Engaging Atheism: Blaming God for Humanity’s Ignorance

I have agreed to engage John Loftus on this issue. I am not sure it will be a continuing series or not, but we will see. My goal is not to convert John or other atheists, but to address their viewpoints in order to help others who are struggling with their Faith.

You can find John’s Argument here. To summarize it, it is the classic Atheist argument of

“If there was a God, then He would have….”

In this case, it is told us what would kill us or not.

I must say, that this is the least convincing argument for the existence of God. What atheists seem to envision is a god who dictates every detail and action of the lives of the human populace. They demand a god who is so involved in every action of a person that the person has no responsibility for him or herself. This actually seems to be a running theme among Christians as well. In Psalm 37, the author deals with the same theme – people who believe that their god must be a god who never allows bad things to happen.

We can turn to the bible, although I doubt that atheists put any stock into it, to find that God did tell us the human race what would kill it, and we didn’t listen. Or, we can turn to our children, to our society, to others and watch as they are told what not to do, but do it anyway. When we do this, we find reasonable proof that regardless if God told us to do something, a majority of people would not. We are told to take care of the poor and visit the sick – but do we do it? We are told to turn the other cheek, but do we do it?

I have to wonder, if people serve and love God because the one they serve is ideal for them, but what happens when their picture is punctured? Because their view is faulty from the start, they loose all faith. It would be like a faith healer – and honest and sincere faith healer – coming to realize that nothing is happening. Instead of questioning himself, he finds that he has lost faith in God and comes to realize that there is no God.

Why is it that the only way a God can be good is if he constantly treats humanity like babies? God created us, and we rebelled. Sin corrupts and we have a separation between us and God. Yet, God is good and because he is God, He has created a way for us to walk again with Him. God does not have to do things to be Good, or is judge by us. Yes, the world has seen and will see many more things which kill and destroy, but that is our nature. God’s nature is one which resurrects and builds.

God is not measured by the fact that humanity is corruption, but that humanity can better itself in many, many ways, namely, and most importantly, removing of sin.Yes, we still live an ugly world, but how much of that world is by our own choosing?

So, my final answer is this, John:

Our Scripture teaches us that we were once told what would happen if we rebelled against God. We didn’t listen. Because of this, all of creation is in constant rebellion against God and is an obstacle we face. Further, the image of God as a dictator, in which we are controlled in every way by God, is an idol which far too often we make for ourselves. Once it crashes, it is replaced by the god of the self. Things happen in life, and have always happened, and will continue to happen. People of faith know this, but surviving this reality means having some real clue as to the nature of God.

Now, if you click the link above, you will find many more answer, better, than mine.

Post By Joel Watts (10,051 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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180 thoughts on Engaging Atheism: Blaming God for Humanity’s Ignorance

  1. Okay, thanks for your response. You should try to better understand my argument before you respond. For instance, this is not an atheist argument. I use it, yes. But the argument speaks for itself even if I never broached it. It doesn’t lead to atheism either, since Process Theologians have abandoned an omnipotent God because of it, okay?

    And it’s false to claim I envision a God who “is so involved in every action of a person that the person has no responsibility for him or herself.” This is not an either/or situation. That is emphatically not what I envision as the only alternatives. My claim is that a good parent never gives a child responsibility until such time as that child can handle it. No good mother would ever give a razor blade to a two year child although she could give it to her 14 year old son who is just learning the shave.

    Also the concept of God I’m arguing against is most emphatically not one “who never allows bad things to happen,” in this particular case. I am merely talking about needless, horrific suffering that could easily be resolved if such a God cared.

    Furthermore, my question has to do with whether, given these things, I should trust what the Bible says. You can quote from it but doing so does not show how we can trust it to solve this problem. What I’m doing with this particular example is offering a reason why we should not trust the Bible, so you cannot answer this problem by quoting from the Bible. That’s why I asked you as a Christian to THINK.

    And even though you quote from the Bible, the fact remains that only if some of us would NOT have sinned in the Garden of Eden under the same initial conditions can we view God’s testing of the initial human beings as a fair one, and not a sham. For if we all would have sinned then God is to be blamed for how he created us or for the test itself. But if instead some of us would not have sinned under the same initial conditions then there are human beings who have been punished for something they never would have done.

    When it comes to the kind of punishment we experience in this world you need to actually consider this for once in your life. In the 20th century there was a humanitarian movement for how to punish criminals. They thought criminals were evil people because the science of psychology had not yet arisen. Evil people should be dealt with harshly, very harshly. But this started to change and instead of flogging them, or tar and feathering them, or torturing them, or stretching them on the rack, we designed prisons that were a more humane way of dealing with them than in the past. And we know people are not evil so much as influenced by their upbringing to do cruel acts. So when we compare the brutal punishments of your God to our more human ways of treating criminals we must judge God’s punishments by the brutal standards of an ancient barbaric culture to be, well, barbaric. No parent would even punish her children in these brutal ways since the goal is to teach and discipline them without breaking them down completely, which is what we find your God to have done.

    And although the Biblical God can be seen telling us what not to do, the reason we don’t obey him might be in some instances, because we don’t see a reason to do so. In any case the alternative evolutionary explanation where we evolved from animals makes much better sense of why we sometimes act cruelly, for nature is indeed red in tooth and claw, and we are part of nature.

    In any case, I do not see where you answered my argument head on. Let’s say you wanted to make a political argument in our society on behalf of some social issue. You can believe you’re correct about that issue because you believe the Bible, yes, but as soon as you enter the political arena you must make your case based on common ground like reason, evidence, demographics, the harm principle, and so forth. You did not answer me on any common ground we share. To me you merely said in effect, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Now that’s fine if you’re preaching to the choir, but there is a world out there you simply failed to address. They’re looking for answers and you’re simply not offering any here. Because you haven’t, at least on this issue, they’re not embracing your faith and many are walking away from it.

    Cheers for now.

    • My claim is that a good parent never gives a child responsibility until such time as that child can handle it. No good mother would ever give a razor blade to a two year child although she could give it to her 14 year old son who is just learning the shave.

      Okay, then you envision a God who is still treating the human race as babies. Again, I fall back to say that your vision of God is not my vision of.God.

      Also the concept of God I’m arguing against is most emphatically not one “who never allows bad things to happen,” in this particular case. I am merely talking about needless, horrific suffering that could easily be resolved if such a God cared.

      But, John, it has been resolved, just not to your liking. First, Christians have a duty to help relieve the horrific suffering. We are His instruments. Further, I also believe as a Christian any temporal suffering will be replaced by eternal rejoicing. (Now, we could debate univeralism and other views of hell, but we’ll save that for later.)

      Furthermore, my question has to do with whether, given these things, I should trust what the Bible says. You can quote from it but doing so does not show how we can trust it to solve this problem. What I’m doing with this particular example is offering a reason why we should not trust the Bible, so you cannot answer this problem by quoting from the Bible. That’s why I asked you as a Christian to THINK.

      That is the problem, John, is that you believe that only thinking Christians will thus become Atheists. You should allow that my life has not been a bed of roses, etc… and that many times, I have wondered the same thing, but in the end, my trust being in God, my faith is well founded. I don’t like using the bible to discussing these things with atheists – unless it is needed, of course – because I realize that it doesn’t hold the same appeal to you. Yet, in the end, I can only give the answers of those who have gone on before.

      For if we all would have sinned then God is to be blamed for how he created us or for the test itself. But if instead some of us would not have sinned under the same initial conditions then there are human beings who have been punished for something they never would have done.

      Why? If God made us with Free Will, just as I believe He made the angels, and a divine spark, if you will, then it is our own responsibility which we take when we sin. When the First man sinned, he did so without faith. He didn’t need it. He knew nothing else but God and yet he sinned. It was his sin which created a wall of separation between God and humanity, which has only has now been restored through Christ. This is what I think. We are constantly at war with ourselves and our surroundings. The same is said in reverse. We are not right on this planet. Why? For me, that answer is that we are not right with the Creator.

      When it comes to the kind of punishment we experience in this world you need to actually consider this for once in your life. No parent would even punish her children in these brutal ways since the goal is to teach and discipline them without breaking them down completely, which is what we find your God to have done.

      But, John, early Christians dealt with this in a variety of ways. First, and in no particular order, was the predestination folks and others who believed that the soul perishes. Others believed in an eternal hell while many early Christian theologians believed in Universalism. Let’s say universalism, of some sort, had become the excepted doctrine of Christianity. (And trust me, it was considered valid by many) What then to your argument? What if in the end, those who teach an eternal hell are wrong? What if this life of ours is only a staging ground, and now that Christ has come, the sin brought about by one man has been removed by One as well?

      And although the Biblical God can be seen telling us what not to do, the reason we don’t obey him might be in some instances, because we don’t see a reason to do so. In any case the alternative evolutionary explanation where we evolved from animals makes much better sense of why we sometimes act cruelly, for nature is indeed red in tooth and claw, and we are part of nature.

      Indeed, we are. We are very natural creatures. In many times, we are no better than untamed animals. But I see a higher calling away from naturalism to living in the spirit, which should create in us a move to rise above ourselves.

      In any case, I do not see where you answered my argument head on. Let’s say you wanted to make a political argument in our society on behalf of some social issue. You can believe you’re correct about that issue because you believe the Bible, yes, but as soon as you enter the political arena you must make your case based on common ground like reason, evidence, demographics, the harm principle, and so forth. You did not answer me on any common ground we share. To me you merely said in effect, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Now that’s fine if you’re preaching to the choir, but there is a world out there you simply failed to address. They’re looking for answers and you’re simply not offering any here. Because you haven’t, at least on this issue, they’re not embracing your faith and many are walking away from it.

      Actually, that’s not what I really said, John. People have always walked away from various faiths, including our own. I would tend to believe in many who leave Christianity to become angry atheists – not all atheists are angry or anti-religious – do so because they lose faith. True? But in what did they place their faith?

      • I hope my formatting works.

        Joel said:

        [quote] Okay, then you envision a God who is still treating the human race as babies. Again, I fall back to say that your vision of God is not my vision of God.[/quote]

        Nope, once again my claim is that a good parent never gives a child responsibility until such time as that child can handle it. This is an analogy. We are not children. That’s the analogous part. If you don’t understand an argument you cannot effectively respond to it. God, being a good parent, should not give us as human beings more responsibility until such time as we can handle it, you see.

        Joel said:

        [quote] But, John, it has been resolved, just not to your liking. [/quote]

        Joel, what has been resolved? And again I want you to think, because everything I am saying calls into question why I should believe an ancient set of canonized documents along with you particular interpretation of them. Christians disagree on their interpretation of these texts, you see, so that means you not only have to defend these documents as authoritative but also your particular interpretation of them, which is one step farther removed from those ancient documents.

        Joel said:

        [quote] First, Christians have a duty to help relieve the horrific suffering. We are His instruments.[quote]

        So what? How could any Christian help people who drank polluted water before they knew that doing so would kill them? Only God had that sort of knowledge and he let many people die from these sorts of things before we figured them out for ourselves. Only God could have helped and he didn’t. It does no good to help comfort the survivors of a lost loved one after that, you see. So if God placed this responsibility on the backs of Christians he didn’t give them the proper tools to help?

        Your answer accords in a similar way with the Christian response that God waits to do things until people pray. Or that he doesn’t save people without Christians first praying that he sends missionaries. You are blinded by your faith not see this as a cop out for why God just doesn’t do anything. No good person would wait to help others until they asked him to help if there was a real need. Picture this: Some mother hates my guts and is just too stubborn to ask me to help her with her child who is dying. So I do nothing because she refuses to ask me? How could anyone describe me as a good person if I’m too stubborn to help until she grovels at my feet? And so if God will not do anything to help until Christians pray that makes absolutely no sense to me at all, especially if, unlike me, he’s a perfectly good God. The God you believe in is an egotist made up by ancient people and modeled after the kinds of kings they knew. If there is a need then it never matters to someone whom we wish to call a good person whether he’s asked to help or not, if the goal is to alleviate suffering rather than the desire to crow about what a good person he is, which can only remind us of the Pharisees.

        Joel said:

        [quote] Further, I also believe as a Christian any temporal suffering will be replaced by eternal rejoicing.[/quote]

        Two problems. Of the people who die from lead poisoning that I mentioned don’t you think most of them went to hell, since only the few get into heaven? Aren’t you forgetting them? And wouldn’t you think that if someone was going to hell God would want to keep them alive for as long as possible since they might in the future get saved? Surely you cannot think for one second that no one who died prematurely would have ended up believing if they lived longer? Secondly, tell me this: Can anyone under any circumstances ever justify causing harm to others because later those victims will be compensated for their pain? If being compensated for one’s suffering justifies that suffering then a torturer who compensated his victims could torture at will. And it does not matter the kind of compensation either, for no matter what it is it cannot morally justify the harm caused.

        Joel said:

        [quote] [The] problem, John, is that you believe that only thinking Christians will thus become Atheists. [/quote]

        I never said that. I only want to force you to think.

        Joel said:

        [quote] You should allow that my life has not been a bed of roses, etc… and that many times, I have wondered the same thing, but in the end, my trust being in God, my faith is well founded. [/quote]

        Or you have been brainwashed more than others. That is the other alternative.

        Joel said:

        [quote] I don’t like using the bible to discussing these things with atheists – unless it is needed, of course – because I realize that it doesn’t hold the same appeal to you. Yet, in the end, I can only give the answers of those who have gone on before. [/quote]

        And none of them make much sense when we actually think about them.

        Joel said:

        [quote] If God made us with Free Will, just as I believe He made the angels, and a divine spark, if you will, then it is our own responsibility which we take when we sin. When the First man sinned, he did so without faith. He didn’t need it. He knew nothing else but God and yet he sinned.[/quote]

        Would you please try to explain, not quote the Bible, why this should be accepted given my argument? I had said: “…if we all would have sinned then God is to be blamed for how he created us or for the test itself. But if instead some of us would not have sinned under the same initial conditions then there are human beings who have been punished for something they never would have done.”

        But let’s back up a step, okay? If the angels along with Satan were in the unmediated presence of God and chose to rebel anyway would you kindly explain to me why they are not suicidal, pure evil, and dumber than a box of rocks? What reason would there be to rebel against omnibenelovent love except that they were pure evil? And given that God is all powerful they had to be suicidal to rebel. More importantly if one of them thought they could succeed they were all dumber than a box of rocks to try. And yet you probably believe Satan was the smartest of all God’s creatures since an ancient set of texts said so to exonerate God from all the evils in our world. That just does not make any sense at all! Such a being simply does not exist because no being can be that dumb that evil and that suicidal all wrapped up into one.

        Joel said:

        [quote] Let’s say universalism, of some sort, had become the excepted doctrine of Christianity. (And trust me, it was considered valid by many) What then to your argument? What if in the end, those who teach an eternal hell are wrong? What if this life of ours is only a staging ground, and now that Christ has come, the sin brought about by one man has been removed by One as well?[/quote]

        Well, you tell me since Christians disagree. What do YOU think? In any event if universalism is the case there would be no motivation for evangelism and as far as I can tell from this I am saved too. Then why bother blogging at all? Why not enjoy life to the fullest rather than banter back and forth with an atheist like me? That makes no sense unless you don’t have much better things to do.

        Joel said:

        [quote] People have always walked away from various faiths, including our own. I would tend to believe in many who leave Christianity to become angry atheists – not all atheists are angry or anti-religious – do so because they lose faith. True? But in what did they place their faith?[/quote]

        When you stopped believing in Allah what did you replace your faith with? I know you probably never believed in Allah but that’s my point. I simply stopped believing. There was nothing to replace it with. I am a non-believer. That’s what I take as atheism, which simply means a non-theist, a non-believer. YOU are a non-believer in Allah, and Moroni so you to are an atheist. In fact Christians were called atheists in the 1st century because they didn’t believe in the gods and goddesses of Rome. I just reject one more god than you do for the same reasons you reject all other gods.

  2. Joel, to start with it is a great mistake to generalize the thoughts of atheists as you do. I understand it helps you to place us all in the same box. Acccording to you atheists seem to envision a God who dictates every detail and action of the lives of the human populace. Well, I´m an atheist and this certainly doesn´t apply to me.

    I also must say that I find all theist/atheist discussions and debates on the theme ‘if there is a God then he would have……’ as rather pointless, because there are always ad hoc arguments that can be used to save the theistic position. I consider the main atheistic arguments to be 1) absence of evidence, 2) God-did-it is not a true explanation of anything, 3) we understand why primitive cultures developed theistic worldviews. These are really enough for me.

    • Bill, perhaps then it is a mistake to generalize Christians?

      I’ll make a respond to Bill later, to see if I can clear up a few things.

      • Who is generalizing Christians? John certainly isn’t and neither is Bill. As an exchristian of 16 years I can assure you that John hit the nail on the head. I was a devout AoG evangelical christian and John’s response was exactly how I viewed the world. I would have to say John and Bill are spot on!

    • Let me add, that it was not my intend to generalize atheists. I had had it in mine to show that not all atheists deconvert because of a loss of faith, but I forgot that. Please include as your read my statements the key word ‘some.’

    • Bill,

      Not trying to be antagonistic. I also do not so much like debates myself, but find myself in them from time to time. I think there’s too much of the “argument as war” metaphor (Lakoff) at work … At any rate, I saw that a number of the commenters identified with your points, and I’m trying to understand where you are coming from a bit better. So, I wanted to ask a couple of questions about them.

      1) What would you consider evidence of the existence of God? If you believe there is a lack of evidence, you have an understanding of what evidence you believe is required. If you can put forth what that is, perhaps there is someone on the discussion board who might be able to make an attempt at it, though probably not me.

      2) Would you agree that in contrast to “God-did-it,” “it just happened” also presents some difficulties with regard, at least, the origin of the universe?

      3) In what way, does having an explanation for how primitive cultures developed theistic belief disprove the existence of God? Inversely, one can offer an explanation as to why people, especially in a post-Enlightenment society, develop atheistic beliefs, but I don’t think anyone would take it very seriously if I used that as proof that God exists.

      • Jeremy,

        Let me try to take all three points together as they are related anyway. The God hypothesis is problematic because it can explain everything. It is irrefutable. God can do everything, can’t he? How a supernatural being can influence a natural world is of course a mystery. That is not a very helpful hypothesis. I can’t refute it just as I can’t refute the hypothesis that some dinosaurs live on in an invisible dinosaur heaven. Our understanding of the world develops through developing hypotheses that can be tested. As our understanding of the world has developed much that was once attributed to God has been taken away from Him.

        The primitive way of explaining the unexplained is by creating a myth for its origins. When it is observed that different nations have different languages a myth is created in which God punishes the people by giving them different languages and scattering them around the world. The garden of Eden myth attempts to explain (among other things) why people are mortal and women suffer during child birth. Natural phenomenon that we now understand better like thunder, rain, mountains and earthquakes also were attributed to gods. Of course the list goes on and on and I’m telling you nothing new here, but the important thing is to understand the psychology of this and it is important to understand where religion comes from (although there are other dimension to religion). Does this refute the God hypothesis? No, that is impossible – it cannot be refuted.

        The God hypothesis also changes so it can cope with our scientific knowledge. Now that we can understand the earth, the solar systems, the galaxies and the universe, the religous person does not think of God as being ‘up there in the heavens’. He has essentially become an invisible being. He now HAS to be invisible otherwise we could test the hypothesis and refute it.

        You mention the origin of the universe and contrast the “god did it” hypothesis with the “it just happened” hypothesis. Let me ask you this: How did God do it? Okay, okay, I know this is a nonsense question, so I’ll retract it, but the point is that it doesn’t really explain the origin. Furthermore, it only adds a new problem. In addition to the existence of the universe we now need to explain the existence of God.

        Your alternative “it just happened” I presume to be the atheist/ scientific answer to the origins. Well, I think the correct way to descibe this is “we don’t know how it happened.” Science can get us close to the time of the big bang, but how can we know what led up to this? I am not a physicist, so I won’t spend much time on this, but the point is that reality is complex, science is hard and often it can only get us so far. There is no need to fill in gaps with a God. There’s no need to confuse a lack of scientific understanding with evidence for God.

        I hope this gives you a bit of an idea where I am coming from. It’s fine with me if you disagree. I think I’ll leave it at this, because these discussions can go on and on (and can become quite frustrating), although I won’t mind clarifying my thoughts if I have been unclear.

        • Bill,

          Sorry I posted no reply as I got busy with other things. It seems the conversation has moved on anyway. You’re right that this would probably go on and on. The only thing I would say is that your reasoning to me seems a bit a circular. But, I’m sure you would eventually accuse me of the same. So, I’m satisfied to leave it at that as well.

          • Perhaps before we leave this discussion you could point out the circular reasoning to me. Thanks!

  3. Ha – Bill said it so much better than me – on the futility of those sorts of debates and precisely those three points – that is why I can’t believe in a God. But even though I’ve never believed in God in the first place, I find it surprising that some people who have studied primitive religious traditions and cultures as I have, still believe in God. Maybe some people need God, but I don’t need to know the answers. I happy with the idea that humans just can’t know the answers they want to know. I still think some of us make them up.

  4. I agree with what Bill said. My reasons for not believing are:

    1. I don’t think the bible is the word of Jehovah (I was a Christian, so it was this sacred text which I needed to make up my mind about). I have been convinced by solid evidence that it’s a document created by people without any divine inspiration.
    2. I am convinced the natural explanations for the world around me are more plausible than gods.
    3. I think those areas where science has not yet found verifiable explanations still do not require a god. History shows it’s probable that we will find scientific answers to our questions in the future.

    Those are my main reasons for not believing. There are more, but those are the basics. They do not include me fabricating a requirement for any god to be a control freak, finding he is not, and then rejecting him because of that.

    I also think you misunderstood John’s argument. I hope his response might make it clearer to you.

    Another point where I agree with Bill is that these arguments are a little pointless. There are stronger arguments against faith in any god which I would be much more interested in reading responses to.

  5. Yes, we still live an ugly world, but how much of that world is by our own choosing?

    This question is sick and vile. Im so sure that the people of Africa are thinking, “If I would have just listened to God I would not have AIDS.” Im so sure that the people of Africa “chose” this on themselves. Most of the people are born with AIDS. How does that fit with your theology of suffering? Unless you are saying that sin has a “trickle down effect” or that original sin is like a chain reaction that can’t be stopped; I don’t think it does fit. Why isn’t your God helping the helpless? Is your God choosing to abstain from helping those who can’t be helped? I don’t think so.

    God helps you with everything. He has given you everything you need. I am almost certain that you think God is responsible for almost every thing you own or have acheived. But answer me this, why would God choose you over the helpless? In other words why does God give a fuck about you? You were born in one of the richest countries in the world. Even if you were born poor you were still better off then all 3rd world countries. But for some reason God cared about your life more then then thousands who die each day from hunger.

    It seems to me that God only helps people who can afford God. God neglects those who can’t help themselves because they can’t pay him. Despicable.

    You are a sick, vile, and ugly human being. I can’t understand how you view the world. Stop giving people false hopes like a benevolent God will come and rescue them and give them something that can really change their world.

    • Wow, Devon. You sure do presume a lot.

      First, I thank God for placing me where I am – and because of this, I feel that it is my duty to help others. He has placed others in positions of power and wealth, I believe, for the same reason. If we have something, it is not ours to keep, but to use to help others. Don’t presume to know my though patterns here.

      Your name calling is a bit over the top, but I can understand, because you have in error made judgments which are rather false. I do not claim a benevolent God that will rescue us. Further, I believe that in free will we have a duty to help those around us, our neighbors. This can change the world. Anger – your anger, my anger – will not.

      • So, Joel. You don’t believe in any sort of parousia?

        It seems to me your response to Devin only served to confirm him.

          • Truman, you asked I believed in any sort of Parousia. I answered in the affirmative.

          • I apologize, Joel. I interpreted your words as a response to my statement that you confirmed what Devin was saying in your response to him. In other words, “Joel, you confirm what Devin is saying.” “I do, Truman? Why?” That’s how I interpreted it, so my apologies for the confusion.

            The reason I ask is because when Devin said, “Stop giving people false hopes like a benevolent God will come and rescue them and give them something that can really change their world.” he was referring to your belief in the parousia. You responded by saying, “I do not claim a benevolent God that will rescue us.”

            So when I asked if you believed in the parousia, I wanted to make sure you weren’t transmillennial or something. Since you say you do believe in the parousia, then Devin’s accusation sticks, despite your denial.

          • Sorry, Truman, my mistake as well. I interpreted Devin’s words as saying that he thought I was teaching something along the lines of the prosperity preachers, etc… I do believe in a consummation of all things, but that is different than suffering through life and expecting God to suddenly pull us out of the troubles.

  6. Joel,
    The whole issue boils down to humans feeling that they could actually know ALL about what a transcendent God would/should/could do.
    If one could know all of these things, that human would be omniscient and would be god.

    • Pastoralmusings said:

      “Joel,
      The whole issue boils down to humans feeling that they could actually know ALL about what a transcendent God would/should/could do.
      If one could know all of these things, that human would be omniscient and would be god.”

      No, I disagree. It’s about what the Christian god claims to be, in the bible, and what his followers claim he is, and where those claims do not line up with the reality we see around us.

        • No, I don’t. I have looked at the massive amount of claims made about the various gods, and I have not seen evidence to support any of those claims.

      • Nadia,
        Joel is correct that there is no monolithic Christian view of God. One would also have to state that the likelihood is that your view of what the Bible says about God is not one that we would agree with. Some of that comes down to interpretation.
        On the other hand, the statement that says, “If there were a god X would/wouldn’t happen” is truly beyond the bounds of one’s ability to logically state. We only have what Scripture says. Even then we do not have the full mind of God; only what He has chosen to reveal.
        What that means is that one must have all knowledge to state what God would/should do, as we don’t know all of God’s purpose for life, nor how today’s events fit into that purpose. No, it is not always easy. I didn’t like losing my only brother to cancer 17 months ago, only 7 weeks after diagnosis. I can thank God for it, however, because it has been used by God as a catalyst for change in my life. I’m a better person because of it. I love God more because of it. I find much reason to rejoice in the wisdom of God in that, though I do not know the purpose of it all. In the midst of it all, he stated to me that he only wanted God to be honored, and someone to come to know Jesus as the result of his sufferings. Those things have happened.
        Reject God because He didn’t spare my brother? NEVER! I would have planned things differently. Christmas is difficult now. Family gatherings are not the same. I shall not reject God because of it, though. He has shown His goodness.
        I only hope that you will open your eyes to see that same goodness.
        Sincerely,
        Jason

        • Jason

          “Joel is correct that there is no monolithic Christian view of God. One would also have to state that the likelihood is that your view of what the Bible says about God is not one that we would agree with. Some of that comes down to interpretation.”

          That is a fundamental problem with the bible. It is completely open to interpretation. That is why I added the bit about what his followers claim, because Christianity is, in my view, a collection of very diverse opinions on how the bible should be read.

          In actual fact, without the tempering filter of interpretation, the bible is a book that I believe would lead to horrifying consequences if one were to live by what it says, literally.

          “On the other hand, the statement that says, “If there were a god X would/wouldn’t happen” is truly beyond the bounds of one’s ability to logically state. We only have what Scripture says. Even then we do not have the full mind of God; only what He has chosen to reveal.
          What that means is that one must have all knowledge to state what God would/should do, as we don’t know all of God’s purpose for life, nor how today’s events fit into that purpose.”

          Yet we have the bible to turn to, if it is indeed God’s word, to enlighten us to his nature, and to tell us the things he has said, done, and promised. I know it’s possible to put your mind in the kind of place where it all just makes sense, and you can’t understand why the atheist doesn’t see how logical it is. I was in that place, until at last I could no longer bend my mind enough to make all the illogic and contradictions go away.

          “No, it is not always easy. I didn’t like losing my only brother to cancer 17 months ago, only 7 weeks after diagnosis.”

          I’m sorry for your loss, it must have been very difficult to live through.

          “I can thank God for it, however, because it has been used by God as a catalyst for change in my life. I’m a better person because of it. I love God more because of it. I find much reason to rejoice in the wisdom of God in that, though I do not know the purpose of it all.”

          I unfortunately know exactly what you mean. Yet the death of a loved one has often spurred people to spiritual growth (for lack of a better term), even if they were not religious. I still draw lessons from the death of my sister 15 years ago, still find her passing an admonition to me to appreciate the fragile gift that is life, and to be aware as you can never be until you lose someone, how important it is to treat others well.

          “I shall not reject God because of it, though. He has shown His goodness.
          I only hope that you will open your eyes to see that same goodness.”

          Jason, I can see how sincere you are, and I was a Christian for the majority of my life, so I have a good idea of the thought processes you’re going through. I know your wish that I’d open my eyes to see God’s goodness is a well meant, heartfelt sentiment. Yet I have also seen and experienced firsthand what immense damage the Christian viewpoint can do.

          • Nadia,
            1. You are the nicest skeptic I’ve ever discussed this with. Thank you for that.
            2. You state your view of Christianity, however, you neglect to remember that others of us have views that not only conflict with yours, but harmonize the Biblical data in a way that is not so difficult as you make it seem. What that means is there is still an alternative to what you know and have seen.
            3. If you have seen damage done by Christianity, it was done by a distorted Christianity. One would not do well to judge any philosophy or religion ONLY by it worst adherents. One should judge it by its teachings and what they logically lead to.
            Thank you for this discussion and your evident kindness and thoughtfulness. I have sermon prep to do for tomorrow as well as needing to rest and fight of bronchitis. I shall bow out for the day.
            Jason

          • Thanks for the compliment. Fancy that, hey, a nice atheist (c;

            I know how these internet debates can eat up your time, so yes, let’s leave it there, though I’d have loved to respond. I have some short stories to write that have deadlines.

            Get well soon, and be careful with Bronchitis, I’ve heard it’s the precursor to pneumonia if not taken care of.

  7. If you don’t want atheists to make generalizations about theists then I would stray away from the usual talking points. Free will? I have never found that anywhere through out the Bible. As a matter of fact I find the exact opposite. Job 42:2 tells us that no plan or will of God can be thwarted. So if God has a plan for your life and every ones life like I ASSUME you believe then God has people destined for death and you can do nothing about that. But I am sure you will find something in the Bible that contradicts my exegesis. But doesn’t that go to show you that we can’t trust the Bible? But that would be blasphemy. This is where you and I get all our generalizations about the Christian god is it not? There is no other source. Unless you think God talks to you which I am ASSUMING you believe he does. Then God can tell you how he is and what he is like and why he doesn’t help the people who are helpless. Which I am still waiting for an answer for.

    Also if your logic is correct when you say that, “First, I thank God for placing me where I am – and because of this, I feel that it is my duty to help others. He has placed others in positions of power and wealth, I believe, for the same reason.” then the opposite must also be true. That God puts people in abject poverty and suffering. God starves people to death. What a wonderful sentiment. You have converted me.

    Also I am way beyond anger. I was angry as a christian when I thought God didn’t care about those people born into a world they didn’t ask for. It was only when I realized there is no god that I was set at ease. So Im not angry. I am frustrated that you sit back in the comfort of your own home enjoying a wonderful life God gave you while thousands of people who die each day of hunger go to hell. As a christian how can you sleep at night? Isn’t hell supposed to be the worst thing ever?

    • Devin,

      You understanding of the bible is debatable. I never said that the plan of God could be thwarted. I said we were born with free will. Two different things. This is a classic debate even among Christians – surely, you must understand that. Plus, picking portions of Scripture out without looking at the whole doesn’t help.

      You have presuppositions, which you are basing your entire argument on. Your assumptions are wrong as well. When you can discuss things without assuming my beliefs based on what you think I should believe, it might make this conversation go better.

      Devin, I never said that they were placed where they were to starve. I said that I believe if we are placed in a position where we can help others out, we should. This is part of the Christian mission.

      So, in your anger against God, it was better to stop believing than to look for the answers? Is this evolution? Or is it maturity you rather silly questions?

      You presume to know an awfully lot about me and my condition and because of your assumptions, presumptions, and presuppositions, you have created a very unrealistic picture of what you expect. I would say that you have done the same thing for God.

    • But those problems are still there, Devin, whether there’s a God or not. How, then, can you be at ease? And do you have any hope that they’ll be solved?

  8. If we are born with free will then we don’t have to do what God wants us to do. But if God has a plan for us then our free will is nullified. They are not two different things. Also if “my” view of the Bible is debatable then whose is 100% correct? Yours? Is yours more correct because it makes sense to you? What rubish. Also I am not cherry picking scripture. Its in context. Some thing most christians don’t know how to do.

    Also I am assuming these things because you have not come out and said really much of anything. So all I can do is assume. But if my assumptions are baseless all you have to do is prove me wrong and I would concede that my argument doesn’t hold water. But you have not done this so all I have to go off is my assumptions of Christianity.

    Also I didn’t stop believing because of my anger. I stopped believing for numerous reasons. But this isn’t what this argument is about.

    Also I know you didn’t say they were placed there to starve. You said people were placed in power and wealth to help others who weren’t in that position. But to say that people were placed in power and wealth is also to say people are placed in poverty and suffering. You can’t have one without the other.

    So again if my accusations and assumptions are baseless I am sorry for that but you don’t give us much to go by.

    • Devin, you are basing your arguments on what, exactly? Your presuppositions, your assumptions. Why should I give you intimate details of my life? That would not add to the discussion.

      I am not claiming ‘correctness’ because mine seems ‘right to me.’ That’s silly for you to actually think that and to base more arguments on that. Yet, let’s turn that around. Because your view wasn’t correct, then everything and everyone else is wrong on the subject. Odd, really.

      Where is the difference in help and serve?

      No, I am not saying that people aren’t in poverty for certain reasons. This argument too was handled in the Gospels.

  9. HI J.L., I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS, BUT FIRST A JOKE…

    A preacher who was visiting a farm and said to the farmer, “God’s been mighty good to your fields, Mr. Farmer.” “Yes,” the Farmer replied, “But you should have seen how He treated them when I wasn’t around.”

    Did God design the bacteria that infect the food we eat? Even “prayed over” leftovers from Thanksgiving Day? Microgram for microgram, the poisons produced by some bacteria in our food are more potent than all other known poisons on earth. It is estimated that one tenth of an ounce of the toxin produced by bacteria causing botulism would be more than enough to kill everyone in the city of New York; and a 12-ounce glassful would be enough to kill all 5.9 billion human beings on the face of the Earth. (The same goes for the toxin that causes tetanus.) Pretty powerful stuff. Is that God’s handiwork? Creationists – if they thought about it – must imagine God working overtime in His own personal biological warfare laboratory.

    Did God design the sawtoothed grain beetle, angoumois grain moths, Mediterranean flour moths, scale insects, cabbage worms, corn earworms, corn rootworms, cutworms, tomato fruitworms, etc., that destroy 30% of U.S. food crops by voraciously devouring leaves, fruits, grain, and also by spreading fungal and bacterial plant rots as well? Are we supposed to praise the Lord for designing such insects whose proliferation leads to human starvation?

    Only a Designer would have had the infinite wisdom and compassion to plant upon the earth “thousands of deadly shrubs and vines; stock the earth with ferocious beasts and poisonous reptiles; take pains to breed malaria and a host of other diseases in just the right `host’ animals and environments he’d created for that purpose; arrange that the ground would occasionally open and swallow a few of his darlings; establish volcanoes that might at any moment overwhelm his children with rivers of fire; and then neglect to tell his children which of the plants and animals were deadly; failed to say anything about the earthquakes, and kept the volcano business a profound secret.” [Ingersoll]

    Only a Designer would have had the infinite wisdom and compassion to “control the wind, the rain and lightning, such that whole States dry and wither, while at the same time wasting precious rain on the sea; make hurricanes and tornadoes such that cities and people are crushed to shapelessness; and direct lightning to strike the life out of men, women, and children.” [Ingersoll] (See Job, chapters 36-38)

    Also next time you say “grace” why not thank the person who invented fire, the person who invented the first language, who planted the first seeds, domesticated the first livestock, the person who invented knives and forks, pots and pans, the stove, and limitless other items? What did we have before THOSE people arose?

    And thanks to the clergy they are busy teaching children about Adam and Noah instead of evolution; about David killing Goliath instead of Koch killing cholera; about Christ’s ascent into heaven instead of Montgolfier’s or Wright’s. Worse than that they are taught that it is a virtue to accept a statement without adequate evidence, which leaves them prey to quacks of every kind and makes it difficult for them to accept the methods of thought that are successful in science.–J. B. Haldane [NOTE] Montgolfier ascended into the heavens via a balloon filled with hot air, and the Wright brothers designed and piloted the first successful heavier-than-air flying machine.

    • Edward,

      I think that God had a severe hand in all of those things and while I don’t know why there are so many dangerous things in the world. That doesn’t do much for me because of the overriding issue of Sin. I turn back to the idea that humanity rebelled and thus creation became a obstacle. Also, I do believe that God has given us, all of us, talents and wonders, and brains, to create and invent. After all, we do that divine breath in us, and because of our Creator, we can create.

      And, the pastor’s job is to properly teach theology, not science – but not restrict science either.

      Oh, and ha. Ha. Oh. Ha.

      • TO ALL:

        I hope no one is having problems with captcha, but if you do, please feel free to email me or register (to the left). I know its a pain, the captcha thing, but it keeps my server from being overload. I am self-hosted.

    • In Adam, but being disobedient.

      Edward, I of course would expect to see you disagree with that statement.

      • Hi “Polycarp,” Rather frustrating that you do not answer any of my questions. I’m agnostic, and here’s why:

        You “explain” all pain and suffering as a “severe mercy.”

        Mercy?

        Apparently you’re redefining “mercy,” and rather “severely” at that. Because your “answer” makes me wonder what things God would have had to have done to all animals, humans and babies over the past two billion years if He had wanted to be “UNmerciful.”

        Thing about it. There’s suffering galore, diseases both chronic and pandemic, both debilitating and painful, diseases of mind and body. Moreover, everything dies, some things go extinct, including mass extinctions.

        So, I’m just asking questions, and you’re not supplying answers. I’ll make is simple for you, show me God, show me the afterlife. Give me the same benefit that Thomas the apostle allegedly had when he said he wouldn’t believe until he had seen. I don’t see people rotting for days dead and then popping out of graves. I don’t see many raised saints showing themselves to many. I don’t see seas being split in half by some fellow raising his staff to God. I don’t see what the biblical authors claim happened. Instead I see everything dying.

        And the New Testament is now older than the Old Testament was when the New Testament was first written, and still NOTHING from God.

        And then you compound things by refusing to answer even more of my questions. You said “humanity rebelled,” and I asked:

        When did humanity “rebel?”

        Of what did “humanity” consist at the time?

        In what specific way did they “rebel?”

        Polycarp says: ” In Adam, but being disobedient.”

        So you didn’t answer my questions above. PL:EASE DO. Who is “Adam,” and when and where did he live, and how do you know that? And exactly what kind of disobedient act are you taking about? And how is disobedience measured, transferred, multiplied, or whatever you believe “disobedience” does. What exactly does “disobedience” do? How does it “work?”

        • “Edward”, you are combining parts of sentences. Further, the idea that the NT is older than the OT is a bit silly, don’t you think?

          If I showed you everything, then their would be no need for faith, would there? Further, from your comments, I see that you misunderstand the resurrection, or do you just misunderstand a passage in Scripture? Both are likely, it seems. Do you really want to constantly be shown everything over and over again?

          I answered your questions, Edward. In Adam, the father of humanity, we rebelled, by being disobedient, in the Garden. Now, again, I expect you not to believe that, but that is where our presuppositions come into play.

          • Dearest, Polycarp, Have you lost the ability to even UNDERSTAND a sentence? I wrote, the N.T. is now OLDER than the O.T. was when the N.T. was first written, and STILL no word from God.

            As for the necessity of faith, fine, a person needs faith to believe in Christianity, but it takes no faith at all to see everything die, and to see everything I pointed out.

            And neither does your response address the faithlessness of Thomas who allegedly demanded to see the risen Jesus.

            Really, Polycarp.

            As for “Adam in the garden” (with the candlestick no doubt if you play Clue) what kind of blind mantra is that? And then for you to add, “I don’t expect you to believe it,” what kind of “answer” is that? You said you were answering everything.

            When did this “Adam” live? What “garden” are you talking about? One with magical fruit that makes you smart after one bite, or allows you to live forever after one bite? How do you expect ANYONE to believe such things?

            And how exactly is “disobedience” passed on from generation to generation?

            Quit avoiding questions, or admit you yourself are agnostic about a lot of them.

          • Well, Edward, there goes the civility.

            Edward, considering the mentality you had displayed on other blogs, I’m not sure I want to waste the rest of my evening on this with you.

            I’ve given you the answers, and they are suitable for those who have faith – you don’t. You have a presupposition that God is wrong, and everything is a historical oddity at best. Fine. I have a presupposition that God is real. Fine. I also have a presupposition for civility. Try that for a bit.

  10. Nope, once again my claim is that a good parent never gives a child responsibility until such time as that child can handle it. This is an analogy. We are not children. That’s the analogous part. If you don’t understand an argument you cannot effectively respond to it. God, being a good parent, should not give us as human beings more responsibility until such time as we can handle it, you see.

    But, John, I do understand your argument. You want God to withhold from us certain things until we are ready. Why? Would that make him good? And by who’s standards? Further, when has humanity ever really been ready for anything? Instead, humanity has discovered things and come to terms with them. Instead of waiting for humanity to somehow received responsibility, doesn’t this show then the parent who grows responsibility?

    Joel, what has been resolved? And again I want you to think, because everything I am saying calls into question why I should believe an ancient set of canonized documents along with you particular interpretation of them. Christians disagree on their interpretation of these texts, you see, so that means you not only have to defend these documents as authoritative but also your particular interpretation of them, which is one step farther removed from those ancient documents.

    That’s the problem – you don’t believe in those documents whereas I do. Further, I view it the point of the faithful to always return to the sources and find the correct interpretation and application. We would have two starting points. What has been resolved is the path back to God to end suffering.

    So what? How could any Christian help people who drank polluted water before they knew that doing so would kill them? Only God had that sort of knowledge and he let many people die from these sorts of things before we figured them out for ourselves. Only God could have helped and he didn’t. It does no good to help comfort the survivors of a lost loved one after that, you see. So if God placed this responsibility on the backs of Christians he didn’t give them the proper tools to help?

    John, why do you assume that this life is all that there is? What if some of these things were called for, to various reasons? We know that because a few have died, many more shall live and benefit from such things as lead. Further, because of previous deaths, science has grown considerably to the point where protocols exist, etc… If responsibility is the key, then, well, you have it.

    Your answer accords in a similar way with the Christian response that God waits to do things until people pray.

    I don’t believe that, nor can I give you a fully expressed theology of prayer. I believe that God has a plan, sure, and I am not privy to it. Further, I believe that while prayer can effect things, prayer is not always needed, nor is faith. Instead, while God does things, many more times, we are to be the instruments. Many God just wants to teach us to help others. Grief is a horrible thing, and while I have not lost a child, I have seen in this past year some tremendously faith shaking things happen. For me, it does not take away, but adds to.

    Of the people who die from lead poisoning that I mentioned don’t you think most of them went to hell, since only the few get into heaven?

    I don’t know. I am not their judge.

    Secondly, tell me this: Can anyone under any circumstances ever justify causing harm to others because later those victims will be compensated for their pain? If being compensated for one’s suffering justifies that suffering then a torturer who compensated his victims could torture at will. And it does not matter the kind of compensation either, for no matter what it is it cannot morally justify the harm caused.

    If harm is temporal and joy eternal, what then?

    Or you have been brainwashed more than others. That is the other alternative.

    True, but the alternative is much more likely.

    Would you please try to explain, not quote the Bible, why this should be accepted given my argument? I had said: “…if we all would have sinned then God is to be blamed for how he created us or for the test itself. But if instead some of us would not have sinned under the same initial conditions then there are human beings who have been punished for something they never would have done.”

    Sure. God is not to blame for our actions. Free Will, which is the product of a loving parent, gives us our own responsibility. It’s how we use it.

    But let’s back up a step, okay? If the angels along with Satan were in the unmediated presence of God and chose to rebel anyway would you kindly explain to me why they are not suicidal, pure evil, and dumber than a box of rocks? What reason would there be to rebel against omnibenelovent love except that they were pure evil?

    Who said that Satan and the angels which rebelled where evil when they choose to rebel? Sin doesn’t came until separation from God.

    Well, you tell me since Christians disagree. What do YOU think? In any event if universalism is the case there would be no motivation for evangelism and as far as I can tell from this I am saved too. Then why bother blogging at all? Why not enjoy life to the fullest rather than banter back and forth with an atheist like me?

    To be honest, John, I can see all sides, and I believe that there is a tension in the ancient texts, especially the early Christian writers. We do know that the earliest theological controversies were between people who were universalists and others, but didn’t touch the subject. Eusebius and Marcellus fought against each other on the subject of the nature of God, and yet, both were universalists. Plus, there is the likely notion that ‘eternal’ fire is more likely ‘age-long’ meaning that the need for evangelism is present. Finally, because I don’t mind being wrong on a lot of things, I will live like there is a hell and hope for universalism.

    When you stopped believing in Allah what did you replace your faith with? I know you probably never believed in Allah but that’s my point. I simply stopped believing. There was nothing to replace it with. I am a non-believer. That’s what I take as atheism, which simply means a non-theist, a non-believer. YOU are a non-believer in Allah, and Moroni so you to are an atheist. In fact Christians were called atheists in the 1st century because they didn’t believe in the gods and goddesses of Rome. I just reject one more god than you do for the same reasons you reject all other gods.

    Yep.

    • Joel, I really don’t think most Christians have thought deeply enough about the nature and value of free will. Take a look and see what you think. it’s from a part of my book.

      If the link doesn’t work try this:

      http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/09/nature-and-value-of-free-will.html

      Although this is not what I initially argued about. I had argued about lead poisoning, poluted water and poisonous creatures, natural evils basically.

      Discussions like these are endless. In the end you are not actually dealing with my arguments. I’m asking you to think rather than regurgitate Christian dogma. I’m asking you to explain Christian dogma. All you end up doing is telling me what it is. I know what it is. I dispute it you see. Because when we think about it, then it just doesn’t make any sense. For you to respond that it’s not supposed to make sense and that we’re just to believe it makes your God out to be duplicitous. For on the one hand he created us with minds that require us to think these things through while on the other hand we’re not supposed to use them.

      Cheers.

      • John, I feel that I am countering your arguments – but I have a source which you don’t like. Fine. I don’t care for your source either, as you well suspect, but I do value your demeanor in our discussion here. Further, I feel that you are not dealing with mine as well. No problem.

        I will check out that link about.

        • The common ground we share is reason and evidence. That’s what I am attempting to do with you, meet you on common ground.

          We won’t solve these issues between us here but it can be educational.

          Cheers.

  11. Hi JL.
    the problem of suffering is really a problem of victimization, where gods ‘gift’ of free will enables the stronger to victimize the weak, with god allowing it in some of the most horrible ways imaginable, and Christians blame humans for it. Effectively blaming the victim. One persons free will impedes another. Obviously a SUBOPTIMAL design.

    A lot of the ‘sins’ are committed because they are LIKED or are PLEASURABLE for people. This is a reaction that is built into people, conversely like the urge to vomit around vomit. If God had built the urge to vomit into people when they think of having sex with children the there wouldn’t be so many church authorities wanting to molest children.

    Additionally a lot of harm is done in the name of religion because of religious texts ambiguity, which is a common human problem of Information Quality. It leads to low scores in the category of “interpretability”. This interpretability problem manifests itself in causing lots of women and children suffer needlessly, at the hands of Christians looking for witches and forcing genital mutilation on girls and women. You can see recent cases detailed in the news at my blog QuIRP

    There are some impediments to free will that are built into us that make it less likely humans are going to do some act, such as eat vomit or feces. Since god did not build the nausea reaction into us for things that displease him, then we can only infer that he built the pleasure reaction into us for things that displease him on purpose. We can infer from this that he built them into us to make it more likely that we would sin. It is a trap. He has baited a harmful trap for us.

    He could have built an aversion to sin into us but he didn’t, so its not 100% humans fault that we sin, we sin because we are made to be predisposed to be more likely to sin.

    In common sense terms, to have a goal, then to make the design parameters undermine the goal flies in the face of reason. For god to want us not to sin, then to build the mechanisms into us that make it more likely we are going to sin is inchoherent.

    • Harlan, in some part, I tend to agree with you about the harm of freewill and our disposition to sin, yet, we do have a mechanism to avoid such things – I mean, if you believe the gospel. I do not, believe, however, that He built us as a trap. Plainly, if we are without God, then we have nothing good within ourselves. In my opinion, we were given free will because God is not a dictator, and would desire that we love and serve Him freely. In doing so, we have the choice not to serve Him. By being disobedient, we put a wall of separation between us, in which we have nothing good in of our self.

      I do believe that a majority of people have an aversion to many sins – or else, what would we find? This is why atheists, who deny the existence of God completely, are not immoral creatures, debased, and disgusting. Rarely do you see an atheist commit a heinous crime and say, ‘So What? There is no God?’ Even in atheism, there is an aversion to sin.

  12. Mr.Watts is correct to say that God has told humanity ways of avoiding death.

    Exodus 30
    Then the LORD said to Moses, 18 “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 19 Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. 20 Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting an offering made to the LORD by fire, 21 they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die.

    I guess God treated Aaron like a baby,telling Aaron he had to use a bronze basin to wash and that Aaron had to wash his hands and feet, or he would be killed.

    If God can do that, why can’t God have told people how to cure smallpox?

    • Steve, why the ‘Mr. Watts’ part? Please, call me Joel of Polycarp or Right Reverend Potentate. Your choice, :)

      You aren’t exactly reacting to the issue – as the Exodus story is specific to religious ritual.

      And how do you know God didn’t lead His servant Edward Jenner to the vaccine?

      • Let me add a thanks to all of those who are participating – for respecting the vulgarity clause and generally being respectful in our disagreement.

        • I actually appreciate this point of Steven’s, Joel, and here’s why. My impression (which could be right, wrong, or a mixture of the two) is that many Christian apologists treat certain axioms as absolute. “God doesn’t violate free will.” “God doesn’t treat us like babies.” But there are times when God steps in and influences people to make certain choices. He stirred Cyrus to have Jerusalem rebuilt. A Proverb says that the heart of the king is in the hand of the LORD. God can influence people to make certain decisions rather than allowing free will to take its course.

          And there are times when God warns people that certain things are deadly. Steven’s example is one of many.

          I guess what I’d say is that God isn’t always bound by absolutes. He may think that free will is generally a good thing—and allow moral evil to show that it’s evil—but that doesn’t mean he CAN’T and WON’T intervene. That’s also the case with healing.

          • I can except that, James, in saying that ultimately, salvation and in many ways, our situations which we choose is based on our own freewill, while, as I said earlier, some people are placed in places for certain things. John 9.1-3.

  13. I think this is a futile discussion. I do not see the question as to whether or not the Christian writings can be considered authoritative or accurate. Neither do I see the questions being whether the Christian/Jewish/Hindu God(s) are the one(s).

    The basic question is: does God exist.

    It seems to me that everything else – all the suppositions and objections are based upon one’s response to that question. Reading about the experience of other people will not convince one there is a god or not. One either believes it or does not.

    All the objections could be addressed (and have by others) and one would still not believe.

    We all have our reasons to believe or not believe – pride, fear, pain, experience, lack of experience, etc.. But regardless of the reason, Until such a time as God makes himself evident to you, you will refuse to believe.

  14. I’ve been reading the debates with a lot of interest.

    C.S. Lewis explores all of these ideas concisely and strongly in his book, “The Problem of Pain.” — Cheap at $9 at this Amazon site below and FREE at a library — ha ha!

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060652969/thechuofjesch-20/

    Anyway, it goes through the whole question of why God allows suffering. As Lewis was a former atheist, I think many of you would find his logic sound.

    Like Joel, I engage a lot of atheists on Twitter and enjoy this debate immensely.

    Cheers.

    • C. S. Lewis doesn’t explore all of these ideas. What substantial debates did Lewis get into aside from the famous one with Anscombe a fellow Christian?

      Granted Lewis thought Genesis made more sense as a myth than history, while POLYCARP tells people they ought to believe in “Adam.”

      Speaking of Lewis’ Problem of Pain book, in it he said he could imagine an eternal hell for human beings that was also an eternal heaven for mosquitoes. The kind of mind that tosses out such thoughts and thinks himself witty in doing so, is part of why I began questioning Lewis more, rather than swallowing everything he wrote whole. I would also suggest you read

      C. S. LEWIS AND THE SEARCH FOR RATIONAL RELIGION

      It’s the single most thorough critique of Lewis’ arguments between two covers.

      On Lewis’ prejudices, please note that his first work after converting was The Pilgrim’s Regress. Have you read it? He portrays everyone but the novel’s Christian hero as nothing but straw men.

      And in his later works Lewis wrote this above “atheists”:

      “In C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity we read that atheists are ostriches: they keep their heads in the sand in order to avoid facing facts that damage their position. …It is noteworthy that in Mere Christianity there is not one word about the “mixed” quality of the evidence for theism. Instead, those who have doubts about Christianity are ridiculed as pitifully unstable creatures who “dither to and fro” and whose beliefs are dependent “on the weather and the state of [their] digestion” (MC, 124). We are told that atheism is “too simple,” that like materialism it is “a boys’ philosophy,” “a philosophy of the nursery” (R, 55). What is the implication of this if not that atheism and materialism are childish errors that are easy to refute and unworthy of the rational man?”

      “…Turning to Surprised by Joy, we find that a young atheist “cannot guard his faith too carefully,” that danger “lies in wait” on every side, and that a successful adherence to atheism depends on being very selective in one’s reading (SbJ, 226, 191). We are again assured that atheism is a form of wish-fulfillment and informed that in its “modern” forms it has “come down in the world” and now “dabbles in dirt” (SbJ, 226, 139). Finally, we discover that atheists are not committed inquirers, that they merely “play at” religion, and that their minds reel “in a whirl of contradictions” (SbJ, 115).”

  15. There is lots of good discussion going on here and many good points raised by both sides, but @wbmoore has hit at the real question being asked as well as the real reason it won’t be answered here.

    Ultimately, the question about the existence of any God is a matter of presuppositions. Is there a God? The theist answers ‘yes’ by presupposition. The atheist similarly answers ‘no.’

    The Bible doesn’t argue for the existence of God, it assumes it. The classic arguments for AND against theism (made through history by folks a whole lot smarter than I) ultimately fail (IMO) because there is really no way to prove the existence or non-existence of God to any given burden of proof. Reason, logic, rhetoric, physical evidence, etc. all ultimately require a measure of faith (great or small) in the existence OR non-existence of God, which is an unreasonable expectation if the conclusion is logically contradictory to the opposition’s presuppositions…unless by grace one’s presuppositions change (a possibility I am presupposing is possible [grin]).

      • John,

        Thanks for the link of your summary and response to Mr. Guthrie. Since you aren’t a big fan of folks writing only against your summary, I shall abstain from doing so, add your book to my reading list, and hope to read it in the coming months. Unfortunately, that only reinforces my earlier assertion that nothing on the question at hand will be resolved on this thread…not surprising to me though.

        One of my seminary profs encouraged us to read at least two books that would challenge us to every one book we know we’d agree with…sound advice for us all, as it keeps the ruts from getting too deep and forces us to continually think critically about our own beliefs! Looking forward to reading your thoughts in depth.

        T.C.

  16. Of course all these religious debates are pointless. Of course they are based on a presupposition that god exists. Its a misinterpretation of “other minds”. People see other minds, and intentions in things that don’t have them.
    But what perpetuates this is the inability to apply common principles across domains. Dysrationalia.
    Johns outsider test of faith demonstrates this. Polycarps comments demonstrate it as well.
    If god can create people any way he wants them, he can create them as they should be already. As it stands, God is highly INEFFICIENT in wasting all this human life. Only a small percentage can avoid eternal damnation, and its not because they choose to disobey, or refuse to believe. Its because they are not convinced to switch religions.
    Face it, God is not convincing, and to say that people can choose to believe flies in the face of evidence.
    Try this. Refuse to believe tomato sauce stains your shirt. Unless you’re insane, you can’t. Because belief is an unconscious emotional signal about a data set you have stored in your brain.
    And why is free will better than no free will? Its not clear that free will exists in any meaningful sense anyway. Sure to be a prisoner would be terrible, but that’s not what we’re talking about, we’re talking about freedom to choose. And how can you choose freely to love anything if you know that if you don’t your going to suffer eternal damnation?
    Incoherent.
    If atheists have an aversion to sin, and so does every one, then god is not required.
    polycarp contradicts himself when he says to me by disobeying god we have nothing good in us and in the next breath, atheists and other types of theists behave well naturally.
    Thats incoherent.
    The solution is that we behave well because its out best interest to do so as can be demonstrated by iterative interactions of groups of self interested individuals using Game Theory.
    There is an underlying logic to morality that is being misidentified as god. If its god, which god? Answer that without scripture. You can’t, because any definition of god comes out of somebody’s scripture, and everyone uses different scripture.
    Its incoherent and telling that theists can’t see it.

  17. Dearest Polycarp, you wrote to Harlan, “If we are without God, then we have nothing good within ourselves.”

    Can you demonstrate anything in that sentence is true, can you point people out on the street and prove convincingly, “they are without God” or “with God” for that matter? Can you point to a person and prove convincingly that they are “without good” or “with good?”

    Or are you just defining things according to your particular system of beliefs and if people don’t measure up believing the same unproven things that you believe, then you’re ready willing and able to declare that they are “without God” and “nothing good is within them?”

  18. As for “free will,” does God have it? Or can God only do what is “good?” If God can’t do otherwise then even God lacks freewill. And he’s the highest power. So, does the highest power lack freewill?

    And if God is perfect, and created everything out of God’s perfect will, perfect knowledge, perfect power, perfect love and goodness, then how did even the slightest imperfections arise? Where did “evil” even come from? Or did God create things with the ability to choose something even “HE” can’t choose?

    If you don’t know the answers to such questions and keeping hitting the “faith” button, you’re going to wear it out.

    • Wear out the faith button – only for you. For me, I relish faith, grace, hope, not knowing everything – but nothing beyond doubt that indeed there is a God. Shame that you got wore out, Ed.

      • That’s all you got out of what I’ve written? You attempt to totally derail all conversation with idiotic replies. You know what I meant by “faith, ” I meant belief in specific descriptions of what lay behind that metaphysical curtain. descriptions you can’t prove. That’s why I’m agnostic. Neither do my questions have anything to do with how I express love or kindness toward others, as if “not believing” in certain human emotions could make them go away. We ALL feel those, we don’t need “faith” to make them work.

        Now go back, read what I wrote and give me some answers, answer man. If you don’t have them, then you haven’t answered anything.

  19. MORE QUESTIONS… THE GENESIS STORY IS A JOKESIS

    The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it, protect it from hurt, shield it from disease, clothe it, feed it, bear with its waywardness, lay no hand upon it save in kindness and for its own good, and never in any case inflict upon it a wanton cruelty. But God did not forgive the ignorant and thoughtless first pair of juveniles even their first small offense and say, “You may go free this time, I will give you another chance.” On the contrary! He elected to punish their children, all through the ages to the end of time, for a trifling offense committed by others before they were born. He is punishing them yet. In mild ways? No, in atrocious ones.

    Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth
    ____________________________

    God threw his first two children out of the house (in this case a garden) after their first mistake, and barred their way back with a flaming sword? How many fathers would treat their children that way after their first mistake? And what a way to treat “newborns” who were also “newlyweds.” Maybe Adam and Eve simply forgot to floss after eating God’s precious fruit, and no father will stand for that, not if He’s a dentist.

    E.T.B.
    ____________________________

    He went to all this effort to make a perfect creation then loaded it with a big self-destruct switch… Adam’s action had no effects in and of itself, save that it angered God. God took the situation further and cursed creation and thereby created the circumstances for all future misery and hardships. Had God responded just a little differently (to say nothing of more maturely and judiciously), He could have spared billions of people, not to mention Himself, a whole lot of trouble and heartache. The sin of Adam was nothing compared to the sin of God in cursing creation. If you want to blame anyone, blame God for overreacting and for rigging his own creation to fail.

    Bruce Wildish

      • Thanks for demonstrating your lack of answers, and for refusing to taken even the first step in answering any of my questions, except to insist, “ya gotta have faith,” and to type out the name “Adam.”

        My own questions are based on what I see and understand. Billions of years of suffering, pain, extinction, mass extinctions, death, diseases afflicting infants, adults, indiscriminately, and everything dying. Your ideas of a “father’s severe mercy” are not merciful by any rational definition of visible acts of mercy.

        “The silly fanatic repeats to me that it is not for us to judge what is
        reasonable and just in the divine Being. That His reason is not like our
        reason, that His justice is not like our justice. Eh? How, you mad
        demoniac, shall we judge justice and reason otherwise than by the notions
        we have of them? Do you want us to walk otherwise than with our feet, and
        speak otherwise than with our mouths?” (Voltaire)

  20. These are temper tantrums.

    I read all of these replies to Joel, and each and every one of you sounds like an angry 2-year-old who thinks the loving parent is a monster.

    The questions, the barbs, the postulating, the pride … UGHHHH. Are you listening to yourselves? Don’t you realize this life is about a God who just loves you crazily?

    I will never cease to be amazed at the insistent resistance among people who are so lost in the forest that they just keep running smack into the trees.

    WAKE. UP.

    HE. LOVES. YOU. Stop fighting Him and get a grip on yourselves.

    Sheesh.

    • goodness gracious! of course from another perspective, we could reverse that little ‘scolding’. ;-) but I’d hope we wouldn’t because it would be a little silly. about as silly as this and the previous comment. :-)

  21. And then, at the same time that they’re busy bumping their noses into the trees, they’re claiming that 1) there is no forest and 2) that anyone who says there’s a forest needs to give them proof.

    You want to believe you are perfectly happy with your non-belief, and yet none of you – NONE OF YOU – can let go of the questions and the demands to have them answered.

    Why do you think that is???

    And the next person who responds will just prove that you can’t drop it. If there is no God, if there is no proof, WHO CARES???

    Who cares if one side of humanity decides that there is a God who loves them and you? Why is that so offensive? Why does that create so much angst and anger?

    I’ll tell you why.

    Deep down, you don’t want to think about the possibility that He does exist.

    And why is that?

    Because it’s too scary for you. Only infants are afraid of what seems to be too big for their sensibilities.

    The next person who responds, I can guarantee this , will only prove my point. And I’m just going to sit back and have a big laugh about it.

    • Hi Heidi,

      I’m an atheist and I think you are spot on! Have I proved your point now?

  22. Hi Bill,

    In the morning light I see my disrespectful response, and I apologize.

    But thank you for your note. I recently did my own series entitled, “Why I Like Atheists.” The first entry is at http://christiansafehouse.blogspot.com/2009/11/why-i-like-atheists.html.

    Joel suggested I post the link here. It was a seven-part series and resulted in a good and productive discussion with atheists I encounter on Twitter. Hope you’ll stop by.

    Have a good day, and thanks,
    Heidi

    • Hi Heidi,
      I’d like to live forever. I hate the thought of growing old, suffering, losing one’s memories, and dying. I was an Evangelical born again Christian, I have spoken in tongues, was elected president of my campus Christian group, the most evangelical on campus, a secular campus. I was a young-earth creationist as well. After some failed attempts at getting some fellow Christian friends to rejoin t he fold, I too grew more moderate, liberal in my views, and then finally, agnostic. I don’t feel love all around me anymore as you still do. I used to be able to pray and experience joy, but my prayers no longer elicit such joy. I have also read far wider and deeper into the origins of the Bible and studied verses that raised to many questions for me to answer. So I have more questions than answers. If there is a hidden God, a Deus Abscondis, out there, that would be swell, but who can tell? He’s hiding pretty well if that’s the case.

      As for Polycarp, why does he claim to have answers if he can’t or won’t discuss them, and simply invokes “Adam” and “faith?” Those are not “answers?” Has he redefined the word “answers” to suit himself? Seems that way.

      • Edward, I can only give you the answers that I have found – answers which did not satisfy you.

  23. Hi Edward,
    Thank you for your heart-felt note. I am so touched by it on so many levels.

    Your story reminds me of the parable of the seed, the sower and the soil. I’m sure given your background you are familiar with it, and if not, let me know if I need to explain it. I’ll just assume for now you know what I’m talking about. … The only reason I bring it up is that just because the soil of your heart may have had thorns or weeds at one time in life, does not mean that will always be the case. God is always at hand and of course always longing to change that soil into one that will allow His word to take root and flourish again.

    I know you listed a lot of things that you did in the past, which at our church we refer to as a “spiritual resume.” But did you ever actually enter into a relationship with Jesus, where you asked forgiveness of your sins and claimed his power in your life? There is a difference between going through the motions of religion and in experiencing a relationship with Him.

    I do have one question, which is … deep down, do you want Him in your life, if indeed He exists? Let’s suppose He does. If that were the case, would you want Him? And if so, Edward, let me offer you this word of hope … the Scripture clearly says, “Everyone who runs to Him makes it.” (I need to dig out that exact reference, but I will if you need it).

    If indeed you are longing for that to be true in your life, I am happy to do anything possible to help you run to Him again. But do you want it? That would be the central question … and if you do, I can promise you He is faithful to bring you to Him.

    Let me know if you want to chat more on this, either on this forum or via email.

    Best wishes,
    Heidi

  24. Hi Edward,

    Just last week I was listening to some talks by William Lane Craig that touch on the apparent “hiddeness of God” and I think it has significant relevance to your questions and comments. You can download or listen to this talk free of charge by going to williamlanecraig.com then clicking on podcast. Then go to Defenders Podcast – Series 1 and then look for the talk entitled: Objections to Belief in God #3 (date: 2007/11/26). If you do get a chance to listen, let me/us know how you feel about it. Hope this helps!

    J John Musick

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