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The Problem of Evil

Re: The Problem of Evil

Postby Paidion » Fri Nov 27, 2015 9:11 pm

Hi Steve, you wrote:Your "higher purpose" of choice is drawn from your philosophical assumptions, not from any statement of scripture. Where did God ever say, "I didn't intervene in that crime because I value the free will of the perpetrator more than I value the life of the victim." ? Bizarre theology!


You give a particular instance. I have never suggested that God said such a thing to Himself with regard to a particular instance. I said that his general practice is not to interfere with man's free will, and that this fact explains why God usually does nothing to prevent the atrocities that some people commit against others.

While I agree that God does not want a race of robots, and that this is why free will exists, it requires only a moment's reflection to realize that God could easily have made men free, with respect to their love or hatred for God, without allowing their bad choices to impact innocent people adversely.


If that were the case, man's power of choice would be limited, and thus man would not actually possess free will at all.

And whose free will would be violated by God intervening to stop a tsunami? Your answer does not begin to answer the largest part of the problem of suffering.

That's the second aspect of the Problem of Evil. And no, free will does not solve that part of the Problem. But I gave an explanation of that part in one of my posts in this thread.

You say I have not answered your question. I would point out that the last three longish paragraphs in my last post do so.


I examined those paragraphs and they make no suggestion as to a possible good outcome of atrocities that would make atrocities such as the one I described as worthwhile. Nor did they explain why God could not have brought about those good outcomes (whatever they are) without "allowing" the atrocities to take place. Never in past discussion did you answer my question, nor did you answer it in this thread. You simply dismiss a possible explanation for God's reasons for "allowing" the atrocites which some people commit, as being beyond human understanding, and simply affirm that there must be a reason for it since God "allows" it. But God doesn't allow them in the sense of giving his permission, but only in the sense that He usually does nothing to prevent them. I ask you again, to please suggest a possible purpose God might have in "allowing" the rape and murder of little girls, and why He cannot achieve that purpose without allowing such atrocities.

Also, in past threads, I have given a long list, from scriptural examples, of specific benefits that God may intend to be derived through the endurance of intense sufferings.


God may bring good out of intense suffering but that doesn't imply that He caused such suffering. But I do agree that there are many painful results from wrongdoing that may help some people to link these results to their wrongdoing and may result in their rejection of such wrongdoing in the future. One might regard these results as God's doing, in the sense that they are part of natural processes that God created.

The bottom line is the production of Christ-likeness in humans.

Image

If I can find that post again, I will call it to your attention. However, I am not motivated to trouble myself much with it, since your memory about such things seems very short, and my posting it again will not prevent you from claiming, a month from now, that I have never answered your question.


It is true that my memory is not as keen as it was even ten years ago. But the problem is limited to forgetting words that I wish to employ, or the names of people I know.
If you had ever answered my question, I would have remembered, for I have thought about the Problem of Pain for at least 50 years, and have been searching for that answer from those who claim that God causes or "allows" atrocities for a good purpose. Again I ask you only to suggest what that purpose might be. You don't need to search for a past post. Just state a possible reason.

Having thought through our explanations again a couple of days ago, I came to see a correspondence between them.

I have set forth my free-will explanation as it being a general practice of God not to interfere with mans' free will. You have asked me why God might say, "I didn't intervene in that crime because I value the free will of the perpetrator more than I value the life of the victim." Your question deals with a particular instance of a crime, and I do not address particular instances, but affirm that it's God's general practice not to interfere with free will.

You have set forth you deeper-purpose-for-good explanation as a general practice of God always having such a deeper purpose. I have asked you what good purpose could God possible have for allowing the rape and murder of little girls. My question deals with a particular instance of an atrocity, and you do not address particular instances, but affirm that it's God general practice to bring good out of evil.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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Re: The Problem of Evil

Postby Homer » Sat Nov 28, 2015 12:15 am

I for one can testify that the suffering of someone else that I cared very much about caused a change in me in the years when I was astray from God. It caused me to examine where I was at. How could I pray for someone while separated from God? Would He even listen? The scriptures appear to indicate He would not.
We can not know the extent that people, even a great many, may be affected by suffering of others.

Though for many it may have been short lived, 9/11 affected many people in a spiritual sense.
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Re: The Problem of Evil

Postby ApostateltsopA » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:28 am

steve wrote:Apos,

This discussion is taking place at a very busy season, in which it is very inconvenient to become deeply embroiled in a discussion that is in no sense time-sensitive....


I'll say,

It has taken me quite a while to get back to you on this and I'm still mulling over the best way to show you, and others, your responses from my point of view. I don't know that it's possible but I do feel I ought to try given the length of my hiatus. Please take your time getting back. The holidays are surely upon us.

I'm not going to delve into a pendentaic battle over what is and is not a ad homenim attack. If you can't see it already I doubt I can show it to you. What I find interesting is that you seem to regard atheism as the position that there are no gods of any sort. There are certainly people of that belief, but my experience is that they are in the minority of atheists. Skepticism, something I identify more strongly with, requires it. The broad meaning of atheist is someone who does not believe in any gods. This defines myself and every atheist I have met as well as all of those I have read. The position derives from the argument that one should not assent to the existence of anything without sufficient evidence. I allow for argument as well as evidence, in my personal beliefs but I'm a lot more skeptical when argument is all that is offered.

So a purely logical position for rejecting all theistic claims I am aware of follows.

1. It is preferable to believe truth over falsehood.
2. In order to hold as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as possible belief should be based on evidence.
3. The existence of a god is a truth claim
4. This claim has not been adequately supported with evidence or argument
5. Therefore belief is withheld until sufficient evidence is presented.

It's important to note that when theists talk about god they, in my experience, almost always set up their claims in a manner which is unfalsifiable. For example, when you talked about evil, if humans were able to stop some kind of evil, that was a good thing. However if we are not able to prevent the evil, that is also a good thing as the unprevented evil is actually good since it is a treatment for our sin.

Under your model there is not actually any evil. Just preventable suffering, which the prevention is good and unpreventable suffering in which the suffering is good. For me this renders the word good meaningless. It applies to everything.

I understand your time is limited, however the other week The Atheist Experience touched on a lot of the ground we are working over. The show was about 90 minutes in length, but can be listened to in segments, or watched. This is the mp3 for the audio.

If you prefer the video it is [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhIP45wWLRc&feature=youtu.be=here[/url]

@mattrose,

I've looked over your post several times. You and I are coming from very different places and I get the impression that you consider the points you raise to be telling ones.

Just to rehash, You offered this list of my argument.

[quote=mattrose]
A. The serpent told Eve she wouldn't die from eating the fruit
B. She didn't die from eating the fruit
C. Therefore, the serpent told the truth
D. Therefore, the serpent is an established truth teller***
E. The serpent also told Eve that if she ate the fruit she'd know good and evil
F. Therefore, given "D", it must be true that she'd know good & evil if she ate it
G. Therefore, she must not have known good & evil before she ate it.
[/quote]

I'm curious how you disagree with point B. however I think it's a tangent. In many ways this whole genesis discussion is a tangent, but an interesting one.

The part of your response that I think is most meaningful is when you are looking at our interpretations of the words in Genesis.

1. The Knowledge is an awareness of their sexuality (based primarily on their immediate reactions and the fact that the word for 'know' sometimes has a sexual connotation). Hamilton (rightly it seems to me) dismisses this view for a variety of reasons.
2. The Knowledge is comprehensive knowledge, even omniscience (based on the idea that 'good and evil' is a merism). Hamilton also (again, rightly in my opinion) dismisses this interpretation.
3. The knowledge is moral awareness (your view). But Hamilton quickly dismisses this as legitimate based on the fact that Adam had moral instruction and expectations before the eating of the fruit (as I argued).
4. The knowledge is moral autonomy (my view). The interpretation is based on the idea that 'good and evil' is a legal idiom meaning to formulate and articulate a judicial decision.


I don't feel you have adequately addressed my inference about what the knowledge of good and evil means. You alluded to scholars of the bible however the very need to do so undermines the credibility of their source material for me.

I don't doubt that these people have spent extensive hours studying the Hebrew, and Greek and hopefully gaining as much knowledge as possible of the cultures, authors and the environment they wrote the stories in. However their conclusion, and yours, differs with my understanding of the words used in the translations I've access to. This seems to put them at odds with the scholars who translated the work in the first place. It also puts them at odds with a large body of fellow believers in regards to what this turn of phrase means.

The bible states both that God is not the author of confusion, and that all scripture is god breathed. So if the book is confusing, and given that scholarly debate exists confusing is certainly an appropriate word. Then we have an issue. This issue may not be enough for you to reject it as a source of truth but it does invalidate it for me.

If we were talking about a scientific text, or even just the meaning of an old piece of literature I would be more forgiving, and more ready to rely on experts. However, this isn't quantum physics, its a very real bid to alter my behavior in the years of life I have. It is competing with several other religions and I do hold them all to the same standard of evidence. Internal contradictions indicate human authors. A god should be able to do better. The fact that the bible is written in dead languages alone invalidate it as the sole source of the divine.

I'm trying to think of a succinct way to sum this up. Theists claim, to me, that god wants a relationship with me. That god is right there waiting. However when I want a relationship I contact the person I am seeking directly and unambiguously. My efforts can not be reasonably misconstrued as imagination. God, on the other hand, hides. If god wants a relationship it needs to help me see it in a manner which I can not be skeptical about. If god is unwilling to do that then I've been rejected by a being who made the universe and planned for me to be this way. Alternately, there is no god and it's best for me to get on with my life as best I can.

About your questions,

When I said,"Ok, why do you think this freedom was given in the form of a curse and punishment? Since Satan choose to rebel against God, and with apparently better information to go on, it seems that we could too if we knew God as well as Satan does. Why were the people commanded not to eat of the tree, if God's plan was for them to disobey him to give their descendants this freedom? "

You were claiming that the freedom to choose was a blessing from god given to us from the events in the garden. Why do you think God chose to present this gift as a curse as he drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and set a guard against their getting to the tree of life? Why is the god of Genesis 2 and 3 so much angrier than the god of genesis 1?

Then you said this,

God didn't have to create the world. God chose self-limitation. That is a far cry from inherent limitation.


This is not what I am talking about. You take it for granted that love has requirements. That god chose to self limit to make this world. However if love has requirements, either a. those requirements are not binding to god, and god could have created a universe in which they were not binding. or b. The limitations of love bind god in any universe and his power is so limited.

If a. he's being a jerk by adding unnecessary limits. if b. he's limited and not god.

I'm telling you that I can not access the spirit through the gospel, any more than I could access it through the Quran or the books of the Bagavad gita I"ve read or any of the other ancient religious stories I've been exposed to. I think you need to believe that I am mistaken about this. That when I tell you that the books don't pass mustard skeptically and their claims are fanciful and internally contradictory you think I'm being unfair, or haven't really tried or didn't try in the right way.

I was sincere in my beliefs. I believed I had the personal relationship you describe. Then my reason killed it. Why do you think that is?
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Re: The Problem of Evil

Postby steve » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:19 pm

Apos,

You wrote:

So a purely logical position for rejecting all theistic claims I am aware of follows.

1. It is preferable to believe truth over falsehood.


As a Christian, I am compelled to agree with this sentiment. However, I am not sure why it would be a "given" from the standpoint of atheism. Many truths, of course, are good and practical to know, so I would see why any person—atheist or otherwise—should wish to know them.

However, some truths confer no particular practical advantage. If there is no God who demands our honesty, then it seems that there would be some lies that might be very convenient—even beneficial—to believe. For example, the placebo effect of certain misleading medical treatments might actually do a patient good.

Even believing that there is a God (if there were not one in reality) might conceivably confer some benefit on the believer. In fact, theism might well be argued to confer selective advantage in evolution, since those who have the propensity to believe in God or gods have outnumbered those who don’t have such belief, by a factor, probably, of 30 to 1. Why would natural selection retain such naivete as a general human characteristic, if it carried with it no survival advantages?

2. In order to hold as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as possible belief should be based on evidence.


This is true.

3. The existence of a god is a truth claim


Also true.

4. This claim has not been adequately supported with evidence or argument.


Most thinking observers throughout history would disagree with this statement. This doesn’t mean that they are correct, but it certainly means that you are expressing a minority sentiment—far from self-evidently true. The common man has always tended to buy the argument for a divine designer by his observations of the world around him—perhaps more as an instinctive assessment of the evidence than an intellectual one.

The classic arguments for God have been around and have been seen as sufficient by the average thinking person in most societies from time immemorial. That certain philosophers feel they can poke holes in the arguments does not reasonably dismantle them altogether. Many excellent philosophers still regard the ancient arguments—based on the evidence of design, of cognition, of purpose, of morality, of altruism, etc.—as persuasive. I do too.

5. Therefore belief is withheld until sufficient evidence is presented.


The conclusion is a logical one from the stated premises. The premises, however, are not self-evident, nor adequate starting points for inquiry.

It's important to note that when theists talk about god they, in my experience, almost always set up their claims in a manner which is unfalsifiable. For example, when you talked about evil, if humans were able to stop some kind of evil, that was a good thing. However if we are not able to prevent the evil, that is also a good thing as the unprevented evil is actually good since it is a treatment for our sin.


My presentation was not intended as a logical proof of anything—hence, I did not show any concern about non-falsifiability of argumentation. I was giving the Christian explanation for the question, “If there is a good God, why is there suffering in the world.” My explanation has every possibility of being correct, independently of any argumentation for its validity. Such argumentation would look very different from what I presented, and would take the form of demonstrating the validity of the foundational assumptions from which my explanation is drawn.

Under your model there is not actually any evil. Just preventable suffering, which the prevention is good and unpreventable suffering in which the suffering is good. For me this renders the word good meaningless. It applies to everything.


In my model there is certainly evil, but it is not equated with suffering. It is equated with rebellion against goodness. In this respect, my paradigm recognizes a great quantity of evil in the world.
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Re: The Problem of Evil

Postby mattrose » Wed Dec 16, 2015 6:56 pm

ApostateltsopA wrote:The part of your response that I think is most meaningful is when you are looking at our interpretations of the words in Genesis....

I don't feel you have adequately addressed my inference about what the knowledge of good and evil means. You alluded to scholars of the bible however the very need to do so undermines the credibility of their source material for me.


This is really an astounding statement if you think about it, especially when coupled with your previous statement to Steve in this very same post.

You said:

In order to hold as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as possible belief should be based on evidence


But then, in responding to me, you prefer to dismiss the most relevant evidence (information from the very people who have spent their lives studying the text in question!). So on one hand you say all beliefs should be based on a thorough search for the truth of a matter and dependent on evidence, but on the other hand you say we shouldn't need to appeal to such evidence!

I'm genuinely confused by this. It is somewhat akin to a judge insisting that we don't need to hear fingerprint evidence in a criminal trial b/c we should just be able to tell from the look on the person's face if they are guilty or not.

Then you doubled-down!
I don't doubt that these people have spent extensive hours studying the Hebrew, and Greek and hopefully gaining as much knowledge as possible of the cultures, authors and the environment they wrote the stories in. However their conclusion, and yours, differs with my understanding of the words used in the translations I've access to. This seems to put them at odds with the scholars who translated the work in the first place. It also puts them at odds with a large body of fellow believers in regards to what this turn of phrase means.


Here, you are basically saying that your surface-level reading of the text is more reliable than their researched understanding of the text. This mentality goes against everything you say you believe in.

We're dealing with ancient texts here. The words of a text are defined by their context (Cultural, linguistic, etc.). You can't just assume that the way YOU take the phrase some thousands of years after the text was written is what it must have originally meant.

The bible states both that God is not the author of confusion, and that all scripture is god breathed. So if the book is confusing, and given that scholarly debate exists confusing is certainly an appropriate word. Then we have an issue. This issue may not be enough for you to reject it as a source of truth but it does invalidate it for me.


So you only believe lines of truth where there is only 1 possible interpretation? Unfortunately for you, truth is much more complex than you are dreaming it to be. You're basically saying that if the Bible isn't super easy for you to understand, then it is invalidated.... if God requires you to dig a bit, then you're not responsible for your lack of effort.

I can understand being frustrated that truth-discovery takes effort (I'm naturally lazy too)... but it's really no excuse. Besides, based on your rhetoric here, 99% of people should reject the Bible b/c the supposed surface level meaning is problematic. But what of the 1% that actually DO their homework? Does the Bible get re-validated for that group?

...The fact that the bible is written in dead languages alone invalidate it as the sole source of the divine.


This statement makes zero sense. It is also un-argued. It is also not true that Christians say the Bible is the sole source of the divine!

I'm trying to think of a succinct way to sum this up. Theists claim, to me, that god wants a relationship with me. That god is right there waiting. However when I want a relationship I contact the person I am seeking directly and unambiguously. My efforts can not be reasonably misconstrued as imagination. God, on the other hand, hides. If god wants a relationship it needs to help me see it in a manner which I can not be skeptical about.


Herein lies the theme of your post. You're essentially saying that if Christianity is true is should be absolutely obvious to everyone. Anything short of absolute obviousness is God's fault and validates the lack of belief in human beings. Well, there are numerous problems with this view: First, all the most important things in life are not of that sort. Are you married? Was it absolutely obvious that your wife was the right spouse for you on the day you met? Or did it take time to develop that relationship before you had enough confidence to pop the question? Second, what if God WANTS people to search. What if searching and taking steps is part of what we need most? Third, the whole point assumes that our senses and minds are working properly. But what if our spiritual senses have been damaged? Fourth, it seems to me that God has demonstrated His love for us in sending Jesus who lived, died, and rose again. If we deny that, that's not God's fault.

Why is the god of Genesis 2 and 3 so much angrier than the god of genesis 1?


You're asking why God seems angrier after creation rebels than before???

if love has requirements, either a. those requirements are not binding to god, and god could have created a universe in which they were not binding. or b. The limitations of love bind god in any universe and his power is so limited.

If a. he's being a jerk by adding unnecessary limits. if b. he's limited and not god.


Your reaction to A is not well-thought-out.

Sure, God could have created a world of robots that did exactly what God wanted them to do. Would you prefer this option?

God didn't want to make a world of robots. God wanted a world of real people who could choose. This doesn't make God 'jerky'... it makes God love.

I think you need to believe that I am mistaken about this. That when I tell you that the books don't pass mustard skeptically and their claims are fanciful and internally contradictory you think I'm being unfair, or haven't really tried or didn't try in the right way.


I don't 'need' anything from you. I was already on this message board and you joined subsequently :) Nor did I start this thread. You're the initiator here, so... psychologically speaking... it seems that if anyone has a 'need' to validate their beliefs it would be you... coming onto a Christian message board to share your atheism. Now, I'm glad you did (because I enjoy such discussion). But I don't "need" to prove you wrong. I know what I believe and why I believe it. I'm always willing to hear other viewpoints b/c I'm a lover of truth. I'm happy (not threatened) when different views are brought to the table.

When I teach the Bible, I present multiple views of most passages. I find this a good environment for learning. You, on the other hand, have recoiled at the thought that there are multiple possibilities of interpretation of evidence. It seems to me that you have a problem with the lack of certainty in the world. I would recommend 2 recent books. One is called "The Skeptical Believer" and the other is called "Benefit of the Doubt." Both books would help you overcome your mistaken notion that things have to be nearly absolutely evidenced in order to be believed. That's just not the way the world really works (at least not in regards to important matters).

I was sincere in my beliefs. I believed I had the personal relationship you describe. Then my reason killed it. Why do you think that is?


I have no idea. I don't even know you or the details of your story. My guess (based solely on its commonness in our culture) is that you have been trained by our enlightenment culture to yearn for absolute certainty and to focus on belief systems. The enlightenment has failed you and left you unchanged. It would have been better to recognize the myth of certainty and focus on discipleship rather than belief systems. Just my 2 cents.
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Re: The Problem of Evil

Postby ApostateltsopA » Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:37 am

steve wrote:Apos,

You wrote:

So a purely logical position for rejecting all theistic claims I am aware of follows.

1. It is preferable to believe truth over falsehood.


As a Christian, I am compelled to agree with this sentiment. However, I am not sure why it would be a "given" from the standpoint of atheism. Many truths, of course, are good and practical to know, so I would see why any person—atheist or otherwise—should wish to know them.


I'm really not sure what you are getting at here. Atheism is not a philosophy. There is no atheistic answer for truth, morality or the best time for breakfast. Skepticism does have answers for some of these and Humanism has more answers still. I'm an atheist because I don't believe in any gods, a skeptic because I believe that beliefs should correspond with evidence and a humanist because I believe we are all we have and we are best when we are at our best together.

steve wrote:However, some truths confer no particular practical advantage. If there is no God who demands our honesty, then it seems that there would be some lies that might be very convenient—even beneficial—to believe. For example, the placebo effect of certain misleading medical treatments might actually do a patient good.


This is shortsighted thinking at best. While a person might benifit from a placebo effect, medicine and that person's long term health do not. If they come to rely on a placebo they will not be getting the medical care which can actually treat their ailment. In the best case their ailment leaves and they are neutral, worst case they could significantly hamper their recovery or even die.

steve wrote:Even believing that there is a God (if there were not one in reality) might conceivably confer some benefit on the believer. In fact, theism might well be argued to confer selective advantage in evolution, since those who have the propensity to believe in God or gods have outnumbered those who don’t have such belief, by a factor, probably, of 30 to 1. Why would natural selection retain such naivete as a general human characteristic, if it carried with it no survival advantages?


Natural selection is not design, or a designer. All the retention of a trait identifies is that the trait is not a significant liability to survival in the presence of others who lack that trait. If you want to argue for an advantage you need to provide evidence for advantage, not just say "well it hasn't killed us off so it must be good for us" Just think of the sheer number of bad things that would be identified as good for the lack of having killed everyone.

steve wrote:
2. In order to hold as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as possible belief should be based on evidence.


This is true.

3. The existence of a god is a truth claim


Also true.

4. This claim has not been adequately supported with evidence or argument.


Most thinking observers throughout history would disagree with this statement. This doesn’t mean that they are correct, but it certainly means that you are expressing a minority sentiment—far from self-evidently true. The common man has always tended to buy the argument for a divine designer by his observations of the world around him—perhaps more as an instinctive assessment of the evidence than an intellectual one.

The classic arguments for God have been around and have been seen as sufficient by the average thinking person in most societies from time immemorial. That certain philosophers feel they can poke holes in the arguments does not reasonably dismantle them altogether. Many excellent philosophers still regard the ancient arguments—based on the evidence of design, of cognition, of purpose, of morality, of altruism, etc.—as persuasive. I do too.


Ok, this is the meat of your response, and given how you described your self as logical I'm pretty surprised by what you have written here. I will agree that atheism is a minority view, for now. As the nones are the fastest growing "religious" segment that may well not be true much longer. However even if atheism were a majority opinion that would not provide evidence for or against it's truth. Your appeal to the masses is a logical fallacy if you seek to do anything other than indicate I hold a minority viewpoint.

I disagree with you about the use of the classic arguments. Most believers are not familiar with any of the arguments. They were taught to believe as children. Many, myself included, were taken to weekly services where the indoctrination is formalized. I'm reminded of the words of the Apostle's Creed. Something I recited from memory at least once a week.

I don't need creeds for the things I believe based on evidence. I don't have a internal combustion engine creed, or a creed for evolutionary biology. Religion is unique in my own experience for employing such a device. Even in history the events are offered without ceremony. If these beliefs are so obvious, why the repetition?

I thought we took the design argument apart quite well. I have yet to see an argument from altruism, I would guess it links to a misunderstanding of natural selection and a "red in tooth and claw" view of nature. I will simply say that every argument for the existence of god I have found, and I keep looking, is flawed. Usually in some obvious way. If you know of a really compelling one I'd like to see it. Please give me the short form, or a link and I'll be excited to go and seek it out.

steve wrote:
5. Therefore belief is withheld until sufficient evidence is presented.


The conclusion is a logical one from the stated premises. The premises, however, are not self-evident, nor adequate starting points for inquiry.


I don't see how they aren't. We agree with all except #4. I have found all arguments, thus far, wanting. I'm happy to look for more but at this point I'm losing hope.

steve wrote:
It's important to note that when theists talk about god they, in my experience, almost always set up their claims in a manner which is unfalsifiable. For example, when you talked about evil, if humans were able to stop some kind of evil, that was a good thing. However if we are not able to prevent the evil, that is also a good thing as the unprevented evil is actually good since it is a treatment for our sin.


My presentation was not intended as a logical proof of anything—hence, I did not show any concern about non-falsifiability of argumentation. I was giving the Christian explanation for the question, “If there is a good God, why is there suffering in the world.” My explanation has every possibility of being correct, independently of any argumentation for its validity. Such argumentation would look very different from what I presented, and would take the form of demonstrating the validity of the foundational assumptions from which my explanation is drawn.


I think your views are logically consistent. I find your premise flawed and so I disagree with the soundness of your argument however I think the forms are valid. In finding the premise flawed though I see your conclusions as deeply troubling.

steve wrote:
Under your model there is not actually any evil. Just preventable suffering, which the prevention is good and unpreventable suffering in which the suffering is good. For me this renders the word good meaningless. It applies to everything.


In my model there is certainly evil, but it is not equated with suffering. It is equated with rebellion against goodness. In this respect, my paradigm recognizes a great quantity of evil in the world.


By goodness do you mean god? Since you see suffering as good, but also preventing suffering as good I don't see how someone could rebel against goodness. If I try to prevent unpreventable suffering is that bad? Or if I fail to prevent preventable suffering?

-------
mattrose,

First let me begin by stating I am not a seeker of absolute certainty. Those are your assumptions and they are wrong. I am very comfortable with operational certainty. That is to say I can, and do, function with a limited understanding but one which is based on the best evidence I can muster.

You claim that I am only willing to accept verses of the bible that have only one meaning. I am not aware of any verses that will stand that test. Every time I speak to a believer I'm likely to encounter different interpretations of the various verses. I was apparently not skillful in communicating my objection so I will try and be more clear.

My understanding of the bible derives from my command of the English language, and my reading of multiple translations and what additional historical information I have come across. I am not, and do not claim to be an expert in Hebrew, Greek or even the Bible. However a literal reading does seem to be what was intended by those who translated the various versions. If they meant for a less literal reading they would have provided foot notes. As a contrast my copy of Plato's Republic, is lousy with footnotes and also has an essay from the translator. These footnotes link to contextual clues and historical information about the book that as a modern westerner I simply lack the cultural cues Plato was writing to. Some bibles attempt to provide that level of detail, however most don't.

This illustrates that we have two groups, or probably many more than two, of scholars, who are experts in their fields who do not agree on what the meaning of the texts is. It is on that basis, not my own reading, that I reject your appeal to authority for your desired meaning in the translation we are discussing. I need more evidence. However the translation is secondary to the point I was trying to get at.

I am not, at all, convinced that the bible is a special book influenced by a divine spirit. The magical claims regarding the book have not been adequately supported. You tell me I'm not doing my homework, and I'm asking you what makes the homework worth the bother? Why is your book so much better than the holy books of the umpteen thousand other religions who have come and gone, or even the few that are still with us?

I hold that if God wants a personal relationship then it should be at lest decent enough to distinguish itself from any other fantasy story. Perhaps you see that as sacrilegious in me, or arrogant. If I thought god actually existed I suppose I'd see it as such, but I don't believe in your god. I'm here, partly because the discussions are interesting, but mainly because I hoped there would be a really good, really compelling argument here. Something I would not be able to easily dismiss, and would need to wrestle with. So far I've only seen the argument from Design, and a bit of morality, neither of which holds water.

If you have a PDF of either of those books I'll be interested to look them over.

You said,
You're essentially saying that if Christianity is true is should be absolutely obvious to everyone. Anything short of absolute obviousness is God's fault and validates the lack of belief in human beings.
Yes, absolutely. There is a shocking lack of evidence for god.

Well, there are numerous problems with this view: First, all the most important things in life are not of that sort.


I disagree. The most important things in life are the biological processes, air, water, food, sleep. I have excellent physical evidence for all of these things and when I need them it's really, really obvious.

Are you married? Was it absolutely obvious that your wife was the right spouse for you on the day you met? Or did it take time to develop that relationship before you had enough confidence to pop the question?

I am. Nope. We took our time to develop the relationship. However, at no point, ever, in our relationship was I lacking in evidence that my wife exists. I have ample, repeated evidence of her love for me. When I ask her a question she responds. While our communication is not perfect it is worlds, and leaps and bounds better than any communication I ever achieved with any gods, because the person who is not me, actually responds.

Second, what if God WANTS people to search. What if searching and taking steps is part of what we need most?

Then the search should be rewarded. I'll give you an example. After my mother visits my kids are sad to see her go. She likes to leave them scavenger hunts in the house so they have something from grandma to look forward to when she is gone. When they come home they have little notes that lead them around the house, and then they get a reward. Neither of my children has any reason to doubt that grandma exists, or that their search will be rewarded. They have rewards, and direct physical evidence of the goodness in searching and of grandma's love. If god wants us to search where is the evidence that it exists in the first place and why would we infer from such hiddeness that it wants to be found? Usually when people go to such lengths to conceal themselves being found is not their goal.
Third, the whole point assumes that our senses and minds are working properly. But what if our spiritual senses have been damaged?

This is flirting with hard solipsism. We could all be deluded about everything, it may be possible and it can't be ruled out. However we must exist with the belief that our senses and memory are at least somewhat reliable. From there testing can help refine our worldview. When you talk about damaged spiritual senses I'm not convinced there are spiritual senses at all, damaged or otherwise. How would we evaluate if our spiritual senses exist? If we can affirm they exist how would we determine if they are damaged?
Fourth, it seems to me that God has demonstrated His love for us in sending Jesus who lived, died, and rose again. If we deny that, that's not God's fault.


I have no reliable evidence for this claim. The very idea seems nonsensical to me. I asked you before why you think problems can be solved by killing the innocent. You told me that I was wrong to phrase it that way, but didn't elaborate. Here you use it again. Why do you believe that Jesus died. Why do you believe that death solved some kind of problem? Why do you revere the person who created the problem in the first place under your world view?



Onto the robots thing. You claim that my reaction to A is not well thought out because if God created a universe in which the rules of love were removed we would be robots. Why can't god create a universe where those rules are not in place and we are not robots? That seems like something a god should be able to do. That is what I am getting at when I describe the god you describe as limited. You say he would have had to make us robots or love has to have rules.

Yes, I don't see Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and 3 as a coherent narrative together. The endings are completely different. The location of 2 and 3 does not follow from the end of the story in 1. Both stories end with god saying good bye to the humans, in one he wishes them well and gives them everything, in the other he curses them and fears they may gain access to the tree of life. It's like trying to match the stories of Sky Woman and Coyote for origins. They don't fit into the same narrative and should be regarded separately.
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Re: The Problem of Evil

Postby dizerner » Thu Dec 17, 2015 7:15 am

Just a small correction here:

I often see free will trotted out as a reason why there has to be evil.


This is a bit incorrect as "has to be" implies determinism. Rather it is why there "is the possibility of."
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Re: The Problem of Evil

Postby steve » Thu Dec 17, 2015 12:19 pm

Apos,

You wrote:

I'm really not sure what you are getting at here. Atheism is not a philosophy. There is no atheistic answer for truth, morality or the best time for breakfast. Skepticism does have answers for some of these and Humanism has more answers still. I'm an atheist because I don't believe in any gods, a skeptic because I believe that beliefs should correspond with evidence and a humanist because I believe we are all we have and we are best when we are at our best together.


I wonder if you intended this as a response to a different point, and accidentally posted it under a block of my text. I don’t see any rhetorical connection between this paragraph and the statements in the block of text you posted above it.

I simply said there are truths that, because of their practicality, I would expect everyone to want to know. I mentioned nothing about atheism as a philosophy, nor any of the other points in your response.


This is shortsighted thinking at best. While a person might benifit from a placebo effect, medicine and that person's long term health do not. If they come to rely on a placebo they will not be getting the medical care which can actually treat their ailment. In the best case their ailment leaves and they are neutral, worst case they could significantly hamper their recovery or even die.


That depends. If the patient is suffering from a psychosomatic condition, there are no real health ramifications. Yet a placebo may bring relief. No harm done. The patient has a particular delusion, which is cured by another delusion. Would you be opposed to this practice?

The point I was making is that the Christian should want to know the truth, in principle, because of God’s intense commitment to the truth. The atheist would be expected to have a commitment to truth only when there is specific advantage attached to knowing or believing it—and that some truths do not necessarily confer such advantage. There is no need to know or believe truths that confer no advantage, unless there is a transcendental value in truth, per se. I do not see a basis for placing such a transcendental value upon impractical “Truth” apart from the belief that God cares about it.


Natural selection is not design, or a designer. All the retention of a trait identifies is that the trait is not a significant liability to survival in the presence of others who lack that trait.


It is common for evolutionists to talk out of both sides of their mouths. When arguing against God, they say there is no design, but when explaining things in an environment where they don’t expect any creationists to challenge them, they continually use the language of design and purpose when describing certain organs and aptitudes of plants or animals. Even evolutionists cannot resist the obvious truth of design. They simply want the designer to be “blind.”

I once read the musing of a philosopher who said it would be a very strange thing for a universe without purpose to develop, as its most highly-developed product, creatures obsessed with the notion of purpose. If this does not seem peculiar to you, this may shed light on why you also think atheism is a reasonable option.

You provide (above) a statement calls to our attention the negative effects of natural selection—observing only that some seemingly-worthless traits are not eliminated. The whole scheme of evolution, however, must account not only for the elimination of disadvantageous traits, but also for the innovation and accumulation of specifically advantageous ones. Selection accounts for preservation, but not for innovation.

True, preservation is an important factor. In order to get a radically new structure, the first 100th of a wing or an eye needs to be preserved (and we should seek explanations for why it would be preserved) long enough for the other ninety-nine 100ths of that structure to come along. But for all of these useless appendages to be preserved through a million generations (while remaining useless), without being eliminated, requires (to a skeptical man like myself) some explanation.

We do not know of animal species that instinctively pursue non-existent phantoms. It seems that a genetic predisposition to such delusions would be inconvenient and not a definer of increased viability. What natural selective process would favor an arrangement wherein the most highly-evolved and rational of creatures would, almost unanimously, reach the conclusion that some non-existent entity exists, and that it is important? Further, if natural selection has indeed produced and favored such a trait, why should anyone think it to be a good idea to eliminate it?

Ok, this is the meat of your response, and given how you described your self as logical I'm pretty surprised by what you have written here. I will agree that atheism is a minority view, for now. As the nones are the fastest growing "religious" segment that may well not be true much longer. However even if atheism were a majority opinion that would not provide evidence for or against it's truth. Your appeal to the masses is a logical fallacy if you seek to do anything other than indicate I hold a minority viewpoint.


The majority is often wrong—but so is the minority. We cannot determine truth by counting noses. However, one can reasonably assume that conclusions which most intelligent people have considered to be justly drawn from the evidence of the cosmos, and which a great many of the best minds (including former leading atheists) still believe to be the best options from evidence, should not cavalierly be dismissed as lacking in any evidential basis.

The most you can say is that you are not persuaded by the evidence that most thinking people have found persuasive. While this is every man's prerogative, it necessarily carries weight only to yourself, until you can persuade your hearer that your aptitude for weighing evidence exceeds that of the overwhelming majority of rational thinkers. You might be surprised to find few who are willing, in the absence of sufficient evidence, to make that assumption about you.

I disagree with you about the use of the classic arguments. Most believers are not familiar with any of the arguments. They were taught to believe as children. Many, myself included, were taken to weekly services where the indoctrination is formalized. I'm reminded of the words of the Apostle's Creed. Something I recited from memory at least once a week.


To say that most believers are not familiar with the arguments is to claim knowledge of what most believers do or do not know. I do not have this data, and I doubt that you have it. Speaking only for myself, as a child, I was taught Christian dogmas. However, my mind was continually contemplating the natural and philosophical evidences concerning God’s existence from at least the second grade onward. I have no reason to doubt that many other religious children have done the same. They may not be able to frame the arguments in terms that an adult would use, but this does not mean they are failing to assess evidences and to process data.

I don't need creeds for the things I believe based on evidence. I don't have a internal combustion engine creed, or a creed for evolutionary biology. Religion is unique in my own experience for employing such a device. Even in history the events are offered without ceremony. If these beliefs are so obvious, why the repetition?


The purpose of a creed is not the same as that of a philosophical argument. Arguments provide the reasons for belief or disbelief. Creeds summarize the beliefs which have been deemed credible as the result of the arguments. You certainly do have creeds concerning internal combustion engines (or, at least, all competent auto mechanics do). There are also the creeds of evolutionary biology, like the creed (unproven) of "descent from a common ancestor." The evidence for grand-scale evolution is as deficient to a true skeptic as is the evidence for God. I consider myself to be such a skeptic.

I will simply say that every argument for the existence of god I have found, and I keep looking, is flawed. Usually in some obvious way. If you know of a really compelling one I'd like to see it.


You are requiring the kind of evidence for God that you do not require for atheism. I suspect that you will say “Atheism is not a belief, so it requires no proof.” However, atheism, whether a positive belief or not, represents a tentative faith commitment. You state it as such above. You are essentially saying, “I am open to being persuaded by better evidence, but my default commitment is that there is no god.”

Atheists these days are more squeamish than in earlier generations about insisting that there is no god. They prefer to say, “I simply do not believe in god.” Fair enough. This avoids the illogicality of affirming a universal negative. However, in reality, a great number of our beliefs, values and choices proceed from the assumptions we make about whether or not there is a God or gods. There are only two possibilities:

Proposition #1 — The God taught in Christianity exists;

Proposition #2 — This God does not exist (and, possibly, no gods exist).

One of these propositions is correct and in accord with the real universe. Modern atheists claim to affirm neither, but this means that they must live in limbo, which they do not actually do. Most of our important decisions are determined by our outlook on this question, and all live as if one or the other of these propositions is true, even while professing agnosticism.

You repeatedly say that there is not sufficient evidence for proposition #1. I will take you at your word that, with reference to your tastes and aptitude for assessing evidences, this is in fact the case.

Do you uphold the same standard of proof for Proposition #2?

There are a great number of positive evidences, which some people do and others do not find compelling, that seem to indicate the presence of a Designer.

By contrast, there are no positive evidences of the non-existence of such a Designer.

While it is true that any evidence presented may be accommodated by some form of theism, weakening the argument by its being non-falsifiable, this does not prove the belief incorrect. It may mean that the theory is, on those grounds, suspect—but it says nothing about whether or not it is true.

I would suggest that a great deal of what we know and observe is reasonably explained by the existence of a Designer. Many phenomena are not as easily explained without a Designer. No phenomenon is better explained without a Designer.

Proposition #1, for all the perceived weaknesses of its evidences, has the advantage over Proposition #2 in at least having some positive evidences to evaluate.
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Re: The Problem of Evil

Postby mattrose » Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:28 pm

ApostateltsopA wrote:
mattrose,

First let me begin by stating I am not a seeker of absolute certainty. Those are your assumptions and they are wrong. I am very comfortable with operational certainty. That is to say I can, and do, function with a limited understanding but one which is based on the best evidence I can muster.


Haha... umm.. you asked me to guess at why your so-called 'reason' killed your so-called 'faith.' I said I don't know (since I don't know you), but guessed that it might be the same issue many people in our culture face. Your response to this guess is that I'm making false assumptions about you.

I'm not sure what to do with that odd rhetorical strategy, so I'll leave it at that.

You claim that I am only willing to accept verses of the bible that have only one meaning. I am not aware of any verses that will stand that test. Every time I speak to a believer I'm likely to encounter different interpretations of the various verses. I was apparently not skillful in communicating my objection so I will try and be more clear.


Are you, here, denying that you are only willing to accept verses of the Bible that [can] have only one meaning? I don't know if you're getting confused or just sloppy at this point in our conversation. As your position weakens, it is getting harder and harder to know which arguments you are actually trying to make.

My understanding of the bible derives from my command of the English language, and my reading of multiple translations and what additional historical information I have come across. I am not, and do not claim to be an expert in Hebrew, Greek or even the Bible. However a literal reading does seem to be what was intended by those who translated the various versions. If they meant for a less literal reading they would have provided foot notes. As a contrast my copy of Plato's Republic, is lousy with footnotes and also has an essay from the translator. These footnotes link to contextual clues and historical information about the book that as a modern westerner I simply lack the cultural cues Plato was writing to. Some bibles attempt to provide that level of detail, however most don't.


I'm not sure exactly what you mean by 'literal' here. You seem to mean by it that whatever your surface level (initial?) interpretation of a text is after you read it in English must be the correct interpretation. Not only is that absurd, but (as I said before), it is opposed by your own evidence-focused worldview. Words are defined by their contexts, so the people who understand the words best are the ones that understand their contexts best (like, you know, biblical scholars). All texts require interpretation (especially the most important of texts).

The other issue with that paragraph is that you seem rather ignorant about the process of Bible-making. Translators almost always include essays (or a preface) to explain some of their 'process'. The best translations include 'footnotes' like you mentioned in connection to Plato's Republic.

But all of this is really beside the point. Your claim is that if the text doesn't mean what your surface-level, 21st century reading assumes it means, then the translators should alert you to that fact in the Bible you happen to have in your hands and provide you with the correct interpretation. This assumes that proof-texting verses is the best way to study the Bible and should be made as convenient as possible. Again, there are so many problems with your assumptions here I'm not sure what to say!

The bottom line is this.. we went in some depth on the interpretation of the phrase 'knowledge of good and evil'. I provided you some of the best researched thinking on the meaning of the phrase in Genesis. You were not interested in that research b/c, frankly, you already had an interpretation that you felt was easy to poke holes in. Letting go of that interpretation would weaken your argument considerably, so you denied other (more informed) voices. That's your freedom, but you do not have the freedom to try to trap me into your bad interpretation!

This illustrates that we have two groups, or probably many more than two, of scholars, who are experts in their fields who do not agree on what the meaning of the texts is. It is on that basis, not my own reading, that I reject your appeal to authority for your desired meaning in the translation we are discussing. I need more evidence. However the translation is secondary to the point I was trying to get at.


Again, you show yourself to be uncomfortable with the possibility of multiple interpretations and, therefore, uncomfortable with the way the world actually is.
I am not, at all, convinced that the bible is a special book influenced by a divine spirit. The magical claims regarding the book have not been adequately supported. You tell me I'm not doing my homework, and I'm asking you what makes the homework worth the bother? Why is your book so much better than the holy books of the umpteen thousand other religions who have come and gone, or even the few that are still with us?


I make no magical claim about the Bible. My faith is not Bible-centered (it's Jesus-centered). My doctrine of the Bible is that it is a useful book for leading people to Jesus. The Bible is worth reading for that very reason (that it can help people find Jesus). If you want to debate someone claiming that their holy book is the highest revelation of God... talk to the Muslims I guess. In Christianity, Jesus is the revelation of God.

I hold that if God wants a personal relationship then it should be at lest decent enough to distinguish itself from any other fantasy story. Perhaps you see that as sacrilegious in me, or arrogant. If I thought god actually existed I suppose I'd see it as such, but I don't believe in your god.


If God wants a personal relationship with you, then I don't think God's primary strategy would be sending a book. That would be the correct strategy only if God's ultimate desire was something legal. But since God's ultimate desire is something relational, God sent God's-self in Jesus. As for the Bible, do you know of a book that can better tell you about Jesus? If not, then the Bible is very distinguished!

I'm here, partly because the discussions are interesting, but mainly because I hoped there would be a really good, really compelling argument here. Something I would not be able to easily dismiss, and would need to wrestle with. So far I've only seen the argument from Design, and a bit of morality, neither of which holds water.


Argumentation doesn't produce Christians. It, at its best, knocks down walls that are preventing someone from becoming a Christian. Only you know what walls are really blocking you from the person of Christ and if you are legitimately examining those walls. Your job is to follow the truth where it leads. I can only trust it'll lead you to Christ as it has led me.

If you have a PDF of either of those books I'll be interested to look them over.


They're available on Amazon. They are by Daniel Taylor and Greg Boyd.

The most important things in life are the biological processes, air, water, food, sleep. I have excellent physical evidence for all of these things and when I need them it's really, really obvious.


This is actually very telling. The MOST important things in life, in your view, are the things that just keep you alive? No mention of your parents, siblings, spouse, children, justice, love, grace, forgiveness, community, etc. Now, I'll assume that this was just a mechanical answer. I'm sure you love your wife more than life itself... but it's interesting that biological process came to your mind with that line of thought. Love, justice, relationships, grace, parenting.... these things are FAR more important than the things you mentioned and FAR more complicated.

I am. Nope. We took our time to develop the relationship. However, at no point, ever, in our relationship was I lacking in evidence that my wife exists. I have ample, repeated evidence of her love for me. When I ask her a question she responds. While our communication is not perfect it is worlds, and leaps and bounds better than any communication I ever achieved with any gods, because the person who is not me, actually responds.


Perhaps you have ample, repeated evidence for God's love for you too... but just haven't attributed it to its source. It sounds to me like the only god you would be satisfied with is a god much like yourself.

Then the search should be rewarded.


I don't know why you think God has gone to great lengths to conceal Himself. If you'll allow the Christian worldview for but a moment, then the whole of creation is revelation. The Bible is revelation. Jesus Christ is ultimate revelation. It seems to me there is not a problem of lack of revelation. There is a problem of rejection of that revelation as revelation.

I have no reliable evidence for this claim. The very idea seems nonsensical to me. I asked you before why you think problems can be solved by killing the innocent. You told me that I was wrong to phrase it that way, but didn't elaborate. Here you use it again. Why do you believe that Jesus died. Why do you believe that death solved some kind of problem? Why do you revere the person who created the problem in the first place under your world view?


If you are interested in different theories of the atonement, feel free to start a thread about it. Clearly you have been told 1 theory and you don't like its ramifications. I've briefly stated not only that there are alternative theories, but touched on what they are. A simple internet search could fill you in if you want to become familiar before you start your thread. If you don't want to start another thread on it, but just want to make it the subject of your next post, then just focus on that one issue in your reply to me and I'll elaborate. But trying to include it into these long responses wouldn't be a good style of communication in my opinion.

Onto the robots thing. You claim that my reaction to A is not well thought out because if God created a universe in which the rules of love were removed we would be robots. Why can't god create a universe where those rules are not in place and we are not robots? That seems like something a god should be able to do. That is what I am getting at when I describe the god you describe as limited. You say he would have had to make us robots or love has to have rules.


Are you suggesting that there could be a form of love that doesn't include free choices?

I'm baffled and intrigued!
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