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No-one Knows the Mind of God . . . Except the Committed Atheist

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Fair warning to the regular readership.

Typically I like to cover intelligent design and evolution-related issues, but I trust I may be permitted a bit of a detour.  There have been a couple of interesting posts recently by Sal, vjtorley and Barry about issues of a more philosophical bent.  vjtorley’s OP, in particular, quoted parts of an essay from Professor Jerry Coyne.  I would like today to share some thoughts on point.

With apologies to those not of the Judeo-Christian tradition, my comments will focus in part on the Bible, given that the Bible and the God of the Bible have been the brunt of many new atheist attacks recently, including Coyne’s.  Similar points, no doubt, could be made with respect to other religious traditions.

In Coyne’s Atheism of the Gaps essay, he says:

There are huge gaps in believers’ understanding of God, and in those lacunae, I claim, lies strong evidence for No God. Here are some of those religious gaps:

  • Why would the Abrahamic God, all-loving and all-powerful, allow natural evils to torment and kill people? Why can’t he keep kids from getting cancer? How did the Holocaust fit into God’s scheme?

  • Why, if God wants us to know and accept him so much, does he hide himself from humanity?

  • Why would an omnibenevolent God consign sinners to an eternity of horrible torment for crimes that don’t warrant that? (In fact, no crimes do!). The official Catholic doctrine, for instance, is that unconfessed homosexual acts doom you to an eternity of immolation in molten sulfur. And would the Christian God really let someone burn forever because they were Jews, or didn’t get baptized?

  • Why is God in the Old Testament such a jerk, toying with people for his amusement, ordering genocides in which women and children are killeden masse, and allowing she-bears to kill a pack of kids just for making fun of a prophet’s baldness? How does that comport with the God worshipped today?

  • Why didn’t Jesus return during his followers’ lifetime, as he promised?

JWTruthInLove @23 in that thread provides a number of responses, which are worth reviewing.  He is being perhaps a bit sarcastic, but several of his statements are perfectly reasonable responses to Coyne’s list.

Coyne’s thinks he finds “strong evidence for no God.”  Yet his argument, when we cut through the clutter, is essentially as follows:

1. God, if He existed, would be like X.

2. Evidence shows God is not like X.

3. Therefore, God does not exist.

We can argue specific evidence under #2, and in many cases this is a useful approach because the alleged evidence is not quite what it claims to be.  Yet the first foundational question for Coyne’s Atheism of the Gaps worldview should be: On what basis do you think God is like X?

What Do I Think God Should Be Like?

This exchange highlights the fact that the anti-religious zealot so often approaches the matter with a very concrete God in mind, a concept of how they think God should be (if only there were such a being).  Then when the facts don’t seem to align with that superficial and hypothetical image they have created in their own minds, they proclaim that God must not exist.

In this particular case, for example, Coyne’s complaints mirror the usual grievances that have been leveled against Deity since the beginning:

Why is life hard?

Why is there suffering?

Why doesn’t God just save everybody instead of condemning some to punishment?

Why doesn’t God give me a sign instead of making me exercise faith?

Why does God make me pass through trials and tribulations in life, like having to do my own taxes, rather than doing them for me?

And on and on . . .

Coyne’s list is not novel, nor even particularly intellectually challenging.  It is essentially another in the long tradition of “arguments from evil” against the existence of God.  The argument from evil has been dealt with in detail by numerous capable authors in many writings, so I need not recap, but will just highlight one particular point.

It is a mystery – Coyne doesn’t specify (unless he is willing to confess to a personal revelation he received from God) – why Coyne would think that, say, the God of the Bible is primarily concerned that everyone be happy all the time, that life be a carefree paradise, that there be no suffering, that we should be beat over the head with signs instead of exercising faith, that our modern sensibilities should match up with ancient cultures, that life should even be fair, that God should be primarily interested in our temporary earthly comfort rather than in teaching us lessons and our more long-term salvation.

This isn’t to say I don’t identify with any of his complaints.

It is quite true – and to this extent I empathize with the atheist inquiry – that the Bible (the Old Testament, really) contains all manner of material that we would deem shocking, repulsive, abhorrent, outrageous, unfair, and even cruel if it were to occur today.  I’ve been re-reading the Old Testament myself the past few months and on more than one occasion have had the fleeting thought: “I’m not sure if I want my kids reading this stuff!”  Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether we are reading a passage from the Old Testament or the Police Blotter from yesterday’s newspaper.

Now, it is also true that much in the Old Testament can be better understood if we take time to learn about the cultures and the times, a task so many Biblical critics seem loathe to undertake.  Nevertheless, based on some of the incidents as reported in the Old Testament, I can understand – indeed, even empathize with – the sentiment that “Hey, if that is what God is like, then I don’t want anything to do with it.”

But it simply doesn’t follow from that revulsion, from that rejection of that kind of God, from our desire for a gentler Being that meets with our personal expectations – it simply doesn’t follow from all of this that God doesn’t exist.  So the conclusion that is reached doesn’t follow logically from the evidence – even if the evidence is taken at its absolute worst.

More importantly, for the believer, such an approach also fails to take into account all of the evidence on the other side of the coin: the many accounts in the Bible of tenderness and love and protection and guidance and divine assistance; the culture and practices of the times; evidence for the existence of a creator in the history of the cosmos and life; the “more excellent way” that was subsequently shown through Christ; the tradition of service to our fellow-beings that is taught repeatedly and forcefully in holy writ; the personal divine spiritual experiences that many people have experienced in their own lives even today.

Thus, the atheist rejection of God, based on the cruelties in the Old Testament, or the many challenges and difficulties of life generally, is, in addition to its logical flaws, a move based on a very limited survey of the evidence, a move based on a failure to consider the broader picture, a move based on a myopic blindness to many of the facts, rather than (as the atheist smugly pats himself on the back and loudly proclaims) an objective analysis of all the evidence.

Against this backdrop, one might be forgiven for considering the possibility that the vocal atheist is motivated more by a desire to grind his philosophical axe than by a desire to objectively review all the evidence at hand.

The Great Irony

All of this leads to one of the great ironies in the debate about the existence of God:

No-one seems so cock-sure of exactly what God is like, exactly what God’s characteristics are, exactly how to understand God, than the anti-religious zealot.  He is convinced he knows just how God is and how God should act in particular situations . . . if, of course, such a being existed.

In ironic contrast, those who believe God actually exists take seriously the scriptural caution that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).  Such individuals recognize that we do not understand everything, but that there is, in the striving, a process of becoming and growing and learning.  That the very essence of life eternal (a goal not yet obtained by the believing mortal, but nevertheless obtainable at some future point) is to come to truly know God (John 17:3).

As a result, the believer is ever striving to learn what God is like and to submit his will to the Divine will in particular circumstances.  In contrast, the anti-religious zealot is convinced he knows exactly what God is like and what God would do – and should do – in those particular circumstances.  The anti-religious zealot, in decrying God’s actions and loudly proclaiming what God should or should not do, attempts to assume the role of the omniscient and demands: “Not Thy will, but mine be done.”

And so, the great irony persists:

The committed atheist is convinced he knows the mind of God.  The believer acknowledges he doesn’t, at least not fully, not yet today.  The committed atheist thinks he has already arrived at the pinnacle of knowledge about God.  The believer realizes he has not, but trusts that in submitting his will to the Divine he can, one day, come to truly know God.

89 Replies to “No-one Knows the Mind of God . . . Except the Committed Atheist

  1. 1
    OldArmy94 says:

    Great reply! Thank you.

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    Eric, thank you for this OP.

  3. 3
    Optimus says:

    Interesting OP, Eric. Your point about the unreasonable certainty of some atheists regarding the nature of God is well taken. I heard a similar point made today on an ID podcast. Stephen Webb made a keen observation about the peculiar similarity exhibited by theistic evolutionists and atheistic ID-critics – a tendency to resort to theological arguments that hinge on a dogmatic certainty about how God would and wouldn’t, should and shouldn’t act. If you watched the Meyer-Giberson debate, the phenomenon was on full display in many of Giberson’s comments about the ‘nastiness’ of nature (I think he used the famous “red in tooth and claw” line).

    P.S. Just in case there is ever any confusion, JWTruthInLove does not speak in any official capacity for the organization ostensibly referenced in his moniker. His comments are his own.

  4. 4
    Optimus says:

    From the OP:

    It is quite true – and to this extent I empathize with the atheist inquiry – that the Bible (the Old Testament, really) contains all manner of material that we would deem shocking, repulsive, abhorrent, outrageous, unfair, and even cruel if it were to occur today. I’ve been re-reading the Old Testament myself the past few months and on more than one occasion have had the fleeting thought: “I’m not sure if I want my kids reading this stuff!” Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether we are reading a passage from the Old Testament or the Police Blotter from yesterday’s newspaper.

    Coincidentally, I was finishing up the book of Judges today – in particular the account about the Benjaminite city of Gibeah and the rape (and murder) of a concubine. It is most certainly a distressing account – shocking, saddening, and tragic. But I’ve found it helpful to bear in mind that while Scripture often records tragic events, these often are not a reflection of God’s view of a given situation. Somewhat analogously, that a newspaper may report on a tragedy clearly doesn’t necessitate endorsement.

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    The Bible does not sugarcoat the reality of the human nature or this world. On the contrary, it depicts people and their actions exactly as they were and still are. There’s no other document of any kind, where we can see a better description of our human nature.
    Also, the Bible is the only document that accurately reveals the true character of God to us.
    This is the book that has been more criticized and attacked in human history.
    This is the only book that has directly or indirectly led more people to the saving faith in Christ.
    This is the only source of true wisdom available to us.
    These are some of the many evidences that confirm that the Bible is the most amazing compilation of books ever written.

  6. 6

    We really don’t know the source of most of the Bible. Reference Bibles typically say that the authorships of given books are traditionally ascribed to certain people. Many scholars see the books as originating through some kind of cumulative authorship involving oral tradition and different scribes over time.

    2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed,” but does not explicitly lay out the boundaries of “all scripture.” I’m not aware of any specific Biblical revelation as to appropriate processes for identifying what is to be included in that category. The New Testament authors used the Septuagint translation, but that doesn’t conclusively establish that all of it is to be considered canonical. Protestants generally don’t recognize parts of the Septuagint not included in the Hebrew canon.

    The contents of the New Testament were finalized by the Western church around the fifth century, although the Book of Revelation had substantially less than unanimous support for inclusion. However not all branches of Christianity agree on all the books.

    There is a claim that all scripture is “inerrant” in the original manuscripts, but it isn’t possible to know the content of the original manuscripts.

    Taking all the above, I pick and choose. Things that appear to be consistent with an all-good God I accept as being part of divine revelation. Regarding parts that don’t seem to be consistent with that attribute, I consider them to either not be divinely sourced, or that possibly there is something about them that I really don’t understand. I don’t look to them for guidance.

    For example, consider Numbers 31 in which all the captured young boys were to be killed. The sheep, goats, oxen, and donkeys were to be divided up as spoils of war. The young girls were also divided up in a very similar fashion. To me that’s inconsistent with human beings being created in the image of God.

  7. 7
    sagebrush gardener says:

    That many atheists have a childish perception of what God should be like is not entirely their own fault. Sunday schools are full of posters showing a smiling Caucasian Jesus surrounded by puppies, butterflies, and a racially and gender-diverse mix of happy young children. A simplistic, sanitized, sugar-coated “gospel” is fed to children and difficult questions are ignored or dismissed with trite, unsatisfying answers.

    When the children grow up they struggle with the fact that reality is much more difficult and complicated than that. Some suppress their doubts under a veneer of piety. Others go on to grapple seriously with their questions and find that Christians through the ages have endured the same struggles and labored to come to terms with the enigmas and paradoxes of their faith. And others turn their backs on what they see only as childish stories that they have outgrown. They go on to become atheists, despising the insipid religiosity they grew up with and believing that all Christians subscribe to an irrational blind faith in pious nonsense.

  8. 8
    humbled says:

    Atheism is a form of mental illness. They “…live short, selfish, stunted little lives – often childless – before they approach hopeless death in despair, and their worthless corpses are chucked in a trench…”.

    “…the evidence today implies that atheism is a form of mental illness. And this is because science is showing that the human mind is hard-wired for faith: we have, as a species, evolved to believe, which is one crucial reason why believers are happier – religious people have all their faculties intact, they are fully functioning humans.”

    “Therefore, being an atheist – lacking the vital faculty of faith – should be seen as an affliction, and a tragic deficiency: something akin to blindness. Which makes Richard Dawkins the intellectual equivalent of an amputee, furiously waving his stumps in the air, boasting that he has no hands.”

    – Sean Thomas
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/n.....tally-ill/

    Atheism doesn’t need to be understood, it needs to be treated.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    In the following sermon I watched last night:

    How Jesus Enters Your Life with Pastor Steve Adams
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=lW7zzr_vGL8#t=1003

    Pastor Steve Adams at the 17:10 minute mark of the sermon stated,,,

    Our difficulties in life, the obstacles, they produce the character traits that are necessary for us to live a fruitful, productive, Christian life. But a lot of times, I don’t want to go through what is necessary to gain those character traits. I rather God just insert them in me. It’s like going through a spiritual drive-thru. Wouldn’t that be cool? If you could drive through a drive-thru and they would say, “Welcome to spiritual growth, how can I help you please?”. “Yeah, I would like patience and grace but I need you to hold the tribulation. Thank you.” No it doesn’t work that way.,,,

    As well, in the following sermon I watched yesterday morning, Frank Turek had a good point on free will and evil at the 40:37 minute mark of the video:

    Was Jesus Intolerant? with Dr. Frank Turek – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=kESK1KSMPgQ#t=2437

    Or consider the following attitude from Paul, who was imprisoned and often beaten for his faith:

    Verse:

    2 Corinthians 4:17
    For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

    Indeed there is cost for everything in this life that is worth having. Why should we think that the treasures of eternity should come without any costs? God himself knew, before he created us, or even before He created the universe, that creating free-will creatures in His image, creatures to which he could have a true loving relationship with, would cost Him dearly,,

    Revelation 13:8
    “,,the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

    Yet God, much like a young man about to be married, thought that loving relationship he would receive, well worth any cost he could pay.

    Music:

    Mandisa – Esther – Born For This – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxFCber4TDo

    Supplemental Notes:

    Forensic evidence of the Shroud of Turin – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5QEsaNiMVc

    Detailed Forensic Evidence of The Shroud – video
    Excerpt: “it is definitely an anatomically and forensically correct depiction of a victim of a Roman crucifixion.”
    http://www.shroud-enigma.com/w.....ology.html

    Turin Shroud Hologram Reveals The Words ‘The Lamb’ – short video
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=J21MECNU

    Solid Oval Object Under The Beard
    http://shroud3d.com/findings/s.....-the-beard

  10. 10
    TSErik says:

    This is an important statement that I’ve been espousing for as long as I’ve been a dedicated Christian. Very well articulated Eric.

    I do somewhat agree (when speaking of the Christian faith)with Sagebrush @7, in that some congregations have lost the spirit of what worship should be and have turned God into some kind of wish-granter.

    However, the atheist often chooses to remain ignorant and attack this caricature of the wish-granting Abrahamic God rather than attempt to understand anything.

  11. 11
    awstar says:

    Why doesn’t God just save everybody instead of condemning some to punishment?

    The God of the Bible did make a way to save everybody.

    1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

    Pardon for sin is available to whosoever believes Jesus Christ was sent to die for the forgiveness of sin, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (see 1 Corinthains 15)

    He did save everybody, but only those who want the pardon get the pardon. Those who don’t believe remain condemned and will endure punishment — not because of their sin — but because they rejected the free pardon He bought for them.

  12. 12
    Barb says:

    Eric writes,

    It is quite true – and to this extent I empathize with the atheist inquiry – that the Bible (the Old Testament, really) contains all manner of material that we would deem shocking, repulsive, abhorrent, outrageous, unfair, and even cruel if it were to occur today.

    The logical error committed by atheists in reading the OT is confusing what the Bible records with what the Bible condones. My local newspaper reports murders, rapes, and robberies; does that mean that the editor(s) approve of such things? No, of course not. The same is true of the Bible: it records what happened and when, but it does not condone such actions.

    RalphDavidWestfall adds,

    For example, consider Numbers 31 in which all the captured young boys were to be killed. The sheep, goats, oxen, and donkeys were to be divided up as spoils of war. The young girls were also divided up in a very similar fashion. To me that’s inconsistent with human beings being created in the image of God.

    Numbers 31 refers to the Israelites waging war against Midian. The reason behind this is that the Midianites manifested hostility toward the Israelites. They cooperated with the Moabites in hiring the prophet Balaam to curse Israel. (Nu 22:4-7) When this failed, the Midianites and Moabites, at Balaam’s advice, cunningly used their women to induce thousands of Israelite males to become involved in sexual immorality and idolatry in connection with Baal of Peor. (Nu 25:1-9, 14-18; 31:15, 16; 1Co 10:8; Re 2:14)

    Thereafter the Israelites, in obedience to divine command, took vengeance upon Midian. The Midianite cities and walled camps in the area were consigned to the fire. Thousands of domestic animals and many gold articles were taken as spoils. With the exception of the virgins, all, including the five kings of Midian—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba—were put to death.—Nu 31.

    In the battle with Midian, the Israelites preserved alive only virgins from among the women and girls. (Nu 31:3, 18, 35) The Law allowed for the taking of a wife from among such parentless female war captives. (De 21:10-14) Within the Promised Land itself God’s warning concerning marriage alliances with pagans was often ignored, with resulting problems and apostasy.—Jg 3:5, 6.

  13. 13
    Tony Lloyd says:

    Yet his argument, when we cut through the clutter, is essentially as follows:
    1. God, if He existed, would be like X.
    2. Evidence shows God is not like X.
    3. Therefore, God does not exist.

    Why expressed like this? We could express the argument as:

    1. God, if He existed, would not be like X.
    2. Evidence shows God is like X.
    3. Therefore, God does not exist

    The arguments look much the same and are both valid.

    But to say that “x is” makes a very different type of claim than and “x is not”. To say, for example, that someone is 5 foot 10 inches is also to say that they are not, 5 foot 4, of infinite height or of no height. To say though that someone is not 5 foot ten inches says nothing about whether or not they are 5 foot 4, of infinite height or of no height. The one (“x is”) makes an infinite number of claims, the other (“x is not”) makes just the one.
    The “God, if He existed, would not be like X” formulation makes no claim, at all, about what God is other than “not X”: there is no claim to know the mind of God.

    “When we cut through the clutter of” your argument is it not along the lines of:

    Cop 1: The suspect was in a hollow and would have had to be ten foot tall to reach the murder weapon. He is not ten foot tall so he did not commit the crime.
    Cop 2: So how tall is he?
    Cop 1: I don’t know.
    Cop 2: Victory!

  14. 14

    I understand the zealotry, anger and bitterness of many of these self-described “atheists”. I’ve been there. I think, however, they are foolishly throwing away – as I did – the necessary baby (theism) with what they see as the dirty bathwater (some aspects of Christianity).

    I think they are right to dismiss what are two irreconcilable perspectives presented by mainstream Christianity: (1) all-loving god, and (2) eternal suffering in hell. I think they are wrong in using that as a justification for abandoning theism altogether.

    There are other conceptualizations of god – even a Christian god – than the one that these atheists have chosen to clutch to their breast to facilitate their hatred.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    Evolve says:

    Eric Anderson,

    This is exactly why God is useless for explaining nature. God is such an unknown commodity that theists like you can attribute literally anything to him! There’s nothing that would disprove God – be it evil, suffering or whatever.

    No matter how convincing the evidence for a natural account, you can still say that’s how God did it. For example, life shows strong evidence of having evolved from a common ancestor. But theists try to get around that by claiming that’s how God wanted to do it and who are we to question it?

    But this strategy makes God a redundant explanation. If you can already explain something by natural means, then why invoke a God for which no evidence exists?

    If nature is God’s handiwork, how will you ever distinguish between a natural process and a supernatural process perpetrated by God? Unless you can define God and propose how we could test his existence and his modus operandi, it is a useless argument.

    God is a non-explanation.

  17. 17

    Eric Anderson,

    God may be an unknown and unknowable commodity; intelligence, however, is not. We know there is a difference between what an intelligence can deliberately bring into existence, and what known natural forces and materials – for all intents and purposes – cannot. Finding the earmarks of intelligent design is not an “unknown” or “unknowable” endeavor.

    Whether or not one would call that intelligence “god” depends on other, personal, metaphysical commitments.

  18. 18
    tjguy says:

    Eric says:

    Nevertheless, based on some of the incidents as reported in the Old Testament, I can understand – indeed, even empathize with – the sentiment that “Hey, if that is what God is like, then I don’t want anything to do with it.”

    William seems to reject the God of the Bible for the same reason.

    We can all sympathize with this line of reasoning for sure. I think this argument has a lot of power to sway people towards atheism or at least to turn their hearts away from God to other gods or philosophies.

    At the same time, there are a lot of passages in the OT that speak about about God’s goodness, love, and mercy! So for the biblical writers, it seems there was no conflict about this. They saw God as both Holy(hating all sin and evil) and Just( having to punish sin) as well as merciful and loving.

    I think they had a better understanding of God’s holiness and justice than we do. Remember Isaiah’s response to his vision of a holy God enthroned in glory in his temple? He said “Woe is me for I am an unclean man”. He saw the depth of his sin for the very first time and he feared for his life. He knew he was worthy of death; that he deserved to die for his sins. No debate or argument from him about that. It is only us 20 & 21st century people who argue with this.

    I think there a number of reasons for this.
    1) We don’t want to believe in a God who judges sin like that. It is one reason many doubt the flood of Noah.

    2. We don’t realize how sinful we really are. Most people think they are good people. We are like the Pharisees and get offended by someone calling us “sinners”.

    3. And even if we do admit our sin, most of us have no idea how much God hates sin. This is actually the proper attitude to have toward sin! – yet we criticize God for that. We don’t realize how serious our sin is or how big of a problem it is. In fact sometimes we want to hold on to our sin! We are so used to imperfection and sin in our world and even our own lives that it doesn’t seem like a very big deal to us, so God’s judgment seems extra harsh. Perhaps if we could see sin from the perspective of a holy and just God, we might be able to understand a lot easier!

    The instances of God’s judgment stand out to us, but actually God is very long suffering. The Bible clearly says that God doesn’t take any pleasure in judging sinners. He would much rather that we repent, receive forgiveness and eternal life. In fact, that is the very reason He sent His only Son! Not to condemn us but to save all who chose to believe – which is His first desire.

    For as many years as the OT covers, there really aren’t that many instances of judgment. Long suffering and patience is the norm, but there are limits to His patience.

    How can God allow young kids to die, calamities to occur, etc.?

    I don’t believe we can fully answer this question, but as to the question of why God allows evil, I think we can say that we are glad He does. Why? Because you and I have hearts that are full of evil(according to God’s standards)! So if He were to eliminate evil, we would all be killed. I seriously doubt this is what atheists desire or think He should do!

    Then there is the fact of sin ruining a perfect world. This is a biblical truth that does not fit with ID theory which makes it more vulnerable to charges of bad design and an evil God, than is creationism.

    Anyway, it was the sin of Adam that invited God’s punishment for sin. Adam’s sin, for which we too are responsible, was the cause of death entering this world. So in some senses all suffering is due to our sin. What ought to amaze us then, is NOT that God judges sin, but rather that He allows us sinful rebellious ungrateful lovers of self to live at all!

    He could just condemn us all and still be totally just, but He instead He found a way to remain just and also to forgive sin. He poured out the full brunt of His righteous anger against sin on His only beloved Son! God Himself took our punishment for us! If He didn’t spare His own Son, certainly He cannot pardon any of us “righteous” humans either.

    His judgment at times may seem too harsh. I can’t fully answer that, but I will trust that the God of all the earth will never do anything wrong. So if eternal punishment is deemed by Him to by proper, I will trust Him, realizing my own inability to understand my own sinfulness and my inability to fully understand His holiness.

  19. 19

    Sorry, I meant to address that to Evolve, not Mr. Anderson.

  20. 20

    tjguy said:

    William seems to reject the God of the Bible for the same reason.

    To be fair I’ve read interpretations of the Bible where “hell” is considered more along the lines of my own thought – the potential for self-annihilation, not eternal suffering.

    I have come to an satisfied understanding about the nature of the world, even under a Christian outlook. Suffering in the world, even by children, is not a dissatisfying mystery to me. Neither are natural calamities or wars. However, I cannot rationally accept command morality; a thing is not made moral, IMO, because god commands it, and some things cannot be moral even if they are argued to be the nature of God itself.

    IMO, eternal suffering after any denial of god, or choice to refuse salvation, or 80 years of bad behavior, with no chance at redemption, parole or relief cannot be moral in any way that I can accept.

  21. 21
    Evolve says:

    William Murray,

    ///We know there is a difference between what an intelligence can deliberately bring into existence, and what known natural forces and materials – for all intents and purposes – cannot. ///

    This is flawed reasoning. Just because we have seen humans intelligently designing objects doesn’t automatically imply natural designs are the product of a fictitious supernatural designer. We need evidence for the existence of such a designer and why and how he went about doing it.

    After all, man-made objects do not grow, metabolize, reproduce or evolve on their own, but living things do all that by themselves. We are yet to observe any supernatural intervention in a tree developing from a seed or a human baby developing from a zygote.

  22. 22
    Eric Anderson says:

    Thanks, Optimus, Barb, and Dionosio.

    Truly there are many events reported in the Bible that God did not approve of (in many cases explicitly, in some cases implicitly). In fairness to the atheist revulsion to the God of the Bible though, I think the primary things that give them pause are things that God did approve of, or did sanction, or even commanded. Barb briefly discussed an example @12.

    But again, it doesn’t follow from those events that God doesn’t exist.

    —-

    What I would say, where I empathize with the atheist concern and where I might differ from some believers, is in being willing to acknowledge the following:

    1. If a believer believes that the Bible completely and accurately recorded events as they happened, including God’s involvement as recorded.

    and

    2. If the believer also espouses ideas about God similar to those regularly put forward by non-believing critics: namely, God is always kind, would not hurt anyone, would not condone killing under any circumstances, would not inflict plagues, famines, or other harsh punishment, etc.

    then,

    3. Such a believer is being logically inconsistent.

    This is true enough, so I agree that a person should abandon, in part, either #1 or #2.

    I don’t happen to be a Biblical literalist. Furthermore, I am quite willing to accept the idea that the Bible — inspired and wonderful as it is — was written, transmitted, translated, and assembled by fallible human beings. So I am willing to go part way (a small way) toward a different view of #1.

    However, I think the primary issue is with #2. The anti-religious zealot tends to think he has an excellent idea of what God would or would not do in particular circumstances. Thus, when an event transpires that conflicts with the imagined “permitted” acts of God, it shows that God was not involved. Again, it doesn’t show that there is no God, but it does raise a legitimate question about God’s involvement in that event, as described in the Bible.

    However, when the believer sees the same set of circumstances he doesn’t jump to the logical conclusion (God wasn’t involved), or to the illogical conclusion, a la Coyne (therefore, God doesn’t exist). Rather, the humble believer will ask: “Why would God do this or allow this to happen? Is there something else going on? Is there a higher purpose or a more long-term view on display than the immediate event itself? What do I need to change in my own thinking in order to understand the Divine goals and purposes?” Those kinds of questions.

  23. 23
    Silver Asiatic says:

    The “God, if He existed, would not be like X” formulation makes no claim, at all, about what God is other than “not X”: there is no claim to know the mind of God.

    It does make a positive claim about God. You have to know something about God in order to say that “God would not be like X”. How do you know that? What source of information did you use to determine that God would not be like that? The question that is being answered is “why would God cause suffering”? To say that God would not do something requires, by inference, some understanding of the mind of God.

    Cop 1: The suspect was in a hollow and would have had to be ten foot tall to reach the murder weapon. He is not ten foot tall so he did not commit the crime.
    Cop 2: So how tall is he?
    Cop 1: I don’t know.
    Cop 2: Victory!

    Cop 1 is not being fully truthful there. He should have said, “he is less than 10 feet tall”. Notice the positive statement about the suspect there.

    That’s the point of this post. People who claim that God does not exist, also make claims about what God wouldn’t do. Clearly, they would need some evidence to know what God would or wouldn’t do. But they don’t admit having any evidence at all.

  24. 24
    Eric Anderson says:

    sagebrush gardener @7:

    You raise an important issue. And this is an area (yet another) in which I empathize with the atheist complaint. There are things taught from time to time that are not consistent with logic or scripture. Those can do much damage over the long haul.

    In talking about how to respond to critics’ questions, a quote I heard once may be apropos:

    “The truth is better served by silence than by a bad answer.”

  25. 25
    VunderGuy says:

    Given that many atheists seems to be promoters of Utilitarianism, which, ironically enough, would require a practical omniscience to be effective and an accurate knowledge of what the ‘greater good’ is if there even is such a thing, I find the arguments from Utilitarian atheists to be especially interesting considering that I don’t understand why they seem so adverse to God, if such a being existed, since such a being is the ultimate realization of Utilitarianism, perhaps even, what they wish themselves to be.

  26. 26
    Eric Anderson says:

    awstar @11:

    But, but, but . . .

    That requires hard work, requires me to set aside my personal views and desires and selfish ambitions and submit my will to God’s. Why can’t everything just be easy? Why can’t I do what I want, instead of what God wants me to do, and still get the same reward? 🙂

    You have well stated that the salvation is there for all who will accept it with full heart. Some seem to want the salvation to be there for everyone, without condition, without effort, without sincere desire.

  27. 27

    This is flawed reasoning. Just because we have seen humans intelligently designing objects doesn’t automatically imply natural designs are the product of a fictitious supernatural designer.

    First, please note how you have rigged your response by calling anything in question a “natural design”. If you want honest, productive debate, you should refrain from simply asserting your conclusion in your response. Let’s call the item under debate “X-design”.

    Second, I didn’t claim anything about the “designer” except to imply that whatever was responsible for X-design is better explained as an intelligent process. I made no claims that X-designer was fictitious. Or supernatural. You might leave the dismissive invective out of debates you wish to advance beyond mere name-calling.

    We need evidence for the existence of such a designer and why and how he went about doing it.

    Not for an initial finding that X-design is better explained by some sort of intelligent process. Your reasoning here is flawed; why would anyone start looking for a designer, or start trying to figure out how a designer designed a thing, unless they first reached at least a tentative conclusion that the X-design in question likely was the result of an intelligent process?

    You’ve got the cart before the horse. ID is about making that initial finding, and is not necessarily about figuring out who the designer is or how they accomplished the design. Those investigations can only come after one is fairly convinced the thing in question was designed by intelligence in the first place.

    After all, man-made objects do not grow, metabolize, reproduce or evolve on their own, but living things do all that by themselves. We are yet to observe any supernatural intervention in a tree developing from a seed or a human baby developing from a zygote.

    I think you are making the same mistake so many have made before you; ID doesn’t make any claims about the supernatural. The fundamental disagreement ID has with Darwinistic evolution is not “natural vs supernatural” but “natural vs artifice”.

    You might want to peruse the FAQ provided here before you make more errors from a fundamental misconception about what ID is and claims.

  28. 28
    phoodoo says:

    Evolve,

    There is evidence both for a God and for intervention in life-its just not the evidence you want. And yet the evidence is much stronger than the evidence you have for evolution being a completely random occurrence of accidents.

    Organization within a cell is evidence. Fine tuning of the world and of nature is evidence. The existence of any laws at all in the universe, rather than chaos or simply nothing. is evidence of intelligence.

    All these evidences just don’t impress someone who wants to not consider it, but its still stronger than the evidence you can list for your theory.

  29. 29
    phoodoo says:

    I wonder if the great Prof. Felsenstein will be brave enough to bring his junk DNA and bad design argument over to this side, instead of hiding at skepticalzone.

    Exactly how much junk DNA does his theory predict, and how much do we need to show is not junk before his prediction is incorrect? Will they always just keep moving the goalposts, the more that we find is not junk?

  30. 30
    Eric Anderson says:

    Tony Lloyd @13:

    Thanks for your comments.

    You are trying to draw a distinction without substance.

    Notice I have not necessarily disputed that “God is not like X” nor have I affirmed that “God is like X” (although I noted that issues could be raised regarding such evidence).

    The primary problem I am focused on is in claim #1, in claiming to know what God is or is not like. It doesn’t make any substantive difference whether it is phrased in the positive or the negative. The atheist, in making a claim about what God is like (or is not like, take your pick), is making an affirmative claim about characteristics of God, about God’s attributes, about what God would or would not do in certain circumstances.

    Coyne thinks, as do so many of the anti-religious, that his list of complaints constitutes “strong evidence for No God”. So he is certainly making a statement, an affirmative statement, about what he thinks God is/should be like.

    Think of it this way. If Coyne’s argument had been the following, I would wholeheartedly agree with him (I’ll use your negative formulation to avoid us getting hung up on that difference):

    1. I think that God, if He existed, would not be like X.
    2. Evidence shows God is like X.
    3. Therefore, perhaps I’ve gotten it all wrong and I need to rethink my conception of God.

    If Coyne were to say that, I would wholeheartedly endorse his conclusion in #3. But he doesn’t.

    —–

    Again, I have some empathy for the atheist complaint against the particular conception of God that is so often espoused.

    Is God invariably nice, without punishing His children? Will everyone be saved? Does God prevent all wars and famines and other outrages? Is God more interested in Earth life being a comfortable paradise, rather than a learning experience?

    We could quibble with the evidence here and there, but we might well conclude that the evidence shows God is not like that (or that He is like something else — again, it doesn’t make any substantive difference whether we formulate it in the positive or the negative).

    So, yes, I could probably agree with Coyne that that kind of God does not exist.

    But it simply doesn’t follow that God does not exist. Rather, the most reasonable explanation is that our perceptions, our conceptions, our personal biases and wishes for what God should be like, are in error.

    Coyne, however, doesn’t go down that path. He thinks his questions point to “strong evidence for No God.” Why? Because he thinks he knows what God is and isn’t like. For the proud, it is easier to abandon God than to acknowledge that one’s perceptions of God might be in error.

  31. 31
    bornagain77 says:

    As to seeing if Hell actually is a part of reality, should we not first check the scientific evidence to see what it says to see if Hell is in fact a part of reality before we drift into endlessly wrangling over different theological and philosophical interpretations of Hell (as has been done for hundreds if not thousands of years?)?

    Yesterday, on News’ post on time, I highlighted the fact that we now have empirical support for the Theistic belief that there is a higher, ‘eternal’, spatial-temporal reality above this 3-dimensional reality we currently live in:

    Or we could picture spacetime as a fluid – April 27, 2014
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-497995

    What I did not mention in that post yesterday is that we also have empirical evidence of another completely different eternity than the one that is revealed by Einstein’s special relativity.

    Time dilation
    Excerpt: Time dilation: special vs. general theories of relativity:
    In Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity, time dilation in these two circumstances can be summarized:
    1. –In special relativity (or, hypothetically far from all gravitational mass), clocks that are moving with respect to an inertial system of observation are measured to be running slower. (i.e. For any observer accelerating, hypothetically, to the speed of light, time, as we understand it, will come to a complete stop).
    2.–In general relativity, clocks at lower potentials in a gravitational field—such as in closer proximity to a planet—are found to be running slower.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_dilation

    i.e. As with any observer accelerating to the speed of light, it is found that for any ‘hypothetical’ observer falling to the event horizon of a black hole, that time, as we understand it, will come to a complete stop for them. This is because the accelerative force of gravity at black holes is so intense that not even light can escape its grip:

    Space-Time of a Black hole – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0VOn9r4dq8

    — But of particular interest to the ‘eternal framework’ found for General Relativity at black holes;… It is interesting to note that entropic decay, which is the primary reason why things, and people, grow old and eventually die in this universe, is found to be greatest at black holes.

    80 years in 40 seconds – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9wToWdXaQg

    Entropy of the Universe – Hugh Ross – May 2010
    Excerpt: Egan and Lineweaver found that supermassive black holes are the largest contributor to the observable universe’s entropy. They showed that these supermassive black holes contribute about 30 times more entropy than what the previous research teams estimated.
    http://www.reasons.org/entropy-universe

    Roger Penrose – How Special Was The Big Bang?
    “But why was the big bang so precisely organized, whereas the big crunch (or the singularities in black holes) would be expected to be totally chaotic? It would appear that this question can be phrased in terms of the behaviour of the WEYL part of the space-time curvature at space-time singularities. What we appear to find is that there is a constraint WEYL = 0 (or something very like this) at initial space-time singularities-but not at final singularities-and this seems to be what confines the Creator’s choice to this very tiny region of phase space.”

    “Einstein’s equation predicts that, as the astronaut reaches the singularity (of the black-hole), the tidal forces grow infinitely strong, and their chaotic oscillations become infinitely rapid. The astronaut dies and the atoms which his body is made become infinitely and chaotically distorted and mixed-and then, at the moment when everything becomes infinite (the tidal strengths, the oscillation frequencies, the distortions, and the mixing), spacetime ceases to exist.”
    Kip S. Thorne – “Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy” pg. 476

    i.e. Black Holes are found to be ‘timeless’ singularities of destruction and disorder rather than singularities of creation and order such as the extreme order we see at the creation event of the Big Bang. Needless to say, the implications of this ‘eternity of destruction’ should be fairly disturbing for those of us who are of the ‘spiritually minded’ persuasion!

    In light of this dilemma that the two very different eternities present to us spiritually minded people, and the fact that Gravity is, in so far as we can tell, completely incompatible with Quantum Mechanics,,,

    A Capella Science – Bohemian Gravity! – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rjbtsX7twc

    ,,,then it is interesting to point out a subtle nuance on the Shroud of Turin. Namely that Gravity was overcome in the resurrection event of Christ,,,

    A Quantum Hologram of Christ’s Resurrection? by Chuck Missler
    Excerpt: “You can read the science of the Shroud, such as total lack of gravity, lack of entropy (without gravitational collapse), no time, no space—it conforms to no known law of physics.” The phenomenon of the image brings us to a true event horizon, a moment when all of the laws of physics change drastically. Dame Piczek created a one-fourth size sculpture of the man in the Shroud. When viewed from the side, it appears as if the man is suspended in mid air (see graphic, below), indicating that the image defies previously accepted science. The phenomenon of the image brings us to a true event horizon, a moment when all of the laws of physics change drastically.
    http://www.khouse.org/articles/2008/847

    THE EVENT HORIZON (Space-Time Singularity) OF THE SHROUD OF TURIN. – Isabel Piczek – Particle Physicist
    Excerpt: We have stated before that the images on the Shroud firmly indicate the total absence of Gravity. Yet they also firmly indicate the presence of the Event Horizon. These two seemingly contradict each other and they necessitate the past presence of something more powerful than Gravity that had the capacity to solve the above paradox.
    http://shroud3d.com/findings/i.....-formation

  32. 32
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, as would be expected if Gravity (i.e. General Relativity) were truly overcome in the resurrection of Christ, the process in which the 3-Dimensional/Photographic negative image was formed on the Shroud was a quantum process. The image was not formed by a classical process.

    The absorbed energy in the Shroud body image formation appears as contributed by discrete values – Giovanni Fazio, Giuseppe Mandaglio – 2008
    Excerpt: This result means that the optical density distribution,, can not be attributed at the absorbed energy described in the framework of the classical physics model. It is, in fact, necessary to hypothesize a absorption by discrete values of the energy where the ‘quantum’ is equal to the one necessary to yellow one fibril.
    http://cab.unime.it/journals/i.....802004/271

    Scientists say Turin Shroud is supernatural – December 2011
    Excerpt: After years of work trying to replicate the colouring on the shroud, a similar image has been created by the scientists.
    However, they only managed the effect by scorching equivalent linen material with high-intensity ultra violet lasers, undermining the arguments of other research, they say, which claims the Turin Shroud is a medieval hoax.
    Such technology, say researchers from the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (Enea), was far beyond the capability of medieval forgers, whom most experts have credited with making the famous relic.
    “The results show that a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation can colour a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin,” they said.
    And in case there was any doubt about the preternatural degree of energy needed to make such distinct marks, the Enea report spells it out: “This degree of power cannot be reproduced by any normal UV source built to date.”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/n.....79512.html

    Personally, considering the extreme difficulty that many brilliant minds have had in trying to reconcile Quantum Mechanics and special relativity (QED), with Gravity, I consider the preceding nuance on the Shroud of Turin to be a subtle, but powerful, evidence substantiating Christ’s primary claim as to being our Savior from sin, death, and hell:

    John 8:23-24
    But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.

    G.O.S.P.E.L. – (the grace of propitiation) – poetry slam – video
    https://vimeo.com/20960385

    Verse and Music:

    Matthew 10:28
    “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

    Shatter Me Featuring Lzzy Hale – Lindsey Stirling
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49tpIMDy9BE

  33. 33
    Barb says:

    Eric posts some interesting questions for consideration:

    “Is God invariably nice, without punishing His children?

    No parent goes without punishing their children at one time or another. I don’t know that I’d describe God as “nice” but rather as “loving”. I don’t want my children to be spoiled, and therefore I don’t give them everything they want when they ask for it. This is entirely rational and reasonable.

    God is loving and does not give us everything we want when we ask for it, because he can foresee the consequences of our decisions. He respects our gift of free will and doesn’t force us to follow his rules, but he openly states that they are there for our benefit (see Isaiah 48:17,18)

    Will everyone be saved?

    Short answer: no. The Bible clearly indicates that some will not. This is not due to God’s not loving them but rather their own hard heartedness and refusal to accept God’s provision for salvation. (see Proverbs 2:21,22).

    Does God prevent all wars and famines and other outrages?

    No. But just because he does not prevent a war does not mean that he causes a war, or a famine, or any other deviant behavior.

    Atheists complain repeatedly that God does nothing to alleviate suffering. This ignores the counsel in the Bible that could potentially alleviate a lot of suffering in the world. In my study of the Bible, I’ve come across at least five reasons (there are probably more) as to why suffering persists:

    Bad government. “When anyone wicked bears rule, the people sigh,” says the Bible (Proversb 29;2). History is filled with dictators who ruled with an iron fist, bringing untold suffering to their subjects (see Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot). Not every ruler is a dictator, of course, but even if they have the best of intentions for their fellowmen, once they are in power, they often find that their efforts are frustrated by infighting and power struggles. Or they may abuse their power for personal gain, to the detriment of the people. “History is a tale of efforts that failed, of aspirations that weren’t realized,” said former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

    Notably, The Bible also points out: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Imperfect humans lack the necessary wisdom and foresight to manage all their own affairs successfully. If people cannot direct their own steps, how can they direct the steps of a nation? Can you see why human rulers do not have the ability to eliminate suffering?

    Religion. Yes, atheists, religion (in some instances) has caused more problems than it has alleviated. Religious leaders of every creed and denomination preach love and unity. The reality is that they have failed to instill in their followers a love strong enough to eliminate biases. Rather than helping to cultivate love, religion often contributes to the division, bigotry, and strife among peoples and national groups. In the conclusion of his book Christianity and the World Religions, theologian Hans Küng wrote: “The most fanatical, the cruelest political struggles are those that have been colored, inspired, and legitimized by religion.” (see John 13:35).

    Human imperfection/selfishness. The atheists don’t like to admit that they’re imperfect. They believe that we are evolving to be better than what we were. This isn’t true, and can be demonstrated by reading any daily newspaper. We all make mistakes, sometimes intentionally (see James 1:14, 15).

    Author P. D. Mehta wrote: “A vast amount of suffering is due to our own lust, to our feverish pleasure-seeking and self-indulgence, to our greed and our ambition.” Cravings and addictions of all kinds—alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and so on—have ruined many “respectable citizens” and have brought suffering to their family, friends, and others.

    Demonic influence. Atheists ignore this mostly because if you don’t believe in God, it stands to reason that you don’t believe in a devil, either. The devil is actively engaged in controlling and misleading people. This is not describing Exorcist-style demonic possession but rather harassment designed to draw people away from God (see Ephesians 6:12).

    The “last days”. The apostle Paul described world conditions very vividly in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Some two thousand years ago, the Bible foretold: “Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” Pointing out what makes the times critical, it goes on to say: “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, . . . having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” Surely a key reason for all the suffering we see today is that we are living in “the last days.”

    Is God more interested in Earth life being a comfortable paradise, rather than a learning experience?

    I think this is what atheists want life on Earth to be, if they believed God existed: a comfortable paradise. Basically, what they want is a fool’s paradise where their every whim is catered to.

    Adversity, while unpleasant and painful, is one of the best tools for character development. We don’t learn endurance if everything always goes our way. Just as we don’t get physically strong without strenuous workouts, we don’t (and can’t) get spiritually strong without study, meditation, and some hardship that allow us to demonstrate our faith.

  34. 34
    Dr JDD says:

    Evolve:

    This is flawed reasoning. Just because we have seen humans intelligently designing objects doesn’t automatically imply natural designs are the product of a fictitious supernatural designer. We need evidence for the existence of such a designer and why and how he went about doing it.

    After all, man-made objects do not grow, metabolize, reproduce or evolve on their own, but living things do all that by themselves. We are yet to observe any supernatural intervention in a tree developing from a seed or a human baby developing from a zygote.

    Here in lies the incredible illogic nature of naturalistic evolution. I quote again:

    we need evidence for the existence of such a designer and why and how he went about doing it.

    We have no evidence for a naturalistic OOL. Absolutely zero. No model that even makes sense. Yet you claim through “science” that we can simply say that this is because we do not know the conditions, we haven’t elucidated it yet does not make it not true, it is a theory with constant refinement.

    Yet what you then take, you fail to give in the utmost peversion of what you call science. You claim something that has no observation, has no model that can be tested and demonstrated as a real possibility, and has no real evidence (cannot be seen or heard or truly felt the effects of), as being 99.99% likely to be true.

    Yet you attribute the above qualities of a “Designer” as reasons to reject the possibility of a designer’s existence, and you use it as an excuse to say it cannot be true.

    That is hypocrisy in its purest form, yet you use the word “science” and you make hand-waving statements about “one day we will understand better” and “one day we will be able to test” yet your door is closed on one day being able to detect or understand a designer better. It is not even an option to you.

    Yet further you reject the evidence – plain in simple what has come from your mouth before. “Life gives rise to life.” Not “No life gives rise to life” – that has never ever been observed. We have only ever observed life giving rise to life. So how did life begin? From life, is the simplist answer.

    And there is your observation – there must have been life to give rise to life. You want to talk about evidence yet you reject every bit of evidence thrown your way as you have a faith system of your own. I don’t expect you, or other committed atheists to change your faith system – I just ask that there is an admission that it has no more evidence than the existence of a life outside the universe that started life. That is actually in a very simple way, interpreting the evidence.

    Let’s play a game for a minute and pretend as though the New Testament is real. With something like 25,000 ancient copies of the various components of the NT it has more evidence than any other ancient document. However, let us pretend it is a factual eye-witness account (the Gospels) of Jesus and his life on earth. Let’s not even think about whether Jesus is deity or not, let’s just take eye witness accounts for now, as being real. What generally happened? Jesus healed the sick, cured the deaf, blind, mute, raised people from the dead, healed many illnesses, in front of the Pharisees and the people of Israel. Yet they wanted to and they did crucify him.

    These people were presented with the most validating evidence of the supernatural you could ask for. Raising someone from the dead, making the lame walk, the blind see. If that was true, there is no other explanation than supernatural and consequently, you should listen to this man’s claims! Yet people who observed this with their very own eyes wanted to kill him and rejected what he said.

    So I ask you, what sign would convince the atheist? That is rhetoric. You don’t want a sign. Jesus gave a parable on that, it was called the Rich Man and Lazarus. That is quite apt for these debates:

    “‘…but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He [Abraham] said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

    So I ask you – what actually would make you believe? I believe there is enough evidence around us. You do everything in your power to reject any evidence of a designer. Nothing will make you change that. This is the irony of the Ham – Nye debate. Ham was the only honest one when he said “Nothing” would make him change his mind. I am pretty sure nothing would make Nye change his mind either, even evidence.

    JD

  35. 35
    jw777 says:

    This is a genuinely good intro of part of the state of the matter, well summed up in the starting 1., 2., and 3. propositions in the article.

    However, I think it can be more succinctly summarized as an issue of pride. If you are humble, you can learn. If you aren’t, you by definition cannot until something forces you to be humbled. If you refuse to be humbled, you will never learn. That’s that.

    Eric Metaxas gave a great reminder to believers in his address at the national prayer breakfast in 2012: if it weren’t but for the Grace of God, we would be standing on the other side of this issue.

    Make all the appeals to reason, evidence and logic you want, and you will never reach the committed atheist, only the intellectually honest agnostic. If you want to reach the committed atheist, you cannot appeal to any thought process, because his is entirely closed with pride. Instead you must somehow love him in such a way to inculcate a spirit of humility in him.

    A spirit of humility out of obstinate pride is a miracle. So good luck. Perhaps a better starting point would be to ask if someone wants to know God. If the answer is no, shake the dust off of your sandals. I’ve heard Frank Turek ask “if Christianity were true, would you believe it,” someone answer “no,” and then he says, “then let’s just go out to Starbucks or something, because why are even having this discussion then?”

  36. 36
    Evolve says:

    William @ 27

    ///First, please note how you have rigged your response by calling anything in question a “natural design”. If you want honest, productive debate, you should refrain from simply asserting your conclusion in your response. Let’s call the item under debate “X-design”///

    Oh c’mon, I called it “natural design” because it is design found in nature. Simple as that.

    ///Not for an initial finding that X-design is better explained by some sort of intelligent process///

    What intelligent process? Produce evidence. All evidence we have is entirely consistent with natural processes. Design can arise on its own as nature shows us every day. There is design in both animate and inanimate matter. The existence of design does not implicate an intelligent designer was behind it.

    We observe life growing & evolving on their own and we can see how past life grew and evolved in fossils and DNA. The way organisms are related is well-explained by the theory of evolution. We haven’t seen factories and assembly lines in the sky producing hearts, livers and kidneys and fitting them together to make a human. We see that for man-made objects like cars & computers, but not for natural objects like living organisms.

    ///I think you are making the same mistake so many have made before you; ID doesn’t make any claims about the supernatural. The fundamental disagreement ID has with Darwinistic evolution is not “natural vs supernatural” but “natural vs artifice”.
    You might want to peruse the FAQ provided here before you make more errors from a fundamental misconception about what ID is and claims.///

    Yeah yeah you don’t know anything about your designer, you’ve no clue whether he even exists, hell you don’t even attempt to find out anything about him! But you’ll still invoke him wherever required to “explain” natural phenomena. And you’ve been doing this for eons with no progress. You’re still where you were when you started out – square one.

    No need for FAQs. Everyone with half a brain knows ID offers little in the way of arguments. All you are doing is attacking evolution from all sides, although you keep on failing spectacularly at that, thanks to flawed reasoning and a total absence of solid evidence.

  37. 37

    I’m entirely open to hearing arguments that purport to support the eternal suffering position, but I will offer this caveat: the idea of allowing anyone to suffer for eternity – with no hope for parole or relief – is, IMO, self-evidently immoral.

  38. 38

    Evolve said:

    No need for FAQs.

    No need for engagement with someone who cannot even be bothered to read and apprehend the basics about that which they pretend to be arguing against.

  39. 39
    Barb says:

    The existence of design does not implicate an intelligent designer was behind it.

    Yes, it does, by its very name. Design implies a designer.

    We see that for man-made objects like cars & computers, but not for natural objects like living organisms.

    Let me get this straight: man-made objects like cars require designers and factories to produce, but a human being–something far more complicated, does not require a designer. An arrowhead requires a designer, but DNA does not? Really?

  40. 40
    Mapou says:

    As a Christian I can’t stand the word “supernatural”. If it exists, it is natural in my view and it isn’t magic either. My God does not use magic to design anything. He uses knowledge, patience and understanding.

    The only magic I see is coming from the Darwinists: Dirt-did-it.

  41. 41
    seventrees says:

    Greetings.

    To William @ 37

    If I consider what Dr. JDD wrote at 34, and what jw777 has written at 35, I will not be surprised that some people will be willing to “lock themselves up”.

  42. 42
    Mapou says:

    An arrowhead requires a designer, but DNA does not? Really?

    Well put.

  43. 43
    KRock says:

    @ humbled

    That’s awesome… I will need to borrow this from Sean Thomas’..

    The atheist and their mirage of an existence, never ceases to amaze me..

  44. 44
    JLAfan2001 says:

    There is no god, no right or wrong and no good or evil.

    There’s just life or death, predator or prey and survival. Nothing more. There is nothing in this universe that says humanity as a species, as a society or as individuals must survive. NOTHING. Human extinction is just as valid as dinosaur extinction.

    There is no difference between stepping on an ant or killing a baby. For those of you who will try to use me as an example, I say that I would not “like” to be attacked or killed simply because it threatens the survival of my genes but that doesn’t make it evil or wrong. It’s just nature. No animal likes to be threatened but it has nothing to do with the imaginary human construct of morality.

  45. 45
    TSErik says:

    I’m entirely open to hearing arguments that purport to support the eternal suffering position, but I will offer this caveat: the idea of allowing anyone to suffer for eternity – with no hope for parole or relief – is, IMO, self-evidently immoral.

    I can answer from an Orthodox Christian perspective. To paraphrase an idea often repeated: anyone who goes to Hell, walks through the gates voluntarily.

    People condemn themselves by the rejection of the Creator.

  46. 46
    Mapou says:

    There is no god, no right or wrong and no good or evil.

    Generally, opinions are a dime dozen. But the opinion of a dirt worshipper is not even in the ballpark.

  47. 47
    Barb says:

    There is no god, no right or wrong and no good or evil.

    There’s just life or death, predator or prey and survival. Nothing more. There is nothing in this universe that says humanity as a species, as a society or as individuals must survive. NOTHING. Human extinction is just as valid as dinosaur extinction.

    There is no difference between stepping on an ant or killing a baby. For those of you who will try to use me as an example, I say that I would not “like” to be attacked or killed simply because it threatens the survival of my genes but that doesn’t make it evil or wrong. It’s just nature. No animal likes to be threatened but it has nothing to do with the imaginary human construct of morality.

    That is a really big pile of derp, even coming from you.

  48. 48
    Smidlee says:

    I find it strange when people argue that they believe man-made things are intelligent designed but not their brain. Richard Dawkins believed his book “God Delusion” is intelligent designed yet not his brain. Maybe man not so intelligent after all.

  49. 49
    Dionisio says:

    This comment appeared in another thread, but I think it’s not off topic here:

    Somewhere I read that this world is the closest to hell true Christian believers will be, and the closest to Heaven those who reject Christ will be.

    If someone enjoys rejecting and mocking God, that soul would not enjoy to be in Heaven, where all we are going to do is praise God constantly without break, non-stop, forever and ever, on and on and on, over and over again. If brief worshipping bothers them now, then Heaven would be a torment to them.

    Being apart from God forever is hell. Isn’t that what unrepentant souls want after all? So what’s all that whining and complaining about God allowing them to end in hell? Really, don’t get it.

    I don’t love God because I want to be in Heaven. It’s the other way around. I want to be in Heaven, because God loves me so much, and His love is so great, so delightful, so undeserved, and so amazing, that I want to be in His presence and enjoy Him forever.

    I was on that wide road that leads to destruction, completely blind and lost, but the merciful and gracious God pulled me out of that horrendous path, opened my eyes, and let me enter the narrow way that leads to eternal life in His glorious presence.

    So now I sing hallelujah, the Lamb has overcome!

  50. 50
    Dionisio says:

    Smidlee @ 48

    …book “God Delusion” is intelligent designed

    maybe intelligently designed to make money? 😉

  51. 51
    Box says:

    #45 TSErik:

    anyone who goes to Hell, walks through the gates voluntarily.
    People condemn themselves by the rejection of the Creator.

    All these people are fully informed and fully aware of the consequences? The Designer Of Hell is actually doing them a favor, because this is exactly what they want and want forever?

  52. 52
    Eric Anderson says:

    Evolve @16:

    This may come as a surprise, but there are some things in your comment @16 I can agree with. 🙂

    Let me see if I can parse through your comment a bit.

    This is exactly why God is useless for explaining nature. God is such an unknown commodity that theists like you can attribute literally anything to him! There’s nothing that would disprove God – be it evil, suffering or whatever.

    Well, I haven’t invoked God for explaining all of nature. A designer to explain certain aspects of nature, yes.

    As to disproof of God, you are quite right that one cannot disprove a negative. No apologies for that, it is just the way logic works.

    But I understand — and share — your concern. There is, I agree, a danger in attributing any old event or circumstance to God. Much of the whole point in intelligent design proponents pursuing and developing concepts like complex specified information, functional complexity, irreducible complexity and the like, is precisely to avoid attributing agency in those cases in which it may not be warranted. So your concern is noted; it is a shared concern. And at least insofar as intelligent design theory is concerned, it has been dealt with.

    As to the question of evil or suffering in the world, that has been discussed by many people much smarter than you and me for many centuries. I personally don’t find the existence of evil and/or suffering to be particularly problematic. Indeed, it seems that the theistic approach has a better grasp of all the evidence — not just evil and suffering, but also goodness, kindness, altruism, etc. — than any other philosophical position. Others may disagree, but they need to do so on the basis of all the evidence. Coyne takes the common, but very simplistic and juvenile, approach of essentially saying that because we witness suffering and unpleasantness, then God doesn’t exist. Not a sound position to take.

    No matter how convincing the evidence for a natural account, you can still say that’s how God did it. For example, life shows strong evidence of having evolved from a common ancestor. But theists try to get around that by claiming that’s how God wanted to do it and who are we to question it?

    Between you and me, I think this is a fair observation of some people’s position. Personally, I don’t have a philosophical dog in the fight about whether present life “evolved from a common ancestor.”

    An evidentiary one, yes. But not a philosophical one.

    Even if we add the (assumed but unstated) assumption that present life “evolved from a common ancestor without any intelligent guidance or intervention,” I would be open to considering it . . . from a philosophical standpoint. The problem is that it just doesn’t hold up from an evidentiary standpoint.

    But this strategy makes God a redundant explanation. If you can already explain something by natural means, then why invoke a God for which no evidence exists?

    I agree with you that invoking God to explain something that can already be explained by purely natural processes is potentially redundant. I personally don’t find such an approach to be intellectually satisfying. I don’t invoke God (or any agent) to “explain” why my pencil hits the floor when it rolls off my desk; the reference to gravity is quite adequate to explain the phenomenon in question.

    Similarly, if an individual were under the mis-impression that there is a good purely natural explanation for how life arose without the involvement of an intelligent agent, then there would be no need to invoke an intelligent agent to explain the origin of life.

    So I don’t personally feel a philosophical need to invoke God (or any intelligent agent) to explain the origin of life, for example.

    However, there is a tremendous evidentiary need to invoke an intelligent agent to explain the origin of life. No need to rehash the details on this thread, but there have been many discussions on UD about abiogenesis and the like. There are good reasons why many rational people have concluded that intelligent agency was involved in the origin of life — completely separate and apart from any religious/philosophical commitment.

  53. 53
    Eric Anderson says:

    WJM @17:

    Well said.

  54. 54
    Eric Anderson says:

    tjguy @18:

    What ought to amaze us then, is NOT that God judges sin, but rather that He allows us sinful rebellious ungrateful lovers of self to live at all!

    He could just condemn us all and still be totally just, but He instead He found a way to remain just and also to forgive sin. He poured out the full brunt of His righteous anger against sin on His only beloved Son! God Himself took our punishment for us!

    Yes, that is a good way of articulating the divine balance to the inherent tension between justice and mercy — a balance we all struggle with in our own lives, if we are honest with ourselves. Do we pass the beggar on the street without giving him money (this particular situation led to a lengthy and worthwhile discussion with my son just last week)? Do we make our child suffer the full brunt of a mistake, or do we jump in and resolve the situation for her? A dozen similar decisions we struggle with each week.

    Incidentally, I’ve mentioned the following before, but in the context of your comments and the current discussion I thought I should mention it again.

    Anyone who has any interest in the problem of evil owes it to themselves to read Benjamin Wiker’s excellent essay, available in a couple of places, including here:

    http://www.catholicculture.org.....ecnum=5782

  55. 55
    Eric Anderson says:

    Evolve @21:

    This is flawed reasoning. Just because we have seen humans intelligently designing objects doesn’t automatically imply natural designs are the product of a fictitious supernatural designer. We need evidence for the existence of such a designer and why and how he went about doing it.

    No-one “automatically” assumes living systems are the product of design because of human design. It is an inference. It is based, yes in part, on analogy to other systems we see that we know are designed. However, it is also based on the facts that (i) in every instance in which we know the source of such a system, it has turned out to be intelligent design, (ii) there is no known natural process that can account for such systems, and (iii) there are good evidentiary reasons for doubting that natural processes have the capability to generate such systems.

    Finally, the idea that we must know about the designer before we can infer design is simply false. We can, and regularly do, infer design from artifacts themselves. Indeed, we often learn about the designer and some of the capabilities of the designer from the artifacts.

    After all, man-made objects do not grow, metabolize, reproduce or evolve on their own, but living things do all that by themselves. We are yet to observe any supernatural intervention in a tree developing from a seed or a human baby developing from a zygote.

    Yes, this is a typical materialist talking point, but it is completely silly — and backwards. Essentially the argument is: (i) we observe that natural processes cannot produce complex functional systems that do X; but notwithstanding that fact, (ii) we will assert that natural processes can produce complex functional systems that do more than X. Utterly illogical. And without evidentiary support.

    In addition, if you make that argument I presume you are also willing to go on record stating that if, at some future date, humans are able to build a self-replicating system, then that will be evidence for design in living systems?

    See, also, our recent thread on this self-replication issue:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-paradigm/

  56. 56
    Mung says:

    If God exists, children would not die of cancer.

    Children die of cancer,

    Therefore God does not exist.

    QED

  57. 57
    Eric Anderson says:

    Tony @13:

    Just another follow-up to your comment.

    The one (“x is”) makes an infinite number of claims, the other (“x is not”) makes just the one.
    The “God, if He existed, would not be like X” formulation makes no claim, at all, about what God is other than “not X”: there is no claim to know the mind of God.

    If we followed your example, the reasoning would be like this:

    1. God, if He is like I think He is, would not be like X.
    2. Evidence shows God is like X.
    3. Therefore, God is not like I thought He was and I may need to rethink my conception of God.

    I’m perfectly happy with that approach. But that is most definitely not what Coyne (or anyone else arguing from evil/suffering in the world) is arguing. He is arguing that because God is not like Coyne thinks God should be, then God does not exist.

    So, to go to your other example, it would be like someone saying (about you):

    1. Tony, if he exists, is 6’8″ tall.
    2. Tony is not 6’8″ tall.
    3. Therefore, Tony does not exist!

    The real problem is not so much the formulation of 2 and 3 (and it doesn’t matter whether the overall argument is phrased in the positive or the negative). The real problem is in the underlying assumption built into #1.

    Thus, as I have laid out in the OP, we could quarrel with various aspects of #2 — is the evidence clear?, have we measured properly?, etc. But the key problem is in the a priori philosophical assumption that underlies Coyne’s personal conception of God.

  58. 58
    Andre says:

    Great OP Thank you Erik

    Here is my understanding scripture, In the absence of God there can be no life, since there are people that choose not to be saved, they will not be burning in Hell or have eternal agony, they will just be dead. Hell is reserved not for humans but for those that are from the Kingdom and rejected it outright.

    We pray every night “Thy will be done” One day God will say to you “Thy will be done”.

    No God means no life and you are here to choose what want. Now that is an awesome and just God that value’s your own free will above His own name.

  59. 59
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @Erik:

    anyone who goes to Hell, walks through the gates voluntarily.

    Since the overwhelming majority of people don’t want to go to hell, your imaginary hell must be a pretty empty space.

  60. 60
    Barb says:

    Mung @ 56:

    If God exists, children would not die of cancer.

    Children die of cancer,

    Therefore God does not exist.

    QED

    I think Eric Anderson answered this nicely: “The real problem is not so much the formulation of 2 and 3 (and it doesn’t matter whether the overall argument is phrased in the positive or the negative). The real problem is in the underlying assumption built into #1.”

    Also, what of the children who don’t die of cancer? Do they prove God’s existence?

  61. 61
    Joe says:

    For some reason I get the feeling that God is not beholden to our defintions. Nor is God beholden to how we think God should react, what we think God should be like, and what we think God should do/ be doing.

    I know the Intelligent Designer(s) is(are) not beholden to what we think of God. 😎

  62. 62
    Tony Lloyd says:

    The atheist, in making a claim about what God is like (or is not like, take your pick), is making an affirmative claim about characteristics of God, about God’s attributes, about what God would or would not do in certain circumstances.

    My point is not that one makes a claim whilst the other doesn’t but that one makes a much bigger, less secure, claim than the other.

    First a claim of my own about meaning. The declarative meaning of a statement is the negation of its negation. “Not (not P)” is just a longer winded way of saying “P” and “P” is just short for “not (not P)”. If P would not be false were not Q true then P does not mean not Q. That I am not eating a steak does not render “I am eating” false: so “I am eating” does not mean “I am eating a steak”. There are plenty of meals and snacks that do not include steak.

    If one talks in terms of what X is one, usually, finds, that one claims more than when one talks about what X is not. Take my example of someone’s height. If you say that I am 6’8”, then you say that I am not 5’7”; 5’8”; 5’9” and so on. If you say that I am not 6’8”; you do not say that I am 5’7”, nor say that I am 5’8”, nor say that I am 5’9” and so on.

    The claim that I am not 6’8” has much less content than the claim that I am 6’8” (or 5’7”; 5’8”; 5’9” and so on). As a result the claim that I am not 6’8” is much less ambitious than the claim that I am a particular height. If we met you would instantly see that I was not 6’8” and most would accept your testimony to that fact without need for further evidence. Were you to take one look at me and pronounce that I was 5’10 ¾” we would all look on you as a bit strange. Whilst we would question your being “cock-sure” about the positive claim, “cock-sure” is not even an appropriate term for the negative claim.

    Back to Coyne and one of his questions:
    “Why would the Abrahamic God, all-loving and all-powerful, allow natural evils to torment and kill people? Why can’t he keep kids from getting cancer? How did the Holocaust fit into God’s scheme?”

    The question clearly does presuppose some claims about that Abrahamic God. It implies that if He were to exist there would not be a combination of killing and tormenting of people by natural evils, childhood cancer and Holocaust. What it does not imply is that the world would be arranged in anyway other than it be arranged absent one of those three things.

    It does not claim that, were He to exist, the Abrahamic God would be “primarily concerned that everyone be happy all the time”. There are plenty of possible worlds where not everyone is happy all the time but there was no Holocaust, or where there is no childhood cancer but people are still upset that wars take place. The implicit claims simply do not mean “were God to exist then everyone would be happy all the time”. Nor that we would have a “carefree paradise”, nor that there would be “no suffering”, nor that we “should be beat over the head with signs”, nor…

    It would be inappropriate for Coyne to be “cock-sure” of the things you seem to infer from his questions, but these claims are not presupposed by the questions. The claims are much, much more limited.

    And were did Coyne get this, limited, view of certain aspect of God? From being told it, repeatedly, by theists of all stripes. They are your(plural) claims.
    Far from claiming to know the mind of God Coyne is not claiming any knowledge of God. The questions reflect back to you (again, plural), your own claims.

    And where those claims appear to conflict with reality I think Coyne is entitled to ask for an explanation

    – If God so loved the world that He sent His only son, why didn’t He sort out childhood cancer?
    – If goodness and mercy follow those who dwell with the Lord then how did the holocaust happen, even to the devout?

  63. 63
    bornagain77 says:

    How can there be shadow without light? How can there be evil without good?

    Michael W. Smith – You Won’t Let Go LIVE
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNZusL1OHG4

  64. 64
    Barb says:

    Tony Lloyd states,

    And were did Coyne get this, limited, view of certain aspect of God? From being told it, repeatedly, by theists of all stripes. They are your(plural) claims.

    No. Coyne’s biases shape his view of God. It’s pretty obvious he’s never discussed, debated, or studied Christianity.

    Far from claiming to know the mind of God Coyne is not claiming any knowledge of God. The questions reflect back to you (again, plural), your own claims.

    Coyne is claiming that if God exists, he should act in a particular way. He also ignores what the Bible states as to what God does with respect to humanity.

    And where those claims appear to conflict with reality I think Coyne is entitled to ask for an explanation

    – If God so loved the world that He sent His only son, why didn’t He sort out childhood cancer?
    – If goodness and mercy follow those who dwell with the Lord then how did the holocaust happen, even to the devout?

    Read my post @ 33 and get back to me.

  65. 65
    TSErik says:

    My point is not that one makes a claim whilst the other doesn’t but that one makes a much bigger, less secure, claim than the other.

    That’s some mighty strong equivocation there.

    – If God so loved the world that He sent His only son, why didn’t He sort out childhood cancer?

    Regardless of your aforementioned statements, again, you assume the mind of God. You are assuming that in order for the Abrahamic God to be good, there must be no suffering.

    Where does cancer fit in? I don’t know. We know cancer is a failure of the human body in some way. It is uncontrolled cellular replication.

    If we can ask that, then ask why do we get sick? Why do we age, and get old? Those who follow the Abrahamic God understand that our bodies are not perfect. Perhaps it is related to the fall? I cannot say. But the presence of cancer only invalidates the caricature of God that atheists erect.

    – If goodness and mercy follow those who dwell with the Lord then how did the holocaust happen, even to the devout?

    It was never stated that those who follow the Lord will be free from suffering in life. As a matter of fact, there are times where its suggested that those who follow the Lord will see harder times in the form of persecution.

    Again, this is a caricature from those who don’t really understand beyond their facsimile.

    The holocaust was perpetrated by men, not God. The supreme tenet of the Abrahamic God, is that of free will. If men cause suffering, pain, and death as an expression of their free will, then (in accordance with Abrahamic belief) they will answer for that.

    Remember, if we are arguing under the terms of Abrahamic belief, then we have to argue under the terms that the afterlife exists as well. And those innocents who died, do receive goodness and mercy, and are comforted after this life. The pain and suffering inflicted on them were but a blip in the face of eternity.

    If you wish to argue in the paradigm of the existence of YHWH, we have to accept the whole theology. The afterlife is part of that.

  66. 66
    Tony Lloyd says:

    @Barb

    Me: They are your(plural) claims.
    Barb: no

    Are you that unaware of the claims made by many of your fellow Christians for God? Are you, seriously, suggesting that a conception of God need to licence the question “if God then why all this bad stuff” is not part of mainstream Christianity?

    What question is “City of God” trying to answer? Or Plantinga’s “Free will defence”? Or much inbetween these two chronological extremes?

    And did you not “get” the biblical references? The Bible makes the claims.

    It’s pretty obvious he’s never discussed, debated, or studied Christianity.

    “Obvious”? It’s untrue.
    “Under the tutelage of the estimable Eric MacDonald, I have spent several weeks reading Christian theology.”
    http://whyevolutionistrue.word.....oing-this/

    This is quite a staggering claim on your part.

    Read my post @ 33 and get back to me.
    Why? It doesn’t answer Coyne’s questions. It doesn’t attempt to answer Coyne’s questions.

  67. 67
    bornagain77 says:

    Tony Lloyd, but why do you, as an atheist, presuppose that we should know what moral perfection should be? i.e. Just where are you getting your moral perfection from so as to make this moral judgement on your straw man god?

    “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But 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?”
    – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    “The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws.”
    – Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

    And, contrary to what the materialist/atheist would presuppose, we find much evidence to back up Dr. King’s assertion that “there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws”. For instance, we find that babies have an innate moral sense thus directly contradicting the notion that morals are learned as we grow older:

    For instance, a caring, loving, touch from the baby towards the mother’s uterine wall is found very early on in a baby’s development:

    Wired to Be Social: The Ontogeny of Human Interaction – 2010
    Excerpt: Kinematic analysis revealed that movement duration was longer and deceleration time was prolonged for other-directed movements compared to movements directed towards the uterine wall. Similar kinematic profiles were observed for movements directed towards the co-twin and self-directed movements aimed at the eye-region, i.e. the most delicate region of the body.
    http://www.plosone.org/article.....ne.0013199
    This ‘caring touch’ is also displayed in twins:

    Twin fetuses learn how to be social in the womb – October 13, 2010
    Excerpt: Humans have a deep-seated urge to be social, and new research on the interactions of twins in the womb suggests this begins even before babies are born.,,,
    The five pairs of twins were found to be reaching for each other even at 14 weeks, and making a range of contacts including head to head, arm to head and head to arm. By the time they were at 18 weeks, they touched each other more often than they touched their own bodies, spending up to 30 percent of their time reaching out and stroking their co-twin.,,,
    Kinematic analyses of the recordings showed the fetuses made distinct gestures when touching each other, and movements lasted longer — their hands lingered. They also took as much care when touching their twin’s delicate eye region as they did with their own. This type of contact was not the same as the inevitable contact between two bodies sharing a confined space or accidental contacts between the bodies and the walls of the uterus,,,
    The findings clearly demonstrate it is deep within human nature to reach out to other people.
    http://phys.org/news/206164323.....-womb.html

    Even toddlers display a highly developed sense of ‘moral justice’:

    The Moral Life of Babies – May 2010
    Excerpt: From Sigmund Freud to Jean Piaget to Lawrence Kohlberg, psychologists have long argued that we begin life as amoral animals.,,,
    A growing body of evidence, though, suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone.,,,
    Despite their overall preference for good actors over bad, then, babies are drawn to bad actors when those actors are punishing bad behavior.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05.....&_r=0

    Please note the highly developed moral sense of justice that was detected in toddlers in the preceding study when even the bad actors enforced moral justice!,, The following study goes even further in establishing the objective reality of morality by showing that ‘Moral evaluations of harm are instant and emotional’:

    Moral evaluations of harm are instant and emotional, brain study shows – November 29, 2012
    Excerpt: People are able to detect, within a split second, if a hurtful action they are witnessing is intentional or accidental, new research on the brain at the University of Chicago shows.
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/.....brain.html

    Of course, despite the inherent wonder of the preceding study, which is inexplicable on atheistic materialism, some atheists will, for whatever severely misguided reason reason, insist that this instantaneous moral compass which humans have, completely contrary to the ‘survival of the fittest, dog eat dog’ mantra, ‘just so happened’ to evolve to be an instant moral reaction to violent actions (despite the fact that Darwinists cannot even explain how a single neuron of the brain arose in the first place). But the following study, completely contrary to what atheists/materialists would presuppose beforehand, shows that morality is embedded on a much deeper ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, quantum level.

    Quantum Consciousness – Time Flies Backwards? – Stuart Hameroff MD
    Excerpt: Dean Radin and Dick Bierman have performed a number of experiments of emotional response in human subjects. The subjects view a computer screen on which appear (at randomly varying intervals) a series of images, some of which are emotionally neutral, and some of which are highly emotional (violent, sexual….). In Radin and Bierman’s early studies, skin conductance of a finger was used to measure physiological response They found that subjects responded strongly to emotional images compared to neutral images, and that the emotional response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds BEFORE the image appeared! Recently Professor Bierman (University of Amsterdam) repeated these experiments with subjects in an fMRI brain imager and found emotional responses in brain activity up to 4 seconds before the stimuli. Moreover he looked at raw data from other laboratories and found similar emotional responses before stimuli appeared.
    http://www.quantumconsciousnes.....Flies.html

    As well, the following experiment, from Princeton, is very interesting in that it was found that ‘perturbed randomness’ precedes a worldwide ‘moral crisis’:

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    Mass Consciousness: Perturbed Randomness Before First Plane Struck on 911 – July 29 2012
    Excerpt: The machine apparently sensed the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre four hours before they happened – but in the fevered mood of conspiracy theories of the time, the claims were swiftly knocked back by sceptics. But it also appeared to forewarn of the Asian tsunami just before the deep sea earthquake that precipitated the epic tragedy.,,
    Now, even the doubters are acknowledging that here is a small box with apparently inexplicable powers. ‘It’s Earth-shattering stuff,’ says Dr Roger Nelson, emeritus researcher at Princeton University in the United States, who is heading the research project behind the ‘black box’ phenomenon.
    http://www.network54.com/Forum.....uck+on+911

    Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research – Scientific Study of Consciousness-Related Physical Phenomena – publications
    http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/publications.html

    There is simply no coherent explanation that a materialist/atheist can give as to why morally troubling situations are detected prior to our becoming fully aware of them or before they even happen. The materialist/atheist simply has no beyond space and time cause to appeal to to explain why the phenomena should happen! Whereas as a Theist, especially as a Christian Theist who believes that the Lord Jesus Christ died and rose again to pay for our sins, I would fully expect that morality, especially since I hold morality to be ‘objective’, would have such a deep, ‘spooky’, beyond space and time, effect since, of course, I hold that God, who is morally perfect, upholds the universe in its continued existence and I also hold that we have ‘transcendent souls’, created by God, in His image, that are able to sense and interact with the perfect objective morality of God.

    This following study is sort of the cherry on the cake and shows that objective morality is even built/designed into the way our bodies respond to different kinds of ‘moral’ happiness:

    Human Cells Respond in Healthy, Unhealthy Ways to Different Kinds of Happiness – July 29, 2013
    Excerpt: Human bodies recognize at the molecular level that not all happiness is created equal, responding in ways that can help or hinder physical health,,,
    The sense of well-being derived from “a noble purpose” may provide cellular health benefits, whereas “simple self-gratification” may have negative effects, despite an overall perceived sense of happiness, researchers found.,,,
    “Philosophers have long distinguished two basic forms of well-being: a ‘hedonic’ [hee-DON-ic] form representing an individual’s pleasurable experiences, and a deeper ‘eudaimonic,’ [u-DY-moh-nick] form that results from striving toward meaning and a noble purpose beyond simple self-gratification,” wrote Fredrickson and her colleagues.
    It’s the difference, for example, between enjoying a good meal and feeling connected to a larger community through a service project, she said. Both give us a sense of happiness, but each is experienced very differently in the body’s cells.,,,
    But if all happiness is created equal, and equally opposite to ill-being, then patterns of gene expression should be the same regardless of hedonic or eudaimonic well-being. Not so, found the researchers.
    Eudaimonic well-being was, indeed, associated with a significant decrease in the stress-related CTRA gene expression profile. In contrast, hedonic well-being was associated with a significant increase in the CTRA profile. Their genomics-based analyses, the authors reported, reveal the hidden costs of purely hedonic well-being.,,
    Fredrickson found the results initially surprising, because study participants themselves reported overall feelings of well-being. One possibility, she suggested, is that people who experience more hedonic than eudaimonic well-being consume the emotional equivalent of empty calories. “Their daily activities provide short-term happiness yet result in negative physical consequences long-term,” she said.
    “We can make ourselves happy through simple pleasures, but those ’empty calories’ don’t help us broaden our awareness or build our capacity in ways that benefit us physically,” she said. “At the cellular level, our bodies appear to respond better to a different kind of well-being, one based on a sense of connectedness and purpose.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....161952.htm

    To believe that Darwinian evolution could produce such a ‘morally nuanced’ genetic mechanism, a mechanism which discerns between morally noble causes and morally self gratifying causes, moral causes which are below our immediate feelings of satisfaction, is not a parsimonious belief to believe in to put it mildly. Especially given the fact that Darwinian evolution has yet to demonstrate the origination of a single gene and/or protein in the first place!

  68. 68
    Barb says:

    Tony continues,

    Are you that unaware of the claims made by many of your fellow Christians for God?

    I am aware of them, is Coyne? Are you?

    Are you, seriously, suggesting that a conception of God need to licence the question “if God then why all this bad stuff” is not part of mainstream Christianity?

    “If God, then why all this bad stuff?” has been asked and answered repeatedly by Christians throughout history. Try actually reading some of the answers sometime.

    What question is “City of God” trying to answer? Or Plantinga’s “Free will defence”? Or much inbetween these two chronological extremes?

    Again, what did you think of the answers?

    And did you not “get” the biblical references? The Bible makes the claims.

    Read my post again @ 33 which answers the questions.

    “Obvious”? It’s untrue.
    “Under the tutelage of the estimable Eric MacDonald, I have spent several weeks reading Christian theology.”
    http://whyevolutionistrue.word…..oing-this/

    Several weeks? Wow, how impressive. Come back when you’ve read the Bible and studied it for at least a year, just to get the basics down. Several weeks is a joke, as are most of Coyne’s (rhetorical) questions about God.

    This is quite a staggering claim on your part.

    That you defend Coyne is also staggering. But atheists have to stick together, right?

    Why? It doesn’t answer Coyne’s questions. It doesn’t attempt to answer Coyne’s questions.

    *FACEPALM*
    It answered all of Coyne’s questions, as did another post I made in this thread. Your ignorance is astonishing.

  69. 69
    Dionisio says:

    I think the following text fits in this topic, and I believe it may help clarify some parts of this discussion:

    Acts 17:16-34 (ESV)

    Paul in Athens

    Now while Paul was […] at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

    Paul Addresses the Areopagus

    So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for

    “‘In Him we live and move and have our being’;

    as even some of your own poets have said,

    “‘For we are indeed His offspring.’

    Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.”

    Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

  70. 70
    Tony Lloyd says:

    Barb, we’re going to get nowhere if you move the goalposts.

    The negation of “never discussed, debated, or studied Christianity” is not having “read the Bible and studied it for at least a year”. You, unfairly, imply that Coyne is arguing from a position of, willing, profound ignorance and when called out on it you send me on a reading assignment!

    “If God, then why all this bad stuff?” has been asked and answered repeatedly by Christians throughout history. That’s in comment 68. In comment 64 you deny that Christians entertain the supposition necessary for the question to make sense. Later in comment 68, it’s a “crazy” question. Still later it’s part of a series of questions you’ve answered.

    “Try actually reading some of the answers sometime.”

    You’ve already been caught out assuming that someone hasn’t read when they have: I can only put this down to you trying to be rude and provocative. An impression bolstered by:

    *FACEPALM*

    Palm your face all you want, a post that considers some “interesting questions” from Eric and what you “think (..) is what atheists want life on Earth to be, if they believed God existed” is not likely to answer a set of different (and “crazy”) questions. And, of course, it doesn’t. Is childhood cancer dependent on bad government, religion, human imperfection/selfishness, demonic influence and the “last days”? No. Of course not. So they do not explain why there is childhood cancer.

  71. 71

    Thank you for the feedback, Barb @12: “the Israelites, in obedience to divine command”

    For context, I have been a Christian since March 13, 1971. I believed then and still do that Jesus Christ died to pay for my sins and physically rose again from the dead in the most very literal fashion. On the other hand, my views on some aspects of Christianity have changed over time as I have thought about them and exposed myself to readings and discussions both in favor of and opposed to Christianity. I’m operating under the premise that if Christianity is true, there is no need to shield myself from exposure to opposing arguments. Indeed, avoiding contrary perspectives would be an admission that Christianity isn’t defensible.

    Numbers 31 was pointed out to me by an agnostic in a discussion group I’m involved with (http://www.meetup.com/THINK-Th.....um-Irvine/). First there’s the killing of the boys. In addition I was struck by how the young girls and the livestock were all referred to multiple times in almost exactly the same fashion—in effect, just as property to be distributed. There was hardly any suggestion of the dignity of these girls as human beings made in the image of God. In regard to these girls, the implication was virtually identical to the atheist concept that we are all just animals.

    I think the solution to the conundrum of the conflict between such Old Testament passages and an omnibenevolent God is using the discernment we have received (“guide you into all the truth”) to recognize the human limitations within the process of the transmission of God’s revelation to us. That’s what I tried to do in @6.

  72. 72
    Mapou says:

    To atheists and theists

    Why do bad things happen if there is a God that can prevent them from happening? Answer: Because we live in a Yin-yang reality. You can’t have good things without bad things for the same reason that you can’t have left without right. Not even God can change this fact of logic. Bad things are a necessary part of humanity’s training. That is the price of existence. As a Christian, I also know there is a time for everything. This current age is the time for bad things. After that, paradise.

    Again, one cannot know the good without knowing the bad. They are complementary.

  73. 73
    Barb says:

    Tony writes,

    Barb, we’re going to get nowhere if you move the goalposts.

    I’m not moving anything.

    The negation of “never discussed, debated, or studied Christianity” is not having “read the Bible and studied it for at least a year”. You, unfairly, imply that Coyne is arguing from a position of, willing, profound ignorance and when called out on it you send me on a reading assignment!

    Coyne is arguing from a position of profound ignorance. The question of why evil exists has been debated for centuries. Do not presume to be ignorant of this. Has Coyne read Aquinas? Plantinga? Anything? Yes? Then why is he asking what amount to rhetorical questions regarding evil and suffering? The answers are readily available to anyone who wants to know.

    “If God, then why all this bad stuff?” has been asked and answered repeatedly by Christians throughout history. That’s in comment 68. In comment 64 you deny that Christians entertain the supposition necessary for the question to make sense. Later in comment 68, it’s a “crazy” question. Still later it’s part of a series of questions you’ve answered.

    I didn’t deny anything. Do not presume to speak for me or put words in my mouth. It is a crazy question, at least from the perspective of someone who has studied the Bible. As I pointed out, the answers are readily available.

    “Try actually reading some of the answers sometime.”
    You’ve already been caught out assuming that someone hasn’t read when they have: I can only put this down to you trying to be rude and provocative.

    You read my post? Then why defend Coyne, when the questions he asks have already been answered?

    Palm your face all you want, a post that considers some “interesting questions” from Eric and what you “think (..) is what atheists want life on Earth to be, if they believed God existed” is not likely to answer a set of different (and “crazy”) questions.

    So you’re picking apart a post I made to someone else. And complaining about it.

    And, of course, it doesn’t. Is childhood cancer dependent on bad government, religion, human imperfection/selfishness, demonic influence and the “last days”? No. Of course not. So they do not explain why there is childhood cancer.

    Wow, so you read my post but didn’t get the point? Okay. Childhood cancer is dependent on many things, including genetics (which Christians will point to as being part of “original sin”). Bad government: denying lower income families the resources to get treatment for childhood cancer. Human imperfection: already noted.
    Ignoring the answers because you don’t like them philosophically or religiously does not make them wrong. I note that no one has successfully rebutted them, including you.

  74. 74
    Tony Lloyd says:

    “I’m not moving anything.”

    Then

    “Has Coyne read Aquinas? Plantinga? Anything?”

    Now we’re back to “anything”. In 64 the objection is that Coyne has no engagement. In 68 insufficient. In 73: back to no.

    That is “moving the goalposts”

    “I didn’t deny anything.

    Back in 64:
    (From me): “They are your(plural) claims.”
    From you: “No”

    That is a denial.

    “Has Coyne read Aquinas? Plantinga? Anything?”
    I don’t know about Aquinas. I presume that something (if the goalposts are in the “something-being-acceptable” position) was in the reading list he was given. I do know whether Coyne has read any Plantinga, and the answer is “yes”:
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/alvin-plantinga-sophisticated-theologian/

    “”Then why is he asking what amount to rhetorical questions regarding evil and suffering?”

    Two things:
    1. The direct reference to Plantinga quoted was in the context of a discussion between Plantinga and Dennett. It is quite possible to be informed and disagree with Plantinga: which is Dennett’s position. And that of all the co-contributors to “Naturalism Defeated”, all those people who reply to his papers, as Russell was not “profoundly ignorant” in disagreeing with Copleston….
    2. If you are referring to Plantinga’s “free will defence” then, at least in the version I’ve read (in “The Nature of Necessity”) Plantinga makes it clear that it is not an answer to “why” (which would be a “theodicy”) but an outline of how his position can be consistent/logically possible (a “defence”).

    “Bad government: denying lower income families the resources to get treatment for childhood cancer.”

    Read it. Please. Just calmly read it. Again. You cannot have need of treatment for childhood cancer unless there is … childhood cancer. If we had good government that funded all the treatment you could ever hope for then we would still have childhood cancer.

    Ok. “Explanation”. An explanation is what we commonly use to answer “why-questions” (see Hempel). An explanantion is commonly in the form of an argument with the premises forming the explanans (the “thing doing the explaning”) and the conclusion forming the explanandum (the “thing to be explained”). A valid argument, where the explanans entails the explanandum can be said to be a full explanation with explanantions being worse and worse as they grow more enthymematic/inductive/probabilistic.

    If there is little substantive “force” from explanans to explanandum then the explanation is too “weak” to, really, be an explanation.

    So you’re picking apart a post I made to someone else.

    No. As was quite obvious, I was objecting to your “Read my post @ 33 and get back to me.” and the implied claim (later made specific) that it answered the questions. I have no objections to the post per se but, if the questions you are now saying it answers are taken as the explanandum then the explanans does to “lead” you to the explanandum, let alone entail it. This shouldn’t be a surprise as, as I quoted you writing you put forward explanations for two other sets of questions.

    And complaining about it. Absolutely! Do you have such a tin ear that you cannot see how annoying a comment like “Read my post @ 33 and get back to me.” is? Or use of the term “ignorance”, “crazy”, the “(t)ry actually reading some of the answers sometime.” etc.

  75. 75
    ppolish says:

    The child who died of cancer most likely experienced Love while alive. Should that child never have been born?

    If that child did not “end up” in a better place, then existence makes no sense. Suffering makes sense only if there IS a God. With no God, suffering is senseless.

  76. 76
    Barb says:

    Tony goes on,

    “I’m not moving anything.”
    Then
    “Has Coyne read Aquinas? Plantinga? Anything?”
    Now we’re back to “anything”. In 64 the objection is that Coyne has noengagement. In 68 insufficient. In 73: back to no.
    That is “moving the goalposts”

    Arguing semantics? How atheistic. Why not just admit that Coyne’s knowledge of Christianity and the arguments in favor of God’s existence are shallow?

    “I didn’t deny anything.
    Back in 64:
    (From me): “They are your(plural) claims.”
    From you: “No”
    That is a denial.

    Again, you are arguing semantics.

    I don’t know about Aquinas. I presume that something (if the goalposts are in the “something-being-acceptable” position) was in the reading list he was given. I do know whether Coyne has read any Plantinga, and the answer is “yes”:
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/alvin-plantinga-sophisticated-theologian/

    Did Coyne learn anything from reading Plantinga? Or is he simply dismissive of any Christian writings because he refuses to read it with an open mind?

    Two things:
    1. The direct reference to Plantinga quoted was in the context of a discussion between Plantinga and Dennett. It is quite possible to be informed and disagree with Plantinga: which is Dennett’s position. And that of all the co-contributors to “Naturalism Defeated”, all those people who reply to his papers, as Russell was not “profoundly ignorant” in disagreeing with Copleston….
    2. If you are referring to Plantinga’s “free will defence” then, at least in the version I’ve read (in “The Nature of Necessity”) Plantinga makes it clear that it is not an answer to “why” (which would be a “theodicy”) but an outline of how his position can be consistent/logically possible (a “defence”).

    And the bottom line is that despite his superficial knowledge of Christianity, Coyne is still asking questions for which there are answers, very good answers. That he appears unaware of this makes him look foolish. That people defend his shallowness makes them look foolish.

    Read it. Please. Just calmly read it. Again. You cannot have need of treatment for childhood cancer unless there is … childhood cancer. If we had good government that funded all the treatment you could ever hope for then we would still have childhood cancer.

    I did read it. There are very valid reasons for conditions that we see today. You atheists want to blame God (the only time you acknowledge that he might exist is to pin blame on him for something) for it without acknowledging that humans often cause their own suffering.

    I have noticed that, in general, atheists tend to argue thusly:

    Evil in the world: “God is a monster! How can he allow it?” – atheists
    The Earth and life itself: “All happened naturally, no creator” – atheists

    That you live with such a weird dichotomy is amusing to me. God only exists, or can exist, if he can be blamed for all the world’s problems. Never mind giving him credit for what he did right.

    The fact is people are denied treatment for numerous diseases…this is not God’s fault. It is administrative and governmental in nature. It is HUMAN in nature. People drink and drive, despite the fact that God explicitly states not to get drunk. Whose fault is that? God’s? Or the irresponsible driver?

    Ok. “Explanation”. An explanation is what we commonly use to answer “why-questions” (see Hempel). An explanantion is commonly in the form of an argument with the premises forming the explanans (the “thing doing the explaning”) and the conclusion forming the explanandum (the “thing to be explained”). A valid argument, where the explanans entails the explanandum can be said to be a full explanation with explanantions being worse and worse as they grow more enthymematic/inductive/probabilistic.
    If there is little substantive “force” from explanans to explanandum then the explanation is too “weak” to, really, be an explanation.

    I did answer the questions. You haven’t refuted a single one. All you are doing is blowing smoke because you have no real answer. Your only answer is to blame God for things that he did not do. Which amounts to utter atheist stupidity.
    I’ll repeat: just because you don’t like the answer does not make it wrong.

    No. As was quite obvious, I was objecting to your “Read my post @ 33 and get back to me.” and the implied claim (later made specific) that it answered the questions. I have no objections to the post per se but, if the questions you are now saying it answers are taken as the explanandum then the explanans does to “lead” you to the explanandum, let alone entail it. This shouldn’t be a surprise as, as I quoted you writing you put forward explanations for two other sets of questions.

    It did answer the questions. That you refuse to engage me in debate over whether or not you agree with the answers is obvious. The answers are there. Your refusal to acknowledge them says far more about you and your worldview than anything else.

    And complaining about it. Absolutely! Do you have such a tin ear that you cannot see how annoying a comment like “Read my post @ 33 and get back to me.” is? Or use of the term “ignorance”, “crazy”, the “(t)ry actually reading some of the answers sometime.” etc.

    Then try rebutting them instead of arguing sematics.

  77. 77
    Smidlee says:

    Did anyone read the chapters before chapter 31 of Numbers? Didn’t God directly tried to prevent Chapter 31 of ever happening even use a miracle of a donkey talking to Balaam. Balak wouldn’t give up until Balaam give him something to curse Israel. The Jews continually disobey God which cause them to wonder for 40 years. Balaam finally told Balak if he gets Israel to sin God would have to judge them which God did but of course this backfired. This cause eventually lead to war in Chapter 31 and the results of war which is always ugly.
    The love of wealth is often back of many wars. Balaam love wealth wanted to please Balak just like some American companies trying to get around the monopoly laws help lead to the Holocaust.
    All God has to do to judge man is to step back and let man reap what he sows.

  78. 78
    ppolish says:

    The Christian Religion is founded on Suffering. The Crucifix is it’s Symbol.

    To an Atheist, suffering is meaningless. To a Christian, suffering is meaningful. Necessary.

  79. 79
    Barb says:

    I would disagree with ppolish on one thing: the Christian religion is founded, not on suffering, but on the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. Suffering was only one component of his life, which was primarily spent trying to teach people about God.

    I used an illustration of a drunk driver in my previous post. To an atheist, this is meaningless because we’re only victims of our selfish genes. We don’t bear any responsibility for our behavior. Therefore, no action is truly “wrong” in nature.

    (That we have laws against drunk driving is somehow lost on them if nothing is truly “wrong”)

    It’s much easier to argue that there’s no God and, ultimately, no reason for humanity to worship anything. There’s no reason behind life itself, except what we make of it. And what have we made of it? Is there good in this world? Absolutely. Is there bad? No doubt. But the atheist–who doesn’t acknowledge God–can’t rightly then blame God for the suffering in the world. We are all victims of blind, purposeless processes that have been going on for millenia.

    This presents another issue, however: this isn’t an explanation for suffering in the world.

  80. 80
    ppolish says:

    “Why is there suffering waawaa” “Why does a tsunami drown me and a supernova evaporate me instantly” “Why why why?”

    Four words Jerry Atheist, four words:

    HTFU

    Amen.

    Ok, 5 words

  81. 81
    ppolish says:

    You’re right, Barb. How about “Love hurts”?

  82. 82
    Barb says:

    ppolish @ 81: Something like that.

  83. 83
    Eric Anderson says:

    Tony @62:

    The claim that I am not 6’8” has much less content than the claim that I am 6’8” (or 5’7”; 5’8”; 5’9” and so on).

    I understand your point. But — here is the key — this is not what Coyne is doing.

    Coyne is not claiming that you are not 6’8″, to use your example. He is claiming that because you are not 6’8″ you don’t exist.

    That is a much stronger claim than any of the others. And it can only be based on an implicit, if somewhat hidden, claim that you are also not 5’7″, 5’8″, 5’9″ and on and on ad infinitum. Coyne is saying that if you don’t fit the particular characteristics he has in mind, then you don’t exist. This is not a modest, limited claim.

    Again, I’m perfectly happy for Coyne to acknowledge that he has a misconception of God and that he needs to rethink his ideas about God. No problem. But none of us should hold our breath awaiting such an acknowledgement. He claims God doesn’t exist, because God doesn’t fit some personal perception about how God should be. He is most definitely saying “If God existed, He would be like X.” He is definitely claiming that he knows what God would be like if God existed. That is the whole basis of his argument.

  84. 84
    Eric Anderson says:

    TSErik @65:

    Well said.

  85. 85
    Tony Lloyd says:

    Hi Eric
    I understand your point. But — here is the key — this is not what Coyne is doing.

    I understand yours, but that’s not what I read your article as accusing Coyne of doing.

    Yes, A:“If Tony is not 6’8” then he doesn’t exist” is silly, the conditional is false.

    There are, of course, other statements of the same form that are quite correct. What you’re reading has been, physically, produced by a computer. This leaves the (rather far-fetched) possibility that the content of this post has been computer generated . Were this so then Tony wouldn’t really exist. (Yes, you could have it that “Tony” exists as a computer output, a fantasy or whatever, but run with me.)

    There are properties of human individuals that are not properties of computers. One of them is that humans are made of meat. And so:

    B: “If Tony is not made of meat then he doesn’t exist” is not silly, the conditional (given the meaning of “exist” we’re running with!) is true.

    Now consider another claim:

    C: “
    1. If Tony is a program written by Microsoft in tandem with the TSA which runs on an Apple laptop linked to the internet via BT Broadband and engages in semantics online then he doesn’t exist
    2. Tony is a program written by Microsoft in tandem with the TSA which runs on an Apple laptop linked to the internet via BT Broadband and engages in semantics online
    3. Therefore he doesn’t exist”

    The conditional in 1 is quite correct, but the argument is still silly. Anyone putting forward C has made a number of claims about specific attributes of “Tony”, claims he is unlikely to be in a position to reasonably make.

    The person putting forward C has made a different error from the person putting forward A. And if you, wrongly, accuse people of making the error in C when they haven’t what is there to stop you accusing people of making the error in C when they have made no error at all? I would say that, whether or not Coyne has made error A, you make no argument that he has.

    @Barb
    I’d love to see you conduct a legal defence:
    “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. The prosecution has shown that my client entered the premises, took the money and then spent it. I put it to you, though, that to convict him on that account of burglary is an exercise in semantics.”

  86. 86
    Barb says:

    Tony:

    @Barb
    I’d love to see you conduct a legal defence:

    And I’d love to see you rebut even one of my posts.

  87. 87
    Eric Anderson says:

    Tony:

    Thanks for your comments.

    You have made a valiant effort to defend Coyne and/or dispute my assessment of Coyne, but it just doesn’t hold.

    You are still stuck on the semantic question of whether the claim is framed in the positive or the negative. It doesn’t make any difference for the conclusion Coyne is reaching.

    Again, I accept your point that whether a claim is made about the existence of a particular attribute or about the absence of a particular attribute can affect how much is being claimed. But that doesn’t impact what we are discussing in regards to Coyne because he does not take the logical path of limiting his conclusion in that way. He goes all in. He goes for the whole enchilada.

    Coyne’s conclusion is not that a particular attribute doesn’t exist. Coyne’s claim is that because a particular attribute doesn’t exist, then God doesn’t exist. This can only be the case — it is impossible otherwise — if Coyne presumes to know the attributes of God.

    —–

    As to the other claim you made @62 about Coyne getting his ideas from theists, I am afraid that is not where Coyne is getting his ideas. Although I empathize with the concern that there are different conceptions about God in the world and that some theists may not do a good job of laying out their views, the idea that Coyne is just an innocent listener who was led to his simplistic ideas about God by “theists of all stripes” is absurd on its face.

    There isn’t person of Judeo-Christian tradition around, certainly no-one of any note, who would claim that the God of the Bible wouldn’t allow suffering, for example. There are many scholars and writers who have explicitly and specifically addressed the question of suffering and evil in the world. So Coyne isn’t getting his simplistic conception of God from them.

    Additionally, one cannot even make it through the first book of the Bible without understanding quite clearly that God does permit suffering and does mete out punishment. So Coyne obviously isn’t getting his simplistic conception of God from the Bible either.

    A person might complain that they don’t like that kind of God. They could even say that they would prefer Coyne’s “all-loving” God that doesn’t permit suffering and never metes out punishment. Fine, that is their personal preference.

    But, again, that is not what Coyne is doing. Rather, he is setting up a caricature in his own mind, claiming something that the Bible and Judeo-Christian scholars have never claimed: that the Abrahamic God would not allow suffering and evil in the world, because He is “all-loving.” Unfortunately, that is Coyne’s simplistic, juvenile claim about what God would be like, not anything he learned from “theists of all stripes.”

  88. 88
  89. 89

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