal it.

Christians choose to believe in the benevolent one. I have yet to see a non-fundamental Christian saying that there is concrete evidence of a benevolent god that we can understand; I've only seen them deny the idea that there can be no such god.

If concrete evidence was a requirement for belief, an atheist is equally guilty. One would have to be terribly vain about his or her beliefs to claim that there is concrete evidence for the non-existence of God. The only thing you can do is weigh evidence to find what you think is the most likely possibility. Evidence is always required for believing something, but it needn't be concrete.

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setzer777 wrote: I have a question: most Christian attempts to explain the problem of evil simply focus on proving that a benevolent god isn't entirely impossible given the evil in the world. But what about the argument that though an all-benevolent god is possible (after all, we can't possibly have an understanding at the level of a god), a non-benevolent god is more plausible. Since we can't know any god's intentions, all we can do is go by our best guesses, and a non-benevolent god seems like a better guess than a benevolent one.

In Christianity, the idea of God's benevolence is essential to doctrine, but is very... "nuanced" might be the word. Omnibenevolence clearly can't mean that the goal of God's plan is human pleasure or human contentment, and it most certainly doesn't mean that God doesn't allow or use evil (an entity in itself completely separate from God) for his purposes:

From an overview on Biblical doctrine:
"God controls and uses evil but is never morally blameworthy for it. However if God's relationship to evil is to be understood, both his complete sovereignty and his complete holiness must be maintained. In his greate suffering, Job says, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.' We are told that Job's assessment of God's providence over evil is correct in that 'in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:21-22)' Joseph [the Old Testament one] expresses a similar attitude of the God-ordained evil actions of his brothers toward him when he says, 'as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good'..."

God's omnibenevolence in Christianity is not associated with him having perfection of morality (sin) in a human sense, only in a Godly sense. Anything that God does would never be considered sinful, but if a human did the same thing, it might. God works everything out for "good," whatever "good" may mean in an eternal sense, which is not always "good" for our happiness, prosperity, contentment, etc.

Thus is the Christian interpretation of omnibenevolence. A non-Christian might call this non-omnibenevolent I suppose, but then we would just have different ideas of what the word is allowed to mean...

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Sockmonkey » Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:45 pm UTC

theonlyjett wrote:Where do you get this at? As so far as I have ever read, agreement was never the issue, it was obedience. In that particular instance, there were plenty of signs and lesser plagues given before hand to turn the Pharaoh’s mind. He was too damn stubborn.

So why didn't god just kill Pharoh when it came down to it if he was the one who was the problem instead of killing countless innocents that had no choice but to obey the Pharoh's will hmm? That's my major beef, that God supposedly kills people who have the misfortune to be living next door to the sinners in addition to the sinners themselves with huge disasters.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby rat4000 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:10 pm UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:
rat4000 wrote:While you are correct, Christians have faith, not logic.

You can't go around trying to figure out what you think is the only possible way somebody would believe something, and then classify all of them with that conclusion. Christians have logic and faith.

I did not say they do not have logic. I said that they lack the last jump of logic, the one proving the existence of God, for their faith to be rational. In fact, I consider all faith irrational, if one defines "rational" as "proved" or even "provable at our current level of knowledge, though no one's come up with a proof yet".

At some level, all you can do is choose what you like best of several possible things. While a non-benevolent god may be more plausible (though I believe that plausible and implausible lose all meaning when we're talking about the reasons behind the decisions of a being we cannot understand)

This is silly, and is a conclusion that is never found in any other field of study. Just because we don't understand the inner workings of subatomic interations, doesn't mean we can't classify theories in order of plausibility or likelyhood. This result has no change when we go from "don't fully understand" (as in the case of subatomic theory) to "can't fully understand" in the case of God. The key word here is "fully." There is absolutely nothing to stop humans from understanding God or God's plan to the extent that he wants to reveal it.

We can understand whatever part of His plan He chooses to reveal, true, but when talking about whether He is benevolent or not, we would need the whole plan (an admittedly overdone analogy: you have to stroke a kitten in order to take over the world and kill everyone, and I only learn about your intention to stroke the kitten).

Also, it's not "we can't fully understand God". It's "we can't understand God at all", because we do not know what He knows: what lies after death, for example. Christians, as I understand it, believe they know, because they believe He told someone and was understood correctly by said someone who then gave the people His message. This is faith. I thought setzer was looking for logic and attempted to answer him with logic. Perhaps I misunderstood the question...

Christians choose to believe in the benevolent one. I have yet to see a non-fundamental Christian saying that there is concrete evidence of a benevolent god that we can understand; I've only seen them deny the idea that there can be no such god.

If concrete evidence was a requirement for belief, an atheist is equally guilty. One would have to be terribly vain about his or her beliefs to claim that there is concrete evidence for the non-existence of God. The only thing you can do is weigh evidence to find what you think is the most likely possibility. Evidence is always required for believing something, but it needn't be concrete.


Concrete evidence and belief are incompatible. And I don't see your point: I never said there was concrete evidence that God does not exist and I did not say that atheists who say there is such evidence aren't irrational. The last two sentences of the quote are basically what my post said (one chooses what one believes and there are multiple plausible choices).

@setzer
setzer777 wrote: I have a question: most Christian attempts to explain the problem of evil simply focus on proving that a benevolent god isn't entirely impossible given the evil in the world. But what about the argument that though an all-benevolent god is possible (after all, we can't possibly have an understanding at the level of a god), a non-benevolent god is more plausible. Since we can't know any god's intentions, all we can do is go by our best guesses, and a non-benevolent god seems like a better guess than a benevolent one.

In Christianity, the idea of God's benevolence is essential to doctrine, but is very... "nuanced" might be the word. Omnibenevolence clearly can't mean that the goal of God's plan is human pleasure or human contentment, and it most certainly doesn't mean that God doesn't allow or use evil (an entity in itself completely separate from God) for his purposes:

From an overview on Biblical doctrine:
"God controls and uses evil but is never morally blameworthy for it. However if God's relationship to evil is to be understood, both his complete sovereignty and his complete holiness must be maintained. In his greate suffering, Job says, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.' We are told that Job's assessment of God's providence over evil is correct in that 'in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:21-22)' Joseph [the Old Testament one] expresses a similar attitude of the God-ordained evil actions of his brothers toward him when he says, 'as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good'...

Emphasis mine. I believe that benevolence, when used by a human, applies to good (in the long term) actions towards this human. Thus, if God's plan did not include at least some happiness for humans, I fail to see how said plan could be defined as benevolent.

Note that I am not a Christian and not very well versed in Christian lore. If you need this to understand my posts: I'd define myself as a Deist.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:29 pm UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:From an overview on Biblical doctrine:
"God controls and uses evil but is never morally blameworthy for it. However if God's relationship to evil is to be understood, both his complete sovereignty and his complete holiness must be maintained. In his greate suffering, Job says, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.' We are told that Job's assessment of God's providence over evil is correct in that 'in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:21-22)' Joseph [the Old Testament one] expresses a similar attitude of the God-ordained evil actions of his brothers toward him when he says, 'as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good'..."

God's omnibenevolence in Christianity is not associated with him having perfection of morality (sin) in a human sense, only in a Godly sense. Anything that God does would never be considered sinful, but if a human did the same thing, it might. God works everything out for "good," whatever "good" may mean in an eternal sense, which is not always "good" for our happiness, prosperity, contentment, etc.

Thus is the Christian interpretation of omnibenevolence. A non-Christian might call this non-omnibenevolent I suppose, but then we would just have different ideas of what the word is allowed to mean...


Hmm...it doesn't seem that way in practice. If I walk up to a Christian and tell them that I think God is evil "In the human sense of the word" they aren't likely to agree with me. Or is that just a difference between the common believer and the theologian?

But going back to my "making the best guesses we can with our limited information" - doesn't a non-benevolent god seem more plausible than a benevolent one (not necessarily *malevolent*, just not all-good)? I mean, yes, obviously having an understanding beyond ours means that God can be benevolent in ways that we don't understand - but when hypothesizing from our limited point of view, why assume that is the case?

Obviously anyone who is a biblical literalist will believe that God is all-good, benevolent, etc. The thing I find odd is that almost everyone who believes in more than a watchmaker, set-everything-in-motion god seems to also believe that God must be perfectly good, moral, benevolent, etc. Even though I don't see any reason this must be so. There's nothing inconsistent about a being that creates humanity not sharing any of the moral sentiments that humans do. And such a god would also seem perfectly consistent with the world as we know it.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby rat4000 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:44 pm UTC

Note that God created humanity and, some time ago, stopped interfering, short of the occasional miracle. That's the impression I get, at least.

And all evil on the world comes from humanity. Murder, for example, does not come from God, but from people. People's laws, people's anger, people's insecurities.

It is quite apparently possible for humans to live a life devoid of violence directed towards others - I often see people who wouldn't intentionally hurt another. If someone's evil, that's his fault, not God's - he was created with the potential to be good and evil, and he gets free will (because of the fruit in Christianity, because of... belief? in other belief systems such as mine).

If God interfered with humanity's actions directly, like smiting every murderer with thunder, that would be far too controlling, far too constricting to be considered benevolent - yet people who say that he is not benevolent because He allows evil are using that very argument.

Edited for some clarity: I know this is kind of not what I said some posts earlier. I was trying to present both sides of the argument.
Last edited by rat4000 on Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:03 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:54 pm UTC

rat4000 wrote:And all evil on the world comes from humanity. Murder, for example, does not come from God, but from people. People's laws, people's anger, people's insecurities.


True, but a creator would be responsible for the tendencies it gave us. Torturing children is a horrific thing that does happen, but it doesn't happen very often (comparatively speaking) because we have no tendencies towards it and have strong tendencies against it. A creator could have easily given us just as strong tendencies against hurting other adults. What if killing other people was as difficult mentally as committing suicide - people would still have the free choice to do so (after all, suicide happens), but it would be much less common.

In any case, I'm not arguing that a hypothetical God should be blamed for all the worlds ills, just that a non-moral God is at least as consistent with what we know of the world as a benevolent God.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Veracious Sole » Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:24 pm UTC

If you believe that God is omnipotent\omniscient then it is not that hard to assume that He is the cause of all strife, stress, and turmoil. Every action that you make was, in a way, condoned. Anything you do has been ordained since before time began. Despite this, God is not necessarily evil.

I view God as an amoral being. It's kind of hard to apply moral rules to a being that exists so far out of humanity. It would be like considering humanity evil for the way people treat plants.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Phill » Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:28 am UTC

rat4000 wrote:I did not say they do not have logic. I said that they lack the last jump of logic, the one proving the existence of God, for their faith to be rational. In fact, I consider all faith irrational, if one defines "rational" as "proved" or even "provable at our current level of knowledge, though no one's come up with a proof yet".


Slight tangent here, but... I wouldn't say that 'rational' is equal to 'proof'. I'd say rational was weighing up the evidence and making a balanced judgement. Sometimes things aren't provable in a scientific sense but it's still sensible to believe in them.

So, I think - in the case of Christianity - there is enough evidence to consider my faith rational. Faith doesn't exist in a vacuum - if, for example, the gospels were conclusively found to be hoaxes then I'd have to rethink... but I very much doubt that's going to happen.

This is why I find Richard Dawkin's statements about Faith meaning "blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence" absurd. I just don't know anyone like who he's trying to caricature, although I guess they must exist somewhere!

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Wed Mar 11, 2009 12:51 pm UTC

rat4000 wrote:And all evil on the world comes from humanity. Murder, for example, does not come from God, but from people. People's laws, people's anger, people's insecurities.


Not always. When the British came to the modern US, or Canada, or Australia, they didn't (usually) intentionally spread smallpox. They poisoned food, and shot natives, but the smallpox (usually) only came about because they wanted some sweet, sweet lovin'. My point being: cancer, STD's, ravenous tigers and black holes are not the work of humans.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:34 pm UTC

Phill wrote:This is why I find Richard Dawkin's statements about Faith meaning "blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence" absurd. I just don't know anyone like who he's trying to caricature, although I guess they must exist somewhere!


People who think dinosaur fossils were planted by Satan? People who try to explain away mountains of evidence to the contrary in order to believe in a 6000 year old Earth? If you haven't met people who have "blind trust even in the teeth of evidence", you haven't met enough fundamentalists.
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Weezer » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:43 pm UTC

Phill wrote:So, I think - in the case of Christianity - there is enough evidence to consider my faith rational. Faith doesn't exist in a vacuum - if, for example, the gospels were conclusively found to be hoaxes then I'd have to rethink... but I very much doubt that's going to happen.


I take from this that you take your faith is primarily based on christian religious texts because if they are disproved you would loose faith. What is it that makes christian religious texts more valid than say Hindu texts or Islamic texts. Since religious texts by there very nature conflict with religious texts from other religion how can you know that yours is in any way superior?
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:07 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:
Phill wrote:This is why I find Richard Dawkin's statements about Faith meaning "blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence" absurd. I just don't know anyone like who he's trying to caricature, although I guess they must exist somewhere!


People who think dinosaur fossils were planted by Satan? People who try to explain away mountains of evidence to the contrary in order to believe in a 6000 year old Earth? If you haven't met people who have "blind trust even in the teeth of evidence", you haven't met enough fundamentalists.

At some point though, you've gotta just discount beliefs that are so obviously unfounded and false, and focus on refuting the arguments of those who actualy have good arguments. Since Christianity has been the American cultural norm since the nation's conception, we shouldn't be surprised to find hoards of blind believers, even if the underlying Christianity is true. I imagine if in the next hundred years the cultural norm becomes atheism, we shouldn't be surprised to find hoards of blind believers in that group either in the year 2109, who wouldn't be able to stand up to scrutinization of their beliefs. Indeed, this was rather my experience in the U.K. with... a small few... of the people that I met there. (The U.K. is about 30-50 years ahead of the U.S. in terms of it's 'dereligion-ization')

Weezer wrote:
Phill wrote:So, I think - in the case of Christianity - there is enough evidence to consider my faith rational. Faith doesn't exist in a vacuum - if, for example, the gospels were conclusively found to be hoaxes then I'd have to rethink... but I very much doubt that's going to happen.


I take from this that you take your faith is primarily based on christian religious texts because if they are disproved you would loose faith. What is it that makes christian religious texts more valid than say Hindu texts or Islamic texts. Since religious texts by there very nature conflict with religious texts from other religion how can you know that yours is in any way superior?

I believe that both I and Phill would be willing to make the claim that Christian texts (i.e. the 66 cononical books of the Bible) are exceptional in the world of religious texts because they are able to withstand a substantial amount of scrutiny in comparison to any others. I think he and I would both agree that the study of religious texts to determine truthfulness should be approached just like any other field of study. For some reason it seems like a lot of people aren't willing to apply the same methods of rational inquiry that are commonly applied to other topics, in particular other historical events. If we don't cop out by just stating that it's impossible to figure out which religion is correct because there isn't a correct religion, then of course we wouldn't be able to consider any religion more valid than another. However, as many Christians such as myself do, we assume that it's possible for one religion to be correct, and we have determined that Christianity of the Bible is the most historically, philosophically, and theologically accurate. (Putting aside life stories... I mean you could say, 'But ML, haven't you been a 'Christian' of sorts all your life?' Yes, but I would be willing to reject my beliefs if they were found to be false. I've gone (or are going through) through the same search for truth that anyone else has and is.)

I (and I'm sure Phill) are fully willing to make the claim that the Bible is the correct religious text, and would be willing to defend against any specific scrutiny proposed.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby rat4000 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:34 pm UTC

Would you mind, then, explaining Hell?

I never quite understood how a benevolent God could send someone to an eternity of torture. Perhaps this is because of a lack of understanding how the Christian Hell works? In fact, this is probably the main reason why I don't like Christianity as a religion.

Rebirth, for example, sounds far more plausible.

Edit to make sure I'm not misunderstood: this is genuine curiosity, not an attempt at a rebuttal or anything, and I can take "yes" as an answer to the question in the first line of the post.

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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby setzer777 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:32 pm UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote: For some reason it seems like a lot of people aren't willing to apply the same methods of rational inquiry that are commonly applied to other topics, in particular other historical events.


MoghLiechty2 wrote: I (and I'm sure Phill) are fully willing to make the claim that the Bible is the correct religious text, and would be willing to defend against any specific scrutiny proposed.


The main issue I have with the Bible as a reliable text is miracles. I guess an issue I have here (and I'm taking a page from Hume here) is that using historical texts as a basis for truth is based on events following plausible courses of action. We assume that for certain events it is more plausible that the recorder is telling the truth than that they are fabricating the story (more plausible because of corroborating evidence, established reliability, physical evidence, etc.)

But based on the normal definition of the term "plausible", it is almost always more plausible that a seemingly reliable person lied than that the laws of nature were violated. One involves going against what we consider the most fundamental and basic assumptions about how reality functions, whereas the other simply goes against our judgment of the author's honesty and reliability, which in my view we always have less reason to trust than we do to trust the reliability of physical laws. Even if we somehow could know that the author was 100% honest and had no possible motive to lie, a sudden alteration of personality causing them to lie about that one miracle would still in itself be less of a miracle (and therefore more plausible) than some of the miracles recorded inside.

This is especially the case because (if I understand correctly), while some corroborating evidence supports the reliability of various Bible texts regarding some historical events, the specific miracles themselves are not so validated.

You might say that I'm suggesting a slightly different way of viewing texts. Instead of saying: "What are the reasons for and against trusting this account". I'd phrase it as "Here are some words on paper, let's consider every possible way these words could have ended up here, and decide which ways are more plausible."
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Re: Religion: The Deuce

Postby Comic JK » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:57 pm UTC

Weezer wrote:What is it that makes christian religious texts more valid than say Hindu texts or Islamic texts. Since religious texts by there very nature conflict with religious texts from other religion how can you know that yours is in any way superior?

I haven't read any of the Hindu canon, which anyway has not been centrally standardized like the Christian and Muslim ones. But referring to the Koran, I would argue that it has a serious problem which the Bible does not share.

The issue is that "the Bible" is not the work of a single author, but a collection of separate books written over centuries. If one book of the collection is mythical and disagrees with hard evidence, as Genesis disagrees with the fossils we find in the ground, then we can treat it as such without treating the rest of the books the same. And indeed Genesis, Job, and others were regarded as legend rather than history even during the Middle Ages. Modern fundamentalist movements try to treat all the books of the Bible equally--all they accomplish in the long run is degrading them all to the lowest common denominator of myth. A responsible view judges separate books on their own merits.

The Koran, on the other hand, is one book, composed by one man who claimed to speak from divine inspiration. Yet its creation story is just as incorrect as Genesis.

The implications for the Koran as a whole are obvious.
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