Friday, October 19, 2007

Might is not right.

One of the biggest issues I have with the pious faithful is the hypocritical claims they make about how good they are for worshiping their gods. Although I've mentioned it before, including recently, I think this point deserves more attention. One deconversion I achieved was because I highlighted that according to a friend's beliefs, I will burn for all eternity in hell. She thought of me to be a good person by my actions and she simply couldn't accept that I deserved to go to hell. My question is who does?

I've burnt myself a few times. Probably the worst was when I got a metal cylinder heater stuck to my arm but I've never been hospitalised for it. Getting burned really hurts. Out of all the pains I've experienced its right up there just above do-it-yourself home dentistry and considerably worse than the time I split my scrotum open in a bike accident. One might even say it hurts like hell. So let's imagine now the same pain, spread over all your body, your eyes, your face, the soles of your feet, the tips of your fingers, your slightly scared scrotum, your ears, inside your nose, inside your mouth, between your toes, the head of your penis, or your clitoris for female readers, your scalp, your throat, your nipples, well, everywhere – no breaks, no rest, and absolutely no escape – EVER!

Now to me, that is a pretty primitive view of Hell as it's purely a physical thing. There's still so much more that could simultaneously be done with the mind, but regardless, it is still unimaginably bad. And it serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever than to make you suffer. There's no rehabilitation here. It's just mindless, infinite torture.

Who deserves that?

In my mind, nobody does. Not even Hitler. Not even Stalin. Not even the worst child murderer ever. Not even someone that thinks someone else deserves it! Not even the worst criminal of all time, the one that has and will continue to put billions of people into that very same suffering if you happen to believe he exists, god! That's right – not even god. The suffering is so pointless and so extreme that it is literally too bad for anyone – even the one creating it.

So what I can't for the life of me figure out is how anybody can think that another human being deserves that fate simply for not saying "Thanks Jesus. You're the man. I'll be your obedient pet forever". This, my friends, does not compute.

Now, it seems a no-brainer to me that I, not being an immoral man, do not deserve that torture either. I am generally kind and conscientious. I don't steal. I don't act violently towards others. I even respect the boundaries of other people's relationships. That's right – I turn down offers from women that are already involved. I don't want to be involved in hurting people emotionally or physically and I control my actions to try to make sure that I leave people unharmed. So how can I deserve and eternity in hell?

So, all you believers out there please answer me this. Pick any one you know that is not a Christian. Pick absolutely any nice person you know or have ever met that is not a Christian, or if your experience is so limited that you don't know anyone then pick someone famous. Someone nice. Someone that worked on the Sabbath, like a doctor for example. Now please tell me how you can honestly say that this person deserves eternity in hell, burning in infinite agony, forever? Tell me honestly, do you think that is right?

How about for family members? How about for your own children? The thought of what you will accept as right just because of your belief in the might of your god staggers me. How the hell can you justify hell to yourselves? Or are you really just such scared little puppets that you can't possibly risk the independent thought of determining for yourselves that such cruel retribution for non-existent crimes is morally wrong?

My son is 13 years old and an atheist. He's one of the best behaved and considerate children I've ever known. My daughter is 12 years old and an atheist and she is actually the best behaved and most considerate child I have ever known. She has quite a reputation for it. If they die now they go to hell by your beliefs. What sickness of the mind do you have that can make you think that is deserved? What poor excuse for morality do you aspire to if you haven't the courage to disagree with your god on that simply because your god is stronger than you?

In my mind you are truly weak or absolutely inadequate as moral human beings if you do no object to a god that would inflict such torture by at least saying "Hey god. I don't want to be part of that particular plan. Whatever the reward, the price is too high!"

So come on, please loving Christians, explain to me the value of your love when the cost of your reward is the unparalleled evil of billions of your fellow man in eternal and infinite suffering? And furthermore, explain to me the frequency with which so many of you gleefully squeal your approval, in fact delight, at your predictions that so many will burn for all eternity in hell?

Just because you can't win a fight would never make it right to join the wrong side. And that is exactly what you have done. You are cowards no matter how much love you may try to give in your lives because you will never stand up against the worst of all the fates you believe to be the truth.

Might is right in your book and your loving super hero is the same monster that promises a Hell not mentioned a single time in the entire Old Testament*. Might, for you at least, appears to be the sole qualifier of right.

Apologists, on your marks! Get set! Apologise!


* Before you try to tell me I'm wrong about the OT you should know that the OT originally states "Sheol" (Hades) as the destination for everyone. Sheol is the Hebrew word referring to the common grave of all mankind. In KJV it is translated 31 times as "Hell", 31 times as "grave", and 3 times as "pit". But the OT itself contains not one reference to the unrighteous going to a different Sheol than the righteous. Hell is a New Testament invention. It's the invention of your loving Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament it is referred to a "Gehenna" (Matthew 10:28, 23:33; Mark 9:43). Note: Matthew 11:23 portrays Hades (Sheol) as distinct from Gehenna. Case closed, unless you want to disagree with the bible of course.

If you enjoyed this article please feel free to digg it down below.

35 comments:

Matt M said...

Do many Christians still believe in Hell? The ones who hold the Bible to be more or less "metaphorical" seem to ditch it pretty quickly (at least in my experience).

You're right though. The idea of Hell is completely incompatible with the idea of a loving God. Any being willing to send someone to eternal torment is a monster guilty of far worse than any human being.

chooseDoubt said...

And any human that would still worship that monster has sold out their fellows, thus showing any love they claim to be truly false.

Tommy said...

Some scholars believe that the Jews, and then the Christians, got the idea for hell from the Zoroastrians.

chooseDoubt said...

Hi Tommy,

Any chance you could post some links please mate? This is new to me and I am very curious.

Thanks,

CD

Jeff said...

I enjoyed your post. You certainly put a lot of time and thought into it. Such a format makes it difficult to respond to each and every comment you made, so I will try to touch on a few of your points.

First: I do not believe that Hell is a place of eternal "torture," as is commonly thought, even by some Christians. The Bible uses many analogies. It uses fire, gnashing of teeth, etc. as an analogy for what it is like away from God's presence, which is what Hell is - separation/banishment from God's presence. As such, there is suffering, from a Christian's perspective, because one is away from God.

Secondly: Why would God pull someone into heaven kicking and screaming after a lifetime of the person telling Him that they do not believe in Him and do not like Him. So, Hell (separation from God) is giving a person what he/she wants. Why would a non-believer want to spend an eternity with God? That would appear to be a far worse "Hell."

Third: You refer several times to morality or good behavior. But while you are disavowing a God, at the same time you are calling Hell unjust. CS Lewis, who also struggled with your question, once said, "How had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust." In essence, when one denies the existence of God but refers to good and evil, it becomes a self-defeating argument. When we call something bad, we refer to a standard that is beyond ourselves. Where does that standard come from? If the standard is man-made, then it is subjective. How then can we call crimes such as those committed in Darfur and Nazi Germany truly "bad" if humans are the ones defining good and bad. Our ideas of good and bad can change. If there is not a God, what then can we defer to as the arbiter when we say something is evil?

Again, I enjoyed your post. Sorry for the long response.

chooseDoubt said...

Hi Jeff,

I enjoy long responses so before I continue let me thank you for yours. Thank you.

First, so hell is an analogy but heaven is not? Why not? How can you tell the difference between what is an analogy and what is not?

You say "Hell is - separation/banishment from God's presence" and yet god is omnipresent. Could we take just one loop around the mobius strip of reasoning that allows you to confuse yourself out of understanding what utter nonsense that is?

You also say "As such, there is suffering, from a Christian's perspective, because one is away from God". So, there is suffering and it goes on forever. Even the tiniest bit of suffering per day multiplied by an infinite number of days is still infinite suffering. But anyway, it's pure nonsense. The New Testament is quite clear on how thoroughly nasty Hell is supposed to be. It's not analogy; it's pure fiction. And even if we concede that it is analogy, which I do not, you would then be in the position of having absolutely no reasonable means of differentiating any other statement in the bible from analogy. It undermines the entire text. I do congratulate you however on being at least part way to dismissing the book and its muddled contents.

Secondly, if god is this thoroughly pure and immersive love that Christians are fond of claiming he is then it wouldn't matter if someone believed in him or not. They should get the chance to experience that and then decide what they want, not be condemned simply for having been given a brain that can handle critical thought. It's a very weak argument to say "they don't want it". They have no reason to think it is there.

If a child in Africa is starving and there is an apple tree just over the next ridge can you say the child does not want the apples simply because he has no knowledge and absolutely no reason to suspect that the tree exists? I think your argument is essentially that.

Third, you are asserting that god is required for moral judgements. I have answered this argument in some depth in the following two posts, which are part of a blogalogue with a Christian regarding morality.


Atheist Morality Blogalogue Part 1
Atheist Morality Blogalogue Part 2

I apologise for not answering your third point in full here, but it would just be a rewrite of the arguments I have previously made in the posts I've referred you to.

Thanks again for your comment. I didn't expect to get a response. I think this ground is so treacherous for a believer that they'll opt for the "see no evil, hear no evil" approach to honest inquiry.

All the best,

CD

Jeff said...

CD,

I apologize if I was not clearer as to my description of Hell. I do not believe Hell is an analogy; nor do I believe that Heaven is an analogy. They are real places. The descriptions used for them in the Bible can be analogies or figures of speech (such as fire, gnashing of teeth, etc). If you have never tasted beef and had to explain its taste to a person who has never even seen a cow, you would use an analogy. “Beef is like…” This is exactly what the Bible does. One cannot assume that all the descriptions are literal, as if a court reporter is standing next to God taking notes. Hell is described as utter darkness, yet with flames. Both are obviously not possible and can be viewed as figurative language. We have never seen or experienced Hell or Heaven. So it is put into terms that we can relate to.

You presuppose that if one concludes that the Bible uses figurative language, that there is “no reasonable means of differentiating any other statement in the bible from analogy.” I would disagree. It does not undermine the text, as you presume. We use such analogies and figurative language everyday (you did so in your response to me with the analogy of the African child). Why would we not assume that folks used such language during the time of Christ and prior? I will admit that it does take some exegetical study of text to determine when/if such language is being used in the Bible. But we should not throw the Bible out the window.

On another note, I never said Hell was not nasty. If one spends their entire life with their back turned to God, dies, and then realizes that their decision was wrong and they must spend an eternity apart from their creator, I would have to conclude that this would be a horrible place. As to the observation relating to omnipresence, you make a good point. However, you are confusing an active presence with a passive presence. Christians believe that God created the universe and all that is within it. Obviously, He will know what it going on in Hell. Those in Hell will not receive the full benefit of His active presence. Some theologians believe that there will be degrees of isolation and separation in Hell. If God’s judgment is proportional, Hitler will be judged harsher than a person who might have been a relatively “good” person, but rejected the Gospel.

Relating to the starving African child analogy, I can see how such an analogy might apply if an atheist, who believes that the idea of God is so illogical that they cannot put their faith into such a concept, would see themselves as the African child upon their death. To answer this would take us down another rabbit trail (like the good and evil line of reasoning you note), as I would argue that there is ample evidence for faith in Christ – you would disagree. Rather than go down this rabbit trail right now, I think the underlying question you are asking is why God punishes people eternally for finite decisions. To a Christian, the most heinous thing a person can do to God, in the words of Dr. J.P. Moreland, is to, “mock and dishonor and refuse to love the person that we owe absolutely everything to, which is our Creator, God Himself.” The Bible says the greatest commandment is to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. That is the ultimate sin. The punishment of a lifetime of refusing God will result in an eternity apart from Him (ultimate sanction for the ultimate sin). We have a lifetime to choose Him, yet you want to be able to have one more opportunity after death in case you are wrong. Part of being human is free will. We have the opportunity to choose our paths. While a person may not want to go to Hell, they chose a path that leads there. God respects us so much and wants a voluntary submittal to His will. He will not force us into Heaven.

Lastly, your description of the Christian view of God, Heaven and Hell come across as if you believe He is arbitrary in His decisions. You see God as if He is some sort of a cosmic toddler who throws a fit if He doesn’t get His way. If He is arbitrary, then Hell would be cruel. But, his actions/laws are not arbitrary or capricious.

I look forward to reading your posts on the morality issue. I have yet to read an atheistic argument relating to morality that does not ultimately end in subjectivity, thus doing away with any notion of inherent human rights or inherent evil. Please note that I never insinuated that God is required for a person to make a moral judgment (there are many non-Christians whose behavior/actions can be considered moral or good). My argument is that a higher authority is required for an action to be considered inherently moral or evil. A humanistic concept of good/evil is only temporal and thus changes. Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson held an exchange earlier this year and touched on this subject.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/juneweb-only/122-52.0.html

Perhaps you succeed in your Blogalouge where Hitchens fails to articulate on this point during the exchange.

I have enjoyed our correspondence. It is possible for Christians and Atheists to disagree without being disagreeable. I look forward to your continued observations.

Tommy said...

Hey CD, just try Googling "Zoroastrianism influence on Judaism" and you will get a plethora of links.

Rhology said...

And Jeff, I would by all means recommend heartily that blogalogue to which CD referred.

If you read CD's 2nd entry into the series, you'll see him actually explicitly state that, on atheism, morality is based solely on personal preference. Why CD would link to that blogalogue in this case is a little strange to me, but OK.

Also, a few things to add on this Hell idea.
It is certainly viewed as a place of immense torment, separate from God. It is 100% biblically supportable to think that the separation from God is the cause of the torment itself. Feelings of regret and anguish at the waste of one's life. The other denizens of hell (ie, other humans) who, deprived of common grace, now act out their meanest and worst actions on themselves and everyone else, thus showing what has been in their hearts all along - evil, and constant sin against God for eternity, thus eternally justifying their eternal residence in hell. The idea, as stated by Jean-Paul Sartre, that the door to hell is locked from the inside.
But of course, if God *were* to be actively tormenting residents of hell, apparently all CD can do is wave his tiny fist in God's direction and yell, "I think what you're doing is terrible! My personal preference is that You do this differently!"
God, of course, could simply reply, "Well, *My* personal preference is to do it this way. Thanks for the input."

What might you say in response?

chooseDoubt said...

Hi Rhology,

I linked to our morality blogalogue because I think the Christian assumption of occupying the high moral ground was demonstrated to be false in that blogalogue. That’s actually one of the reasons I haven’t got around to replying to your last response; it had no content that hadn’t already been covered. In fact, your entire moral argument seems to boil down to this:

For there to be objective morality there must be a god, ergo there is a god. Anything the bible says is therefore moral.

I find that absurd in the extreme. It is one turn around the roundabout of circular reasoning taking the exit back to cowardice. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is an objective morality and I could come up with thought experiments or real world examples indefinitely to demonstrate that point. I can also point to evolutionary origins for moral behaviour in humans and other animals. Morality is subjective. Not only am I happy to admit that but I think we should consider that to be knowledge and as such I’m enthusiastic for everyone to have equal access to it.

Back to Hell. My admittedly subjective personal preference morality appears to me to be superior, by my personal preference, to your artificial fantasy objective morality on this issue. You say the eternal suffering of billions of people who might be in every way decent and pleasant is entirely right simply because you believe that something more powerful than you says so. I say that even if something infinitely powerful says it is right to send billions of perfectly normal people to eternal suffering then I disagree with it – I’ll shake my fist. Even if I am powerless to change the situation my refusal to condone it is, in my mind, a far superior stance. My position is one of “I’d rather get gassed myself than lead people into the Nazi gas chambers”. I do not say this lightly. Your position is “I’ll get gassed if I don’t do as I’m told so I’ll condone whatever the powerful tell me to”.

So my questions are:

1) Do you really agree with eternal torment in hell for entirely nice people who do not accept Jesus Christ as whatever ridiculous divine snake oil ointment it’s currently fashionable to accept him as?

My understanding of your response so far is “God say’s that’s good so that’s good”. What I want to know is whether you actually think it is right. If god asks you to will you point non-Christians into Hell and close the door behind them the way Jewish Nazi collaborators pointed their fellow Jewish people in to the gas chambers of Auschwitz? So far, I can only see your answer as a yes and I find that quite illustrative of how what you call your objective morality is nothing more than obedience with no personal responsibility based upon the cowardly principle that might is right.

2) If you do agree with it then why? What makes these nice people, who have done no harm to others, actually deserve eternal suffering? If god commanded you to, would you light the eternal fire under each one of them and then walk away back to your paradise, ignoring their screams?

Alternatively, if you don’t agree then on what grounds can you accept heaven yourself without even raising an objection about the billions that will suffer for EVER and still think you deserve eternal paradise?

When I die, if by some inconceivable twist of insanity your god does exist and he says “CD, you were wrong. I’ll give you a last chance to accept me.” I’ll say “I do not accept you because I will not be part of your tyranny of condemning people to eternal suffering. You could just let people cease to exist but no, you have to insist on eternal torture for them simply for having thought critically or having been brainwashed by some other equally absurd deity myth. The cost of heaven is too high. No sale. Send me to Hell from where, in between the lick of the flames, I shall be looking down on you for all eternity.”

Can I beat your god if it exists? It would appear not. Does that mean I have to agree with every insane and vicious assault on my fellow human beings that he demands? Absolutely not. I find Hell, like many other monstrous features of your mythology, to be a disgusting concept and I will not side with a god that insists upon it for a single human being. In my subjective morality might is not right. Your “objective” (god’s subjective preference) reality boils down to nothing less crude and cowardly than might is right. Perhaps lacking the ability to independently progress your morality beyond that point is one of the reasons why your life before you sold out to Christian obedience was so troubled. You lack the empathy or courage required for freedom. You substituted developing your own moral character and resolve for mindless obedience to something more powerful than you. I find your position to be tragically primitive in that respect. However it is the sort of morality that fits perfectly with an evolutionary heritage of adherence to a tribal hierarchy in which obedience to those of higher status would have aided the survival of your might is right moral genes. Evolutionary history shows the origin of our shared morality. It does not limit us to that level. By preference and through empathy and intelligence, we can choose to be nicer to each other. We can choose to say “might is not right”. Well, some of us can and for that we are expected to burn forever. Some morality you have there.

chooseDoubt said...

Hi Jeff,

I have absolutely no complaint against the use of analogies to describe something but you must concede that if all the descriptions of Hell are analogies they are analogies used to describe extremely severe suffering. So the descriptions of Hell being analogies does not actually change that they are still descriptions of extreme and infinite torture – whatever form that torture takes.

As for the Bible, as soon as one accepts that it is not literal, which it obviously is not, one is faced with the problem of how to differentiate the literal from the allegorical. The only framework that exists to do this is that of observable reality. Observable reality has quite a lot to say against a young Earth, the existence of the soul, the efficacy of wizards, and so on, allowing us to understand a great deal of the Bible as untrue. When we then move onto concerns of continued existence in a supernatural plane, and afterlife, then reality has nothing to say accept that there is absolutely no reason to think there is an afterlife and lots of good reasons to thing there is not. It cannot tell you how to differentiate between different interpretations of Hell, Heaven, or whatever other fantasy aspect of post-life mythology you are attempting to discover the truth value of. You make no argument against that in anything you have said. The result, at this phase in our discussion, is that your bible is at best useless; at worst, the vile spewings of archaic ignorants, unfit to live in these slightly more civilized times. Either way, yes, chuck it out the window and think for yourself.

Arguments of active and passive presence only illustrate god’s choice to demand eternal suffering. Within your own beliefs, god is limited to passivity only by his own choice.

So the most heinous thing we can do to god is refuse the compulsory requirement to love him. God on the other hand can drag us into existence without consent on our part, command us to love him yet leave not one reason to suspect he even exists, equip us with brains able to notice that fact, leave us for brief lives of variable suffering and then roast us in Hell for all eternity because we’ve hurt his feelings by doing exactly what he knew we would do before even creating us in the first place. It seems to be a rather uneven deck we are playing with here. I don’t think I’m going to manage to genuinely love such a thoroughly unlikeable tyrant. And the very idea that you can be commanded to love is simply hilarious. We’ve grown out of that arrangement between wives and husbands, children and parents; at least in some parts of the world. Time to grow out it with you mythological fathers also.

You say, “God respects us so much and wants a voluntary submittal to His will. He will not force us into Heaven.”

I’ll be honest I’m laughing. God respects us sooooo much that he wants us to submit to his will because he’s commanded us to, but, wait for it, it’s voluntary – and if you don’t do it then you’re going to roast in hell for all eternity. Hahaha! I’ve taken a lot of interesting drugs in my time but I’ve never found one that could mess my mind up to that degree. Of course, I haven’t tried the opiate of the masses, obviously.
Jeff, whilst I realise that you have a softer belief in Hell than some others of related sects the original arguments stand. Hell is bad. Hell is forever. Hell is god’s choice. The original question therefore also stands. How can you not tolerate heaven for yourself knowing that to do so means accepting that it is morally right for billions of others to undergo infinite suffering?

Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

All the best,

CD

Rhology said...

CD,

I'm sorry to say that you've mistaken my position. That may be due to my own poor communication of it, so I apologise for that.

I'll try to boil it down to a couple of sentences as you did, which I think is useful.

For there to be objective morality there must be a god, ergo there if there is no god, there is no objective morality. (A bit tautological, really.)
Ergo, judging ANYthing moral or immoral is solely based on personal preference and nothing more.

Hopefully that clears up the confusion a bit better.
And here you even agree with me:
There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is an objective morality

Exactly, and that's what I was saying in my above comment. You have expressly stated (and here, repeated) my thesis in the blogalogue.
So let's be sure to apply this consistently to the rest of your comment.

My admittedly subjective personal preference morality appears to me to be superior, by my personal preference, to your artificial fantasy objective morality on this issue.

But my subjective (thought by me to be in full agreement with the objective morality of Jesus) personal preference morality appears to *me* to be superior, by my personal preference, to your artificial fantasy subjective morality on this issue.
So, seriously, where do we go from here? Are you going to try to stamp me out? Would not might make "right", if so?

You say the eternal suffering of billions of people who might be in every way decent and pleasant is entirely right simply because you believe that something more powerful than you says so.

1) Well, Jesus says so.
2) If atheism is true, there are no "decent" or "pleasant" people, unless you mean "people who generally act in a way similar to the way I act".

My answer in the real world is that Jesus identifies all people as evil rebels against a good God, and those who repent and have faith in Jesus are saved from their own self-destruction.

I’ll shake my fist.

And I'll plant flowers and tell people to get saved. There's no moral difference. Heck, what would it matter if I strapped a bomb to myself and blew up a nursery?

Your position is “I’ll get gassed if I don’t do as I’m told so I’ll condone whatever the powerful tell me to”.

1) Which is not an immoral position, since there is no moral or immoral position on anythg.
2) Biblically, God gives you what you want in the afterlife. If you want to be with Him, you get to be. If you don't, you don't get to be.

it’s currently fashionable to accept him as

The Scriptures have been around a long time, my friend. I'm not sure what this could reasonably mean.

“God say’s that’s good so that’s good”. What I want to know is whether you actually think it is right.

Yes, I actually do.
And of course, you don't think it's right or wrong, if you're consistent. You just don't think you like it. And of course, that could change tomorrow.

If god asks you to will you point non-Christians into Hell and close the door behind them the way Jewish Nazi collaborators pointed their fellow Jewish people in to the gas chambers of Auschwitz?

1) These are not analogous situations.
2) Even if I were willing to do so, you don't think it's right or wrong, if you're consistent. You just don't think you like it. And of course, that could change tomorrow.

What makes these nice people, who have done no harm to others, actually deserve eternal suffering?

1) If I'm a consistent atheist, there's nothing necessarily bad about eternal suffering.
2) Biblically, people are not "nice". We are evil, rebellious, and dark. We hate the good and love evil. In sending unrepentant people away from Him to hell, God gives them what they want.

still think you deserve eternal paradise?

Let me correct you here as well: I *DO NOT* in ANY way deserve eternal paradise. Jesus by His deep grace and generosity took the form of a man, died a horrible death by crucifixion, and rose again from the dead so that I could be saved. It is ALL b/c of Him and NONE b/c of me. I am just like every other human - evil and rebellious, but Jesus generously has rescued me. He offers the same to all; even to you, ChooseDoubt.

Can I beat your god if it exists? It would appear not.

That is correct.

Does that mean I have to agree with every insane and vicious assault on my fellow human beings that he demands? Absolutely not.

And of course, by "insane" and "vicious", you mean "the ones I don't like". Let's be consistent here.

Perhaps lacking the ability to independently progress your morality beyond that point is one of the reasons why your life before you sold out to Christian obedience was so troubled.

1) Perhaps. Then again, by all outward accounts I was a good kid.
2) To discount what I say b/c of that, even if true, would be to commit the genetic fallacy, which you as a rational guy would want to avoid, I'm sure.

By preference and through empathy and intelligence, we can choose to be nicer to each other.

You mean even though there's no reason to besides that some of us like to be?


As for the Bible, as soon as one accepts that it is not literal, which it obviously is not, one is faced with the problem of how to differentiate the literal from the allegorical.

Saying "the Bible is not literal" is to say nothing at all.
Probably what you mean is "one should not interpret the Bible literally", but even that statement is bizarre. What does "literally" mean?
Here is a very brief primer on the correct way to interpret the Bible.

Observable reality has quite a lot to say against a young Earth, the existence of the soul, the efficacy of wizards

1) But if the Bible is true, then it is part of observable reality and also militates against an old earth.
2) Ditto. As would Near Death Experiences.
3) "Wizards" are not part of any biblical construct of reality either, so I agree 100%.

different interpretations of Hell, Heaven

Why would different people interpreting Scriptural psgs differently make any statement on the message of the psgs themselves? Wouldn't that just mean that people are generally untrustworthy?

at worst, the vile spewings of archaic ignorants

Not that there's anythg right or wrong with that.
By "vile", clearly, you mean "expressions that I don't like".

Either way, yes, chuck it out the window and think for yourself.

Not that I can command you, though. It's neither morally right nor wrong not to think for yourself. This is just your personal preference, let's keep in mind.

CD, you illustrate beautifully why I say that you borrow from my worldview shamelessly. You're just ripping me off here.
You claim to be SO outraged by this horrible, ghastly prospect of "good" people being shoved into the gas chamber of hell by a vile, evil God, but your worldview won't allow you to be. So you rip off moral outrage from Christianity and use it to bludgeon this to death. Then you revert back to your Atheist Mode and present the Christian view as bunk.
See, in the Christian view, we recognise that it IS horrible and ghastly that people, though none are good, go to hell to be separated from God forever. Death is an enemy. Sin is an enemy. Evil is an enemy. One day, God will defeat them all, and we long for that day, and clearly a part of you longs for that day as well. But you can't bring yourself to humble yourself to join the winning side.
Perhaps in time. Neither can you, as an atheist, resolve the problem of induction, so you don't have any idea if perhaps even tomorrow you'll repent of your sin.


Peace,
Rhology

Tommy said...

Christianity is a personal preference for those who embrace it. That does not make it any more an objective standard of right and wrong than secular humanism. Of course, a Christian will believe that the Bible represents the one true objective moral system, just as a Muslim will believe that the Quran and the Hadith represent one true objective moral system.

The standard lazy argument against atheists is that we reject belief in a god because we want to be able to do whatever we want without fear of consequences. That is such utter bullshit.

First off, yeah, you can try to live your life doing whatever you want, but your not going to be very successful at it. When you engage in behavior that violates the boundaries of other people, they are going to resist you and even retaliate violently if necessary.

Secondly, an enlightened person recognizes that promoting a better world and improving one's life comes about by rejecting our lusts and our need for immediate gratification.

Case in point. A couple of years ago, I went to a local supermarket. As I approached the shopping cart I intended to use, I noticed a lady's wallet was in the upper part where parents often place their children to sit. I opened it up and saw from the women's drivers license where she lived, which was at most a mile away. Now, I could have just as easily taken whatever money she had in her wallet and tossed the wallet in the garbage. But I didn't. Instead, I drove to her house and personally returned it to her.

And here is the ironic part. My wife, who believes in god, albeit as a lapsed Catholic, actually became annoyed when I told her what I had done. Maybe it is her Filipino cultural background, but to her it was a stupid waste of time to go out of my way to help a stranger. But I knew I had done the right thing.

In the early 1990's, when crime was through the roof in New York City, and almost 2,000 people were being murdered every year, the police responded by adopting what is known as the "broken windows" theory of policing. To those not familiar with this theory, it basically argues that when a community tolerates petty crimes like vandalism (such as breaking windows and leaving them unrepaired), it sends a message that law and order has broken down in a community and encourages criminal elements to move in and law abiding elements to move out. Sort of like Gresham's Law. Therefore, if the police go after the seemingly petty stuff, like subway turnstyle jumpers, graffiti vandals and such, it improves the quality of life in a community.

Conversely, when people of good will go out of their way to help strangers, it sends a message that kindness and decency is real and beneficial. And maybe some of those people who are on the receiving end of such kindness will feel themselves more encouraged to behave in a like way.

Rhology said...

Hi all,

I'd like to direct readers to a brief and trenchant blogpost on the same topic over here.

Hi Tommy,

Christianity is a personal preference for those who embrace it

Yes, I would never deny that.
But it's not MERELY that. It is underpinned by an objective basis for morality.

That does not make it any more an objective standard of right and wrong than secular humanism.

Naked assertion. Where's the argument?

just as a Muslim will believe that the Quran and the Hadith represent one true objective moral system.

Whether it's objective and whether it's true are two diff questions. Of course I don't believe the Islamic system is TRUE but, being theistic, it at least has an objective basis.
As opposed to sechumanism, which is neither one.

The standard lazy argument against atheists is that we reject belief in a god because we want to be able to do whatever we want without fear of consequences. That is such utter bullshit.

Well, I don't make that argument.

When you engage in behavior that violates the boundaries of other people, they are going to resist you and even retaliate violently if necessary.

That sounds like might makes right to me, which is what I thought CD was trying to decry here.

Secondly, an enlightened person recognizes that promoting a better world and improving one's life comes about by rejecting our lusts and our need for immediate gratification.

Why?
Why couldn't an enlightened person be of the opinion/personal preference that promoting a world where MORE human suffering takes place and improving one's life comes about by embracing our lusts and our need for immediate gratification? I'm 100% serious - give me a good reason. As it is, it's just your personal fiat, and thus can be overturned outside of you by MY personal fiat.

Instead, I drove to her house and personally returned it to her.

1) That was very decent of you. Very.
2) For the sake of argument, what would be the moral objection if you had followed her home, raped her, and burned her house down?

My wife, who believes in god, albeit as a lapsed Catholic, actually became annoyed when I told her what I had done.

We're discussing IDEAS, not what some people think or do.

it sends a message that kindness and decency is real and beneficial.

According to YOU. Maybe according to my personal preference, kindness and decency are not only a waste of time, but are actually COUNTERproductive. Who are you to judge my idea wrong? It's only your personal preference, after all.


See, this is what the atheist position reduces to, and I'm very glad to have an objective basis for morality as a Christian, where not only can I know things are right and wrong FOR EVERYONE, but I can also treat as an enemy things that I instinctively feel like SHOULD be an enemy, such as wanton suffering and death. The atheist feels like gratuitous rape is morally repugnant but has no basis whatsoever to explain why, and I've found that cognitive dissonance can really hurt the skull.

Peace,
Rhology

Tommy said...

Rhology gets it wrong once again, as usual.

His expressed belief that Christianity is an objective standard for morality is itself a naked assertion. That does not mean of course that moral teachings that are common to religions and cultures around the world are not a benefit. Of course they. But when you make yourself believe that a particular book is the be all and end all of what is right and wrong, it saves you the trouble of having to think about anything at all. "You see, it says right here in Leviticus, chapter whatever, verse whatnot..."

People resisting intrusion against them, whether it be theft, rape, murder, or assault, is not an example of might makes right. IT'S SELF DEFENSE! The person trying to seize by force is trying to engage in might makes right... at least in his eyes.

It never ceases to amaze me that people like Rhology continue to insist that atheists cannot offer standards of morality that are beneficial for society to abide by.

Does one have to believe in the existence of god to explain why The Godfather is a superior movie to Weekend at Bernies? Does one have to believe in the existence of god to explain why one particular model of car is better than another? Does one have to believe in god to judge whether the food at one restaurant is good while the food at a neighboring restaurant is awful? Certainly not!

But in the warped minds of people like Rhology, an atheist cannot offer reasoned grounds for explaining why living in suburban Long Island is better than living in Mogadishu, Somalia. Unbelievable.

Here is the difference between me and Rhology. I see a Hasidic man with his funny looking hair and clothes, or a Muslim woman who has herself veiled, and I think how sad it is that they enslave their minds to religious dogmatism. Rhology looks at them and thinks, "They are going to burn in hell for all eternity in the afterlife because they do not embrace Jesus Christ as their savior."

War,

Tom

Tommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhology said...

Tommy,

Almost the entirety of your comment has nothing to do with my points at all.
A few things I'll respond to briefly:

That does not mean of course that moral teachings that are common to religions and cultures around the world are not a benefit.

A benefit to having an orderly society, sure. But I am asking, and have been asking, about the OUGHTNESS, the answer to "is there any reason to have an orderly society other than the fact that I prefer it that way?" Why SHOULD we want an orderly society? And if someone doesn't, then what? You separate them from society, defend yourself, and it's understandable, but of course that is the epitome of might makes right.
In the Christian worldview, an orderly society is nice indeed, and it reflects God's character, as He is a God of peace. And we can and have a reason to regard those who would try to destroy society, particularly by committing crimes, as enemies and committing objective moral wrongs, not merely "people whom we don't like".

But when you make yourself believe that a particular book is the be all and end all of what is right and wrong, it saves you the trouble of having to think about anything at all. "You see, it says right here in Leviticus, chapter whatever, verse whatnot..."

1) This assumes that reading, interpreting, and understanding the meaning of said psg in Leviticus does not require thinking.
2) If this requires less "thinking" than the atheist view, at least there is a conclusion that can be drawn.
3) The atheist POV reduces to feeling entirely anyway. "I like this." "I don't like that."

people like Rhology continue to insist that atheists cannot offer standards of morality that are beneficial for society to abide by.

Ah yes, people like me.
Tommy, where did I say that? Have fun looking, I didn't.

Does one have to believe in the existence of god to explain why The Godfather is a superior movie to Weekend at Bernies?

It's highly ironic you'd say this, given the comparisons I've been making between the way an atheist chooses whether it's OK to rape a child and the way an atheist chooses which movie he likes better. Am I the only one here disturbed by that?

Rhology looks at them and thinks, "They are going to burn in hell for all eternity in the afterlife because they do not embrace Jesus Christ as their savior."

Not that there's anythg morally wrong with that.
You just don't like it.
But I like it. So I guess we're at an impasse again.

Peace to you, and best wishes in actually trying to deal with the substance of what I say next time,
Rhology

Harry Nads said...

Rhology,

Take a look at this recent blog post regarding morals here

Rhology said...

HN (aka "I hope you think your handle is funny b/c to me it's a bit on the childish side"),

The link didn't work. Can you please try to repost it? Thanks!

Harry Nads said...

Here is the tiny URL to copy, paste into your browser. I guess my HTML skills are seriously lacking. :)

http://tinyurl.com/2xylpo

Harry Nads said...

Rhology,

As far as my handle goes... I was going to do Harry Balczak. But I figured I could pawn off Harry Nads as a play on the 'Aussie Nads' hair removal system rather than just being childish humor. But apparently your mind was in the right place, huh? :)

Jeff said...

CD,
I have not had the opportunity to sit down at my computer to type a response in a several days. Given the recent flurry of activity between you and Rhology, I will attempt to not repeat or belabor any points -- but will try to respond to a few of your questions to me, as well as few of your other comments.

1) Biblical Interpretation: I would be naive if I said there are not disagreements regarding interpretation of certain Biblical passages or concepts. However, it is important to point out that there is little disagreement among Christians when it comes to the core teachings of the Bible (i.e. that which is necessary for salvation). It is clear that the Bible teaches that humans rebelled against their creator, but have have the ability to restore this relationship through the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. We can discuss and debate that which is not necessary for salvation. For example, I tend to lean toward an old Earth view of creation in Genesis. After reading Dr. Francis Collins' book, The Language of God, I have found the case for evolution compelling. Some of my close friends would tell me that the book of Genesis does not allow for such a belief. Other theologians, including Alister McGrath, would disagree and say that the study of the Hebrew in Genesis allows for belief in evolution. I think you are being rather extreme when you conclude that we should chuck the Bible out the window. Many scientists debate over conclusions, but we do not throw the scientific method or the subject of the study out of the window. Even within evolution, scientists debate how the process works (such as Gould's Punctuated Equilibrium versus longer term transition) -- but, for the most part, the majority of the scientific community do not debate that evolution occurs. Similarly, mainstream Christian theologians debate little about the main tenant of Christianity: the need for salvation through Christ. There are accepted ways one can critically analyze the Bible and if you would like, I would be more that happy to supplement my comments with the name of a few good books. Just because the Bible leaves some room for interpretation in certain areas, does not mean the whole Bible then becomes subjective. Much of this boils down to: a) whether or not Christ is who He said He was, and b) is the Bible a reliable document. My answer is YES to both of these questions. I work closely with the legal profession and the evidence for both of these questions exceeds any standard required in a court of law (reasonable doubt, preponderance of the evidence, etc.). To me, the historicity for Christ is overwhelming. The accuracy of the text of the Bible, based on the slew of ancient manuscript evidence we have to compare, is astonishing. I could go on, but will save for another day.


2) Heaven, Hell and Free Will: You laughed when I noted that God seeks voluntary submission to his will -- but you missed my point entirely. If we are free, rejection of God is possible. Thus, Hell is possible. But, as you note, if God is so merciful and loving, shouldn't He forgive the rebel for rejecting Him?. I think that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of justice. Mercy cannot contradict justice. By accepting Christ's sacrifice, we have the ability to have our sins forgiven. This is mercy and grace. It is offered to us for free, but it came at a price. By rejecting Christ and never seeking forgiveness for our actions, we are refusing to disassociate with our sins. Sin cannot enter heaven. Our sins are either excluded through Christ, or they stay a part of us. Justice says that the price of sin must be paid. We have two options and the ball is in our court. (To this a critic might say that Christians can sin all they want because we have a Get Out of Jail Free Card. The Apostle Paul addressed this issue specifically and said this was not the point of grace or Christ's sacrifice). If we were to have a second chance to accept Christ after death, as you note, one could ask: What is the point of this life? Who is to say that one will not reject God after the second opportunity? Is hell okay under these circumstances? Further, such a question assumes that we do not have sufficient opportunities to meet God during our lifetime. Lastly, while hell may play an initial part in someone becoming a Christian, my continued faith is not reliant on the fear of damnation. I did not become and am not a Christian because God has a cosmic gun to my head, but I am eternnally grateful that He saved me from its ctuches. It is very important to note that Christians (at least the ones I know) do not enjoy the thought of people going to hell. We are not "gleeful," as I recall you writing. I are saddened by the thought of hell. This is why Christians try to reach about to non-believers. Those that take joy in preaching hell should be ashamed of themselves. I have immediate family that are not Christians -- I hurt everyday when I think about not being able to spend eternity with them. But, when we argue against the finality of hell, we are failing to see the horror of what sin really is in God's eye. It is rejection of Him and rebellion of what He stands for.



I fear that much of what I write is, quite frankly, for naught. You note that, "The cost of heaven is too high. No sale. Send me to Hell from where, in between the lick of the flames, I shall be looking down on you for all eternity." So, even if there is a God and what some of us say is correct, that still never addresses your concerns. For someone who values intellect, you militate against God's granting of free will, the foundation for intellect. You choose a path that is against His will, but then are mad at God for allowing you to do so. One cannot have it both ways.

chooseDoubt said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for another long reply. I’ll respond to all of that later today as I have a busy morning, but I can’t resist commenting on your last paragraph right now.

You wrote:

I fear that much of what I write is, quite frankly, for naught. You note that, "The cost of heaven is too high. No sale. Send me to Hell from where, in between the lick of the flames, I shall be looking down on you for all eternity." So, even if there is a God and what some of us say is correct, that still never addresses your concerns. For someone who values intellect, you militate against God's granting of free will, the foundation for intellect. You choose a path that is against His will, but then are mad at God for allowing you to do so. One cannot have it both ways.

OK, I don’t choose a path that is against “His will”. I choose my own path and it just so happens that my decisions do not concur with contradictory demands made within an outdated and limited fiction that you have abandoned your free will for and enslaved yourself to. If your god does exist, which I cannot state strongly enough I find utterly incredible, then I fully support him allowing people to refuse him and have free will. What I object to is how he demands eternal torture for those who exercise that supposed right. Frankly it is rather too much like the North Korean version of democracy, only surprisingly still infinitely worse. You’ll abandon every other human being at god’s request. You think you are moral.

As for how “one cannot have it both ways”, I am completely free of that issue. You must wrestle with the issue of theodicy which is precisely a “one must believe it both ways” problem and essentially embedded in our discussion. God is love, good is good, god demands billions burn for eternity even after the suffering of their miserable little lives that they never asked to live and that they have lived, despite their free will, exactly according to his ineffable plan.

My reply to your two other statements is going to be very long. I’ll try to get it posted by the end of today. Thanks again for such a considered post.

All the best,

CD

Rhology said...

Harry,

Yeah, I guess you're right about my mind. Anyways...

I read that post you linked to - thanks for trying again, it worked that time.
Unfortunately, the post's content did not fare so well. Full o' problems, but honestly, man, if you're on the fence as your blog profile says, don't read the wild-eyed foamers-at-the-mouth over at Self-Debunkers. A guy could do better.

Peace,
Rhology

Tommy said...

The hamster wheel rolls on an on.

All you can offer Rhology is that it might be good if there really was some loving omniscient and omnipotent being setting the rules for us and telling us right from wrong and rewarding the good and punishing the bad. But since no such being exists, we flawed humans have to figure it our for ourselves.

Like any other species on this planet, the primary thing that drives all of us is the instinct to survive. Now, there are three ways we can go about it. We can isolate ourselves, we can try to run roughshod over one another, or we can try to cooperate with each other. Civilization happened because thousands of years ago on different places on the planet, enough people opted for the latter option. And we are all here today because of their choices.

Now, the atheist POV as you describe it is no different from yours. Yes, I PREFER things to be a certain way, but SO DO YOU. The difference between us is that you believe your preference represents the divine will of a celestial entity with complete power over us, whereas I do not believe that there is anything divine about your belief system.

In the end, most choose what they prefer, or at the very least what they feel they can live with. That's because we live in societies where it is impossible to fulfill all our longings without violating the boundaries of other people. Our survival instincts tend to override our urges and desires when they put us at risk. So, when you ask me about the OUGHTNESS, since we tend to value the survival of ourselves and our progeny, it is not just a matter of it being the way things OUTGHT to be, it is really the only way things CAN be.

The people who do violate the boundaries of others either (1) don't give a shit, (2) think the potential reward or gratification is greater than the risk, or (3) they are incredibly stupid because the consequences do not even occur to them. Because the rest of us value our own survival, we set up systems of justice to deal with those people who threaten our survival. Yes, it involves an element of social conformity, or even might makes right, and I have no problem with that. Please bear in mind that "Might is not right" is the title that CD chose for this post. So I do not feel that anything I argue for must be completely free of a certain amount of coercion or conformity.

It is when the glue that holds a society together comes undone that you have a situation where the pressure to violate the boundaries of others (such as stealing food to avoid starving to death) is overwhelming in order to survive. It is not the way things OUGHT to be, but sadly represents the way things can be in the absence of enough people banding together to provide order and security.

Now, it's really weird that you write "an atheist chooses whether it's OK to rape a child." Like any normal human being, WE DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT raping children. It's not as though I wake up every day as an atheist and think "Should I rape a child today? Nah! Maybe tomorrow!"

My whole point of raising comparisons between movies and car models is that standards develop that allow us to compare what is good or bad. If one model of car can go 5 years without requiring repair, while another model breaks down every other week, one does not need a belief in god to make a sensible decision that the car that does not break down every other week is the logical choice. The fact that a make of car exists that can go 5 years without breaking down under normal circumstances creates an objective standard for consumers.

As for dealing with the substance of what you say, basically your whole argument amounts to "Believe what Rhology believes or else you will burn in hell for all eternity when you die!" Am I missing anything? In the end, all you have is an appeal to fear. You don't impress me and you don't scare me, and you are certainly not my better. If it gives you a certain amount of comfort that you believe there is a better place in store for you in the afterlife than there is for me, far be it for me to begrudge you that. But in the end, I know our fates will be the same. We will both cease to exist.

Harry Nads said...

***Pats Tommy on the back***

Nice, Tommy. You are so good with your prose.

Rhology said...

***chuckles***

Tommy,


It will apparently require you to correctly state and then interact with my points to stop any perceived hamster wheel. We're not there yet.

All you can offer Rhology is that it might be good if there really was some loving omniscient and omnipotent being setting the rules for us

Since that God would then provide the fundamental basis for good, it's not the case that it "might" be good. It WOULD be good.
As it is in the atheist worldview, nothing is good and nothing is bad.

telling us right from wrong

Which, again, is an improvement over the atheist worldview, when not only do we not know right from wrong, but "right" and "wrong" don't exist.

But since no such being exists, we flawed humans have to figure it our for ourselves.

By might, since right and wrong don't exist to be figured out. It's just whatever more and more powerful people PREFER.

the primary thing that drives all of us is the instinct to survive.

Not believers in Jesus, but you're welcome to what you've got.

the atheist POV as you describe it is no different from yours.

I think anyone else reading this would disagree - we're pretty different, Tommy.

I PREFER things to be a certain way, but SO DO YOU.

Fine, but the morality to which I ascribe is not based on my personal pref.
Believe me, there are some things in the biblical morality that I wish were different; would make things easier for me!

In the end, most choose what they prefer, or at the very least what they feel they can live with. T

that may be true, but it's not true for my friends and me.

it is impossible to fulfill all our longings without violating the boundaries of other people.

True, but of course there's nothing wrong with that.

it is not just a matter of it being the way things OUTGHT to be, it is really the only way things CAN be

Alot of actions undertaken by believers and atheists alike are not conducive to the survival of themselves or their progeny.

Yes, it involves an element of social conformity, or even might makes right, and I have no problem with that.

I'd be interested in seeing if ChooseDoubt will realise what damage this does to his thesis in this post.

Like any normal human being, WE DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT raping children.

Nor did I say you do.
But now that you're thinking in the abstract about it, tell the truth - it's only by personal preference that you dismiss the thought. It's not b/c raping a child is WRONG.
See, it kind of surprises me that this realisation doesn't cause you a bit of distress - "does my view REALLY lead logically to that conclusion? That's freaky. I can condemn nothing at all!" It may or may not for YOU, but in society in general this view leads to dire consequences.

standards develop that allow us to compare what is good or bad.

No, they develop that allow you to compare what is preferred and not preferred.
The God of the Bible lays down Law: to break it is bad, to follow it is good. That's right and wrong.

If one model of car can go 5 years without requiring repair, while another model breaks down every other week, one does not need a belief in god to make a sensible decision that the car that does not break down every other week is the logical choice.

If raping a little girl makes me feel good, while it doesn't make my friend feel good, one does not need a belief in god to make a sensible decision that raping the girl is fun for me and therefore preferred (and therefore right for me) and thus the logical choice.

"Believe what Rhology believes or else you will burn in hell for all eternity when you die!"

That's unrelated to what I'm talking about here, though it's true that one must believe to a certain extent like I do to escape Hell.
The statement would be, rather:

"Believe what Rhology believes or else you will have no basis to assign oughtness to any action, rightness or wrongness to anything! It will all be based on personal preference and nothing more."
Again, Tommy, please try to stay on topic. Your blind hatred of Christianity is getting in your way; very unbecoming for someone who claims to be a freethinker.

You don't impress me and you don't scare me

That's fine, since I am unimpressive and not frightening.
But you should be afraid, very afraid, of the God Who created you and knows your thoughts and secret sins far better than even you, and Who will judge you for everythg you've ever done and thought when you stand before Him. There's one escape, and it is wonderful - new, eternal life through Jesus Christ.

you are certainly not my better.

To anyone who may doubt that Tommy has let his emotion get the better of him, Exhibit A.

Peace,
Rhology

Tommy said...

I don't mean you personally scare me Rhology (I've seen your picture). It is your stated belief that I will burn in hell in the afterlife that does not scare me. The appeal to fear is the final arrow in your quiver to try to sway people to choose YOUR PREFERENCE.

Where you and I are not that different is that I largely abide by the very same standards of morality that you purport to adhere to. It is my reasons for doing so that you object to. But like it or not, I achieve that level of morality, flawed human being that I am, without buying into your POV.

Here's a hypothetical for you. I don't know if you have any children, but let's pretend you do. Two years ago, if you had to choose between me and Ted Haggard to babysit your children, I don't doubt that you would pick Ted Haggard over this atheist in a heartbeat. After all, he was such a wonderful Christian pastor.

Now, if you had to make the same choice today, knowing what you know of me from the blogospere and knowing what you know about Ted Haggard's escapades, would you still choose him over me in a heartbeat? Would you still pick him but have some reservations, or would you choose atheist me whose stated personal preference is that children should not be molested?

Don't worry. If you still choose Ted Haggard, I promise I won't be hurt.

Rhology said...

Hey Tommy,

I've seen your picture

Ha ha. Yup, that's what any reasonable person would say upon seeing my picture. "Um, he's not scary." :-D

It is your stated belief that I will burn in hell in the afterlife that does not scare me.

Oh, well, that's kinda weird, but OK. If someone were threatening me with an all-powerful flamethrower, I'd be a little unnerved at least.

The appeal to fear is the final arrow in your quiver to try to sway people to choose YOUR PREFERENCE.

Well, that's just your pitiful assertion. Get back to me when you can actually answer my questions rather than roundabout them like you have been.

I largely abide by the very same standards of morality that you purport to adhere to

I don't necessarily question that. And it's irrelevant.

I don't know if you have any children, but let's pretend you do

I have a 10-month-old daughter.
If I had to choose between some militant atheist I "met" on the Internet and Ted Haggard to babysit my daughter, I wouldn't go where I was going. I'd stay home.
That could change if I actually knew you. My most recent blogpost answers a question from an atheist who lives in my local area. I actually know him and would trust him to babysit my daughter responsibly, actually. I'd choose him over Haggard in a heartbeat.
Problem with the example, and I don't know if you chose this on purpose (either way, feel free to alter the example to better illustrate what you mean), but I don't really regard Haggard as a Christian. So, it'd be between an atheist and a false professor.
But if I **had** to choose, and all I knew from either of you is that Haggard has his history and you have stated you don't molest children, then I'd choose you.

It's a hard example b/c I'm sure you realise there are so many other factors in play.
And again, I don't see the relevance to this discussion, honestly.

Peace,
Rhology

B. W. Fullford said...

What a treasure it was to find dialogue on this subject that is not personal and actually dealt with the logic behind the "belief".

If I missed the disclosure please have patience and reply with the answer. With that I ask a question related to a comment regardin the temporal nature of salvation. If we assume that the Christian God is just in his judgement, how is that we can explain the disparity between his creation regarding the time in which one can come to "know" Him? The standard for entrance into heaven is laid out, biblically, however the frame in which the creation "discovers" is not fixed. For example, if I have 2 children trying out for a school football team and one gets a personal trainer for 2 months and the other for 2 weeks, where is the justice in cutting the latter? (This assumes both are of the same ability.) The multiple variables that come to one accepting the faith are also problematic. I have yet to see any argument that address this temporal problem as it relates to the being in search of "salvation".

Thank you for any replies!

Rhology said...

Hi BWF,

Yes, I think CD does an excellent job of avoiding ad hominems. I commend him for that.
And Adrian Peterson should definitely have gone higher in the draft. ;-)

Sorry for yet another link, but I recently addressed this question.
There is no question that this is all laid at the feet of God - Ephesians 1:10 tells us that God works all things after the counsel of His will.
Answer -
1) He reveals/ed what He reveals/ed at the right time. He knows when the right time is, b/c He's omniscient and good.
2) He has no obligation to reveal any salvation to anyone. He would be perfectly just to destroy all of mankind right now for all eternity.
3) And yet He has graciously revealed the truth of His existence thru creation (see Romans 1:18-24) and thru conscience (see Romans 2). Romans 2 also tells us that all people know they are sinful, have broken the law of God.

Herein lies an example of an opportunity to use the true definition of "faith". It is wrong to say, "It is irrational to believe in God but I do so in faith anyway."
It is right to say, "It is rational to believe in God, as I've seen. I don't fully understand everythg about Him, nor do I necessarily understand much of what He will be doing in the future. But in faith (which has been proven right in the past), I believe that He knows what He's doing."

Peace,
Rhology

B. W. Fullford said...

Thank you Rhology.

The picture of the Christian God portrayed in your reply is not one that is appealing.

1) If the CG knows when the "right time is" then it is plausible to say that the CG may decide not to reveal himself to someone which would damn said person. As God "lifted the Pharoah" so to show God's power, it is reasonable to say that God could deny disclosing himself to use the damned individual as an example.

2) If he has no obligation then it is plausible that God could decide to damn us all. It is also plausible that God has not disclosed sufficient information for salvation and hence and belief system one follows is incomplete.

3) But this goes to the question: how is it just that the CG "graciously" reveals himself based on an inconsistent time frame? Is the 20 year old judged the same as the 80 year old? If not then the standard for salvation is different. Do we assume that everyone has the same mental capacity to perceive the same "signal"? This implies that the CG sends the same "signal" to all people.

I'm not sure this addresses my question of standards. You have noted what the CG can and cannot do based on who he is but it doesn't go to whether or not it is just. The problem really boils down to, and your comment in point 3 offers us the perfect example, that you defer to the Bible as a valid source and I do not. Your example of "sin" highlights this. I do not know I am sinful. Assuming I am but don't know it, what appeal is there to even attempting to understand a faith in which their God, as you portrayed him, can disclose himself at his whim, to a creation that he requires must come to know him for salvation, and yet said creation is so varied that no one foundation can be applied?

Rhology said...

Hi BWF,

The picture of the Christian God portrayed in your reply is not one that is appealing.

So God doesn't meet with your approval?
1) Why would that make any difference?
2) On what basis might you put God in the dock? What standard of judging are you using? I need to know this for comparison and consistency's sake.

If the CG knows when the "right time is" then it is plausible to say that the CG may decide not to reveal himself to someone which would damn said person.

As I explained already, God is known to all. Read Romans 1 as I suggested.

If he has no obligation then it is plausible that God could decide to damn us all.

It would be just, but He has revealed that some will be saved. So it's not plausible given that info.

It is also plausible that God has not disclosed sufficient information for salvation and hence and belief system one follows is incomplete.

Then that would make God also a liar. God does not lie and has explicitly said that He has revealed sufficient info for salvation.

s the 20 year old judged the same as the 80 year old?

No. Luke 12:48-49.

If not then the standard for salvation is different.

Judgment is not the same as salvation.
The standard of salvation is: Joe Blow must repent of his sin, trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and believe a certain limited set of beliefs about the identity of Jesus.
Once passed from death into life, eternal rewards will not be equal among all in heaven. In Hell, some will be punished more severely than others, but they'll still be in hell.

Do we assume that everyone has the same mental capacity to perceive the same "signal"?

No.

This implies that the CG sends the same "signal" to all people.

Why would it imply that?
God gives sufficient revelation of His existence and His law to people, who can either reject or seek more info. And to some He gives the blessing/curse of a full disclosure of the Gospel. It's a great blessing if they respond in repentance and faith, but if they reject it, their responsibility is greater and therefore their condemnation is more severe.

you defer to the Bible as a valid source and I do not.

Yes.

I do not know I am sinful.

Yes you do, but you are self-deceived.

what appeal is there to even attempting to understand a faith in which their God

What appeal? to the objective reality that is, the one that is as the Bible describes. Your responsibility is to ask Jesus to forgive you of your self-deception and sin and to clear the blinders off your eyes and to repent of your sin. Your responsibility is NOT, conversely, to start judging God like you know what the heck you're talking about, or to act like you can rule the universe better than He. It's awfully presumptuous.
To forestall the possible weak-minded objection (not that I expect from YOU, but perhaps from other commenters, or one in particular): Do not make the mistake that I am claiming any big authority for myself. I am nothing more than the messenger of the authoritative message. The message did not originate with me, it came from God. But it's out of compassion for you that I try to help you understand all this.

Peace,
Rhology

B. W. Fullford said...

1. Let me make the distinction between God and Christian God. Claiming that the CG as you portrayed him is unappealing is not a matter of approval. I can't answer your questions of approval because it is a red herring. One comes to follow a "faith" based on how it appeals to them. If the CG is the "true God" then I inherently accept that which I may not approve of regarding how He exists. However, to first make a move to Him requires that there be something about Him that I find appealing.

2. I have read Romans 1. If God where known to all then all would choose Him. Because all do not, then they do know Him. If all knew him then the Great Commandment would be meaningless.

3. So it is just to create something that you would damn? In turn, simply because He revealed some would be saved doesn't mean He has to follow that revelation. He could choose to change His mind.

4. That only makes God a liar is you assume the Bible is an complete and accurate representation of God. As I stated, you operate under that presupposition.

5. Your Luke verse doesn't address the temporal question. All that says if in absence of knowledge you'll be punished less. There is still punishment.

6. Judgment is the prefix to salvation. If the judgment is not just then salvation is empty. Furthermore, the pretext to "accepting Jesus" is predicated on the opportunities you have to experience the message in a format that speaks to you the individual.

7. Excellent. If we all are not capable to accept the same signal then this requires different means of disclosing the diety.

8. No, the blessing is that the message is in a format which you will appeal to you. As we agreed upon, there is no one way to witness the gospel to people. In turn, there is not one way in which God discloses Himself.

9. And the only reason you claim I am self deceived is because the Bible says so. Circular argument.

10. You can't claim a subjective move of faith by stating the objective reality of the Bible. By doing so you negate faith all together. Furthermore, in order to want to accept forgiveness one has to feel the need for it and as I stated I do not.

Your claim is that I'm deceiving myself. If that is the case, how then do I become clear on my deception? Simply believe what the Bible says is true? That would be akin to me telling you to believe what the Koran says is true regardless of what every ounce of your being tells you otherwise.

Rhology said...

Hi BWF,

1) Why? Why not believe it on the basis of the fact that it is the truth?
2) What is your argument for the statement: "If God were known to all then all would choose Him"?
Why didn't you take into acct the fact that all have sinned and none seek after God?

3) God doesn't change His eternal plan, which includes saving some people. You'd need an argument for this.

4) Correct. We all operate under some presupps. Some are justifiable and some are not.

5) Correct, there's more punishment for more knowledge (and thus, more responsibility). And less for less.
Since a human only lives a certain number of yrs, if he starts learning at a later date, he'll know less generally speaking.

6) Correct. I'd add that God speaks all languages and created the human heart and conscience.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that "He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end."

7) There are many different means of expressing the Gospel.
And I took your question as an inquiry after, say, the mentally handicapped.
Of course, the Gospel sounds different when expressed by a Francis Collins than when expressed by a trucker who failed 10th grade and stopped there. But the core msg remains.

8) Fine.

9) Why is it circular? Wouldn't you need to prove the Bible untrustworthy?
An anonymous commenter is currently making some pitiful attempts at that very thing at my blog. You're welcome to join in; hopefully your arguments will be better than his.

10) You can't claim a subjective move of faith by stating the objective reality of the Bible.
What's your argument for that? Just b/c the Bible is true doesn't mean that people want to see it. As I'm sure you're aware, humans' capacity for self-deception is amazing. Faith comes in understanding PART of the truth and then deciding that the reliability of the God Who decrees it is worth devotion.
You don't have to FEEL the need for forgiveness. You have to ACKNOWLEDGE it before God and ask His forgiveness. Biblical faith has very little to do with emotion at all, though emotion is a useful tool in God's hands sometimes.

You can come away from your deception by asking God for forgiveness for your sin and unbelief and repenting of it. Then ask Him for help to trust Him and offer your heart, devotion, and love to Jesus Christ, Who loved you so much that He died to save you even knowing that you'd spend decades of your life spitting in His face. He loves you that much and deserves no less than our eternal praise and devotion.
It is not akin to believing the Koran. That WOULD be blind faith, b/c the Koran is not true. The Bible is.
On a personal note, I've been where you are. And by God's grace I did this and my life has been drastically changed, changed for the better. The better by far. I wouldn't trade Jesus for anything. He is far more wonderful than any riches, far more trustworthy than any friend, far more far-seeing and wise than any guru or grandparent, far more loving than any sycophant or lover. He is wonderful.

Peace,
Rhology