Try as I might, I appear to be unable to abandon this discussion. I lied, apparently, breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Obviously, I never said one death is morally equivalent to another death. Why would I have? It’s David (not I) who appears to think an omni-God who created a world in which people die is guilty of “genocide”. In fact, david appears to be arguing that (if there is an omni-God) God and God alone is guilty of any and all sins that have ever been committed. David has absolved Hitler, John Wayne Gacy, and Snidely Wiplash in one fell swoop (assuming, of course, an omni-God). I disagree. I think people can be guilty of sin, including genocide, whether there is an omni-God or not. So why you accuse me of saying precisely what I am arguing AGAINST is a mystery, maddog.
One reason I was determined to abandon this asinine discussion is idiotic arguments like this one, that have no bearing on anything I’ve said. Why would you possibly think that I AGREE with David? We’ve been arguing for pages!
If you want to argue against someone who thinks the Bible IS literal truth, find someone else, maddog. That’s exactly what I’m complaining about – when I try to frame the subject in MY terms, you say, “How many Christians are able to, as you say, "think of God not as an actual 'being' but as a literary creation"? I don't know of many "literary Christians." They don't think the Bible is literature, they think it's TRUE, and they act accordingly, including acting on and for others, even non-believers. You've got it exactly backwards. It's those who truly believe that the stories are true who cannot suspend disbelief and merely enjoy the story.”
First of all, readers who believe what they are reading is “literal truth” are perfectly able to “suspend disbelief”, so I have no idea what you are on about. Why would I? It’s incomprehensible.
Second, if the God of the Bible is a logical impossibility, the book is flawed. I’ll grant that! It would be a perfectly reasonable form of literary criticism to say that the book is logically flawed, and that affects your ability to suspend disbelief. However, since nobody (not the most Fundamentalist of Christians) thinks that everything in the Bible is “literal truth”, it would be very difficult to argue based on the Bible –david has not attempted that. When I tried to bring up the Book of Job, as a potentially interesting subject of conversation, you and david merely ridiculed the notion. David (and you) are free to argue against anything you want to argue against – but don’t pretend you are arguing against me.
David, your obsessive/compulsive disorder is acting up again. Please seek help.
I always like getting the last word. (I also wanted to explain why I wasn't going to argue anymore. In addition, the only questions I asked in the above post are rhetorical ones that I answered myself.)
I'm done with this discussion (because it has devolved into repeating ourselves). david and maddog’s assumption that Christians (which, by the way I am not) are either insane or have failed to read the Book of Job is not charitable.
David's method of arguing involves defining all the terms himself, refusing to accept an argument in any terms other than his own, and arguing against an imaginary interlocutor instead of against an actual person. Maddog’s method is mere incredulity (“I can’t believe anyone is coming out in favor of genocide!”). It’s as if she is unaware that, yes, everyone dies. So, naturally, if death is a horrible thing, God created a horrible world. Everyone knows this. There’s no point in repeating it over and over again. News Bulletin: People die whether they are gassed or not!
Is Christianity difficult? Are there seeming logical contradictions in such beliefs as “death begets life” or “three is one” or “a loving God sends people to hell”? Of course there are. But david doesn’t want to think about how these seeming contradictions can be reconciled with the obvious fact that millions of intelligent, articulate Christians have belief systems in which the contradictions ARE reconciled.
If we think of God not as an actual “being” but as a literary creation, it’s obvious that the seeming contradictions bug maddog and david so much that they can’t suspend disbelief and enjoy the story. That’s too bad for them, but the rationale by which they make that judgment seems dubious to me. OK, “omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent” might represent some (very slight) hyperbole in the story. Perhaps God is ALMOST omni – in which case david’s entire argument falls apart. It would be as if someone couldn’t enjoy War and Peace because Tolstoy calls Pierre a “good man”, yet Pierre plots to assassinate Napoleon. “I can’t believe anyone could call assassinations ‘good’!” maddog might protest, before slamming the book shut. But fiction, like reality, is complicated, and no matter how obsessive or compulsive the reader (david?) when the text calls God “all-powerful” a variety of meanings can be suggested by the term. Only david demands literal interpretation and logical consistency – sophisticated readers are more willing to seek interpretations that ARE logically consistent, instead of defining every term so that they are not.
Human beings do not exist in heaven (as I understand Christian Theology). Souls do. Human being have bodies and souls. In addition, we know that not all beings in heaven are little goody-goodies. Lucifer, for example, was not.
I disagree with you that if humans always and inevitably made "good" (acc. to whom? Maddog?) moral choices they would still have a "choice". If they would, the distinction between choice and non-choice is a distinction without a difference. Jesus said we should "love our neighbors as ourselves". That seems to me like loving everyone equally (if not to you).
It seems to me like you want to define "sin" as you accuse Christians of defining it when it suits your case, and as YOU would define it when it suits your case. You can't have it both ways.
If you were a parent, would you love you child better if he always, inevitably obeyed you? I wouldn't. I love mine better because he has a mind of his own. Nonetheless, I sometimes (when he was younger.. and more like "once" instead of sometimes) punished him.
Read "The Worm Orouboros" (which I recommended to david earlier). The plot is about how when the heroes destroyed the villians, they thought it made the world a worse place, there no longer being an outlet for their heroism. Have you read the book of Job? If not I recommend it, especially the part where God starts listing the animals he made. It's gorgeous, and God is telling Job -- "Don't tell ME how to make a wonderful world. Did you make the War Horse? Or did I?"
Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?
20Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.
21He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.
22He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.
23The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield.
24He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.
25He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
Without the battle, no warhorse. God seems to be happy with creating the warhorse, though.
It's an exercise, Mddog. Have you ever read Lewis Carrol's logic puzzles? The conlusions are nonsensical, because the postulates are nonsensical. By the way, you are jumping to conclusions about what I "said". Suppose someone were to say:
1) Life is horrible for beings who are unable to think logically.
2) Dogs cannot think logically.
3) It's evil to create beings for whom life is horrible.
4) God created dogs.
Conclusion: God is evil.
Why can't God simply create dogs who can think logically? That would surely solve the problem. But then (surely) the dogs would no longer be dogs -- or, at least, no longer like the dogs dog lovers know and love. Could an omnipotent God create dogs that are logical, and yet that dog lovers love as much as they love the illogical dogs that are around today? Well, we don't know. Maybe He could, maybe He couldn't (despite His omni status, the dogs would be so different that people of free will might not love them as much). Similarly, for those who love humans, could God have created humans who don't suffer, don't die, and don't sin, but whom we (and He) love as much as those humans who are around today? Again, maybe He could, maybe He couldn't. We do know that He couldn't create courageous humans, or humans with fortitude, or prudence, or heroic humans under those conditions, because these qualities are impossible without suffering.
If an omnipotent God "helped" everyone behave like little goody-goodies, what merit would there be in behaving well? None. The "moral" choice you think so wonderful would cease to exist. It only exists because of the possibility of an immoral choice. For most of us, doesn't "love" suggest preferring one person over others? Isn't it a form of differentiation? Would we prefer a lover who says, "I love you a lot -- you are the most wonderful person in the world!" to one who says, "I love you a lot, exactly like I love everyone else in the world." The sin-less saint is required (it seems to me and to George Orwell) to say the latter. But, even if it is a sin to fail to love all of our fellow humans perfectly (by loving one better than others), it is a beautiful sin, a wonderful sin, lauded in art and poetry, and an essential part of the human condition.
To David: Yes, of course (as I've said before) it was in an omni God's power to create a world in which humans do not perform evil. That's not what's in question. What's in question (as I understand it) are two things: 1) Is a God who has the power to create a world in which humans do not perform evil, but instead created this world automatically disqualified from omni-status (you appear to have agreed with me that He is not)? and 2) Is such a God nonetheless required by justice not to put anyone in Hell (which I haven't sufficiently answered yet, and may or may not get to)?
"Unlimited power to prevent it" does not mean "unlimited power". That's why the article's "formal proof" is silly. The person (or God) who could destroy the universe WOULD have "unlimited power to prevent evil". No universe = no evil. I was simply offering an example of unlimited power to prevent evil of which you obviously would not approve. (If I say, "I have unlimited power to do X", I don't mean I have unlimited power, I mean I can do X.)
From a more general perspective:
P1: Humans who are incapable of evil are no longer "human" (because they are so different from the humans we know).
P2: God can create beings incapable of evil.
Conclusion: the beings God created who are incapable of evil would not be "human".
P3: For some strange reason, which we can't quite understand but which, as humans, we SHOULD sympathize with, God loves humans and wanted to create them. So (although morally perfect Himself) He created beings who are sometimes evil. (I admit, david, that this doesn't deal with your argument, just with maddog's).
My last post is a response to the philosophy article you linked, not to your argument, david, which, I admit, is more difficult to argue against than the philosopher's (or, at least, than the philosopher's formal proof -- I read the rest of the article, but not very carefully). I'll get back to your points if I get a chance (although we've already hashed it out pretty throoughly). Obviously, the general problem of justifying the existance of a benevolent God with Hell is a thorny one -- and although I don't necessarily think david can PROVE that God is not benevolent given Hell, it obviously SEEMS like He isn't (preponderance of evidence), although Blake's and Lewis's conceptions of Hell might make rectification possible.
David’s linked formal proof does not impress me. The crux is Postulate 3, which reasonable people cannot accept. "(3) If someone did not prevent the occurrence of evil despite having full knowledge in advance that it would occur if he were not to prevent it and despite also having unlimited power to prevent it, then that person is morally culpable for its occurrence."
It would, of course, be possible to eliminate all human evil. All we would have to do is eliminate all humans. Suppose you had a doomsday machine that could kill all the people in the world, quickly and painlessly. If you refuse to use it, are you “morally culpable for (human caused evil’s) occurrence” (as you would be if you accept postulate 3)? I suppose one could argue that killing all people would be evil in and of itself, but we could change the doomsday machine to one which sterilized everyone, or one which Clockwork Oranged them into automatons incapable of evil, and the result would still be unacceptable (to me, at least, and probably to most other people).
So you aren’t (necessarily) morally culpable if you fail to prevent evil, even though you could. Why? Because evil does not exist in a vacuum, nor is the prevention of evil the only worthwhile thing people can do. The ends, as Kant might suggest, cannot justify the means.
In considering applications for new drugs, FDA assesses the risks and the benefits. Drugs associated with chemotherapy doubtless kill thousands of people a year (they’re poisons). Nonetheless, because they save far more people than they kill, they are now generally used in modern medicine. Suppose we said, “It is evil for doctors to prescribe drugs that kill people.” We would have to eliminate the prescription of drugs that SAVE more lives than they COST.
Obviously, if Postulate 3 is correct, the other steps are mere window dressing. God cannot be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. But I don’t think postulate 3 can be justified. (Maybe I’ll talk about the rest of the article later.)
I'll grant that hell seems pretty harsh (although it doesn't bother me as much as it apparently bothers some people on this board). I could barely read Dante's Inferno, not because it was so horrific, but because it was boring, what with all the commentary on political figures I'd never heard of. I will say this, acc. Dante, many circles were not "the worst torture imaginable". If you read C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce", there's not much torture in that hell, either.
I've never read Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", but, from what I've read about it, Hell is described as a Dionysian Paradise, as opposed to the Appolonian and goody-two-shoes heaven. So there are Christian interpretations that aren't so very horrid. From Blake (acc. Wiki):
God desires a world in which (of logical necessity) some things that He deplores occur. That's so obvious, david, I didn't think I had to spell it out for the umpteenth time. Why is this difficult to comprehend? It's true of all of us: we might long for adventure, but adventure is impossible without the possibility of pain and suffering. In our own lives, love is made more thrilling by the possibility (in david’s case, probability) of it being unrequited.
Sorry about ignoring your post, Triple B. As I said earlier, I’ve been busy. But here’s a quick commentary on the Euthyphro Dilemma. Triple B says, “If God is above morality, then the application of 'benevolence' to God is erroneous, but it is erroneous not because 'God is benevolent' is false, but because 'God is benevolent' is nonsensical. It makes no sense to apply moral terms or moral maxims to a being that is reputed to be above, or beyond, morality.”
I’ll grant that “if God is above morality”, then “God is benevolent” is (although not, perhaps, nonsensical) redundant. It’s not nonsensical, because although to argue that God is benevolent (when He’s benevolent by definition) would be ridiculous, it’s still reasonable to argue that human actions are benevolent or not based on whether they reflect the will of God (which defines “benevolence”). So “God is benevolent” is a defining principle, rather than an arguable assertion. I agree with most of what Triple B says, though.
To Maddog: You're a lawyer (if I remember correctly). Are you equally incredulous about all punishment? Or is it just divine punishment you can't abide? If the "goody-two-shoes" world is heaven, how do you explain Lucifer's rebellion? Do you blame Tolstoy for torturing and then killing Anna? Or do you think it is necessary to the excellence of the novel?
Of course I agree that God created a world in which people can freely choose to sin (well, hypothetically, at least). His creation is necessary (but not sufficient) for the sin to occur. God also (given omnipotence) could prevent sin and evil (as well as pain and suffering) from occurring. So he is “responsible” for sin and suffering in a passive way – he could have prevented them. However, Dave, you appear to agree with me (and disagree with david) that God is NOT SOLEY RESPONSIBLE for individual acts of evil.
As an aside, the phrase “responsible for” is slippery (I think). People (or Gods) can be “responsible FOR” something, but that suggests the question “responsible to whom”? A response is a reply. Because God is King, Eve is required to respond to Him for her actions. But to whom does God owe a “response”? David? Where was david when God hung the stars in the sky?
I think it’s more complicated than that, david. God may (for example) desire a world in which evil (or pain, or suffering, it’s all the same problem, as far as I can see) exists while nonetheless deploring individual instances of it. We’ve all known people who like the drama of conflict, but still despise those who create the drama. I don’t think that’s a contradiction. God creates a world in which some people (of their own free will) will choose to worship Satan, ride around on broomsticks, and wear black, pointy hats (all damnable offenses). He could have created the goody-goody world, but he preferred this one. Nonetheless, he holds the individuals who choose to worship Satan responsible (to God) for their choice, and punishes them. Why is this morally repugnant? Is it morally repugnant of US (if we are Christians) to punish criminals, since “God and God alone is responsible for evil.”?
I have time to post only a very brief comment – but, as The Terminator once said the dismay of many– I’ll be back. Here’s my question: is God’s omnipotence logically compatible with man’s free will? David agrees with me that God’s omniscience IS compatible with free will (I think, although, as david suggests, I don’t always remember posts from weeks and months ago accurately, an accusation with which I completely agree. As an aside, I think this is often a problem in forum arguments – we all remember our side of the argument better than we remember the other person’s). However, omnipotence seems a thornier problem. If humans are free to make decisions as THEY want, then (although God knows what decisions they will make) God cannot be “omnipotent” in the sense that He controls their decisions. When david says, “God ‘introduced’ evil into the world’ by creating an Adam and Eve that He knew were going to sin,” he is suggesting that God DOES control Adam and Eve’s decisions (if not directly, then indirectly through the act of creation, combined with his knowledge of the future).
I disagree. I think it is possible for God to intentionally limit his powers without negating his “omnipotence”. God could, for example, if He is omnipotent, destroy Satan. But, for some inscrutable reason, He chooses not to. Similarly, God can create a person He knows will sin without being “responsible for” that sin. Indeed, He creates a person who CAN choose either to sin or not to sin (given free will), and although it distresses God that the person chooses sin, He refuses to intervene.
It is a principle of literary criticism that it’s unfair to criticize a book for failing to be a completely different book. This seems reasonable for World Creators, too. It is true that an omnipotent God could have made a world where nobody dies, nobody suffers, nobody sins, nobody goes to Hell, and nobody has free will. For His own reasons (at which we can only guess), He made this world, instead. The notion that He COULD have made a different world is irrelevant to whether He is “responsible for sin” or “introduced evil”. Of course in one sense He did (by creating the world), but in other senses He didn’t (the evil is an unintended consequence of the world that He created being of a certain nature, for example including humans who have free will.).
As to the notion that everyone, no matter what he or she does, is “doing God’s work” (because God created the world and knew how it would turn out), I disagree. If we have a God who intentionally limits his potentially omnipotent powers (which, if there is a value to free will, is certainly possible), people can behave in ways displeasing to God by their own choice (although, of course, He could have created a world populated by goody-two-shoes automatons). Maybe God LIKES a world in which Dante wrote his great poems about Hell better than the goody-two-shoes world, and david’s disagreement with God’s artistic tastes is insufficient to prove that God is not “omnibenevolent”.
(More to come later)