Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why I am a Christian Part 2: Finding the Good

"Moral habits, induced by public practices, are far quicker in making their way into men's private lives, than the failings and faults of individuals are in infecting the city at large." 
-Plutarch 

Having discussed objections that seek to end the discussion before it begins in Part 1, in this part I'll start really answering the question. To put it simply, I am a Christian because the totality of my experience leads me to believe that the claims made by Jesus of Nazareth are true. I believe those claims because I know and trust the one making the claims and because I live in a world which corroborates those claims. Now I understand that "knowing Him" is unconvincing to many so rather than elaborate on it I want to discuss how the world corroborates Jesus' claims on a couple levels. First on the level of human nature with reference to my own experience and to history (in Part 2 here), second on the level of nature as accessed by humans with emphasis on Christianity's relationship with science and philosophy (in Part 3).

Human nature is important, it is the lens through which we view the world and it is, I think, a leading candidate for being the most important variable in the equation that determines the level of success/failure that humanity experiences. I think everyone recognizes the deep importance of human nature, but is it possible for human nature to support the claims of Jesus? I think it is, while admittedly this section is a bit subjective, I think it still provides significant evidence for the truth of Christianity, or at least for the truth of something very like Christianity. 

Before making the case that human nature supports the claims of Jesus, we must know (or at least have a good idea of) what human nature is and we must know the mechanics of how human nature interacts with human actions. Neither of these questions can be answered with mathematical completeness but the second question is, in my opinion, much more difficult to answer than the first. The first question of what human nature is, is something that I think many readers will intuitively understand but is nonetheless difficult to articulate. I define human nature here as the default set of motives that interact through human consciousness with the environment to produce everyday (or not so everyday) actions. Now this set of motives is itself shaped by the environment to some degree and over the lifetime of "a person" can evolve very significantly. But when speaking of "a person" I don't call this set of motives "human nature" but rather character. Character may differ significantly from human nature but in general it does not, hence the use of the word "default." and I think there are good reasons for believing that a default character exists, I discuss them here.
To answer how that character is shaped I'm going to refer to what is somewhat of a consensus stretching back to the book of Proverbs and to the ancient Greeks. Proverbs 23:7a states "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (KJV) the pre-Socratic ancient Greek, Heraclitus, in Diels-Kranz fragment 119 of his writings states that "character is destiny." These ideas have been expanded on and quoted over the millenia by such notables as Seneca, Augustine, Erasmus, Tyron Edwards, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan and many others and have emerged generally as this consensus.
Thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to habits, habits lead to character, character produces a destiny. This represents, generally, the mechanics of how human nature interacts with human actions. I was very skeptical of the last connection in this chain when I first heard it but I now believe it to be very sound. In any case, this last connection (from character to destiny) is not required for me to make my point in this post. 
It may occur to readers that the above process is not closed and that these relationships can go both ways, for instance, habits obviously produce actions and character obviously produces thoughts. But we need to keep in mind that these are only true once habits and character have already been established, and that they are established by actions and habits (respectively) in the first place. This sequence also provides a framework for how to change actions, habits etc. By consciously choosing to think and act in certain ways, habits and character can be changed even if they have already been established.
The question then is what, if anything, should we want our habits and character to be? What should we want our destiny to be? How do we recognize it when they're something they shouldn't be? I'll come back to these questions later.

It's common wisdom that the more personally involved you are with something, the more difficult it is to see that thing objectively, and what could humans possibly be more personally involved with than our own nature? The heuristic bias clouds our vision but it opens up the door for Jesus, because if He truly was God, then He would be able to discard the colored lenses of humanity and offer an unbiased diagnosis of our condition. How could we recognize such a diagnosis? What would we expect it to look like? Again I think the first question here is more difficult to answer than the second. For the second I think most people would agree that we would expect it to look different, that we would expect a treatment of the conditions diagnosed to be of significant benefit, and that we would expect it to be somewhat embarrassing. Embarrassment should be expected because while people naturally avoid embarrassment, there's bound to be some embarrassing things in the nature of a species whose history books are defined primarily by records of of us killing each other for stupid reasons.

So lets take a look at what Jesus actually had to say. Here I'm going to quote just the first two verses of Jesus' first public sermon

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
-Matt 5:3

Now I don't think it will be much disputed that these words, if true, are revolutionary. If I was writing this it would have read something like: 

Blessed are the strong, 
for no one will mess with them. 
Blessed are the intelligent, 
for they will find a way to get what they want. 
Most of all, blessed is Batman, 
for he is intelligent, strong, and a billionaire.

Joking aside, the first instinct of pretty much everyone is not to think of people that are "poor in spirit" as being blessed, our first instinct is just the opposite. But what if it is true that the poor in spirit are blessed and how could this be possible? before we discuss that idea, I think a definition of "poor in spirit" would be helpful, exactly what does that mean? A little surprisingly,  there is a fair amount of text on this subject but I think a fair summary is to say that being poor in spirit means to not have any hope left that you are independently sufficient. Which sounds to me a bit like clinical depression, how could this be good? To see how such people are blessed I think we need a lens wide enough to see beyond the individual, after-all, contrary to Simon and Garfunkel no one is an island (they did sing that song as a duet right?) and so to encompass the good of an individual we must look beyond the individual to a group, likewise, no statistically significant group is an island in this era of globalization so to really encompass the good of an individual we must have a lens that sees even beyond the group to all of humanity. From this perspective I think we can begin to see how an attitude of self-sufficiency and self-reliance will inevitably produce destructive interference. For instance, if I want situation A to end up producing B, but Joe wants situation A to produce C... then we have a conflict. In this situation energy will be lost by Joe and I combating each other that could otherwise have been used to do something useful. This is especially true if we both think that we are independently sufficient and need nothing from the other person. On the other hand what if all these people have zero hope that they are independently sufficient? Or more remarkable, what if they have zero hope of being independently sufficient and do believe that part of their hope lies in "considering others better than yourself"? In this situation the two  people in hypothetical conflict are far less likely to waste time working against each other and are much more likely to come to an optimal solution. Being poor in spirit is a prerequisite for this approach to always be achievable, it is possible for such efficient decision making to occur between two people that are "boisterous in spirit" but only in specific circumstances, not in all circumstances. This sort of genuine humility greases the cogs of decision making on every level like nothing else can and is, I think, only part of the benefit of being poor in spirit. Other benefits include a healthy resetting of expectations, increased general gratefulness and decreased self-focus.
The next line here is "blessed are those who mourn" which is, I think, an even more profound insight than the previous and again is a complete reversal of conventional wisdom. Why are they blessed? well apparently because "they will be comforted." While I think that the probability of those who are mourning eventually being comforted is high I think the statement goes deeper than a momentary feeling of comfort. The comfort that comes to those who mourn is more than the momentary kind, it is also the kind that comes from having your character bettered, the kind that does not easily fade and remains a rock of comfort in good times and bad. Mourning is produced by a deep sense of loss or remorse or some other strong emotion; almost invariably, it is the result of someone finding themselves in very difficult circumstances. Finding yourself in very difficult circumstances is not bad. There is nothing intrinsically bad about difficulty, in fact I would say that there is something intrinsically good about difficulty. Difficulty produces excellence and progress, whereas easiness produces patheticness and decay. If your life is physically or mentally easy, you will become correspondingly physically or mentally pathetic. If your life is physically or mentally difficult, you will become correspondingly physically or mentally capable. This principle can be applied to almost any dimension of life so I think that the way many people make personal comfort and ease a priority is deeply counterproductive. The pursuit of ease, when taken to it's farthest extreme, is actually the pursuit of death. On the other hand, the pursuit of a character that conforms to that of Christ, the most difficult thing I've ever pursued and something I've shed more tears over than anything else, is actually the pursuit of life. And in the context of this pursuit of life, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who don't shrink from the challenge of crossing the bright mountain tops and dark valley floors that lie on the path from cradle to grave.
But there's a price to be paid for the belief that you belong somewhere. Belonging somewhere means that you should not go just anywhere. The idea of there being places that one should not go and things that one should not do evokes a curiously strong response from people. There is something about human nature that is intolerant of such a reality, Christopher Hitchens expresses this idea well in a tirade against divine authority when he describes a world with God as: A celestial North Korea. Who wants this to be true? Who but a slave desires such a ghastly fate? I've been to North Korea. It has a dead man as its president... It is the most revolting and utter and absolute and heartless tyranny the human species has ever evolved. But at least you can f***ing DIE and leave North Korea! 

Of course the "ghastly... revolting... heartless tyranny" is only as bad as the person wielding authority. As a child growing up I could have uttered Hitchen’s words against my parents as they wielded ultimate control over me, but it turns out this was actually not a bad thing; it turns out that this was a good thing because the people wielding the authority were good. Another great example of the instinctual backlash against the possibility of divine authority comes from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel who wrote: 
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that.
Being held accountable is uncomfortable, but humans by default run wildly amok without accountability, if you have any doubts about this pick up a history book. USC professor of philosophy Dallas Willard states "What has happened in recent decades in Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan is not a fluke or some strange thing. It is a natural outcome of what is in the human heart."
I think the less we acknowledge our potential for evil the more likely it is that evil will find a way into our actions. I think a good example of this is the great atheist experiment of the twentieth century, Marxism looks great on paper but it assumes we're basically good, and that assumption removed the imperative to acknowledge your own potential for evil. The success of Marxism, and today the success of humanism, hints at a very deep problem with human nature. We desperately want to be good, we know we're not good but we desperately want to be so, it is our deepest fantasy. Ironically the philosophy that asserted our basic goodness produced badness on an unprecedented scale, Marxism became the father of a number of atheistic ideologies that resulted in a death toll never before seen. Of course many atrocities have been perpetrated in the name of Jesus (though the two thousand year death count does not approach the one hundred year death count of Marx-inspired atheistic regimes) but we enjoy a defense not available to anyone else. Jesus taught specifically to die rather than to kill, to actually love your enemies. Just as I won't take someone in McDonald's seriously who claims to be a vegetarian as they eat a Big Mac, I don't take people who claim to be followers of Jesus seriously while they're doing things that are specifically against the teachings of the Man in question. And Christianity is unique in having this defense, Islam, atheism, agnosticism and all other major groups cannot claim this. Furthermore, a self consistency is demonstrated by Jesus in that he actually set the example, he actually was killed without attempt to strike back despite having the power to do so.

Now back to that famous causation chain, I previously stated that the question: "what, if anything, should we want our habits and character to be?" The answer to this question under Christianity is clear. The standard towards which we are to push our character is the character displayed and taught by Jesus Christ during his lifetime. This is a standard that is almost universally recognized as good even by those who are otherwise critical of, or indifferent to Christianity. For example Mahatma Gandhi famously stated: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." And Albert Einstein said "I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene." 
To me the rightness of the concepts Jesus taught and the character he lived is obvious. It is, I think, common sense that if we were all filled with sacrificial love, joy, peace, patience, etc. that the world would be a much better place. But on top of being right, Jesus teachings had and have a remarkable power to motivate people to follow them. Indian philosopher and Christian Ravi Zacharias sums this up well in saying: 
The character of Jesus has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive in its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said that the simple record of three years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.
Furthermore if men have a default character which is sinful, and I think three thousand years of uninterrupted warfare establishes this quite solidly, and there is a standard of rightness to which we should conform our character in order to escape that default character, then God should provide a mechanism to help those who endeavor to transform their character. And He does. People know that to truly solve a problem the cause needs to be addressed and not just the symptoms, referring back to that causation chain (thoughts>actions>habits>character>destiny) you will note that the top of this chain is thoughts. As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he. Now as Marxism's failure demonstrates, people need to be held accountable. But people cannot directly hold each-other accountable for their thoughts and this leaves us with a problem because accountability at any other level addresses only symptoms. Without addressing the cause we become the unhappy, divided kind of people who's parents/boss/spouse are trying to hold them accountable for actions which their thoughts do not support. And because accountability does occur at the level of actions, a society that lacks accountability of thought tends to generate the kind of people that are so common today (and I don’t exclude myself) who present a veneer of themselves through their actions without divulging their true opinions or thoughts. God can hold us accountable for our thoughts and in doing so provides the basis for real change. He does not force this accountability on us, He leaves room for plausible deniability, but nonetheless it is there, a standing offer of help. But does divine accountability work? Are there results or is this empty theorizing? There are results. Most convincing to me are the results observed in my own life and in the lives of some close friends but on a broader scale, there are measurable effects. For example the National Science Foundation's General Social Survey, the most comprehensive database of it's kind, shows conclusively that religious Americans are more likely to donate to religious and secular charities, to donate blood, to help homeless people and even to return incorrect change. Other recent research conducted jointly by the University of Minnesota and the University of British Columbia shows that determinists (see Part 1, Christianity opposes determinism) are more likely to act immorally than those who believe in free will. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Health 2nd ed. which anthologizes over 3,000 secular, peer reviewed studies states that religious Americans give more to charity, volunteer more, participate in civic processes more, are more likely to vote, are more optimistic, are more involved in the community, are less likely to drink, divorce, do drugs, become depressed or commit suicide. The positive effects of the message of Christ have not gone unnoticed outside North America either. In his latest book, Harvard professor of history Niall Ferguson cites a powerful quote from a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences: 
One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.
So I think we can conclude that what Jesus taught is very different, that the teachings of Jesus do provide significant benefit, and that the state of human nature is not as pretty as we might like to think. Now I freely admit that none of this proves that God exists or that Christianity is true, but it does show that what Jesus taught contains an accurate description of, and effective prescription for, human nature. And that's what we'd expect if His claims were true.

104 comments:

  1. Nate, while much of what you write is quite incontrovertible, I believe you have misunderstood Mr. Hitchens' point and put forth a faulty analogy following it.

    Mr. Hitchens is relating in that quote the idea of an omniscient being presenting a dictatorship by default. If a person cannot achieve privacy or freedom from its deity who demands a certain code of thought, then it lives under a dictatorship.

    I refer you to the C.S. Lewis quote:
    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    Secondly, analogizing the rules laid down by your parents to those laid down by God is problematic. (Good) Parents instruct their children and provide rules because there are exigent factors to which the children must conform to achieve a successful life. Those exigent factors are well beyond the control of most parents; for example, parents must tell their children to eat healthily to preserve the child's health, but they do not control the reality that makes certain foods healthy, not healthy, or make food required at all.

    God, on the other hand, controls everything. As the creator of the universe, his rules are by definition arbitrary. With a snap of his celestial fingers, adulterous thought could be not only allowed, but also lack any problematic consequence. To create rules, the need for which could be altered and abolished in the blink of an eye, is highly different from parents who must teach children about the immutable realities of human existence to lead better lives.

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    1. Hey sorry for the late response on this one.

      ...I believe you have misunderstood Mr. Hitchens' point and put forth a faulty analogy following it.

      Mr. Hitchens is relating in that quote the idea of an omniscient being presenting a dictatorship by default. If a person cannot achieve privacy or freedom from its deity who demands a certain code of thought, then it lives under a dictatorship.


      If you are looking only at the raw data present in Hitchens quote then I think you’re right. But Hitchens is not intending to just transmit data, that quote is not an expression of critically evaluated ideas in precise language, it’s a rhetorical jab in emotional language (North Korea, ghastly fate, heartless tyranny, f***** die). And it is this emotional language in connection with the (alleged) dictatorial authority and action that illustrates my point.

      I refer you to the C.S. Lewis quote:
      Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.


      How fitting that the theist is quoting Hitchens and the agnostic(?) is quoting Lewis! Certainly I think Lewis is right here but this does not support Hitchens' sideways accusations. Lewis is referring to fallible men who are incorrect about whether or not what they're doing is good. An infallible God cannot be incorrect on such a point so Lewis' quote cannot apply.

      Secondly, analogizing the rules laid down by your parents to those laid down by God is problematic. (Good) Parents instruct their children and provide rules because there are exigent factors to which the children must conform to achieve a successful life. Those exigent factors are well beyond the control of most parents; for example, parents must tell their children to eat healthily to preserve the child's health, but they do not control the reality that makes certain foods healthy, not healthy, or make food required at all.

      It may be true that "analogizing the rules laid out by parents to those laid down by God is problematic" but I don't think that it can be for the reasons you stated in this case. While there are no factors that are absolutely beyond God's control there are factors that are practically beyond God's control. For example if God wants us to make rational decisions (which most theists including myself affirm) then He *must* place us in a rationally comprehensible context. If he wants us to do good things, then He *must* place us in a context where doing good things is possible. However even if this counterargument fails I don't see how the presence of uncontrollable exigent factors could falsify my statement that the "... tyranny is only as bad as the person wielding authority."

      God, on the other hand, controls everything. As the creator of the universe, his rules are by definition arbitrary.

      They are? By what law of logic does arbitrariness of action follow from omnipotence?

      With a snap of his celestial fingers, adulterous thought could be not only allowed, but also lack any problematic consequence.

      While I'm sure that's true of the God you have in mind, it's not true of the God I'm writing about in this post. The God I'm writing about here has a moral nature that is essential to His character, and His character is unchanging.

      To create rules, the need for which could be altered and abolished in the blink of an eye, is highly different from parents who must teach children about the immutable realities of human existence to lead better lives.

      Certainly it's different but you haven't shown how it is relevantly different for the matter at hand, or at least if you have I don't see it.

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  2. The majority of this post, particularly pertaining to Christ's understanding of human nature reminds me of Napoleon's quote:

    I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.

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    1. Last time I heard this quote I wasn't interested in the matters I discuss in this post, hearing it again raises my rather low opinion of Napoleon ever so slightly...

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  3. To answer what I believe is an implicit question, I am agnostic with regard to the existence of a higher power. I consider, however, that such a philosophy also renders me an effective atheist. I can't very well believe in a god I am not sure exists.

    With regard to Hitchens, his point both conveys the rational point and the emotional disgust of just one more tyrant, despot, or dictator who promises that his required code of conduct and the mental security state associated therewith is for the subjects own good. A rational explanation of why an omnipotent god is by default a dictator and the associated disgust for such a proposed reality are inseparable.

    It was not my intention or attempt to falsify your statement about dictatorship being only as bad the dictator. I simply meant to point out the problems with comparing omnipotent god to parents.

    I am afraid we may just have a fundamental difference of opinion about god.

    First, if one is omnipotent, there can be no external factors weighing on decisions or processes in any meaningful way, particularly if that omnipotence is existing outside of any creation or reality as we understand it. So, any decision taken by an omnipotent force would be solely done based on that force's individual choices. A decision taken based on no exigent factors is arbitrary.

    To demand that believers do not blaspheme the spirit is arbitrary; there is no factor outside of god that makes such behavior reprehensible, and god is the being the prohibits such action.

    It is my measured opinion that even if he possess an immutable nature, he chose how to apply that nature to the physical universe he created. Certainly ideas of adultery, murder, blasphemy did not exist while God was alone before creation. Those are uniquely human issues, which, if you are correct about God's nature, the prohibitions against which remain arbitrary applications of his immutable nature.

    An arbitrary application of power through coercion, demanding fealty to avoid punishment, is the hallmark of dictatorships that are considered evil or bad.

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  4. Sorry for the late response, work just got insanely busy ...but first off I’m uncertain at times whether you are expressing your own views or the views that you believe Christopher Hitchens expressed. Whenever I’m uncertain I assume you are expressing your own views, I apologize in advance if I get it wrong.

    To answer what I believe is an implicit question, I am agnostic with regard to the existence of a higher power. I consider, however, that such a philosophy also renders me an effective atheist. I can't very well believe in a god I am not sure exists.

    Technically agnostic and functionally atheist, this is what I was guessing... actually I think a decent argument could be made in support of the idea that most who self-identify as theists are functionally atheist as well...

    With regard to Hitchens, his point both conveys the rational point and the emotional disgust of just one more tyrant, despot, or dictator who promises that his required code of conduct and the mental security state associated therewith is for the subjects own good.

    Right, disgust at the idea of an authority who purports to dictate such things as a “required code of conduct.”

    A rational explanation of why an omnipotent god is by default a dictator and the associated disgust for such a proposed reality are inseparable.

    This is not a statement of fact, it’s a statement about your personal psychology. You find that “a rational explanation of why an omnipotent god is by default a dictator and the associated disgust for such a proposed reality are inseparable.” but most people (that I know) don’t. And this is granting the (I think false) idea that “an omnipotent god is by default a dictator.” An omnipotent God could create beings and then exert no further causal influence over them. An entity cannot be the dictator of people he/she has no causal contact with. Or, an omnipotent God could create beings and initiate an amount of causal contact sufficiently small to prevent His authority from being dictatorial in nature. You, for example, seem to think the God I’m writing about probably doesn’t exist... if this is the case it seems that this should make it pretty hard to complain about Him wielding dictatorial authority.

    I am afraid we may just have a fundamental difference of opinion about god.

    Yep ;)

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  5. First, if one is omnipotent, there can be no external factors weighing on decisions or processes in any meaningful way, particularly if that omnipotence is existing outside of any creation or reality as we understand it.

    Why? As soon as an omnipotent God creates something outside Himself that He values to one degree or another (say human existence) He has external factors.

    So, any decision taken by an omnipotent force would be solely done based on that force's individual choices.

    This is true of all entities that make decisions not just omnipotent ones, I think your decision to reply to this post was “based [solely on your] choices”

    A decision taken based on no exigent factors is arbitrary.

    I think we’re using different definitions of “arbitrary” or maybe I’m not correctly understanding how you’re using the term “exigent factors.” In any case it seems to me you’re equating “arbitrary” with “without good reason.” And I think God, being perfectly rational, does have good reasons for making all his decisions, and would even if there were nothing outside Himself that He valued.

    To demand that believers do not blaspheme the spirit is arbitrary; there is no factor outside of god that makes such behavior reprehensible,

    How do you know that? you would have to have extensive knowledge of all existence to know that "there is no factor outside of god that makes such behavior reprehensible." But even if it were true, I don't think it would follow that God established these rules “without good reason.”

    It is my measured opinion that even if he possess an immutable nature, he chose how to apply that nature to the physical universe he created. Certainly ideas of adultery, murder, blasphemy did not exist while God was alone before creation.

    Why not? How do you know that? I think it’s true that rape is wrong even on a planet where no one currently exists, or in a universe where no one currently exists. In fact it seems to me that morality is independent of time and space. Also how does one “choose to apply” one’s own nature? Can one choose to apply how one chooses to apply one’s own nature? I’m not sure this idea is coherent.

    Those are uniquely human issues, which, if you are correct about God's nature, the prohibitions against which remain arbitrary applications of his immutable nature.

    Those may be uniquely human issues, they may not be. I think I’ve already shown that divine action (at least regarding the divine entity in question) is not taken without good reason, and to expand on what I wrote previously if you are “choosing to apply your nature” that means there is some facet of your identity that is a higher authority over your actions than your nature is. But this higher authority, would have to have some content to its identity... a nature of its own. Oh but then maybe you could also choose how that things nature is applied... and whatever is doing that choosing would also have to have a nature of its own... infinite regress... oh noes! I don't think anyone “chooses how to apply” their own nature, I think this is an incoherent idea.

    An arbitrary application of power through coercion, demanding fealty to avoid punishment, is the hallmark of dictatorships that are considered evil or bad.

    Well it doesn’t seem that you (who does not believe in such a God) think you are being coerced, and I (who does believe in such a God) certainly don’t think I’m being coerced. Exactly who is being coerced here?

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  6. No worries about the timeline of your reply, life does tend to happen.

    With regard to what is largely the entirety of the first response, it is not really a case of myself or Hitchens being mad at a god we don't believe in. And, this really goes to your point about an omnipotent god who doesn't interfere or doesn't interfere to a degree sufficient to being a dictator. A point, which I grant you.

    Such a deity, however, is not posited by the major Abrahamic religions. The deity which is described in the Bible is an intervening god. He came down and intervened to save humans from their sinful selves, and instituted a rule that mandated a certain belief to be granted access to heaven.

    So when Hitchens and I discuss a disgust for a dictatorial god, it's not based on a hypothetical, it's based on what is discussed by all three Abrahamic faiths of a jealous, intervening god. Moreover, I hesitate to speak for Hitchens, but I know that I am not actively disgusted in something I am almost certain doesn't exist. Rather I am disgusted by a philosophy that posits a dictator and proceeds to insist that the imaginary dictator be worshiped and respected.

    While god may perceive exigent factors once he creates them, he's still above being affected by them if he wants. A distinct difference between humans and god. While I chose to respond to your blog, my path to doing so was informed by various factors over which I exercise no control. God, as posited by most Christians, on the other hand could easily dissemble and reweave the very fabric of existence at a whim. Thus, any decision he takes is solely at his whim because no external factor could ever be insurmountable to him.

    If god created everything in existence he created all of the rules that govern reality, that means he created the very notion and idea of "good reasons." In doing so, he can't actually make a decision based good reasons that are good reasons outside of his rules and designs for reality.

    I don't mind if you find my idea incoherent, but it simply seems illogical to say that the being that created everything, that retains control over everything, and knows exactly every detail of how everything will happen for eternity could do anything but act arbitrarily.

    As for coercion, I don't feel coerced. Once again, the God posited by most Christians and the standard readings of the Bible retains the characteristics of a dictator. "Do as I say, or face [in this case, eterna] punishment," is a coercive demand.

    And while you seem to think celestial dictators are fine as long as they're really good guys forcing us to do what's good for us, the very nature of what's good for us is an arbitrary creation of their own making. So, they would have created a false choice, one that need not be taken if god would just decide to erase sin from existence, erasing the need to choose to follow him.

    All of which is to say that scientifically (as discussed on your other post) I am unconvinced of the existence, past or present, of what's commonly called a deity or higher power. But, if I was, the picture of god offered by Christianity is one of an omnipotent creator of all, who by my reckoning arbitrarily created situations under which humans would suffer untold cruelties for ostensibly eternity. So while I am not angry or fearful of a god I doubt exists, I would not find such a vision of the world beneficial to humanity nor would I worship such a god even presented with certain proof of its existence.

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  7. Which I find rather ironic, because I believe a religion is much more convincing if it doesn't seem like wishful thinking. I think it's quite to your point about Jesus expressing an understanding of human nature better than all other purported holy persons.

    It seems to me that a god, if extant, wouldn't be the wish granter that Allah or Shiva seem to be.

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  8. Such a deity, however, is not posited by the major Abrahamic religions. The deity which is described in the Bible is an intervening god.
    But is His intervention sufficiently great to allow Him dictatorial authority? clearly not as His intervention is not even sufficiently great to convince you of His existence.

    He came down and intervened to save humans from their sinful selves, and instituted a rule that mandated a certain belief to be granted access to heaven.

    So when Hitchens and I discuss a disgust for a dictatorial god, it's not based on a hypothetical, it's based on what is discussed by all three Abrahamic faiths of a jealous, intervening god. Moreover, I hesitate to speak for Hitchens, but I know that I am not actively disgusted in something I am almost certain doesn't exist.

    Rather I am disgusted by a philosophy that posits a dictator and proceeds to insist that the imaginary dictator be worshiped and respected.


    A few comments here, first, it seems to me that you’re using prejudicial language. Using the term “dictator” in place of “God” is inaccurate (at least as the word is commonly used) and sounds to me like rhetoric. “Dictator” brings to mind Mao-Tse-Tung, Hugo Chavez and other distasteful individuals. The Judeo-Christian God is defined to be perfectly loving and maximally great among other things which is not compatible with how the world’s famous dictators have acted. Basically it seems to me you’re using “dictator” as a synonym for “bad person” and this sets up your next point. Your next point is that you’re disgusted by a philosophy that posits an imaginary bad person and then insists that that bad person be worshiped and respected. Well of course bad people shouldn’t be worshipped, but I’m not talking about a bad person but a maximally great person, which clearly should be respected and worshipped. You are redefining God to be something other than what I’m talking about and as someone who is not himself a professing Christian; you can’t reasonably expect me to accept your redefinition of the Christian God.

    While god may perceive exigent factors once he creates them, he's still above being affected by them if he wants.
    This is an assertion not an argument, He may be above being affected by some factors, He may not be above being affected by others, you haven’t shown so far as I can see that the Christian God is above being affected by all factors, though I believe your line of thought might be successful against Allah (who is not bound by logic) if you tightened it up.

    A distinct difference between humans and god. While I chose to respond to your blog, my path to doing so was informed by various factors over which I exercise no control. God, as posited by most Christians, on the other hand could easily dissemble and reweave the very fabric of existence at a whim.
    No this is not something that God, as posited by most Christian scholars (I can’t speak for the people who don’t write about it) could do easily or at all. His actions are governed by His immutable nature and as such are not subject to “whims” (and I think using “whim” is another example of prejudicial language).

    Thus, any decision he takes is solely at his whim because no external factor could ever be insurmountable to him.
    This argument strikes me as both invalid and unsound. Invalid because it doesn’t follow (by any law of logic that I’m aware of) from there being no insurmountable external factors in a decision to that decision being taken at a “whim” and unsound because it’s false that God has no insurmountable external factors, He is bound by logic so he cannot, for instance, force someone to freely do something.

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  9. If god created everything in existence…
    God, according to Judeo-Christian monotheism, did not create everything in existence, He did not create Himself.

    …he created all of the rules that govern reality,
    This is not the case according to classical Christian theism, many of the rules that govern reality are not created by Him but are rather expressions of His uncreated nature, logic being an example, moral law another.

    that means he created the very notion and idea of "good reasons." In doing so, he can't actually make a decision based good reasons that are good reasons outside of his rules and designs for reality.
    Of course He can’t, because there is nothing (other than Himself) that is outside of His “designs for reality” as you assert earlier in this paragraph. Talking about things that are outside of His “designs for reality” will almost always be incoherent on this view.

    I don't mind if you find my idea incoherent,
    I never claimed your assertion that “divine action is necessarily arbitrary” is incoherent (though it may be considering that God is defined to be perfectly rational) I claimed that your idea that God (or any other entity) can choose how to apply His own nature is incoherent. Now if you think this is wrong I’d like to see a reason for that.

    but it simply seems illogical to say that the being that created everything, that retains control over everything, and knows exactly every detail of how everything will happen for eternity could do anything but act arbitrarily.
    If it seems illogical then I’d like to know what law of logic you see as being violated. In any case you’re assuming that He retains control over everything, which no Christian philosopher that I’m aware of with exception of Rene Descartes holds to be true. It is acknowledged by virtually all theologians and philosophers that there are two classes of events that restrict divine action and a large minority (that I agree with) who propose a third category of such events, maybe I’ll go into these categories later but I’m not going to here because even if I agreed with Descartes that there are no restrictions on divine action I don’t think it would support your point in the above paragraph, though that could depend on exactly what you mean by “arbitrary”. So I’d like to know exactly what you mean by “arbitrary.” Do you mean “acting without good reason”? If so I think your assertion is false. Do you mean “acting with the authority of an arbiter”? if so I think your assertion is true. Do you mean some combination of the two? if so I’ll argue only against the former.

    As for coercion, I don't feel coerced. Once again, the God posited by most Christians and the standard readings of the Bible retains the characteristics of a dictator. "Do as I say, or face [in this case, eterna] punishment," is a coercive demand.
    This is a simplistic caricature of a more nuanced situation. You admit that you (who does not believe) do not feel coerced, and I (who does believe) certainly don’t feel coerced, it seems no one is being coerced. Where no one is being coerced no coercion can be taking place. But I think that your example of coercion here is a little suspect, were your parents coercing you when they said “clean up your room or you don’t get dessert”? and if so was that wrong of them? Actually I’d like to know what your standard for right and wrong is.

    And while you seem to think celestial dictators are fine as long as they're really good guys forcing us to do what's good for us,
    “Celestial dictator” …nice Hitchensism… But no I’ve never asserted that “they’re really good guys forcing us to do what’s good for us” I’ve asserted the very different idea that God is a good guy who is telling us to do what’s good for us but leaving decision authority to us. Really I mean would you prefer that He didn't tell us what was good for us? And do you think it’s reasonable to believe that there won’t be any consequences for not doing what’s good for us?

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  10. the very nature of what's good for us is an arbitrary creation of their own making.
    No this is a misunderstanding, mainstream Christian doctrine asserts that what’s good is not something that has ever been created by anyone, rather it is something that is essential to God’s character, which is uncreated.

    So, they would have created a false choice, one that need not be taken if god would just decide to erase sin from existence, erasing the need to choose to follow him. \
    Right but this would also erase the good (or it seems to me that it is good) that is our significant freedom of action.

    All of which is to say that scientifically (as discussed on your other post) I am unconvinced of the existence, past or present, of what's commonly called a deity or higher power.
    I haven’t spent much time trying to show that God exists scientifically, the majority of that will come in part 3 but your response to my points in part 1 relied on appealing to unknown unknowns, positing esoteric anti-realist interpretations of Quantum Mechanics (Lanza is neither a physicist nor a philosopher and yet he is doing philosophy of physics) and questioning logic… Which doesn’t strike me as a strong set of ideas to rest your objections on.

    But, if I was, the picture of god offered by Christianity is one of an omnipotent creator of all,
    It strikes me that you’re cherry-picking the divine attributes that fit your case and ignoring the rest. Yes God is defined to be omnipotent but also to be perfectly loving, perfect in grace and perfect in goodness.

    who by my reckoning arbitrarily created situations under which humans would suffer untold cruelties for ostensibly eternity.
    I’m awaiting your precise definition of arbitrary before I address this in full but I think you’re use of “cruelties” is another example of prejudicial language. You are speaking of divine action and thus assuming the existence of God, “Cruel” implies that whatever is being inflicted is unwarranted and God, by definition, never takes unwarranted actions.
    So while I am not angry or fearful of a god I doubt exists, I would not find such a vision of the world beneficial to humanity.
    You may not find this to be the case, largely I think because you are caricaturing God as some sort of immoral monster. If the God you are talking about is a moral monster then I agree that such a view would not be beneficial to humanity. But I’m not talking about a morally poor God but a morally perfect (by definition) God, this is the God that millions of people worship and the statistics (in this post) show that this view of the world actually is beneficial to humanity.

    nor would I worship such a god even presented with certain proof of its existence.
    I wouldn’t worship your caricature either, but I think even the positing of your immoral god implies that my moral God exists, because for a god to be immoral he must be failing to carry out objective moral duties or be violating objective moral prohibitions. But where do those morally binding duties and prohibitions (that apply not just to humans but to this god) come from? They must come from something that has authority over this immoral god, they must come from God.

    Which I find rather ironic, because I believe a religion is much more convincing if it doesn't seem like wishful thinking. I think it's quite to your point about Jesus expressing an understanding of human nature better than all other purported holy persons.
    I don’t see the irony but it’s puzzling that you’re shifting to the Freudian critique after expressing a Hitchens-esque moral critique. Is the Christian God so horrible that you wouldn’t worship Him even after finding proof of his existence as this moral critique asserts? Or is he so wonderful that he can be explained away by wish fulfillment as Freud asserts? Actually I think atheism is more easily explained away by the Freudian critique, but psychological explanations don’t falsify assertions.

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  11. I think our positions boil down to essential, unbridgeable differences in basis.

    First, I use arbitrary as related by dictionary.com Adjective:
    Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

    You seem to believe that god is a perfectly rational actor who is bound by logic and physics. While there may be theologians or Christian-philosophers who believe this, I see no evidence in the Bible for such an assertion. Failing a positive indication in the Bible that God is bound by logic and rationality and that there are in-fact insurmountable obstacles even for him, I cannot accept the belief that God is anything but an omnipotent being who can do whatever he wills.

    So while it may be just an assertion on my part that he is above being affected, it would also be just an assertion to say that he can be affected.

    It seems to be an article of faith that God is bound in certain ways. An article used to justify the rigidity of the bargain for eternity. But, I can't disprove that God is bound by logic or he is perfectly rational. That's simply an impasse without resolution.

    I am not seeking, or clearly succeeding, to redefine your God. I am using the parameters of Christianity as I understand them. I cherry-pick, as you say, because not all attributes are created equally; I don't condone Hezbollah's terrorist acts because they also provide charity to some schools. In this case, God may be perfectly loving, but his dichotomy of accept me as savior, or burn in hell rather tarnishes his love.

    It's not a pure choice or dilemma left to the authority of persons. I am certain you would agree that an eternity separated from God is far worse than mere physical death. Yet, I'm also fairly certain you would consider a party who offered another party the option of believing in giraffes as God or death, a coercive situation. So, if those inclined to believe in a deity seek eternal heaven, they must choose to either believe in God or suffer a fate worse than death.

    I believe you first asserted that a perfectly good dictator was acceptable, that is why I use the term. If you prefer I can use hegemon, despot(in the classic sense), or commandant.

    I would contend that God cannot be both omnipotent and bound by logic or rationality. He would be then either mostly-potent or unbound. If he cannot even overcome his own innate nature, then he is not omnipotent.

    I fear that we are at the point where you take the Dostoevsky-esque position that God is definitively perfect and therefore all action he takes is perfect--full stop. Whereas I remain in my position that the God of the Christian Bible is omnipotent, above logic or reason (as they are his very creation). That omnipotence provides him leave to erase the very notion of sin from the universe, thus eliminating his need to be separated from it, hence the coercive choice of hell or faith is not necessary.

    If it is not necessary, then he designed or allows the parameters that are dictatorial in nature because they are not necessary, but do subject billions of souls to eternal damnation. If he is truly omnipotent (not bound by anything), then he is a monster for allowing both worldly and eternal suffering.

    As for Freud, I think you misunderstand. I am not saying God is wonderful in the slightest. I'm simply relating that the Christian God is more believable than other deities because he does provide consequences and rigidity rather than pure fantasy or wish-granting.

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  12. As for the scientific concerns briefly discussed above and in Part 1, you are conflating and overstating my position. My posit of the unknown-unknown is not to disprove God or prove a lack of God, it is simply a response to what I consider fatal conceit on the part of both believers and atheists who assume that disproving one automatically confirms the other.

    The quantum mechanics and Lanza question only point to the idea that it seems that quantum mechanics and biocentrism point to the possibility of consciousness existing outside of the materialistic realist determination. Once again, I do not use those to disprove God, simply to argue for the possibility of something outside of the realm of material physics that isn't divine.

    If there isn't such a mechanism, and there is no such thing as free-will in a purely material universe, I'll never know, and thus don't care.

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  13. Mr Heuer, you win the prize for fast replies.

    I think our positions boil down to essential, unbridgeable differences in basis.
    This may be the case.

    First, I use arbitrary as related by dictionary.com Adjective:
    Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

    Good to know, I think that is a clear definition.

    You seem to believe that god is a perfectly rational actor who is bound by logic and physics.
    By logic but not by Physics.

    While there may be theologians or Christian-philosophers who believe this, I see no evidence in the Bible for such an assertion. Failing a positive indication in the Bible that God is bound by logic and rationality and that there are in-fact insurmountable obstacles even for him,
    It’s not just there “may be theologians…” it is the vast majority of theologians and Christian philosophers both now and in the past. The Bible is absolutely full of positive indications that God is bound by logic and rationality. Verses of the general format “God did A that He might achieve B” are everywhere. That God is bound by logic is an assumption that permeates both old and new testaments. A quick search found John 1:7, Isaiah 25:9, Mark 14:35, Ezekiel 40:4, Jonah 4:8, Matthew 2:23, Mark 3:14 but there is almost certainly hundreds and likely thousands of such inferences in the Bible, this why virtually all Christian theologians hold this position.

    I cannot accept the belief that God is anything but an omnipotent being who can do whatever he wills.
    Omnipotence does not entail being able to do anything, most philosophers that I’m aware of agree on this, it is generally defined as being able to actualize any logically possible state of affairs.

    So while it may be just an assertion on my part that he is above being affected, it would also be just an assertion to say that he can be affected.
    Well yes the difference here is that my assertion defines my position, if you are arguing against my position you must use my definition or you are batting down straw men.

    It seems to be an article of faith that God is bound in certain ways. An article used to justify the rigidity of the bargain for eternity. But, I can't disprove that God is bound by logic or he is perfectly rational. That's simply an impasse without resolution.
    I guess this could be construed as an article of faith but really what you’re talking about is the efficacy of logic, is logic universal? We assume it is every day and so it seems to me really not a matter of faith at all as that phrase is typically used. Though it is true that the efficacy of logic is (reasonably I think) taken to be a brute fact by many and in that sense could be seen as an article of faith.

    I am not seeking, or clearly succeeding, to redefine your God. I am using the parameters of Christianity as I understand them. I cherry-pick, as you say, because not all attributes are created equally; I don't condone Hezbollah's terrorist acts because they also provide charity to some schools. In this case, God may be perfectly loving, but his dichotomy of accept me as savior, or burn in hell rather tarnishes his love.
    It is your opinion that it tarnishes His love and not a fact, if He has morally sufficient reasons for creating hell (whatever hell is) then it does not tarnish his love, which (to my knowledge) is the position of every Christian on the planet save the universalists.

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  14. It's not a pure choice or dilemma left to the authority of persons. I am certain you would agree that an eternity separated from God is far worse than mere physical death. Yet, I'm also fairly certain you would consider a party who offered another party the option of believing in giraffes as God or death, a coercive situation.
    No I would not consider this a coercive situation any more than I would consider it a coercive situation if my 3 year old nephew told me to give him a cookie or he’d beat me up. The threat is not at all credible in these situations and so it would never cross my mind to cry “coercion!” rather I think I’d just have a good chuckle.

    So, if those inclined to believe in a deity seek eternal heaven, they must choose to either believe in God or suffer a fate worse than death.
    Only if they already believe in the God in question, in which case the decision is a no-brainer, there are no scenarios here where coercion is taking place.

    I believe you first asserted that a perfectly good dictator was acceptable, that is why I use the term. If you prefer I can use hegemon, despot(in the classic sense), or commandant.
    I did assert that but became dissatisfied with it when it became clear you were using the word as a synonym for “bad person” and that this is how readers would interpret it as well. Technically a dictator is just someone who dictates which could be good bad or neutral but in our culture the word carries other connotations. Of your somewhat entertaining list of alternative words “commandant” is the only one that doesn’t carry negative connotations but I don’t see why you can’t use the word “God,” since that is what I’m talking about.

    I would contend that God cannot be both omnipotent and bound by logic or rationality. He would be then either mostly-potent or unbound. If he cannot even overcome his own innate nature, then he is not omnipotent.
    Well if this is how you define omnipotent then I agree that on your definition God is not omnipotent, but this is not how I nor the vast majority of significant Christians past or present have understood it.

    I fear that we are at the point where you take the Dostoevsky-esque position that God is definitively perfect and therefore all action he takes is perfect--full stop.
    Certainly this is my position, really you’re not using the Christian definition of God if this isn’t the sort of person you’re referring to when you say “God.”

    Whereas I remain in my position that the God of the Christian Bible is omnipotent, above logic or reason (as they are his very creation).
    OK you can hold this position, but know that there are no (that I’m aware of) Christians on the planet today that hold it with you, which makes it a little odd to call it “Christian.”

    That omnipotence provides him leave to erase the very notion of sin from the universe, thus eliminating his need to be separated from it, hence the coercive choice of hell or faith is not necessary.
    Perhaps it does but erased with the sin would be the objective good that is significant human freedom of action, hence the (non-coercive) choice becomes necessary again.

    If it is not necessary,
    I argue above that it is, but even if it’s not “necessary” it could still be “best.”

    then he designed or allows the parameters that are dictatorial in nature because they are not necessary,
    This is a little confusing, are you just saying he’s doing things that aren’t necessary?

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  15. but do subject billions of souls to eternal damnation. If he is truly omnipotent (not bound by anything),
    As discussed above he’s not omnipotent by your definition, but of us I am the only one who believes in this omnipotent entity so unless you have a solid appeal to etymology I think my definition is the relevant one.

    then he is a monster for allowing both worldly and eternal suffering.
    Right this would follow if He didn’t have morally sufficient reasons for allowing the suffering in question, but I, and all other Christians maintain that he does. Further He must have sufficient reasons simply because He is defined to be maximally good. It could be for example that the universalists are right and no one ends up in hell, it could be that the Bible is mistaken about what hell is like, but it could not be that the maximally great being that is the Christian God caused unnecessary suffering.

    As for Freud, I think you misunderstand. I am not saying God is wonderful in the slightest. I'm simply relating that the Christian God is more believable than other deities because he does provide consequences and rigidity rather than pure fantasy or wish-granting.
    Ah! I did misunderstand you, is it correct to say that you were making an argument against the existence of a God *in principle* because a God with a rigid system would be bad and a God with a Hawaiian proclivity for hanging loose and granting wishes would too likely be wish fulfillment?

    As for the scientific concerns briefly discussed above and in Part 1, you are conflating and overstating my position.
    Well I’m sorry dude, what am I conflating it with and how am I overstating it? This is somewhat ironic as it seemed to me last post that half my work was to correct misrepresentations of my position.

    My posit of the unknown-unknown is not to disprove God or prove a lack of God, it is simply a response to what I consider fatal conceit on the part of both believers and atheists who assume that disproving one automatically confirms the other.
    So you are attacking logic, specifically the LEM.

    The quantum mechanics and Lanza question only point to the idea that it seems that quantum mechanics and biocentrism point to the possibility of consciousness existing outside of the materialistic realist determination. Once again, I do not use those to disprove God, simply to argue for the possibility of something outside of the realm of material physics that isn't divine.

    This is very interesting, I haven’t heard of Lanza’s work inspiring it before but there does seem to me to be a shift away from materialism going on. It was, I believe, doubts about materialism that lead the well known philosopher Michael Ruse to move from atheism to agnosticism and Cambridge philosopher Stephen Law has also recently expressed doubts about materialism, atheist-who-now-sounds-like-an-agnostic Thomas Nagel apparently states in a not-yet-released-to-the-public book that materialism as currently construed cannot be true. But it seems to me that while your points do point to something “outside of the physical realm” that they say nothing at all that warrants your assertion that whatever it is it “isn’t divine.”

    If there isn't such a mechanism, and there is no such thing as free-will in a purely material universe, I'll never know, and thus don't care.
    Sounds reasonable.

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  16. I think I simply take the prize of being the guy who works from home. But, I'll take plaudits where they come.

    Those verses, at least without context, don't seem to provide support for your position.

    Omnipotence, in the Oxford Dictionary, is defined as unlimited power. Which philosophers define it as the all logically possible norm you have referenced?

    Once again, logic being both subject to our pitiful powers of perception and reason and in this assumption, God's creation. If God created logic, he must be either able to circumvent it or was silly to bind himself by it.

    Even using your assertion that God is perfect and perfectly logical, my assertion of his cruelty and dictatorial nature still stands. Surely the supreme creator of the universe could come up with a fix that was better than a binary choice of love me or burn in hell.

    I think logic only extends to the human experience and is not universal. Even then, logic, as conceived here, may not be humanly universal.

    The position of Christians, that their God has morally sufficient reasons for the existence of hell, is extremely troubling. Eternal punishment for definitionally fallen creatures could never be justified under the moral framework of any just or loving creation.

    The threat of giraffes or death may not be credible, accept Christ or face eternal suffering is. Of course the decision is a no-brainer, eternal suffering or accept Christ. Just like most coercive decisions tend to be, this is an easy decision because one outcome is acceptable, the other is terrible, which is exactly why it's coercion. An uncoercive choice is between an apple and a peach, not an apple and a handful of nails.

    I'm referring to the God of the Bible as I understand it. If he isn't omnipotent, he still bears responsibility for the suffering of millions simply for creating them whilst insipidly insisting on their fealty in exchange for avoiding a terrible punishment.

    The outcome is still the same whether he's logic-bound and perfect or not. It's incredibly dictatorial to say I can withhold grace if you don't love me and that's ok because I am a perfect, loving God.

    I'm fairly certain that there are millions of Christians who believe god is all-powerful. Maybe not the preeminent Christian philosophers, but certainly the rank and file so possesses such persons.

    He could eliminate the notion of sin, without erasing the ability to commit acts that are presently defined as sin.

    Yes, he's doing things that aren't necessary, but those things include allowing millions of children to suffer and starve and millions more souls to be subjected to eternal torment.

    As a fiend for etymology, I will say that the Latin omni (all) and potens (powerful) does support my definition above your limited philosophical definition.

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  17. And, we've arrived back at the Dostoevskyian notion that God, as a perfect and perfectly moral being can do as he pleases and all of his actions are perfectly moral. Such a notion is both dictatorial and repugnant. Children are raped, God all-powerful or not, does not intervene and this is a perfectly moral abstaining of action, because he's perfectly moral. A wonderful, kind, and gentle woman who raised her children well will be condemned to an eternity of suffering because she was born, lived, and died in Saudi Arabia and couldn't realistically investigate, understand or accept Christianity, and this is moral because God is perfectly moral.

    I'm actually saying less than that about Freud. I'm simply saying a harsh God is more believable than a Hawaiian hang-lose God. Which isn't to claim one or deny the other, just that one is more believable than the other.

    There's bound to be misrepresentation when learning about people's positions, there's no harm. It seems to me that you were conflating my statement about being unscientifically convinced about the divine and what I had previously written on your other post. Instead I am saying that what I wrote on your first post has almost nothing to do with why I am unconvinced and much more to do with discreet logical questions about imperfect perception and quantum physics.

    I am attacking LEM for sure, and I am not alone it has fallen in favor by most philosophers. As I've said, our inability to perceive perfectly means that we might only think there are two options divine-not divine when there could be a plethora of options.

    As always, this is tremendously enjoyable.

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  18. Those verses, at least without context, don't seem to provide support for your position.
    Really? They are all of the general format God did A in order to achieve B. If God is not bound by logic He would have achieved B without A.

    Omnipotence, in the Oxford Dictionary, is defined as unlimited power. Which philosophers define it as the all logically possible norm you have referenced?
    Michael Ruse, Paul Draper, Alvin Plantinga, Stephen Law and of course other’s. Now none of these guys so far as I know come out point blank and state that this is their definition but it is implied in Michael Ruse’ book “Can a Darwinian be a Christian” in Draper’s "God, Evil and Evolution" in Law’s Anti-God argument and in virtually everything that Plantinga has written. Furthermore it is, at least tacitly, accepted by anyone who accepts Plantinga’s refutation of the logical problem of evil. Which again (I’m quite sure) is a majority of philosopher’s including those above as well as Daniel Came, Kyle Gerkin, Peter Millican, Michael Tooley and I could populate this list with many lesser known names. But let’s say I’ve somehow misunderstood the writings of all these people and actually it is a small minority of all philosophers that hold this view. This would still be immaterial as what we’re talking about here is the Christian position, and Christian philosophers through the ages most definitely have affirmed my definition (or rather I affirm their definition) from Augustine and Aquinas to Zwingli and Zacharias.

    Once again, logic being both subject to our pitiful powers of perception and reason and in this assumption, God's creation.
    If you so denigrate your own “pitiful powers of perception and reason” why even bother having these discussions? And aren’t you using the reason you so denigrate even in the sentence in which you denigrate it?
    If God created logic, he must be either able to circumvent it or was silly to bind himself by it.
    The God I’m talking about did not create logic, it is essential to his uncreated character.

    Even using your assertion that God is perfect and perfectly logical, my assertion of his cruelty and dictatorial nature still stands. Surely the supreme creator of the universe could come up with a fix that was better than a binary choice of love me or burn in hell.
    If you’re assuming my assertion that God is “perfect and perfectly logical” then clearly your assertion falls. Perfect beings always make the best choices, therefore on this assumption it is impossible for there to be a “better … binary choice.”

    I think logic only extends to the human experience and is not universal. Even then, logic, as conceived here, may not be humanly universal.
    Well this is a very fundamental disagreement that I doubt we’ll get anywhere on but isn’t anything that is “beyond human experience” irrelevant to this discussion and all others?

    The position of Christians, that their God has morally sufficient reasons for the existence of hell, is extremely troubling. Eternal punishment for definitionally fallen creatures could never be justified under the moral framework of any just or loving creation.

    Really it could never be justified? Are you saying you affirm the validity of the logical problem of evil? And if not what reasons do you have that are so strong as to justify the use of the word “never?”

    The threat of giraffes or death may not be credible, accept Christ or face eternal suffering is.
    Wait, so to be very clear you think that Christianity is credible?

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    1. Of course the decision is a no-brainer, eternal suffering or accept Christ. Just like most coercive decisions tend to be, this is an easy decision because one outcome is acceptable, the other is terrible, which is exactly why it's coercion. An uncoercive choice is between an apple and a peach, not an apple and a handful of nails.
      I wouldn’t find a decision between an apple and a handful of nails at all coercive. If this is coercive is it also coercive of my employer to tell me to follow their procedures or be fired? If so is this bad? Is it also coercive of parents to tell their kids to clean their room or forego dessert? If so is this bad?

      I'm referring to the God of the Bible as I understand it.
      Well then you’re going to be talking past me. I see no need to defend your understanding of God or anyone else’s. I will be defending only my own views in these comments.

      If he isn't omnipotent, he still bears responsibility for the suffering of millions simply for creating them whilst insipidly insisting on their fealty in exchange for avoiding a terrible punishment.
      I don’t think He “insipidly” does anything and I don’t think “fealty” is exactly what’s being asked for, more like “honesty.” Which I think is all it takes to admit you need help.

      The outcome is still the same whether he's logic-bound and perfect or not. It's incredibly dictatorial to say I can withhold grace if you don't love me and that's ok because I am a perfect, loving God.
      If grace were deserved in the first place then sure, but it’s not, so it sounds perfectly reasonable and non dictatorial-in-the-vernacular-sense to me, I’m not sure why you sound so offended by so simple an act as asking for forgiveness.

      I'm fairly certain that there are millions of Christians who believe god is all-powerful. Maybe not the preeminent Christian philosophers, but certainly the rank and file so possesses such persons.
      No the pre-eminent Christian philosophers do too, they just don’t agree with your definition. There may be millions of rank and file Christians who hold your definition but that seems quite irrelevant to our debate, non-experts don’t speak for any demographic.

      He could eliminate the notion of sin, without erasing the ability to commit acts that are presently defined as sin.
      If I held a divine command theory of ethics I would agree with you here. But I don’t, maybe the God you’re talking about could do this, the one I’m talking about couldn’t.

      Yes, he's doing things that aren't necessary, but those things include allowing millions of children to suffer and starve and millions more souls to be subjected to eternal torment.
      Would you prefer that he intervene specifically to end all such cases? You understand this would essentially rob everyone of their free will, would you really prefer this?

      As a fiend for etymology, I will say that the Latin omni (all) and potens (powerful) does support my definition above your limited philosophical definition.
      This now depends on how you define “all” when people say “all shapes” no one includes logically impossible shapes like 2D square circles in this set of “all shapes.” I think it’s quite straight forward to apply this to powers too so “all powers” would be synonymous to “all logically possible powers” just as “all shapes” is synonymous with “all logically possible shapes.”

      And, we've arrived back at the Dostoevskyian notion that God, as a perfect and perfectly moral being can do as he pleases and all of his actions are perfectly moral.
      No you’re caricaturing my position again, and Dostoyevsky’s as well I believe. You’re statement implies that God acts at random, which implies there is no informational content to His character. But there is such content; His actions are perfectly moral because they come from His nature.

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  19. Such a notion is both dictatorial and repugnant. Children are raped, God all-powerful or not, does not intervene and this is a perfectly moral abstaining of action, because he's perfectly moral.
    Again would you really prefer that God intervene every time you are about to do something bad? Would you really prefer that God intervene to prevent every distasteful circumstance? Wouldn’t that significantly detract from our existence?

    A wonderful, kind, and gentle woman who raised her children well will be condemned to an eternity of suffering because she was born, lived, and died in Saudi Arabia and couldn't realistically investigate, understand or accept Christianity,
    No it is generally the Christian position (with the exception of Calvinists I think) that this never occurs, I could never prove it but I do think that everyone has a realistic opportunity to investigate Christianity. Actually there’s a girl in town here who converted to Christianity in (I believe it was but I could be wrong) Afghanistan after seeing Jesus in a dream, now this may sound hokey but she is sincere, sufficiently sincere to endure her face being burned by acid after her father found out about her conversion.

    and this is moral because God is perfectly moral.
    Not applicable.

    I'm actually saying less than that about Freud. I'm simply saying a harsh God is more believable than a Hawaiian hang-lose God. Which isn't to claim one or deny the other, just that one is more believable than the other.
    Interesting position, I haven’t spent much time considering this question.

    There's bound to be misrepresentation when learning about people's positions, there's no harm. It seems to me that you were conflating my statement about being unscientifically convinced about the divine and what I had previously written on your other post. Instead I am saying that what I wrote on your first post has almost nothing to do with why I am unconvinced and much more to do with discreet logical questions about imperfect perception and quantum physics.
    I see.

    I am attacking LEM for sure, and I am not alone it has fallen in favor by most philosophers.
    Really? I was surprised when you first said this so I contacted a friend of mine who’s a Phd candidate (in philosophy) at UCLA, she assures me that this is not the case. Can you give me a list of well known philosophers who’s names I’d recognize who agree with you here? Do you also then attack the very similar law of bivalence? Do you also attack the law of non-contradiction since the LEM is derived in a very straight forward manner from it? If not what step in the derivation is a mistake?

    As I've said, our inability to perceive perfectly means that we might only think there are two options divine-not divine when there could be a plethora of options.
    I don’t think this is a strong point, the whole power of logic lies in that it does not require sense perceptions to function, it can find necessary truths unlike our senses. And really it seems to me certain that if the proposition P is false then the proposition not-P must be true I don’t think there are any credible alternatives.

    As always, this is tremendously enjoyable.
    Certainly! I’ve never before encountered an agnostic who thinks Hitchen’s moral critique is valid, has doubts about materialism and doesn’t like the LEM.

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  20. I see your point regarding the verses, I do not find it dispositive, however. Simply because God uses a mechanism to achieve a goal doesn't mean he must.

    I will need to investigate some of those philosophers more deeply.

    Being realistic about our perceptive and logical faculties is not denigration. And, if it were, there is still value in the exercise. I may not be an Olympic runner, but I derive benefit from exercise nonetheless.

    As far as perfect beings go, if they take or allow action that is completely repugnant to the notion of morality held by most westerners, they must do a far better job in instructing our moral framework so we may understand them. For mine, and Hitchens' money, it's simply not acceptable to say that horrible outcomes can occur and a very powerful God allows them and its ok because it's all part of his divine will and nature.

    I do confirm the logical problem of evil's validity. Plantinga's response to it lacks both imagination and adequacy. A supremely powerful being could surely devise a way to lessen the unbelievable suffering of humans both on earth and afterwards without revoking free-will.

    Christianity isn't credible, the threat of eternal hell is credible enough to coerce persons inclined to faith to take a decision they may not otherwise.

    Under the Oxford definition, both hypotheticals that you posited are coercion. Persuading someone to do something by threat. The difference in the first being, you voluntarily entered into an agreement with your employer knowing that he could fire you for insubordination. No one had a choice to be born sinful and require salvation.

    The second hypothetical while more to the point, belies the difference in consequence, losing out on sweets is not the same as eternal, never-ending punishment.

    I'm offended by the notion, to take Greville's line, of being born sick and commanded to be well. Christianity might be the only major religion that treats the entity of its own believers with such a contemptible regard as being unfit to convene with their creator without the interdiction of a Jewish human sacrifice. There are any number of ways the vicarious culpability of man could have been erased from the lineage of man. Jealously demanding acknowledgement or love in return for fixing a cosmic screw-up or condemning failure to do so with eternal torment is offensive.

    Providing so much food and resources, and limiting the ability to reproduce in accordance with such bounty (so as to avoid the Malthusan trap) would not erode free-will in the slightest. So yes, I'd like God to feed all of the hungry.

    I'm not attempting to caricature your position nor my favorite dead Russian's. While a poor choice of words, the point remains; everything God does and allows is perfectly moral because he is perfectly moral. That's your position, as I understand it. Mine is rather that the merit of an action or outcome should not be based on the alleged nature of the moving party, but on its own merit.

    Should God intervene every time someone says an intemperate word? No. Should he intervene every time a child is about to be raped? Sure, I'm fairly certain an overwhelming majority wouldn't mind losing the free ability to rape children. Moreover, there are any number of theoretical desires that no human has ever experienced, surely God isn't eroding your free-will because you never considered fishing a volcano. The inability to even consider desire or be compelled by psychosis to rape would not represent an destruction of free-will.

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  21. The Dutch intuitionists L.E.J. Brouwer and Arend Heyting are the two I know best who question the usefulness of LEM when discussing the infinite. Which, I believe makes sense. I accept the law of noncontradiction, but it is highly different from the LEM. Of course an apple cannot be both an apple and not an apple. However, just because a fruit is not an apple, doesn't mean it must be a banana.

    I don't understand the law of bivalence well enough to say one way or another.

    Logic must require sense to function, there must be a frame of reference from which inferences about logic can be drawn. With no perception of the world and universe around us, how could anyone begin to posit what is and isn't logical?

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  22. I see your point regarding the verses, I do not find it dispositive, however. Simply because God uses a mechanism to achieve a goal doesn't mean he must.
    True but it certainly suggests that He does, I think at least it makes it probable that He does, particularly given that it happens repeatedly.

    I will need to investigate some of those philosophers more deeply.

    Being realistic about our perceptive and logical faculties is not denigration. And, if it were, there is still value in the exercise. I may not be an Olympic runner, but I derive benefit from exercise nonetheless.

    OK but if calling them pitiful is “being realistic about our perceptive and logical faculties” then it would be inconsistent of you to hold strong positions like being “disgusted by a philosophy that posits a dictator and proceeds to insist that the imaginary dictator be worshiped and respected” or that it is “fatal conceit on the part of both believers and atheists who assume that disproving one automatically confirms the other.” Cause after all, it’s only your “pitiful” perceptive and logical faculties that are telling you this.

    As far as perfect beings go, if they take or allow action that is completely repugnant to the notion of morality held by most westerners, they must do a far better job in instructing our moral framework so we may understand them.
    Before I cry “ad populum” I’d like to point out that you are basically demanding divine understanding here. The universe is a complicated place, that proverbial flap of a butterfly’s wings may cause the proverbial hurricane in Japan. Furthermore I doubt that there are any causally isolated events on the planet, everything affects everything. You couldn’t possibly hope to be able to understand every event be it good or “repugnant.” But just as I’m almost totally oblivious to what the 624 million transistors in the CPU powering my laptop are doing right now, I’m also almost totally oblivious to why all the good and bad things going on are happening. But I know the general answer to both these questions so I don’t attempt to understand in complete detail these things that have specifics which are almost certainly beyond my comprehension. But I guess I could be wrong on either here, it could be that I’ve totally misconstrued God’s plan or that He doesn’t exist or that my Laptop’s CPU is just biding his time until the T1000 arrives to terminate me. I’m not too worried about any of these things though, my experience with them has been very consistent.

    For mine, and Hitchens' money, it's simply not acceptable to say that horrible outcomes can occur and a very powerful God allows them
    Do you think that you rightly have authority to define what is acceptable?

    and its ok because it's all part of his divine will and nature.
    You’re certainly at liberty to reject the idea of such a plan.

    I do confirm the logical problem of evil's validity.
    Well you are in the minority among atheist philosophers and quite worse off among fellow agnostics.

    Plantinga's response to it lacks both imagination and adequacy.
    I don’t think imagination is a required ingredient but adequacy is, and I think it’s adequacy is quite clear. Have you ever read Plantinga’s “God, Freedom, and Evil“?

    A supremely powerful being could surely devise a way to lessen the unbelievable suffering of humans both on earth and afterwards without revoking free-will.
    This is a probabilistic statement not a logical statement. This is not consistent with affirming the logical problem of evil.

    Christianity isn't credible, the threat of eternal hell is credible enough to coerce persons inclined to faith to take a decision they may not otherwise.
    They’re inseparable; if Christianity is not credible then the Christian threat of hell is not credible. Now it seems that maybe you are referring to people other than yourself, do you affirm that you do not feel coerced you’re just afraid others might be?

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  23. Under the Oxford definition, both hypotheticals that you posited are coercion. Persuading someone to do something by threat.
    OK let’s use the Oxford definition, though you haven’t answered the second part of my question, are these two hypotheticals bad?

    The difference in the first being, you voluntarily entered into an agreement with your employer knowing that he could fire you for insubordination. No one had a choice to be born sinful and require salvation.
    The second hypothetical while more to the point, belies the difference in consequence, losing out on sweets is not the same as eternal, never-ending punishment.

    But the principle is the same, is the principle sound or not?

    I'm offended by the notion, to take Greville's line, of being born sick and commanded to be well.
    This is another misrepresentation, no one is commanded to be well but rather we’re commanded to acknowledge that we’re not well.

    Christianity might be the only major religion that treats the entity of its own believers with such a contemptible regard as being unfit to convene with their creator without the interdiction of a Jewish human sacrifice.
    Sounds like a strong opinion, but I don’t think you’ve honestly represented the Christian position. Certainly what you describe here is not my position.

    There are any number of ways the vicarious culpability of man could have been erased from the lineage of man.
    Really? You of “pitiful …perception and reason” *know* this?

    Jealously demanding acknowledgement or love in return for fixing a cosmic screw-up or condemning failure to do so with eternal torment is offensive.
    Once again you’re misrepresenting my position, you’re using jealous in a pejorative sense and referencing a “cosmic screw-up” which (while decent rhetoric) doesn’t describe anything in Christian doctrine.

    Providing so much food and resources, and limiting the ability to reproduce in accordance with such bounty (so as to avoid the Malthusan trap) would not erode free-will in the slightest. So yes, I'd like God to feed all of the hungry.
    Cool.

    I'm not attempting to caricature your position nor my favorite dead Russian's. While a poor choice of words, the point remains; everything God does and allows is perfectly moral because he is perfectly moral. That's your position, as I understand it.
    Nope you still haven’t quite got it. While everything God does is perfectly moral, everything He allows may not be.

    Mine is rather that the merit of an action or outcome should not be based on the alleged nature of the moving party, but on its own merit.
    Really? And who decides what actions have merit?

    Should God intervene every time someone says an intemperate word? No. Should he intervene every time a child is about to be raped? Sure, I'm fairly certain an overwhelming majority wouldn't mind losing the free ability to rape children.
    Let’s say that this is the will of the overwhelming majority which doubtless it is. Wouldn’t the overwhelming majority also not mind losing the ability to rape puppies? How about baby seals? How about losing the ability to murder an infant of any species? And wouldn’t the overwhelming majority be fine if children lost the ability to be severely burned by hot water? Without clear criteria for saying He should intervene in one case but not in another I don’t think your point looks very strong. I think this is going to come down to your theory of ethics whatever that is. Also keep in mind you are now advocating that human consensus, that species which has (in your words) “pitiful powers of perception and reason” be chosen over the design of a perfectly good and perfectly rational God.

    Moreover, there are any number of theoretical desires that no human has ever experienced, surely God isn't eroding your free-will because you never considered fishing a volcano.
    Very creative example, I may quote this someday.

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  24. The inability to even consider desire or be compelled by psychosis to rape would not represent an destruction of free-will.
    I don’t think I understand what you’re saying here, maybe something like: “There are things you haven’t thought of doing and so will never do. God could have made sin like these things” …is this your argument here?

    The Dutch intuitionists L.E.J. Brouwer and Arend Heyting are the two I know best who question the usefulness of LEM when discussing the infinite.
    Oooo you cheater. saying that they “question the usefulness of the LEM when discussing the infinite” is very different from saying that they “question the usefulness of the LEM.” In any case these guys won’t work as examples for you because the existence of God is a bivalent proposition that need not involve the infinite. Also I’ll bet these two guys also question the usefulness of the law of non-contradiction when discussing the infinite. If you assume that an actual quantitative infinity can exist then you must deny these laws of logic; which is why most philosophers (and mathematicians) don’t believe that an actual quantitative infinity can exist.

    Which, I believe makes sense. I accept the law of noncontradiction,
    Oh? Then where is the error in this classic derivation of the LEM from the law of non-contradiction?

    Law of non-contradiction = ¬(P^¬P) must be true.
    Law of excluded middle = P∨¬P must be true.

    If ¬(P^¬P) must be true ⇒. P^¬P must be false. If P^¬P is false ⇒ one of the conjuncts must be false. ⇒ either P is false, or ¬P is false. But if P is false ⇒ ¬P must be true, and if ¬P is false ⇒ P must be true. So we now have the disjunction P∨¬P …which is the LEM.

    Now this said there have definitely been suspicions about the LEM off and on for hundreds of years, but only (so far as I'm aware) in the same sense that there have been suspicions about the existence of the external world, which is to say in very odd cases. The way I’m using the LEM here is, I’m quite sure, uncontroversial, but the law of bivalence would work for me too if you don’t like it.

    but it is highly different from the LEM.
    No not really see above.

    Of course an apple cannot be both an apple and not an apple. However, just because a fruit is not an apple, doesn't mean it must be a banana.
    Agreed.

    I don't understand the law of bivalence well enough to say one way or another.
    Oh well scratch what I said above.

    Logic must require sense to function, there must be a frame of reference from which inferences about logic can be drawn.
    No there doesn’t (at least if I’m understanding you correctly), one need not know anything specific to know that anything is equal to itself and not equal to not itself.

    With no perception of the world and universe around us, how could anyone begin to posit what is and isn't logical?
    Do you define “the world” to include everything that exists? If so then with no perception *at all* one wouldn’t be potentially sentient or conscious (because mental perceptions are included in the set “everything that exists”) and therefore not a human. But if by “the world” you mean “external things” then one could mentally perceive “I exist” (or more classically “cogito ergo sum”) and from that could think “things other than me may exist” and “I am not one of these other things” etc. etc. etc.

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  25. It is not inconsistent to hold the opinion that we can know only a minuscule fraction about reality and also to hold strong opinions about what we know about the universe. I believe most physicists agree that we only perceive less ten percent to of the universe; to to claim a binary choice on the question of the divine-non-divine question with so little perception of reality is arrogant.

    Moreover, our limited abilities of perception and logic don't really speak to a distaste for heavenly oppression, or a man-made philosophy that espouses as much. Even if everything you believe is correct; that god exists and is perfectly moral, I still claim the right to be disgusted at his creation and how it is administered.

    Not demanding divine understanding, just asking for us who are made in his image to possess a moral understanding that is more in line with what you think rather than my repulsion at the world around me. It might be easier to believe that god is both loving and just if one saw more love and justice.

    Yes, I do have authority to declare what is acceptable. Particularly as the vulgar outsider declaring that a philosophy or set of beliefs is completely contrary to my own and many other humanists' opinion of right and wrong. To say otherwise would require a religious relativism that also finds genital mutilation, ritual suicide, and child brides as acceptable.

    As you might imagine, I don't mind being in the minority. That being said, it seems there is still significant debate about the logical problem of evil and debate about to what degree Plantinga answered it.

    I'm fairly well-versed on Plantinga's work having skimmed God, Freedom, and Evil and Does God Have a Nature?, thought not as well as you, I'm sure.

    Do you know if he has ever answered the souls in heaven response to him? That being that souls in heaven are sinless, yet should also possess free-will, thus making it possible for beings to both lead blameless existences and do so of their own volition?

    From an outside perspective, the logical problem of evil is entirely consistent with and bolstered by the notion of a hypothetical supremely powerful being possessing the capacity to alleviate suffering. The fact that the alleged being takes no such action rather confirms the notion that God's either rotten or not there. I say that despite the interesting and ample arguments you have made for a perfectly moral god bound by logic, because such a deity is simply not good enough.

    Yes, I myself do not feel coerced. But, I do worry, mostly for all of the young persons who are subjected to the coercive philosophy without their consent.

    The employment scenario certainly isn't bad. The employee chose to be bound to that arrangement voluntarily. Parent-child is closer to the relationship posited by Christianity, but because forgoing dinner isn't even in the same hypothetical galaxy as eternal damnation, it is also not bad. The principle is changed once the punishment becomes forever. There is redemption for the child at next night's dinner, the employee can find other work; there's no coming back from damnation.

    It is a tacit command to be well, to be made well by the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus; just acknowledgement that something is wrong doesn't get one into salvation, one must surrender his life and soul. It's a command because I've addressed, it's either take the Jewish zombie extract pill or suffer eternal torment all for something that happened eons ago.

    I think it represents Christianity well. Humans, because of sin, are separated from God and unable to be near his perfect nature without accepting his unsolicited, coercive bargain of surrender or eternal death.

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  26. Sure, there are any number of means that a deity could have theoretically absolved the chain of sin from the fall to now. I mean, it took the old man 4,000 years to come up with having his son/himself killed to do it? Slaughtering lambs and smearing their blood seemed to work fine for some tribes to save their first born. Why not just a big lamb stew, take the blood and smear it on the door? Instead of being required to relinquish one's life and soul to a god to get to heaven, why not just make a decent lamb stew?

    Jealous is an adjective the aptly describes the Christian God, I believe only you find it pejorative. And, yes a cosmic screw-up; either have the foresight to know that what you've created is prone to doing naughty things and don't plant a tree of wisdom in the garden or don't create snakes.

    Ah, I see. Then I rephrase, everything god does is perfectly moral, including abstaining from, what are to my human mind, morally imperative actions.

    I decide, you decide, all thinking humans decide which actions have merit. Free-will ostensibly includes free valuation of outcomes and actions.

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  27. I think the cut-off of rape is easy enough. And yes, I'd leave it to the highly imperfect humans who have demonstrated far more compassion toward human suffering than the perfect, but absent god. If he's not going to stop rape, I don't want a ounce of what he's got to offer. If he's going to allow millions of wonderful, beautiful souls to be condemned to hell for simply not being convinced by his followers' claims, I would rather he keep his perfection and forgiveness for someone who is less outraged by the current state of affairs.

    Yes, you understand my argument about volcano fishing and absence of sin by omission of human conceptualization.

    Again, turning to the example of the octopus who only sees shades of grey, imperfect perception might induce one to think that the question of a god is a bivalent proposition when in-fact there are many options imperceptible to the human mind. As with our fruit agreement, if a person was raised on an island with only apples and bananas, he might assume that they are the only fruits available in the universe without realizing the wonders of pineapple available on the next island. Therefore, I don't believe you can determine with certainty that God/no God is a bivalent option even if you expand God to a definition so broad as to encompass any sort of being that can breathe the spark of life into biological material.

    I find it highly suspect that a person lacking all frame of reference would be able to consider equivalencies let alone any higher orders of logic.

    As for perceiving existence without external stimuli, I think you might (as we all are) be unable to divorce your experience of life from your hypothetical. I think it equally likely that the mental existence without physical stimuli would lead to any number of confusions including the nature of itself and what may or may not exist outside of it.

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  28. It is not inconsistent to hold the opinion that we can know only a minuscule fraction about reality and also to hold strong opinions about what we know about the universe.
    Agreed, but this is not what you claimed. Your claim was not that “we can know only a miniscule fraction about reality” but the very different claim that we have only “pitiful powers of perception and reason” and it *is* inconsistent to hold strong positions if your powers of perception and reason are pitiful.

    I believe most physicists agree that we only perceive less ten percent to of the universe; to claim a binary choice on the question of the divine-non-divine question with so little perception of reality is arrogant.
    Your fact is subtly mistaken, ten percent of the universe is roughly the portion of the estimated universe that we can now observe and so it’s correct that we likely only perceive 10% of existing spacetime. But this is epistemologically irrelevant because those same scientists will tell you that the laws of physics will be the same outside the Hubble volume and it’s knowledge of these laws that better describes what we *know*. But I’m willing to grant you this point anyway, I agree that it’s not unlikely that we know less than 10% of what could be known about how the universe works. Given this, how does it follow that asserting the efficacy of logic with regards to the proposition “God exists” is arrogant? you can call it arrogant, but if it’s arrogant to assume something that’s logically certain how much more arrogant is it to assert things that are less than logically certain like “God couldn’t have morally sufficient reasons for allowing the suffering I observe.”

    Moreover, our limited abilities of perception and logic don't really speak to a distaste for heavenly oppression, or a man-made philosophy that espouses as much. Even if everything you believe is correct; that god exists and is perfectly moral, I still claim the right to be disgusted at his creation and how it is administered.
    Oh I certainly agree you have that right I just think it would be irrational if I’m correct that a morally perfect God exists.

    Not demanding divine understanding, just asking for us who are made in his image to possess a moral understanding that is more in line with what you think rather than my repulsion at the world around me. It might be easier to believe that god is both loving and just if one saw more love and justice.
    I can’t speak to your specific circumstances but that sounds fair, I personally see a lot of love and justice and when I see the opposite it’s pretty much always due to the free choices of people.

    Yes, I do have authority to declare what is acceptable.
    You have the authority to declare what is acceptable… but it’s arrogant of me to assert the efficacy of logic? sounds inconsistent.

    Particularly as the vulgar outsider declaring that a philosophy or set of beliefs is completely contrary to my own and many other humanists' opinion of right and wrong.
    If the set of beliefs I hold about what is “right and wrong” is “completely contrary” to the set that you “and many other humanists” hold then it must be true that you “and many other humanists” hold the view that fraud, napalming babies and eating eachother is morally laudable, because this is “completely contrary” to the set of beliefs that I hold on those issues. But somehow I don’t think this is the case, maybe you weren’t referring to my beliefs but to those of some hypothetical other individual, perhaps one made out of straw?

    To say otherwise would require a religious relativism that also finds genital mutilation, ritual suicide, and child brides as acceptable.
    Really? How does this follow?

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  29. As you might imagine, I don't mind being in the minority. That being said, it seems there is still significant debate about the logical problem of evil and debate about to what degree Plantinga answered it.
    There certainly is, I think most notably around atheist philosopher Quentin Smith at U of Michigan. But the number of staunch atheists that were convinced by Plantinga’s argument I think speaks volumes to its adequacy. With the exception of Sam Harris not even the so called “new atheists” with all their rhetoric and stridency dared dig up this old argument .

    I'm fairly well-versed on Plantinga's work having skimmed God, Freedom, and Evil and Does God Have a Nature?, thought not as well as you, I'm sure.
    Do you know if he has ever answered the souls in heaven response to him? That being that souls in heaven are sinless, yet should also possess free-will, thus making it possible for beings to both lead blameless existences and do so of their own volition?

    I’m uncertain if Plantings has responded to this but it seems to me clear that one answer comes cleanly out of standard Christian doctrine. Those souls in Heaven have freely chosen to surrender their will to God, this is what Christians on earth are all attempting (or should be attempting) to do anyway and I think “succeeding” in this is the very definition of heaven while failing (or outright rejecting it) in it is the very definition of Hell.

    From an outside perspective, the logical problem of evil is entirely consistent with and bolstered by the notion of a hypothetical supremely powerful being possessing the capacity to alleviate suffering.
    Being “consistent with” or “bolstered by” is not sufficient grounds to affirm a logical inconsistency but only a probabilistic inconsistency. The proposition that Justin Bieber is a great guitarist is consistent with, and bolstered by, the high sales volume of his recordings but it doesn’t follow with logical certainty then that Justin Bieber is a great guitarist.

    The fact that the alleged being takes no such action rather confirms the notion that God's either rotten or not there.
    Again even granting this you have zero grounds to affirm the logical problem but only the probabilistic problem, “rather confirms” is a statement of probability.

    I say that despite the interesting and ample arguments you have made for a perfectly moral god bound by logic, because such a deity is simply not good enough.
    I’m not really sure what you’re saying here, a perfectly moral God who is bound by logic is not good enough for what?

    Yes, I myself do not feel coerced. But, I do worry, mostly for all of the young persons who are subjected to the coercive philosophy without their consent.
    Yah I worry for all the young persons who are subject without their consent to the historically disastrous and dangerously licentious philosophy of the humanists, and a Hindu is going to worry about both our philosophies.

    The employment scenario certainly isn't bad. The employee chose to be bound to that arrangement voluntarily. Parent-child is closer to the relationship posited by Christianity, but because forgoing dinner isn't even in the same hypothetical galaxy as eternal damnation, it is also not bad.
    So you’re saying degree of punishment is morally relevant to the principle?

    The principle is changed once the punishment becomes forever.
    So it wouldn’t change if the punishment was for, say 9^99 years?

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  30. There is redemption for the child at next night's dinner,
    Nope, the dessert he lost he will never eat, though he may eat other desserts. But I think I see a principle emerging from your statements, you're saying the punishment must fit the crime correct?

    the employee can find other work; there's no coming back from damnation.
    Certain denominations such as the Eastern Orthodox think there is, but I don’t, it’s immensely speculative but I think CS Lewis was correct when he said people set themselves on an eternal trajectory in this life, I think the hearts of those in hell will become harder rather than softer.

    It is a tacit command to be well,
    No not at all, quite the opposite it asserts that you can’t make yourself well, which is why you need a savior.

    to be made well by the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus; just acknowledgement that something is wrong doesn't get one into salvation,
    True, what is being acknowledged as wrong must also be correct, and it must be followed by the logical next step of asking for help.

    one must surrender his life and soul. It's a command because I've addressed, it's either take the Jewish zombie extract pill or suffer eternal torment all for something that happened eons ago.
    “Jewish zombie extract pill”… nice. But no that does not constitute a command to be well any more than a doctor telling you to “exercise or you’ll get fat” constitutes a command to be well.

    I think it represents Christianity well.
    Do you honestly think that there is a single Christian on the planet who would affirm Greville’s zinger? It’s a bit silly to claim you’re well representing a demographic with a statement that no one in the demographic would agree with.

    Humans, because of sin, are separated from God and unable to be near his perfect nature without accepting his unsolicited, coercive bargain of surrender or eternal death.
    While on your view it seems eternal death is the only option, or do you think there is an afterlife?

    Sure, there are any number of means that a deity could have theoretically absolved the chain of sin from the fall to now.
    There may be, but you need to show that there in fact are and that they are in fact better.

    I mean, it took the old man 4,000 years to come up with having his son/himself killed to do it?
    I’m not sure who’s view your trying to represent here but it is neither mine nor the Christian view that it took “the old man” (God) 4,000 years to come up with anything.

    Slaughtering lambs and smearing their blood seemed to work fine for some tribes to save their first born.
    This again is not representative of Christian theology, there are no theologians who think that the animal sacrifices of the OT were salvifically efficacious.

    Why not just a big lamb stew, take the blood and smear it on the door? Instead of being required to relinquish one's life and soul to a god to get to heaven, why not just make a decent lamb stew?


    Jealous is an adjective the aptly describes the Christian God, I believe only you find it pejorative.

    So you did not intend it to be pejorative?

    And, yes a cosmic screw-up; either have the foresight to know that what you've created is prone to doing naughty things and don't plant a tree of wisdom in the garden or don't create snakes.
    Well again this a caricature of the Christian position, the Christian position is that no mistake was made by God during these events, if you think there was you’ll have to argue for that.

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  31. Ah, I see. Then I rephrase, everything god does is perfectly moral, including abstaining from, what are to my human mind, morally imperative actions. I decide, you decide, all thinking humans decide which actions have merit. Free-will ostensibly includes free valuation of outcomes and actions.
    Certainly we are free to decide which actions we think have merit but that doesn’t mean we’re actually right about it. Stalin (my least favorite dead Russian) thought starving a bunch of peasants was an action that had merit, was he right?

    I think the cut-off of rape is easy enough.
    Well I think the cut off for “no burning of children with hot water” is easy too, this doesn’t constitute a principled distinction.
    And yes, I'd leave it to the highly imperfect humans who have demonstrated far more compassion toward human suffering than the perfect, but absent god.
    Really? How do you know that?

    If he's not going to stop rape, I don't want a ounce of what he's got to offer.
    Certainly your choice to make.

    If he's going to allow millions of wonderful, beautiful souls to be condemned to hell for simply not being convinced by his followers' claims, I would rather he keep his perfection and forgiveness for someone who is less outraged by the current state of affairs.
    Again your choice to make.

    Yes, you understand my argument about volcano fishing and absence of sin by omission of human conceptualization.
    Yah it doesn’t strike me that beings are significantly free if they can only do what their creator would have them do, which is only going to be one thing at a given time. This is essentially what computers do.

    Again, turning to the example of the octopus who only sees shades of grey, imperfect perception might induce one to think that the question of a god is a bivalent proposition when in-fact there are many options imperceptible to the human mind.
    Possible, but in the case of logic implausible.
    As with our fruit agreement, if a person was raised on an island with only apples and bananas, he might assume that they are the only fruits available in the universe without realizing the wonders of pineapple available on the next island.

    True but he’s going to realize that an apple is not a banana and that for any given fruit it could be an apple and it could be a banana but it is not both.

    Therefore, I don't believe you can determine with certainty that God/no God is a bivalent option.
    What you just presented is the definition of a bivalent option.

    even if you expand God to a definition so broad as to encompass any sort of being that can breathe the spark of life into biological material.

    I find it highly suspect that a person lacking all frame of reference would be able to consider equivalencies let alone any higher orders of logic.

    Agreed, but if he does not have the frame of reference that is his internal thought process, or the potential to have this, then “he” is not a human, humans have the potential for self consciousness.

    As for perceiving existence without external stimuli, I think you might (as we all are) be unable to divorce your experience of life from your hypothetical. I think it equally likely that the mental existence without physical stimuli would lead to any number of confusions including the nature of itself and what may or may not exist outside of it.
    This may be the case but it’s not necessarily the case, the probability of it being the case seems to me difficult to assess.
    Awright I’m going to come back to the “arbitrariness” thing a bit later but right now I’m busy playing with the ipad that work just issued.

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  32. It's not inconsistent to hold strong opinions while having relatively pitiful powers of perception in logic, it is inconsistent to have definitive positions.

    I'm more commenting on the different, largely imperceptible dimensions posited by string theory rather than the universe that is observable in theory just not in our present capability. While it stands to reason that what passes for logic here on Earth might suffice on a distant planet beyond our current ability to see, I doubt that it can be as easily applied to other, more distinct realities that exist but are far beyond our perception, let alone understanding.

    I see children suffering starvation and disease, not really a result of people's choices, a result of scarcity of resources. There's no love or justice in the painful, short life of most humans suffering for no other reason than their tremendous misfortune of being born in the wrong place.

    I have never disclaimed my own not inconsiderable arrogance. In this case, however, the application of the arrogance is different. I arrogantly demand a better god than Christianity posits, as judged by my own standards of acceptability. The arrogance I cite is rather about arrogantly deciding that, by means of a very limited human understanding, what passes for our logic is somehow universally applicable, immutable, and even remotely correct.

    Moreover, hypocrisy or inconsistency has never been an actual means of defeating a given proposition unless there was a substantial relationship present between the two inconsistent propositions. Pointing out that arrogantly trusting logic to arrive at a bivalent god/no-god dichotomy may be incorrect is not lessened by my own arrogant insistence on a better class of deity.

    I use arrogant in the best, least-pejorative way here.

    I have overstated my position; it is contrary, but not completely. Eternal punishment for committing no crime other than being born after that apple-stealing ne'r-do-well Eve, is contrary to a humanist understanding of personal responsibility and punishment being both proportional and deserved.

    In the humanist view, a supremely powerful being who allegedly loves humans more than we can imagine would do whatever it took to avoid a single soul suffering eternal damnation. Possessing the ability, and hopefully the intelligence, to save all from hell, regardless of whether they buy into the vicarious, unsolicited get-out-of-hell-free card, and not doing so is reprehensible.

    If a human abdicates the right to declare that the Christian view of God is unacceptable, then other religious beliefs and practices would similarly be above secular criticism.

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  33. Once they have succeeded in submitting to God's will, do they then lack free-will?

    True, Justin Beiber is not a great guitarist, but he's got one hell of a haircut.

    My point was not that my ancillary position made the logical problem of evil more tenable. My assertion is that the logical problem of evil stands on its own and that my ancillary point is not inconsistent with it (as I understood you to assert), but rather supports it. That's all; I am not nearly smart or creative enough to add to the logical problem of evil.

    Probabilistic statements, when untestable are as sufficient as untestable logical statements. There's absolutely no means by which your belief that god is perfectly moral and bound by logic can be tested and there are no means by which my belief that such a powerful being could to better can be falsified other than by more unverifiable allegations. In the closed-world of the Christian logic that you have outlined, a perfect God cannot do any better, which would defeat my position. As I understand it though, God is the entity declaring his own perfection, which would make it suspect facially, even more so when a mere human can consider means by which he could do a better job.

    I'm saying that a god bound by logic is not good enough to merit worship.

    The history books reflect blood on the hands of just about every philosophy save for Jainism (I'm not sure about their entire record).

    I'm saying that the degree of severity of the punishment is relevant to the level of coercion. If a mugger threatens to throw a water balloon at you if you don't hand over your wallet, you're barely coerced. If instead, he threatens to kill you and your family, you're coerced to a much higher degree to do as he wants.

    Eternal damnation seems worth than mere death, ergo the level of coercion is higher in the ask me for help or face eternal damnation dilemma.

    I'm not saying the punishment should fit the crime, but in this instance the rational person would probably recognize inheriting a fault should not merit eternal suffering.

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  34. I would be inclined to agree that those condemned to hell would be slightly annoyed by it and their hearts would grow hard.

    Getting fat is not comparable to eternal damnation, though it sometimes feels like it at the pool.

    I apologize for not being clear, my idea that I think represents Christianity well is not Greville's line but rather the next clause. "Humans, because of sin, are separated from God and unable to be near his perfect nature without accepting his [salvation]."


    The Christian timeline seems to say that world is 6,000 years old. Adam and Eve come at the beginning of that timeline, Jesus comes apparently 4,000 years after that. Thus 4,000 years to cover the heirs of Adam and Eve in the blood that cleanse their sins.

    The Passover blood smearing may not have been eternally salvifically efficacious but it seemed to save lots of little Jewish first-borns from death.

    I can assume you don't think cooking lamb stew would sufficiently absolve humans of their sin?

    No, I don't mean it as a pejorative, it's his nature as I have seen it presented.

    So God had no idea that Adam and Even would sin? Not a very clever supreme being. To create something in your image and can't even predict it making a world-defining choice doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

    If he did have an idea that they'd get up to some sort of chicanery, he could have saved us all a lot of grief by just taking the tree of wisdom out of the garden. I know that three-year-old humans are only marginally more well-reasoned than dolphins, so I don't let them play with knives or other harmful objects.

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  35. Sure, in Stalin's (a Georgian actually) personal, closed-loop world of decision making, starving the Ukrainians held merit (otherwise he wouldn't have done it). Just like the closed-world of Christian logic and morals make sense on the inside. It's only from the outside that both Stalin's actions and Christian belief become reprehensible.

    Fine, let's make the cut-off kids burning themselves with water and rape, easy enough. Protecting children and the defenseless doesn't have to be based on any principled rubric of times to intervene and times not to intervene. It may not be logical, in the Christian sense, but I'm certain such a trade of logic for compassion is warranted.

    God got angry and drowned the whole world, not exactly the paragon of compassion. Especially considering those folks didn't even have access to heavenly salvation. Humans are doubtlessly capable of horrendous, disgusting acts, but they are also capable of incredible and unfathomable acts of sacrifice and charity. And, I'd put the best of humanity up against any compassion God's ever offered.

    No, being unable to conceptualize certain acts is not the same as being directed to do just one thing by God. It's impossible to theorize about things that I've never thought of doing, because I either can't, or have just thought about doing them. But, there is a veritable smorgasbord of things humans can do that they've never conceived of. Such as volcano fishing. Or more realistically, if adultery is so bad, why do so many people's sexual taste trend toward multiples? Why can't we be like birds or prairie dogs who mate for life and don't seem to engage in sex except with one partner? Surely, humans who are biologically inclined to monogamy would not represent an illogical abjuring of free-will.

    Yes, but I think you're avoiding the inherent proposition. I'm not saying that the god/no-god proposition can somehow be both god/no-god at the same time. I'm saying that there is likely transcendental pineapple out there that could easily redefine our notions of what constitutes reality.

    You're right, the probabilities of sensory-deprived humans processing logic are impossible to determine in the current ethical framework of human study, but the point is that logic cannot exist in a vacuum uninformed by experience with the world outside of just consciousness.

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  36. It's not inconsistent to hold strong opinions while having relatively pitiful powers of perception in logic, it is inconsistent to have definitive positions.
    Well you’ve softened your stance here from “Pitiful powers of perception and reason” to “relatively pitiful powers of perception in logic” and so I may be inclined to agree…

    I'm more commenting on the different, largely imperceptible dimensions posited by string theory rather than the universe that is observable in theory just not in our present capability.
    String theory is going to need some experimental verification before I start taking it seriously but again I agree we likely understand less than 10% of what’s out there.

    While it stands to reason that what passes for logic here on Earth might suffice on a distant planet beyond our current ability to see, I doubt that it can be as easily applied to other, more distinct realities that exist but are far beyond our perception, let alone understanding.
    I don’t think you correctly understand logic, logic, it is generally agreed, applies to all possible worlds. There are no possible world’s where something isn’t equal to itself (law of identity) or where something is equal to not itself (law of non-contradiction) you’re taking a radical step in making this assertion.

    I see children suffering starvation and disease, not really a result of people's choices, a result of scarcity of resources.
    Really??? You see this on planet earth? The disposable income of all Americans could feed all hungry children under the age of 13, we intentionally plow food back under the ground to keep grain prices up, I can buy 20 loaves of bread for an hour’s wage. Nor is there material scarcity in Africa that is not caused by people’s choices. Look at Zimbabwe, it was the bread basket of the continent until a new government that made bad choices came along. Now there is a scarcity of food in Zimbabwe, but it is due to the choices of people not some deficiency with the planet.

    There's no love or justice in the painful, short life of most humans suffering for no other reason than their tremendous misfortune of being born in the wrong place.
    The reason that the “wrong places” to be born are the wrong places to be born is the result of poor decisions made by the countrymen of the born.

    I have never disclaimed my own not inconsiderable arrogance. In this case, however, the application of the arrogance is different. I arrogantly demand a better god than Christianity posits, as judged by my own standards of acceptability.
    Can’t argue with a standard that is subjective.

    The arrogance I cite is rather about arrogantly deciding that, by means of a very limited human understanding, what passes for our logic is somehow universally applicable, immutable, and even remotely correct.
    So you deny that the statement “a thing is always equal to itself” is universally applicable, immutable, and remotely correct?

    Moreover, hypocrisy or inconsistency has never been an actual means of defeating a given proposition unless there was a substantial relationship present between the two inconsistent propositions.
    Agreed so far as the factual realm goes.

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  37. Pointing out that arrogantly trusting logic to arrive at a bivalent god/no-god dichotomy may be incorrect is not lessened by my own arrogant insistence on a better class of deity.
    True but I don’t think you’ve given any reason whatsoever to believe that asserting the efficacy of logic is arrogant. And if you do give such a reason, I bet it will be based on… logic.

    I use arrogant in the best, least-pejorative way here.
    Ahh I see.

    have overstated my position; it is contrary, but not completely. Eternal punishment for committing no crime other than being born after that apple-stealing ne'r-do-well Eve, is contrary to a humanist understanding of personal responsibility and punishment being both proportional and deserved.
    Since you’re a humanist and I’m not I will allow you to define “humanist understanding” and so won’t argue with this statement. But I’ll add that I think the “humanist understanding” whatever it is, is wrong if it comes to the conclusion that a perfect being should be different.

    In the humanist view, a supremely powerful being who allegedly loves humans more than we can imagine would do whatever it took to avoid a single soul suffering eternal damnation. Possessing the ability, and hopefully the intelligence, to save all from hell, regardless of whether they buy into the vicarious, unsolicited get-out-of-hell-free card, and not doing so is reprehensible.
    Yah if the descriptions here are supposed to be representative of Christian doctrine I missed it, if you want to argue against something you need to correctly represent it. It seems to me what you’ve really been trying to argue this whole time here is something like:
    1. The Christian God is posited to be maximally great.
    2. It is improbable or impossible that a maximally great being would actualize the world I observe or take the actions that Christian doctrine asserts He has taken.
    3. Therefore it is improbable or impossible that the maximally great being exists and/or that Christianity is true.
    But rather than clearly state the argument and defend the premises you sort of assume that premise 2 is true and on the basis of that argue against premise 1 rather than argue that under the assumption of the uncontroversial premise (premise 1, and it’s uncontroversial because it’s definitional, a maximally great being is simply the definition of the Christian God) premise 2 must be true and thus the conclusion is true. You will never make headway against premise 1, it’s definitionally true and all attempts to argue against it are just misrepresentations, what you need to argue for is truth of premise 2 if you want to falsify Christianity.

    If a human abdicates the right to declare that the Christian view of God is unacceptable, then other religious beliefs and practices would similarly be above secular criticism.
    Oh I’m not arguing that anyone abdicate this right, I just think exercising it is irrational.

    Once they have succeeded in submitting to God's will, do they then lack free-will?
    I don’t think so, I think they remain in free submission, but this is speculative.

    True, Justin Beiber is not a great guitarist, but he's got one hell of a haircut.
    Oh good, this is another view that I hold with logical certainty, I’d have spent at least a decade defending it.

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  38. My point was not that my ancillary position made the logical problem of evil more tenable. My assertion is that the logical problem of evil stands on its own and that my ancillary point is not inconsistent with it (as I understood you to assert), but rather supports it. That's all; I am not nearly smart or creative enough to add to the logical problem of evil.
    Are you sufficiently smart and creative to defend it?

    Probabilistic statements, when untestable are as sufficient as untestable logical statements.
    No not at all, at least not if the logical statement is both sound and valid. I can tell you right now that the untestable logical statement “there is either gold on planet Gliese 581g or there is no gold on planet Gliese 581g” is more certainly true than any probabilistic statement you can come up with. Again I don’t think you correctly understand what logic is.

    There's absolutely no means by which your belief that god is perfectly moral and bound by logic can be tested and there are no means by which my belief that such a powerful being could to better can be falsified other than by more unverifiable allegations.
    I sort of agree, God is not something that can be put in a lab and measured. But none the less the existence of a maximally great being could be inferred as the best explanation for some state of affairs or could be reached through a logical process like the ontological argument.

    In the closed-world of the Christian logic.
    There’s no such thing as “Christian logic,” logic is efficacious regardless of your personal philosophy, as any logician of any personal philosophy will tell you.

    that you have outlined, a perfect God cannot do any better, which would defeat my position. As I understand it though, God is the entity declaring his own perfection, which would make it suspect facially, even more so when a mere human can consider means by which he could do a better job.
    A human, or any fallible entity, that considers means by which a maximally great being could do better… is probably just mistaken.

    I'm saying that a god bound by logic is not good enough to merit worship.
    This is a statement of opinion, I can’t argue with it.

    The history books reflect blood on the hands of just about every philosophy save for Jainism (I'm not sure about their entire record).
    True, though at differing rates (except I also don’t know about Jainism and there are likely some very new and minor philosophies who could claim exemption)… it’s like humanity is sinful or something…

    I'm saying that the degree of severity of the punishment is relevant to the level of coercion. If a mugger threatens to throw a water balloon at you if you don't hand over your wallet, you're barely coerced. If instead, he threatens to kill you and your family, you're coerced to a much higher degree to do as he wants.
    True but this is a difference in degree not in principle.

    Eternal damnation seems worth than mere death, ergo the level of coercion is higher in the ask me for help or face eternal damnation dilemma.
    Yes I see your point but I still don’t think this is coercion (as the word is popularly used) because the decision is trivial (among other reasons). No one in their right mind chooses hell over heaven if they comprehend the situation as a decision between heaven and hell, and only if you’re aware of the situation presenting such a decision can it be true that you’re being coerced. It’s true for example that if you jump out of a flying airplane without a parachute you’ll die an ugly death; but no one cries “this decision between parachute and ugly death is coercive! I will not put this filthy parachute on my back” because the decision is trivial.

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  39. I'm not saying the punishment should fit the crime, but in this instance the rational person would probably recognize inheriting a fault should not merit eternal suffering.
    You are very persistent in misrepresenting Christian doctrine. No one, on the Christian view, goes to hell for inheriting a fault, they go to hell for a state of heart that results from refusing to recognize their faults and repent of them.

    I would be inclined to agree that those condemned to hell would be slightly annoyed by it and their hearts would grow hard. Getting fat is not comparable to eternal damnation, though it sometimes feels like it at the pool.
    It doesn’t have to be we’re talking about principles.

    I apologize for not being clear, my idea that I think represents Christianity well is not Greville's line but rather the next clause. "Humans, because of sin, are separated from God and unable to be near his perfect nature without accepting his [salvation]."
    Sounds about right but there’s ambiguity in the phrase “unable to be near his perfect nature” that raises just a little suspicion.

    The Christian timeline seems to say that world is 6,000 years old. Adam and Eve come at the beginning of that timeline, Jesus comes apparently 4,000 years after that. Thus 4,000 years to cover the heirs of Adam and Eve in the blood that cleanse their sins.
    There’s been debate over the Christian timeline since the first century but assuming you’re correct… I don’t see what your point is, are you saying those 4,000 years are hopeless years where everyone will be damned?

    The Passover blood smearing may not have been eternally salvifically efficacious but it seemed to save lots of little Jewish first-borns from death.
    True, though that was a historically unique situation.

    I can assume you don't think cooking lamb stew would sufficiently absolve humans of their sin?
    Yes that’s a safe assumption.

    No, I don't mean it as a pejorative, it's his nature as I have seen it presented.
    OK but I’m going to clarify anyway since I often see this attribute being misrepresented. When Christians say that God is a jealous God they don’t mean that He wishes He owned his neighbors BMW.
    Let’s say that you’re driving down the street and you see a hooker on the side of the road… you probably won’t think much of it, this isn’t all too uncommon. But now let’s say that you recognize that the hooker is your wife, or your daughter, or someone else that you love, now you’re going to be jealously angry, and rightly so, because you want better things for them, because you love them.

    I So God had no idea that Adam and Even would sin?
    Yes He did.

    I Not a very clever supreme being. To create something in your image and can't even predict it making a world-defining choice doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
    Not applicable given my response above.

    If he did have an idea that they'd get up to some sort of chicanery, he could have saved us all a lot of grief by just taking the tree of wisdom out of the garden.
    Ignorance is bliss? It may be… but it seems to me that being well-informed is better regardless the responsibilities that may come with it.

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  40. I know that three-year-old humans are only marginally more well-reasoned than dolphins, so I don't let them play with knives or other harmful objects.
    My parents literally gave me a Swiss Army knife when I was three, sure I cut myself; they probably knew I would, but I was glad to have it (and still am) none-the-less. Risks cannot be eliminated in any scenario where there are free creatures involved and actions there are actions that actually matter involved.

    I Sure, in Stalin's (a Georgian actually) personal, closed-loop world of decision making, starving the Ukrainians held merit (otherwise he wouldn't have done it).
    Well of course in Stalin’s head they had merit, the point is that there is an objective and correct viewpoint from which they did not have merit.

    I Just like the closed-world of Christian logic and morals make sense on the inside. It's only from the outside that both Stalin's actions and Christian belief become reprehensible.
    Are you claiming to occupy that “outside” objective perspective so that you can say what the real truth of the matter is? Or do you believe that you also exist in one of these “closed loops” and it is from that loop that you judge some of the results of other systems to be “reprehensible”?

    Fine, let's make the cut-off kids burning themselves with water and rape, easy enough.
    OK now what about kids burning themselves with oil rather than water couldn’t everyone agree on that as well?

    Protecting children and the defenseless doesn't have to be based on any principled rubric of times to intervene and times not to intervene.
    Really? If it’s not based on principles what should it be based on? The roll of a dice? The temperature in Tokyo?

    It may not be logical, in the Christian sense,
    There is no “Christian sense” of logical. Logic transcends individual points of view which is why it is so powerful and useful.

    but I'm certain such a trade of logic for compassion is warranted.
    When you say that logic should be traded for something what do you really mean? That we should be illogical?

    God got angry and drowned the whole world, not exactly the paragon of compassion.
    It is if the alternative was allowing the world into a state far inferior to the one it ended up in.

    Especially considering those folks didn't even have access to heavenly salvation.
    This is another misrepresentation of my position, I think these people did have such access and the majority of expert and lay Christians that I know or have read agree.

    Humans are doubtlessly capable of horrendous, disgusting acts, but they are also capable of incredible and unfathomable acts of sacrifice and charity. And, I'd put the best of humanity up against any compassion God's ever offered.
    OK, but my money’s on the maximally great being.

    No, being unable to conceptualize certain acts is not the same as being directed to do just one thing by God.
    It is if God knows all the possibilities, and thus knows which possibility is best, and always wills the best to happen, which clearly he would. There can only be one superlative option.

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  41. It's impossible to theorize about things that I've never thought of doing, because I either can't, or have just thought about doing them.
    Agreed.

    But, there is a veritable smorgasbord of things humans can do that they've never conceived of. Such as volcano fishing. Or more realistically, if adultery is so bad, why do so many people's sexual taste trend toward multiples?
    If lying is so bad, why do so many people’s desires lead them to do this? If overeating is unhealthy why do so many people’s desires lead them to do this? The answers here are the same, people are broken.

    Why can't we be like birds or prairie dogs who mate for life and don't seem to engage in sex except with one partner? Surely, humans who are biologically inclined to monogamy would not represent an illogical abjuring of free-will.
    Maybe it would maybe it wouldn’t, personally I think I am biologically inclined to monogamy though I can’t speak for others.

    Yes, but I think you're avoiding the inherent proposition. I'm not saying that the god/no-god proposition can somehow be both god/no-god at the same time. I'm saying that there is likely transcendental pineapple out there that could easily redefine our notions of what constitutes reality.
    What constitutes reality is irrelevant provided the terms of the proposition are clearly defined, the terms of the proposition that I’m putting forward are clearly defined, God is a maximally great being, either such a thing exists or it does not.

    You're right, the probabilities of sensory-deprived humans processing logic are impossible to determine in the current ethical framework of human study, but the point is that logic cannot exist in a vacuum uninformed by experience with the world outside of just consciousness.
    Hmm this is a very controversial statement, many people (among them prominent atheists like Roger Penrose and prominent theists like Alvin Plantinga) disagree with you. I also disagree; it seems to me that logic does not require anyone comprehending it for its existence.

    Enjoy your new iPad.
    I am though I’m a little disappointed by the smoothness of the UI probably because I’d been lead to expect perfection by certain apple enthusiasts, the screen is awesome though, better than I thought it would be and the web browsing experience is almost as good as my laptop. I often find myself wishing it was just a little smaller though, it’s too big to comfortably hold with one hand, maybe the form factor will grow on me but right now I’m thinking 7 inches is closer to the optimal size for a tablet.

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  42. I think the time has come to shorten this exchange down.

    I don't mean to have moved the goal posts, it was my unstated assumption that my statement about our pitiful powers of perception and logic reflected the relative nature of such abilities. Compared to amoebas, we're pretty clever.

    It seems easy to conceptualize a reality where something could equal something not itself. It's all very speculative.

    Surely, however, you hold the logical problem of evil as being supplanted by a better line of reasoning. It seems to me that other forms of logic, the law of non-contradiction, say, could be also supplanted if we were to learn more about that other 90%.

    Scarcity of resources leads to the problematic decisions you are referring to. Because resources are scarce, their allocation must subject to laws of supply and demand. Those same laws mean that resources are attracted to those with capital. Comparing Americans' income to what it could by for the hungry is spurious at best. Most often, redistribution of capital comes in the form of higher taxes or price controls, both which leave all people with less on the aggregate. The laws of economics generally preclude an even or remotely even distribution of wealth without other major distortions that erode balance sheets.

    I don't deny that our current understanding leads us to believe that a thing is always equal to itself. I simply reserve judgment on the universal finality of such a statement.

    I don't believe asserting the efficacy of logic is arrogant, I believe asserting that human understanding of logic is sufficiently well developed as to place binary limits on a potentially infinite question is.

    Actually, your third statement about "what I'm trying to argue" is incorrect. I am not saying that points one and two make it improbable or impossible for the Christian God to exist. In fact, I said the perceived harshness made him more believable.

    My point has not been, in this post, to ever try and falsify Christianity. My original purpose was to clarify a Hitchens quote and tell you why I thought the parent-child punishment was not analogous to the heaven-hell dichotomy.

    But for your point about what I am trying to argue now, I'm simply getting at the distasteful nature of the Christian god as posited.

    Beyond that, within the assumptions of the Christian world view, I would say that point one "God is maximally great" is a highly suspect assumption as it's basis is in self-description. So, arguing point two is not as necessary.

    I doubt I am smart enough to even fully understand the logical problem of evil let alone defend it.

    Are you referring to Descartes' ontological argument?

    You're right, I mean to say within the closed-world of Christian assumptions "god is perfect" "god loves you" etc.

    Bad human behavior may be a result of sinfulness, or could be a result of not being far enough along on the evolutionary chain to completely forgo animalistic urges to horde resources.

    You're right, it is a question of degree, but I have never said that the parent isn't coercing the child, I've said he is, but it's not bad for other reasons.

    Questions of degree can be dispositive, we don't hang children for stealing gum, we generally don't let murders go free. Both were crimes, one was worse.

    Coercive decisions are often very trivial, they are meant to be. Give me your wallet, or die, is very coercive, it's also a very easy decision, you hand over the wallet.

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  43. Humans inherited a fallen nature from our forebears, those of us born after the fall had no choice but to be sinful.

    I'm simply saying that for 4,000 years, people didn't have access to the sacrifice of Christ to cleanse their souls and excise sin.

    If the Passover was historically unique, so was the death of Christ. Why not just do the Passover again, with higher stakes, say eternal salvation?

    I understand the jealousy definition.

    You think that it's better to be "well-informed" as a species, at the price of billions of souls suffering eternal torment than to be less-informed at get to live in paradise?

    Risks can be mitigated. The higher the risk, the smarter it is to keep the child from it. Your parents may have given you a knife, they didn't give you an exposed section of alternating current wire. The risk in the present question is one of eternal damnation. God should have taken the eternal damnation wire out of the proverbial crib of Eden.

    Only within certain closed-loop systems of belief is there an objective and correct viewpoint on merit or morals. What's right and wrong is all based on beliefs and positions, not a universal measure. Stalin starved millions of peasants; bad guy. Truman nukes hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens; decent guy. All relative.

    I'm not claiming any 'real truth.' I exist in my own closed-loop of personal beliefs and philosophies and I judge readily from that loop, just like everyone else does.

    Yep, let's get rid of oil burning kids. Let's leave it all up to an 80% super-majority consensus.

    It should be based on preventing children from being utterly destroyed by rape or abuse. It should be based on the notion that kids be spared pain of the most terrible magnitude.

    Again, I mean it may not make sense, given Christian assumptions.

    I'm saying that trading a measure of rigidity in a completely logically and uniformly applied rule for sparing children pain is warranted.

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  44. Once again, the assumption is that God is perfectly moral, so flooding the world was a moral act. But, on whose authority do you have it that God is moral, just his word, as far as I know. 'Hey, guys, I'm perfect." "What? Yes, I got a little annoyed, killed practically everyone, but, hey, I'm perfect so that was the best that you could possibly hope for." Seems like assumption #1 might be a bit unbelievable.

    Most Christians I have spoken to say that those who died between the fall and Christ's death are in some sort of suspended state where their souls are dormant.

    I'm not sure how you can say God clearly would will the best thing to happen, he doesn't seem interested in doing so at present.

    The underlying point is why do people have to be broken? Or broken in certain ways.

    Curious, you believe that everyone has the opportunity to understand and accept Christ, I believe you said. What about 5 weeks, 5 months and 5 years after his death? Physically, his message could not have traveled by means to all people by then. Was there a Mormonesque appearance in the Americas? What about the Polynesians and Australians? By then, shouldn't the covenent of Christ's sacrifice for your soul have been solidified as the only means of getting to heaven, despite what might have happened for those between the fall and Christ's death?

    I have not attempted to derogate your proposition of a maximally great being by saying that a third, fourth, or fifth option might be available. I've never used it as such. I'm only using that notion to say that the binary choice between divine-non divine seems too definitive given how little we know.

    Again, I don't mind being in the minority. Logic, like math is our means of explaining what we see around us. Some logical or mathematical principles as we've posited them may be exactly correct. Some, based on our misperceptions or limited knowledge may not be.

    I agree on the size issue, I've used an iPad and my Kindle Fire, I appreciate the Kindle's size.

    So much for shortening the exchange.

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  45. I don't mean to have moved the goal posts, it was my unstated assumption that my statement about our pitiful powers of perception and logic reflected the relative nature of such abilities. Compared to amoebas, we're pretty clever. It seems easy to conceptualize a reality where something could equal something not itself. It's all very speculative.
    You subtly changed my statement, it is easy to conceptualize a reality where something could equal something not itself (aren’t all photons created equal?) but it’s impossible (I’m quite sure) for something to not be equal to itself, and this is what the law of identity claims.

    Surely, however, you hold the logical problem of evil as being supplanted by a better line of reasoning. It seems to me that other forms of logic, the law of non-contradiction, say, could be also supplanted if we were to learn more about that other 90%.
    It’s not that logic itself underwent any change in the fall of the logical problem of evil, it’s that one of the premises in the logical problem of evil was found to be less than logically certain reducing the argument to one of probability rather than one of logical certainty. I do not see how anything could be both itself and not itself at the same time and in the same way, Aristotle called the law of non-contradiction the firmest of the first principles and claimed that without it we could not know anything because we would be unable to make distinctions. While technology and general knowledge are immensely superior now to their state during Aristotle’s time his basic rules remain unchanged because there is no reason to change them, with the possible exception of our own existence there is nothing in human knowledge that is more firmly known the laws of logic.

    Scarcity of resources leads to the problematic decisions you are referring to. Because resources are scarce, their allocation must subject to laws of supply and demand.
    I doubt that any naturally supplied abundance would be sufficiently great to ensure that many did not go hungry given human nature. There has always been people that seek power through the control of resources.

    Those same laws mean that resources are attracted to those with capital. Comparing Americans' income to what it could by for the hungry is spurious at best. Most often, redistribution of capital comes in the form of higher taxes or price controls, both which leave all people with less on the aggregate. The laws of economics generally preclude an even or remotely even distribution of wealth without other major distortions that erode balance sheets.
    Agreed, but this is not caused primarily by any deficiency inherent in planet earth but rather by human nature, additionally keep in mind that on the Christian view the fall affected the earth as well as man.

    I don't deny that our current understanding leads us to believe that a thing is always equal to itself. I simply reserve judgment on the universal finality of such a statement.
    Roger

    I don't believe asserting the efficacy of logic is arrogant, I believe asserting that human understanding of logic is sufficiently well developed as to place binary limits on a potentially infinite question is.
    Propositions do not permit a potentially infinite number of truth values. If they do I would like you to give me one coherent example of such a proposition, If you cannot find one (and I don’t think you or anyone else can) then I would have to say that adherence to a principal that has never been shown to err in trillions of cases can hardly be arrogant.

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  46. Actually, your third statement about "what I'm trying to argue" is incorrect. I am not saying that points one and two make it improbable or impossible for the Christian God to exist. In fact, I said the perceived harshness made him more believable. My point has not been, in this post, to ever try and falsify Christianity. My original purpose was to clarify a Hitchens quote and tell you why I thought the parent-child punishment was not analogous to the heaven-hell dichotomy. But for your point about what I am trying to argue now, I'm simply getting at the distasteful nature of the Christian god as posited.
    The statement “the distasteful nature of the Christian God” is incoherent; the Christian God is definitionally not distasteful and since you add “as posited” you are apparently acknowledging that you are trying to address the entity I’m talking about (which is definitionally not distasteful) making it even more unintelligible. What you’re arguing here is equivalent to me taking your example of a person fishing in a volcano and saying “I’m simply getting at the fact that there are no active volcanoes on Mars for this person to fish in” to which you’d rightly respond with something like, “What? I’m not talking about a fisherman on Mars, maybe there is a fisherman on Mars but that’s not the one I’m talking about, I’m talking about one on earth that is fishing in a lava-filled volcano, you’re either misunderstanding me or misrepresenting me.” If there is a God that exists and is distasteful then it is not the Christian God and Christianity is false. So arguing that the Christian God is distasteful is identical to arguing that the God posited by Christianity doesn’t exist, just as arguing that the planet Jupiter is an ice-cream cone is identical to arguing that the planet Jupiter doesn’t exist. Ice-cream cones are not planets, so if Jupiter were an ice-cream cone it wouldn’t be the planet Jupiter. The Christian God is maximally great, if you are arguing that He is not maximally great you are arguing that he is not the Christian God. God’s identity is the most fundamental of Christian doctrines. Again you can argue that what you observe in Christian doctrine is inconsistent with such a God but you can’t argue against my (and everyone else’s) definition of the Christian God, because… it’s our definition (and one that I think corresponds to reality) not yours.

    Beyond that, within the assumptions of the Christian world view, I would say that point one "God is maximally great" is a highly suspect assumption as it's basis is in self-description.
    No its basis is in definition, nowhere in the Bible does it say “I am God, I am a maximally great being” though I think that His being maximally great is inferred throughout the Bible, Christians have just agreed that this is the best definition of “God” for a very long time, and such a God has immense explanatory power.

    So, arguing point two is not as necessary.
    Arguing point one is arguing against a trivially true statement, no headway can be expected to be made.

    I doubt I am smart enough to even fully understand the logical problem of evil let alone defend it.
    I think you are easily smart enough to understand it, here it is:

    (1) God is omnipotent.
    (2) God is omniscient.
    (3) God is omni-benevolent.
    (4) An omni-benevolent being always eliminates evil as far as it can.
    (5) There are no limits to what an omniscient, omnipotent being can do.
    (6) Therefore an omnipotent, omniscient, omni-benevolent being would eliminate all evil
    (7) Evil exists.
    (8) An omnipotent, omniscient, omni-benevolent being cannot exist

    Premise 5 is false though you can probably see why theists (at least of the Judeo-Christian variety) would want to affirm it; this is why it stood for over a thousand years.

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  47. Are you referring to Descartes' ontological argument?
    No I don’t think Descartes version works; I’m referring to Plantinga’s possible worlds version.

    You're right, I mean to say within the closed-world of Christian assumptions "god is perfect" "god loves you" etc.
    I don’t think the “Christian world” is “closed” I think it’s accurately descriptive of reality, but of course everyone who disagrees with me likely will say the same, normally though people agree on principles of logic and so can have fruitful dialogue in pursuit of the truth.

    Bad human behavior may be a result of sinfulness, or could be a result of not being far enough along on the evolutionary chain to completely forgo animalistic urges to horde resources.
    True, but this assumes that there is some sort of standard of correctness toward which we’re progressing, what is that standard?

    You're right, it is a question of degree, but I have never said that the parent isn't coercing the child, I've said he is, but it's not bad for other reasons.
    So coercion is not always bad, it was by my definition but I’ll adopt your definition as I understand it, this could significantly change how I approach the issue.

    Questions of degree can be dispositive, we don't hang children for stealing gum, we generally don't let murders go free. Both were crimes, one was worse. Coercive decisions are often very trivial, they are meant to be. Give me your wallet, or die, is very coercive, it's also a very easy decision, you hand over the wallet.
    Right the difference here is that the wallet-snatcher is trying to get you to do something that’s bad for you; your parents and God are trying to get you to do things that are good.

    Humans inherited a fallen nature from our forebears, those of us born after the fall had no choice but to be sinful. I'm simply saying that for 4,000 years, people didn't have access to the sacrifice of Christ to cleanse their souls and excise sin.
    No this is not (at least on my view) the case, it is made clear in the Bible that people could be saved during this period and it is the view of everyone I’ve read that these people were saved by Christ, who’s work impinged on a timeless reality (though this is a diversity of views on this within the Christian church, maybe I'm wrong).

    If the Passover was historically unique, so was the death of Christ. Why not just do the Passover again, with higher stakes, say eternal salvation?
    Other than historical uniqueness there’s not much correlation between the two events, they occurred for very different purposes and achieved very different ends.

    I understand the jealousy definition. You think that it's better to be "well-informed" as a species, at the price of billions of souls suffering eternal torment than to be less-informed at get to live in paradise?
    I’m not sure I agree with your characterization of the situation and I don’t hold this opinion very strongly, this portion of our discussion is very speculative but the alternative here I think is worse, it’s worse than an Orwellian dystopia, I don’t think automata could have real value at all.

    Risks can be mitigated. The higher the risk, the smarter it is to keep the child from it. Your parents may have given you a knife, they didn't give you an exposed section of alternating current wire. The risk in the present question is one of eternal damnation. God should have taken the eternal damnation wire out of the proverbial crib of Eden.
    The difference between a knife and a live wire is that the knife is useful, likewise the knowledge of good and evil is useful in that allows us to freely choose good, which itself has great value.

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  48. Only within certain closed-loop systems of belief is there an objective and correct viewpoint on merit or morals.
    I’m not certain how you’re defining “closed loop” but this sounds like you’re saying “only in a subjective system can there be an objective and correct viewpoint”

    What's right and wrong is all based on beliefs and positions, not a universal measure. Stalin starved millions of peasants; bad guy. Truman nukes hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens; decent guy. All relative.
    If it’s all relative why not say: “Stalin starved millions of peasants; decent guy. Truman nukes hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens; bad guy. All relative.” Further let’s assume that you’re correct and God (this would not be the Christian God) arbitrarily sends billions to hell. Meh… all relative, it was right in God’s closed-loop system.

    I'm not claiming any 'real truth.' I exist in my own closed-loop of personal beliefs and philosophies and I judge readily from that loop, just like everyone else does.
    If such a thing as truth doesn’t exist accessibly I’m not sure why you continue to comment on this post, or why you disagree with my use of Hitchen’s quote, after-all if there’s no “real truth” of the matter what’s the point? You’re just imposing your closed-loop on someone else’s “closed loop” rather than reasoning to the truth.

    Yep, let's get rid of oil burning kids. Let's leave it all up to an 80% super-majority consensus.
    80% supermajority, sweet. I bet the list of divinely prohibited events is very long, I bet it’s so long that it would completely alter the uniform causal structure of the universe preventing us from meaningfully exercising free will. A terrorist fires his machine gun but bazinga! The bullets turn into flowers. I’m about to crash into someone while driving drunk but bazinga! I’m parked on the side of the road. Or would I be able to get behind the wheel drunk at all? If we actually went with this the world would be incredibly different and I think in a weird non-uniform kind of way where people would fail to experience the logical consequences of their actions frequently enough that they would live confused and make little moral progress. I think this would make our moral choices trivial.

    It should be based on preventing children from being utterly destroyed by rape or abuse. It should be based on the notion that kids be spared pain of the most terrible magnitude.
    Is this objectively true or is this just coming from your closed-loop system that does not contain “real truth?”

    Again, I mean it may not make sense, given Christian assumptions. I'm saying that trading a measure of rigidity in a completely logically and uniformly applied rule for sparing children pain is warranted.
    Is this objectively true or is this just coming from your “closed-loop” system that does not contain “real truth?”

    Once again, the assumption is that God is perfectly moral,
    Not really an assumption, just a definition, I can define the Millenium Falcon to be a spaceship that does the Kessel run in whatever parsecs, doesn’t follow that it exists. But I do think it makes sense that such a God exists given that He is taken to be the universe’ explanatory stopping point, also omni-benevolence is a bi-product of the moral argument for God’s existence, and I could write a rather lot here but will save it for part 3.

    so flooding the world was a moral act. But, on whose authority do you have it that God is moral, just his word, as far as I know.
    Also as it follows from the moral and ontological arguments though a person’s word can be very convincing when you know them well.

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  49. 'Hey, guys, I'm perfect." "What? Yes, I got a little annoyed, killed practically everyone, but, hey, I'm perfect so that was the best that you could possibly hope for." Seems like assumption #1 might be a bit unbelievable.
    Your anthropomorphizing God here, yes it would be silly if a person did this because we know that a person couldn’t really know the sum of the consequences of such an act. But God is not a person that bursts in and says “Hey guys!” though I understand we often deal with humans and so tend to anthropomorphize other entities. You mention premise 1 but really you’re arguing premise 2 here, you’re giving examples of events that you see to be incompatible with the existence of a maximally great being.

    Most Christians I have spoken to say that those who died between the fall and Christ's death are in some sort of suspended state where their souls are dormant. I'm not sure how you can say God clearly would will the best thing to happen, he doesn't seem interested in doing so at present.
    He does to me, what events lead you to believe otherwise, good to see you’re defending premise 2 albeit in a strange sideways kind of way?

    The underlying point is why do people have to be broken? Or broken in certain ways.
    They choose it, or were pushed in that direction by the choices of others.

    Curious, you believe that everyone has the opportunity to understand and accept Christ, I believe you said. What about 5 weeks, 5 months and 5 years after his death? Physically, his message could not have traveled by means to all people by then.
    Right but Jesus as the third person of the trinity has always existed and will always exist, knowing him personally has always been possible at all places and during all times, though I agree it is less probable in certain places and at certain times.

    Was there a Mormonesque appearance in the Americas? What about the Polynesians and Australians? By then, shouldn't the covenent of Christ's sacrifice for your soul have been solidified as the only means of getting to heaven, despite what might have happened for those between the fall and Christ's death?
    Not sure what your point is here.

    I have not attempted to derogate your proposition of a maximally great being by saying that a third, fourth, or fifth option might be available. I've never used it as such. I'm only using that notion to say that the binary choice between divine-non divine seems too definitive given how little we know.
    Then no need to attack the LEM, just define god in a loosey-goosey fashion and you’ll have a cogent position. However most people have very clear ideas of what they mean when they say “God” and their ideas are either true or false, I do have a clear idea of what I mean when I say “God” and my idea is either true or false.

    Again, I don't mind being in the minority. Logic, like math is our means of explaining what we see around us. Some logical or mathematical principles as we've posited them may be exactly correct. Some, based on our misperceptions or limited knowledge may not be.
    Given how consistently they have been shown to be efficacious I don’t think significant doubt is justified.

    I agree on the size issue, I've used an iPad and my Kindle Fire, I appreciate the Kindle's size.
    Woooot!

    Now finally getting to the arbitrariness of divine action thing:

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  50. So your Oxford definition of arbitrary: Based on random choice or personal whim rather than any reason or system.
    According to this definition, if God’s choices are based on reasons or systems then they are not arbitrary. So it’s clear that whether or not God’s actions are arbitrary is going to depend on the character of the God in question, does he act for particular reasons or not?. While there could be a God who controls everything who does not base decisions on reasons or systems, the Christian God is not just maximally powerful but also maximally great and therefore morally perfect and perfectly rational, therefore his actions are both perfectly reasoned (whatever that is) and perfectly moral (whatever that is). This is simply the definition of the Christian God, any disagreement will amount to a redefinition, and I don’t feel the need to defend someone else’s definition of God. Though of course you can argue that what you personally observe in reality is inconsistent with existence of such a being.

    So much for shortening the exchange.
    Yah it seems to me the nature of discussions regarding fundamentals is such that they always expand all over the place as people take evidences from various fields to support their fundamental position.

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  51. Ok, I think what I've arrived at is the following.

    Logic and logical reasoning is universally applicable. It exists absent our perception of it. But, such application is subject to the reliability of our given premises and assumptions.

    I believe the following to be your stance on God:

    1. God is perfectly moral.
    2. God is logically omnipotent.
    3. God is omnibenevolent.
    4. Because of his logical omnipotence, omnibenevolance, and perfectly moral nature, everything he does and abstains from doing is both logical and perfect, or the best possible option.

    I think that has a very nice internal logical consistency.

    What we've referred to as assumption 2 previously is now part 4. And, as you have referenced, I seem to have an issue with it. But, that part four is dependent on parts 1-3. And, there are two possible outcomes from my questioning of part 4. Either I am wrong, or any of parts 1-3 are incorrect assumptions.

    I can't go about thinking I am wrong, that would get annoying. Accordingly, I have to take exception with those assumptions or posited definitions. And, I think the reliability of parts 1 and 3 can be reasonably questioned. The Bible, God's unerring word, makes a number of references or outright assertions about God's love and perfection. But, as it is allegedly his own account, its reliability can be questioned.

    That's really all that I am getting at with this line of reasoning. Intuitively, I don't think the outcome matches up to what a perfect, loving being would create or allow, therefore I am lead to conclude that claims of his immutable perfection may be faulty assumptions, assertions, definitions, etc.

    Such a line of reasoning will never be used by me to attempt to disprove or falsify Christianity. Such a task is well beyond my, or maybe anyone's, ability.

    My other, I suppose we can say anti-LEM, argument also does not attempt in anyway to preclude the existence of a deity. I simply mean to say that the demonstration that a purely material explanation is likely incorrect does not automatically give support to theism or deism. For all we know, we could be electronic blips in a computer simulation, or maybe a supreme being existed, but no longer does, maybe the universe is just an empyrean hiccup from a cosmically scaled tortoise.

    I believe in truth with regard to something like physics or economics. I believe rocks will almost always be harder and more abrasive than dermis. I believe that the more people buy apple stock and products, the higher its share price will climb (all other things being equal).

    I don't, however, believe in an objective truth about morals or ethics. I think that we have developed social and cultural norms based on societal needs and evolutionary imperatives. I don't agree with Sam Harris that there can be an objective morality in a purely materialistic world, although his theory comes very close to mine. I agree that we should do what is best to maximize the life experience of sentient creatures, but I don't think that is an objective morality. Malaria causing germs certainly wouldn't like that moral code if they had a say. Of course, if they had a say, they'd be sentient. Anyway.

    So, yes, Stalin is not good or bad objectively. Truman can be judged likewise. Although I can tell you that I dislike the hypocrisy of criticizing the one and not the other.

    Why do I continue to exchange with you if there isn't a truth in my philosophy regarding morality etc.? Because I think there is tremendous value in understanding what other people think, right or wrong. At the end of the day, I think we're simply the sum of our ideas.

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  52. Regarding dictatorship, the reason why this began, I will sum it up thusly:

    1. Dictators are absolute rulers.
    2. Dictators demand certain behavior from their subjects in exchange for benefits (coercion).
    3. Dictators almost always profess that they are acting in the best interests of their subjects.

    I think the God that I've been told about fits those criteria.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dictator
    This definition does not offer the notion that dictator is an intrinsically negative description.

    I think the question becomes, in that case, are all dictators bad? I believe you will say no. As a harsh critic of representative government, I'm inclined to agree that not all supreme rulers are bad. In this case, however, the severity of the coercion coupled with the never-ending, limitless invasion of privacy and dubious claims to perfection and magnanimous intentions leads me to say this one isn't a swell fellow.

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  53. To answer a few of your points line-by-line, succinctly.

    No, not all coercion is bad. The state coerces people into being licensed to operate aircraft. I think most people think that's a good use of coercion.

    The mugger trying to get you to give over your wallet may an attempt to make you do something bad, it's only one side of the equation. In a coercive situation, the outcome desired by the coercer must be balanced against the prospective punishment to determine whether the coercion is bad or good. Executing pilots for not being licensed would likely take that coercion into the bad category. Eternally punishing someone for not seeking God's help, love, and forgiveness, falls to that side as well, for me.

    The value of free-will and knowledge of right and wrong must be balanced against the terrible fate that has befallen billions of damned souls. And, that's calculus each person must compute on their own.

    Why did God create the universe and man? Did he know what would happen (the fall) before he created the universe?

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  54. Given your definition of God, as that's what we're going for, I completely agree on the bit about arbitrary action.

    In fact, that leads me to my thanks to you for explaining in thorough, and I'm sure often frustrating or annoying, detail and length what the God you believe in is. I've never heard many of the things you are saying, and I make a point of seeking out believers for discussion. So thank you.

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  55. Ok, I think what I've arrived at is the following. Logic and logical reasoning is universally applicable. It exists absent our perception of it. But, such application is subject to the reliability of our given premises and assumptions.
    Fully agreed.

    I believe the following to be your stance on God:

    1. God is perfectly moral.
    2. God is logically omnipotent.
    3. God is omnibenevolent.
    4. Because of his logical omnipotence, omnibenevolance, and perfectly moral nature, everything he does and abstains from doing is both logical and perfect, or the best possible option.

    Fully agreed provided I understand “logically omnipotent” correctly, which I’m quite sure I do.

    I think that has a very nice internal logical consistency. What we've referred to as assumption 2 previously is now part 4. And, as you have referenced, I seem to have an issue with it. But, that part four is dependent on parts 1-3. And, there are two possible outcomes from my questioning of part 4. Either I am wrong, or any of parts 1-3 are incorrect assumptions.
    Yes I think that is correct but to avoid confusion let me just say that it seems to me that you’re open to the idea of a God that is maybe 1 or 2 of the three attributes above but not all three, or perhaps to a being who possesses all three properties to some degree but not to the maximal degree. I on the hand would consider my view to be falsified if it were shown that all 3 could not be correct as I think all three properties (and others) are essential to God’s nature in the same way that being a gas giant is essential to Jupiter’s nature, if “Jupiter” is not a gas giant… well it’s not what I’m talking about when I Say “Jupiter.” So in this sense I think we’re still using different definitions of “God.” Also I want to be very clear that I think that the probabilistic problem of evil does carry some force, I’m not trying to argue that it has no merit but rather that it has insufficient merit to draw the atheists conclusion. The problem of evil has historically been, and continues to be (I think) the best objection to Christianity. But I think the force is primarily emotional (though not purely emotional). It’s just very emotionally moving to bring up specific atrocities and appeal to the emotions of listeners in indicting any entity who was capable of preventing said atrocities for his failure to do so. Once emotion is removed from the discussion however I think it is clear that humans are not endowed with a level of knowledge and reason sufficient to assess whether or not all these terrible things could be part of a plan that is as vast in scale and complexity as the plan the Christian God is purported to have. Now the existence of such a plan may seem incredible, I in fact agree that it is, but there are some questions to which all possible answers are incredible and it seems to me that the more profound the question the more likely it is to have such an answer.

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  56. I can't go about thinking I am wrong, that would get annoying. Accordingly, I have to take exception with those assumptions or posited definitions. And, I think the reliability of parts 1 and 3 can be reasonably questioned. The Bible, God's unerring word, makes a number of references or outright assertions about God's love and perfection. But, as it is allegedly his own account, its reliability can be questioned.
    Yes it certainly can be questioned, and for other better reasons I think. I don’t think that it being self-proclaimed is a good reason to doubt it because this assumes that God has the human fault of pride/insecurity and He’s trying to prove something. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WybvhRu9KU I don’t think that a being who created the universe would feel the need to lie about how powerful he is. Also I don’t think assuming Biblical inerrancy is essential to the Christian doctrine of God, there are many academic Christians who reject inerrancy but hold firmly to the “maximally great being” definition of God. Personally I don’t seriously question this definition, I don’t think that creation ex-nihilo or objective morality or the objectivity of logic are very intelligible without something very like a maximally great being, though again I don’t think I can prove or show to be probable everything included in maximal greatness. It’s generally the case that a lesser being has limited ability to know things about a much greater being without the greater being itself condescending to the lesser being to reveal information. Regarding me a spider could discern that I was large, mobile and hostile but if it wanted to know my personal philosophy or field of expertise, or destructive capacity I would have to reveal it to the spider (and this makes the very dubious assumption that a spider could comprehend such things).

    That's really all that I am getting at with this line of reasoning. Intuitively, I don't think the outcome matches up to what a perfect, loving being would create or allow, therefore I am lead to conclude that claims of his immutable perfection may be faulty assumptions, assertions, definitions, etc.
    Right I think this well summarizes your position and I can’t argue with your personal psychological intuitions.

    Such a line of reasoning will never be used by me to attempt to disprove or falsify Christianity.
    You may not know it but you are using this line of reasoning in an attempt to falsify Christianity, if a morally perfect God cannot exist then Christianity is false, and you have been arguing that a morally perfect God can’t exist (or actually you’ve been arguing that God is bad... which if true means He doesn’t exist as posited).

    Such a task is well beyond my, or maybe anyone's, ability. My other, I suppose we can say anti-LEM, argument also does not attempt in anyway to preclude the existence of a deity.
    I did not take it to be such; rather I saw it as an attack on the efficacy of logic, which struck me as annoying and indefensible.

    I simply mean to say that the demonstration that a purely material explanation is likely incorrect does not automatically give support to theism or deism.
    While it does not prove theism or deism, I think it does “lend support” to both theism and deism. Because if material explanations did suffice then I think it would follow that both theism and deism are false as both posit immaterial agents. But if materialistic explanations fail, then it is reasonable to posit the existence of immaterial things, and included in the set of “immaterial things” are the divine beings posited by theism and deism.

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  57. For all we know, we could be electronic blips in a computer simulation, or maybe a supreme being existed, but no longer does, maybe the universe is just an empyrean hiccup from a cosmically scaled tortoise.
    All these options are possible but it seems to me none are very plausible. Given the consistency of our experience, computer simulation is remarkably free of bugs and flexible in what it can simulate. A supreme being I think would have to be necessarily existent and a cosmically scaled tortoise seems to me to lack the causal powers that would be required for such an empyrean hiccup. But I think practical considerations weigh more strongly against these possibilities than theoretical objections, I think it would inspire behavior that is unlikely to produce the life results that anyone desires if we were to take these possibilities seriously.

    I believe in truth with regard to something like physics or economics. I believe rocks will almost always be harder and more abrasive than dermis. I believe that the more people buy apple stock and products, the higher its share price will climb (all other things being equal). I don't, however, believe in an objective truth about morals or ethics. I think that we have developed social and cultural norms based on societal needs and evolutionary imperatives. I don't agree with Sam Harris that there can be an objective morality in a purely materialistic world, although his theory comes very close to mine.
    Harris’ theory is particularly problematic given that he denies free will; I don’t see how an action can have moral significance if it was determined, though he is a great writer and sounds eminently reasonable when speaking (even while advocating ideas that seem quite unreasonable to me).

    I agree that we should do what is best to maximize the life experience of sentient creatures, but I don't think that is an objective morality. Malaria causing germs certainly wouldn't like that moral code if they had a say. Of course, if they had a say, they'd be sentient. Anyway. So, yes, Stalin is not good or bad objectively. Truman can be judged likewise. Although I can tell you that I dislike the hypocrisy of criticizing the one and not the other.
    Are you really going to bite the bullet on this one? You don’t affirm that it is objectively wrong to throw babies into wood chippers or whatever other particularly nasty examples I can think of? It seems to me that I apprehend the existence of some of these objective moral values and duties as clearly as I apprehend the external world with my five senses.

    Why do I continue to exchange with you if there isn't a truth in my philosophy regarding morality etc.? Because I think there is tremendous value in understanding what other people think, right or wrong. At the end of the day, I think we're simply the sum of our ideas.
    Now is there “real truth” in the statement that there is “tremendous value” in understanding what other people think? Or just something you subjectively decided? Is there “real truth” in the notion that we’re the “sum of our ideas”?

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  58. Regarding dictatorship, the reason why this began, I will sum it up thusly:

    1. Dictators are absolute rulers.
    2. Dictators demand certain behavior from their subjects in exchange for benefits (coercion).
    3. Dictators almost always profess that they are acting in the best interests of their subjects.

    I think the God that I've been told about fits those criteria.

    I don’t think the God I’ve been talking about fits criteria 1 and I have issues (don’t quote that out of context☺) with criteria 2 and 3. Regarding criteria 1 I think that while God has the ability to be an absolute ruler, He does not exercise that ability, he allows us our free will. Regarding criteria 2 I more disagree with your wording than maybe what you are intending to say. “Demand” connotes an unconditional requirement; “in exchange for benefits” is a condition on the requirement. Condition 3 isn’t a condition, it adds “almost always” which definitions shouldn’t do. It seems like it’s only there to communicate the idea that lots of bad people who profess to be doing things for your own good… aren’t. And oh look! God is just like these humans!

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dictator
    This definition does not offer the notion that dictator is an intrinsically negative description.

    I agree but I don’t object for technical definitional reasons. I objective because regardless the technical definition most people interpret the word to be negative, Barack Obama certainly “dictates” things but can you imagine the uproar if a prominent news outlet called him a dictator?

    I think the question becomes, in that case, are all dictators bad? I believe you will say no. As a harsh critic of representative government, I'm inclined to agree that not all supreme rulers are bad. In this case, however, the severity of the coercion,
    You’re a harsh critic of representative government? Do you plan to move to a country that doesn’t have representative government? (can of worms, can opener) And regarding coercion I don’t think any (at least of the bad variety) is going on. If you don’t believe in God the threat is not credible, if you do the decision is trivial and sure to better you.

    coupled with the never-ending, limitless invasion of privacy
    I don’t think this claim has any merit. It is the case that a maximally great being is omniscient and morally perfect. However your argument seems to imply that because part of omniscience is knowing everything about each individual person that this constitutes a moral offense. Isn’t it necessarily the case then that every possible omniscient being commits this offense? I don’t believe there are any professional philosophers that defend this claim. But then again, since you are a moral subjectivist you can’t mean that there is any “real truth” to this claim that such a “limitless invasion of privacy” is bad.

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  59. and dubious claims to perfection and magnanimous intentions leads me to say this one isn't a swell fellow.
    Since you’re a moral subjectivist no claim of moral perfection or moral anything else can contain “real truth.” Also I don’t think you’re matching conclusions to arguments here, showing that His claims to perfection are wrong or that His omniscience is necessarily morally wrong or that He wrongly coerces people is not an argument that He “is not a swell fellow” it’s an argument that He doesn’t exist. Unless you personally believe that such a “distasteful” God exists, you are arguing for the existence of a being that neither of us believes exists, which doesn’t seem relevant. It seems to me that the point you most want to make in this discussion is the point that God is bad (Mr. Hitchen's favorite, but slippery and sidewise, point I believe). But saying “the morally perfect being is bad” is the same as saying “the 2D circle is square.” But it’s logically impossible for a 2D circle to be square and it’s logically impossible for a morally perfect being to be bad. Neither entity can exist. Complicating this situation as well is your view that morality is subjective. So when you say “God is bad,” you can’t mean that there is any “real truth” to statements that suggest or assert that “God is bad” but just that from within your “closed loop” system you think that He’s bad.

    To answer a few of your points line-by-line, succinctly. No, not all coercion is bad. The state coerces people into being licensed to operate aircraft. I think most people think that's a good use of coercion.
    If there can’t be any “real truth” in these statements of good and bad then it seems a moot point. If there can be real truth then I think you run into Sorites Paradox here, exactly where is the line drawn? I’m still uncomfortable with this definition of “coercion” because the layman does not hold it, I know a guy who runs a large education blog and he uses “coercion” pejoratively to describe academic grading systems, he is counting on the same connotations that I think you are.

    The mugger trying to get you to give over your wallet may an attempt to make you do something bad, it's only one side of the equation. In a coercive situation, the outcome desired by the coercer must be balanced against the prospective punishment to determine whether the coercion is bad or good. Executing pilots for not being licensed would likely take that coercion into the bad category. Eternally punishing someone for not seeking God's help, love, and forgiveness, falls to that side as well, for me.
    Assuming, contrary to your opinion, that there can be “real truth” here, I disagree. First I think there is some background confusion. Happiness is not, on the Christian view, the purpose of life or the greatest good, we are not God’s pets and it is not His job to make us happy. On the Christian view knowledge of God is the greatest good, and the end goal of life. And so not seeking knowledge of God is the worst thing you can do, thus meriting hell.

    The value of free-will and knowledge of right and wrong must be balanced against the terrible fate that has befallen billions of damned souls. And, that's calculus each person must compute on their own. Why did God create the universe and man?
    Because the existence of the universe and man is better than their non-existence.

    Did he know what would happen (the fall) before he created the universe?
    Yes.

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  60. Given your definition of God, as that's what we're going for, I completely agree on the bit about arbitrary action.

    In fact, that leads me to my thanks to you for explaining in thorough, and I'm sure often frustrating or annoying, detail and length what the God you believe in is. I've never heard many of the things you are saying, and I make a point of seeking out believers for discussion. So thank you.

    Well hey thanks for standing by I’m sure I’ve been frustrating to talk to at times as well. While you may not have heard many of the things I’ve written here, it is almost all standard among Christian academics, the most controversial position I’ve expressed is that Jesus is directly accessible to all people at all times, this is the position of a large minority, I’d guess 30% but that number could be way off.

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  61. As for our purposes regarding the first point, I am assuming that there is a God and an objective moral framework and truth. So, for our purposes there is a real and objective God who is not subject to or bound by your assumptions of his inerrant nature. It becomes a matter of untestable faith to hold that all of the three assumptions outline above represent the true nature of God. So, it is equally probable that there could be a God out there, who looks nothing like your perfectly moral, perfectly logical God.

    Assuming there is an actual, extant God, to posit that all three assumptions are essential to his nature represents just another assumption.

    I completely agree that humans would lack the capacity to understand a divine plan. But again assuming an objective morality that is within us from Him, I'd say humans could get pretty close to judging the morality and efficacy of what's going on.

    OK, I'm trying to falsify Christianity. What I mean to say is that I am not trying to prove that a deity doesn't exist by my arguments. The crux of my position, in this line of argument, is not to prove that a deity, or even the Christian God doesn't exist. Rather to say that if provided incontrovertible proof of Christianity's correctness, I would not accept salvation, all the same.

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  62. In retrospect, I have not meant to attack the efficacy of logic. I've inarticulacy meant to posit the notion that our logical conclusions may be faulty because our limited perception can easily lead to incorrect assumption inputs into logical reasoning.

    People, in general, seem to pursue similar rent seeking behavior regardless of their beliefs, I doubt that being a computer model, or anything else would change that.

    I'm afraid Harris stretches himself too thin. I think he wants atheism and materialism to replace religion in function. So, he contorts these ideas to be more attractive to people, which I find to be a shame. Truth, as best we can understand it, should be put forward regardless of how distasteful. If we have no free-will, he should say so and not go on about moral decision-making.

    Unless of course, we have free-won't, or the ability to check or stop our initial urges that could then be not inconsistent with his theory on morality.

    I'm more than happy to 'bite the bullet.' Does the materialistic universe notice or care, even slightly, if a baby is tossed into a wood-chipper? Nope. We perceive it as wrong, because it goes against our evolutionary imperative to safeguard future generations of our DNA.

    It may seem terrible to hold such an opinion, but just because the universe is harsh, cold, and completely uninterested in objectively moral outcomes doesn't mean I can wish an objective morality into being.

    Nope, no real truth, those are just things I've decided. People are fun to talk to, and our ideas and thoughts seem to create our identity.

    At present, I am not planning on moving to a country without representative government. Singapore, however, remains the end-goal. And, they've got something less than fully-representative government.

    While I don't personally believe in objective morality. If we're assuming a God exists, I believe we must also assume that there is an objective morality governing our existence. If a God exists, my ingrained perceptions of right and wrong likely owe to him and he can then be judged by those standards. So when we're discussing under the assumption of the existence of a God, I feel comfortable assuming an objective morality that relates both good and bad.

    I'm certainly not above using pedantically defensible terms that provide incendiary connotations.

    So, you stated that the God you believe in would have no need for mendacity. I believe there is an argument against the existence of a supreme being because it would have no need to create the universe.

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  63. To be quite honest, this hasn't been frustrating at all for me. It has been a learning experience. While Christian academics might hold the views you espouse, it seems to me that the average Christian, even including many pastors or whatever they're called in their church, don't hold such a sophisticated or nuanced view of their own faith, making communicating it a difficult task.

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  64. As for our purposes regarding the first point, I am assuming that there is a God and an objective moral framework and truth. So, for our purposes there is a real and objective God who is not subject to or bound by your assumptions of his inerrant nature.
    Well this is now a different discussion than the one we were having previously. Except on one model, it seems to me that the assumptions here are arbitrary. Usually when discussing ideas of this sort, one person’s view is assumed so it can be examined for internal consistency or another person’s view is assumed so it can be examined for consistency. What you are proposing here is that we take some assumptions from my view (objective morality etc.) and some assumptions from your view (possible characteristics of God) which is really odd as no particular view can be tested on these assumptions. The only reason I can see for you wanting to make these assumptions is that you actually desire to indict God. Doing this is impossible on your view, and impossible on my view, but not impossible with this particular set of assumptions. Now I can go down this road with you but I foresee it getting quite muddled as I will no longer be defending my idea of God and you will not be using your idea of morality to question his actions which I assume is what you want to do.

    It becomes a matter of untestable faith to hold that all of the three assumptions outline above represent the true nature of God.
    I don’t think this is true, I think these characteristics can be supported by the ontological argument, the moral argument and the cosmological argument, all of which (with the possible exception of the ontological argument) I will discuss in part 3. Though these arguments can be difficult to understand I think all are quite sound and that all but the ontological argument can be expressed in language that a layman will understand. The ontological argument actually struck me as a word game when I first heard it but the fact that it seemed like the more eminent the philosopher the more likely he was to take it seriously made me investigate it for a couple years, and when the light finally turned on it really was a kind of epiphany. In any case it is not only external analysis that communicates these things to Christians but also the internal voice of God. Perhaps I’m delusional but I really believe that I know God in a personal way and that he reveals information to me about himself. If I am delusional it is a remarkably long lived and consistent delusion.

    So, it is equally probable that there could be a God out there, who looks nothing like your perfectly moral, perfectly logical God.Assuming there is an actual, extant God, to posit that all three assumptions are essential to his nature represents just another assumption.
    I don’t think this is true given the arguments listed above.

    I completely agree that humans would lack the capacity to understand a divine plan. But again assuming an objective morality that is within us from Him, I'd say humans could get pretty close to judging the morality and efficacy of what's going on.
    The divine plan would have to be at least somewhat understood for anyone to be able to judge the “morality and efficacy of what’s going on.” Now the Christian does believe that he knows something about what’s going on but not enough to be able to judge the “morality or efficacy” of specific events. You would have to be claiming to have additional insight into God’s plan to gain any specific insights.

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  65. OK, I'm trying to falsify Christianity. What I mean to say is that I am not trying to prove that a deity doesn't exist by my arguments. The crux of my position, in this line of argument, is not to prove that a deity, or even the Christian God doesn't exist. Rather to say that if provided incontrovertible proof of Christianity's correctness, I would not accept salvation, all the same.
    Really? You’re not just towing Hitchen’s line here? You would actually reject communion with the perfectly moral, perfectly loving designer of the universe knowing that you were actually designed specifically for this and that you will never find lasting satisfaction elsewhere?

    In retrospect, I have not meant to attack the efficacy of logic. I've inarticulacy meant to posit the notion that our logical conclusions may be faulty because our limited perception can easily lead to incorrect assumption inputs into logical reasoning.
    I sort of suspected you weren’t really willing to bite the bullet on logic. I don’t think it would be possible for us to have this discussion meaningfully without the common assumption of logic’s efficacy. Really I think what you’re trying to say in this paragraph is that no *premise* taken from sensory data can be trusted 100%, which I agree with, though with some caveats.

    People, in general, seem to pursue similar rent seeking behavior regardless of their beliefs, I doubt that being a computer model, or anything else would change that.
    Right, it seems to be intrinsic to our inner nature.

    I'm afraid Harris stretches himself too thin. I think he wants atheism and materialism to replace religion in function. So, he contorts these ideas to be more attractive to people, which I find to be a shame. Truth, as best we can understand it, should be put forward regardless of how distasteful. If we have no free-will, he should say so and not go on about moral decision-making. Unless of course, we have free-won't, or the ability to check or stop our initial urges that could then be not inconsistent with his theory on morality.
    Free won’t is a special case of free will, it’s specified (at least id I understand the articles I’ve read on it correctly) because there are scientists who think it can be specifically tested for while other types of free action can’t be tested for.

    I'm more than happy to 'bite the bullet.' Does the materialistic universe notice or care, even slightly, if a baby is tossed into a wood-chipper? Nope.
    So you are a materialist? A strange position for an agnostic that is comfortable positing unknown unknowns.

    We perceive it as wrong, because it goes against our evolutionary imperative to safeguard future generations of our DNA.
    Can you prove this or do you just think that this is probably the case?

    It may seem terrible to hold such an opinion, but just because the universe is harsh, cold, and completely uninterested in objectively moral outcomes doesn't mean I can wish an objective morality into being.
    I agree with this but why would you specifically take such a position? Particularly given that you are comfortable positing unknown unknowns. It’s true that the universe does not care only if by “universe” you mean the space time and material that compose it but exclude moral agents from the definition. There are an increasing number of atheists who question materialism in order to make room for objective moral values and duties in their epistemic framework and though I think an atheist faces intractable problems when he does this, I don’t believe you, being an agnostic, do. I’m not saying you must change your mind but I don’t think you are forced to deny your moral intuitions if you are not an atheist or a materialist (but if you’re a materialist mustn’t you then necessarily be an atheist?).

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  66. Nope, no real truth, those are just things I've decided. People are fun to talk to, and our ideas and thoughts seem to create our identity.
    I see, it’s a fun game.

    At present, I am not planning on moving to a country without representative government. Singapore, however, remains the end-goal. And, they've got something less than fully-representative government.
    Yes Singapore has done amazingly well under Lee Yew, I actually agree that a benevolent dictator is the best form of government. The problem is that it’s impossible to assure that the next dictator and the next and the next will also be benevolent. It only takes one bad one to spoil the show and history has 100s of examples of the line failing and zero examples of the line succeeding. It would seem that humans are generally incapable of holding power responsibly.

    While I don't personally believe in objective morality. If we're assuming a God exists, I believe we must also assume that there is an objective morality governing our existence. If a God exists, my ingrained perceptions of right and wrong likely owe to him and he can then be judged by those standards.
    Given the Euthyphro dilemma I don’t think this can be the case, If God originates “the good” then God must be “the good” and is thus the standard by which things are judged, but a standard can never be judged by itself… it always is itself, it’s always a perfect match.

    So when we're discussing under the assumption of the existence of a God, I feel comfortable assuming an objective morality that relates both good and bad.
    Sounds good.

    I'm certainly not above using pedantically defensible terms that provide incendiary connotations.
    Haha! Not sure if you intended that to be funny but it made me laugh for whatever reason, anyway you don’t think that using incendiary connotations usually inhibits communication? Seems to me that such language usually does.

    So, you stated that the God you believe in would have no need for mendacity. I believe there is an argument against the existence of a supreme being because it would have no need to create the universe.
    I agree that God had no actual need to create the universe, in fact I’ll go further and say that creating the universe did not make Him any greater or happier or whatever than he already was. On the Christian view, God created the universe for our good (and the good of whatever other moral agents may occupy the universe) not for His own good.

    To be quite honest, this hasn't been frustrating at all for me. It has been a learning experience. While Christian academics might hold the views you espouse, it seems to me that the average Christian, even including many pastors or whatever they're called in their church, don't hold such a sophisticated or nuanced view of their own faith, making communicating it a difficult task.
    Well I’m glad I haven’t frustrated you and yah I fully agree regarding Christian leaders, it seems to me that most pastors etc. express views that are less sophisticated than those that were available 1800+ years ago. I think the dominance of Christianity in western culture over the last 1700 years has made Christian educational institutions lazy; they have not updated curriculums to reflect current objections to Christianity. I think this will likely result in the demise of Christianity in America over the next few generations, but we’ll see. We live in very exciting times.

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  67. I'm not really attempting to cherry-pick your assumptions that I like, and mine that I like. I think if we make the base assumption that there is a supreme deity, as you believe, it does not necessarily follow that the remaining assumptions about its nature hold.

    At this point, I'm not attempting to find internal inconsistencies in your belief. Rather I am positing that if there is a God, and he closely resembles what Christians relate, he may still not be how you have conceptualized him. You have a very tightly constructed, logically sound proposition of God, but it could simply be wrong because of faulty assumptions premised on presently unverifiable notions.

    I eagerly anticipate the release of Part 3. Until then, external verification remains dodgy at best. And, your internal sensations of God are untestable and unverifiable.

    It may seem petulant, but possessing uncontroversial knowledge that I was designed to commune with a being who created the universe knowing that billions of souls would suffer eternal torment would only serve to enrage me. That, I would refuse to commune with such a being whilst many people I love were banished to never-ending damnation.

    As I related, being agnostic renders me an effective atheist. I can't believe in a God about whom I have insufficient information to make an informed decision. Similarly, while I leave the possibility of unknown-unknowns open, I can only judge based on the information I have. Empirical data overwhelmingly seems to suggest a purely materialistic world. The information presently available suggests that the universe is a vast, unforgiving arena offering no guidance about an intrinsic objective morality.

    I think again, that those atheists try to make atheism more appealing and engage in wishful thinking. I can understand why materialists would be bothered by the notion of no free-will or no objective morality, but that's not an adequate reason to reassess one's thoughts about the nature of the universe. I'm completely comfortable with a totally materialistic explanation, it doesn't fuss me, but I think it too soon in the human exploratory process to definitively say.

    I can't prove that our seemingly moral attitudes stem from our evolutionary process, but I also can't prove that we're innately moral. I think, however, the general tendency of all animals to maximize resource utility regardless of 'moral outcome' supports the notion that our 'moral attitudes' are evolved and not intrinsic.

    I don't know that I hope for a benevolant dictator as much as a severely limited government. The two models are rule by a few idiots (dictatorship-better I think as oligarchy) or rule by a bunch of idiots (representative government). What's needed is a rule of either group of idiots that is limited by statute to allow for a maximum of creative and productive autonomy.

    Which isn't to say I'm a libertarian, I think they too often fall prey to reductio ad absurdam.

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  68. I don't know that I necessarily fall prey to the Euthyphro dilemma, if a God exists, but we have deep misconceptions about it. If a God exists, but isn't perfectly good, our aspirational moral norms could be used to judge it.

    I'm glad you laughed, it was meant to be humorous. I think it can inhibit communication, but it can also foster it. I sometimes take a chemist's view of human discourse; applying heat or pressure can reveal underlying features not previously observable.

    Exciting times indeed, I think the demise of Christianity is well over-stated, however. I think it is more transforming than disappearing.

    Your conceptualization of Christianity is but one of perhaps millions of interpretations. And while it may possess an internal consistency that I find deeply attractive, it seems to be both a rare breed and not as appealing to the masses. SUV Christianity, Buddhist Christianity, and all of the esoteric do-it-yourself Christianities seem to prevail.

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  69. I'm not really attempting to cherry-pick your assumptions that I like, and mine that I like. I think if we make the base assumption that there is a supreme deity, as you believe, it does not necessarily follow that the remaining assumptions about its nature hold.
    This is going to depend on exactly what you mean by “supreme deity” but again it’s odd to assume a view that neither of us hold. If we are assuming that a God exists that does not have the properties of the God that I believe in. Then it will obviously be the case that this God’s actions will not be consistent with the actions that I believe God has taken.

    At this point, I'm not attempting to find internal inconsistencies in your belief. Rather I am positing that if there is a God, and he closely resembles what Christians relate, he may still not be how you have conceptualized him. You have a very tightly constructed, logically sound proposition of God, but it could simply be wrong because of faulty assumptions premised on presently unverifiable notions.
    Oh I could certainly be wrong, but of course I don’t think I am. It seems to me you’re saying here “oh look at the problems there would be if God was not quite how you think He is” and of course I agree that there would be problems if God was different than how I believe he is. Which is in part why I hold the view I do.

    I eagerly anticipate the release of Part 3. Until then, external verification remains dodgy at best.
    Not if my points in part 3 are objectively true ;)

    And, your internal sensations of God are untestable and unverifiable.
    If this is true then it is also true that our apprehension of the external physical world is untestable and unverifiable. I apprehend God as I apprehend the smartphone in my hand, which is to say that it is a reality presented directly to my brain, and I don’t doubt the reliability of my perception of these things because in both cases they are also apprehended by billions of other people. Nobody knows anything other than by personal experience.

    It may seem petulant, but possessing uncontroversial knowledge that I was designed to commune with a being who created the universe knowing that billions of souls would suffer eternal torment would only serve to enrage me. That, I would refuse to commune with such a being whilst many people I love were banished to never-ending damnation.
    Well first off you’re assuming the “eternal conscious torment” view of hell which is held by Calvinists but not by many others including myself. Furthermore you’re assuming that there will be people in hell which is not a view held by all Christians, probably 10% of Christians are either universalists, annihilationists or whatever Rob Bell’s new view is called and these people don’t believe that anyone will be in hell (I’m not among them). But regardless of which view of hell you take, if you are enraged then it follows that you have not been convinced of the truth of Christianity. If you have been fully convinced of the truth of Christianity then you will be convinced that everyone who is in hell is deserving of hell and possibly desirous of hell and will not be enraged. It’s struck me throughout our interactions that you actually desire to be enraged by the Christian hypothesis, why else assume the “eternal conscious torment” view of hell or seek a mix of our assumptions under which it is possible to indict God?

    As I related, being agnostic renders me an effective atheist.
    Then I’m not sure what you mean by “an effective atheist,” do you mean that you act as if there was no God, or something else?

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  70. I can't believe in a God about whom I have insufficient information to make an informed decision. Similarly, while I leave the possibility of unknown-unknowns open, I can only judge based on the information I have.
    Right but doesn’t some of the information you have suggest that there are objective moral values? It seems clear to me at least, that I directly apprehend them. Couldn't you then say "whatever God there is He must originate moral values if he exists"?

    Empirical data overwhelmingly seems to suggest a purely materialistic world.
    This statement is tautological, of course empirical data (in a vacuum) suggests a materialistic world because “empirical” is a synonym for “observed in the material world.”

    The information presently available suggests that the universe is a vast, unforgiving arena offering no guidance about an intrinsic objective morality.
    Well I guess I just disagree, the objectivity of moral values and duties seems to me as clear as the ground under my feet.

    I think again, that those atheists try to make atheism more appealing and engage in wishful thinking. I can understand why materialists would be bothered by the notion of no free-will or no objective morality, but that's not an adequate reason to reassess one's thoughts about the nature of the universe.
    Agreed.

    I'm completely comfortable with a totally materialistic explanation, it doesn't fuss me, but I think it too soon in the human exploratory process to definitively say. I can't prove that our seemingly moral attitudes stem from our evolutionary process, but I also can't prove that we're innately moral. I think, however, the general tendency of all animals to maximize resource utility regardless of 'moral outcome' supports the notion that our 'moral attitudes' are evolved and not intrinsic.
    Your line of reasoning is unclear to me here, could you rephrase this as an argument of some sort?

    I don't know that I hope for a benevolant dictator as much as a severely limited government.
    Agreed on that.

    The two models are rule by a few idiots (dictatorship-better I think as oligarchy) or rule by a bunch of idiots (representative government). What's needed is a rule of either group of idiots that is limited by statute to allow for a maximum of creative and productive autonomy. Which isn't to say I'm a libertarian, I think they too often fall prey to reductio ad absurdam.
    I don’t believe I’m sufficiently educated in political history to thoroughly argue for a position here.

    I don't know that I necessarily fall prey to the Euthyphro dilemma, if a God exists, but we have deep misconceptions about it. If a God exists, but isn't perfectly good, our aspirational moral norms could be used to judge it.
    You’re going to have to give me an example of how this could be the case as I can’t think of any. Or are you appealing to an unknown unknown here?

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  71. I'm glad you laughed, it was meant to be humorous. I think it can inhibit communication, but it can also foster it. I sometimes take a chemist's view of human discourse; applying heat or pressure can reveal underlying features not previously observable. Exciting times indeed, I think the demise of Christianity is well over-stated, however. I think it is more transforming than disappearing.
    Well we’ll see I don’t think that an actual demise of Christianity is impending but only the sort of local demise that has occurred in western Europe, how well Christianity does will, I think, depend on what kind of transformation takes place. The shift towards Pentecostalism in the 80s and 90s for example just strikes me as a retreat from modern criticisms rather than an adequate response and I think ultimately had a negative impact despite some impressive numbers.

    Your conceptualization of Christianity is but one of perhaps millions of interpretations.
    Actually I’d say billions as no person’s understanding is identical to any other person’s but generally speaking my conceptualization of Christianity adhere’s to lines of thought that were established well over a thousand years ago and have been the backbone of Christianity since its inception. The most influential Christian authors like Augustine, Aquinas, CS Lewis etc. have all held roughly to the same line of thought, and I think what what they’ve coalesced around is the truth.

    And while it may possess an internal consistency that I find deeply attractive, it seems to be both a rare breed and not as appealing to the masses. SUV Christianity, Buddhist Christianity, and all of the esoteric do-it-yourself Christianities seem to prevail.
    Yah I’m not sure here, it’s depressing seeing “health/wealth” type churches with 30,000 attendees all over the place but at the same time it remains the case that the biggest Christian authors have highly sophisticated views. As Augustine said: “in the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; in everything, charity.”

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  72. It may seem odd, but it's a corollary to my point about questioning the veracity of God's (or his apologists') claims of his moral perfection. It's about stepping outside of beliefs and thinking about potential realities. I can't disabuse you of your belief in God as you conceptualize him, nor would I try. But, it's worth considering that somewhere along the way, Christians got it wrong.

    It's a little troubling that you partially believe what you do because of the problems associated with other concepts of God. It feels a bit like atheists abjuring materialism because it's uncomfortable.

    While I am intrigued by part three, I suspect it will not provide dispositive objectively true proof for the existence of God. If it could, I doubt there'd be so many atheists and agnostics.

    The difference between perceiving your smartphone and God is that your specific smartphone can be shared with others, opening its existence and function to testing and verification. The exact stimulative input of your phone can be widely shared and examined. Only the output of your God experience can be shared as the stimulative spiritual input is definitively untouchable.

    Regardless of hell's interpretation by Christians, I feel safe in assuming it isn't a delightful experience or lack of experience. I flatly reject those who believe in no damnation because it smacks of pandering, wishful thinking, and completely ignores the scriptural foundation of the faith. I think those people have a tenuous at best case for calling themselves Christians. Rather they should call themselves Bobists, Randallists, Pattyists, because it's all about what they think and not about an objective, rationally considered norm.

    I can still be enraged at a system, intentional or not that damns countless decent and kind people to an eternity of less than optimum because it still seems to me that the Christian claim to a perfect God who has provided the best possible solution to sin could still be based on faulty assumptions or lies.

    Which is all to say, yes I'd be unconvinced by your concept of Christianity, and I'm certain I'd still be angry if convinced of your concept, by the absolutely terrible means by which the truth has been disseminated.

    I don't just act as if no God exists, I don't believe in God. Therefore, I believe I am what's known as a weak-atheist.

    I'm yet to see any evidence that definitively supports the notion of an objective morality. It's impossible to separate our nature from our nurture inputs, but the few feral children seem to point away from an objective, intrinsic morality. And, a number of mammals behaving in what could be analogous to moral fashions seems to indicate that 'morality' is an evolved behavior or inculcated by the herd.

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  73. Yes, it is tautological. At the same time, I can't go about basing my deepest beliefs on something that isn't empirical.

    My line of reasoning is that humans have shifting and often fungible notions of morality, they don't seem so intrinsic accordingly. Humans, however, almost never fail to maximize their own selfish utility, even when against the proposed 'morality,' making that amoral behavior more seemingly intrinsic.

    Osama bin Laden decries sexual sin, but is caught in his final minutes watching porn. If god is real, but imperfect, we can judge him by standards attributed to him.

    I believe your view on Christianity is very sophisticated and well-rooted. I don't know, however, if that speaks to its truth.

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  74. It may seem odd, but it's a corollary to my point about questioning the veracity of God's (or his apologists') claims of his moral perfection. It's about stepping outside of beliefs and thinking about potential realities.
    Yes the problem here is that there’s an infinite number of potential realities, before I consider another potential reality I’m going to have to have good reasons for considering it.

    I can't disabuse you of your belief in God as you conceptualize him, nor would I try. But, it's worth considering that somewhere along the way, Christians got it wrong.
    I certainly agree

    It's a little troubling that you partially believe what you do because of the problems associated with other concepts of God. It feels a bit like atheists abjuring materialism because it's uncomfortable.
    I don’t think this is like atheists abjuring materialism at all. It’s very normal to hold one position in part because of problems with alternative positions. For example most physicists reject string theory in part because it has problems that the standard model does not.

    While I am intrigued by part three, I suspect it will not provide dispositive objectively true proof for the existence of God. If it could, I doubt there'd be so many atheists and agnostics.
    Oh I’ll tell you right now it won’t be proof, but I think it will constitute good evidence for something very like the Christian God.

    The difference between perceiving your smartphone and God is that your specific smartphone can be shared with others, opening its existence and function to testing and verification. The exact stimulative input of your phone can be widely shared and examined. Only the output of your God experience can be shared as the stimulative spiritual input is definitively untouchable.
    I don’t think this is true, I think God is accessible to all people. Though I admit that in the case of a smartphone there would be a unanimous consensus while there would not be in the case of God… actually you’re right that was a poor analogy.

    Regardless of hell's interpretation by Christians, I feel safe in assuming it isn't a delightful experience or lack of experience. I flatly reject those who believe in no damnation because it smacks of pandering, wishful thinking, and completely ignores the scriptural foundation of the faith. I think those people have a tenuous at best case for calling themselves Christians. Rather they should call themselves Bobists, Randallists, Pattyists, because it's all about what they think and not about an objective, rationally considered norm.
    While agree that they are wrong, and I think in many if not most cases it is pandering, I think you should investigate these views thoroughly before issuing such a harsh condemnation. I’ve recently seen some very sophisticated defenses of annihilationism.

    I can still be enraged at a system, intentional or not that damns countless decent and kind people to an eternity of less than optimum because it still seems to me that the Christian claim to a perfect God who has provided the best possible solution to sin could still be based on faulty assumptions or lies.
    Well of course it could be but for this portion of the discussion you are assuming that you have been given “incontrovertible proof” of the truth of Christianity. This means that you would not believe that “countless decent and kind people” are damned to a less than optimum eternity.

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  75. Which is all to say, yes I'd be unconvinced by your concept of Christianity, and I'm certain I'd still be angry if convinced of your concept, by the absolutely terrible means by which the truth has been disseminated.
    What is the “terrible means by which the truth has been disseminated”?

    I don't just act as if no God exists, I don't believe in God. Therefore, I believe I am what's known as a weak-atheist.
    Oh… so you’re not an agnostic?

    I'm yet to see any evidence that definitively supports the notion of an objective morality. It's impossible to separate our nature from our nurture inputs, but the few feral children seem to point away from an objective, intrinsic morality. And, a number of mammals behaving in what could be analogous to moral fashions seems to indicate that 'morality' is an evolved behavior or inculcated by the herd.
    Yah I think that was Freud’s view, but it seems inadequate to me. It seems to me that what that gunmen recently did in Colorado was objectively wrong, that it violated a real moral law. (I’m aware there’s emotional force to this statement that could be confused with logical force by a reader).

    Yes, it is tautological. At the same time, I can't go about basing my deepest beliefs on something that isn't empirical.
    Most people do and I believe you do as well, logic has no empirical existence.

    My line of reasoning is that humans have shifting and often fungible notions of morality, they don't seem so intrinsic accordingly. Humans, however, almost never fail to maximize their own selfish utility, even when against the proposed 'morality,' making that amoral behavior more seemingly intrinsic.
    I would call it “immoral” not “amoral” but, I think that the vast majority of people who act to “maximize their own selfish utility” know that what they are doing is wrong. I certainly do when I act selfishly.

    Osama bin Laden decries sexual sin, but is caught in his final minutes watching porn. If god is real, but imperfect, we can judge him by standards attributed to him.
    Not until you find a way for a being to originate morality and escape the Euthyphro Dilemma.

    I believe your view on Christianity is very sophisticated and well-rooted. I don't know, however, if that speaks to its truth.
    Yah that it's sophisticated or well-rooted doesn’t mean that it’s true at all, though all logically consistent systems are possibly true.

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  76. I apologize for my delayed response, I was away from a computer for quite a time.

    First, when there is little to indicate that any potential realities are more valid than others, I suspect it is limiting to hold to just one.

    When speaking of 'moral' problems with a particular religious view or philosophy that lead you to avoid belief in said systems is more like an atheist trying to fit the material world around its views than scientists disclaiming string theory. One is based on an objective, measurable approach that says the math doesn't fit, the other is a subjective, "this doesn't feel right" process.

    I've investigated all but annihilationism. Upon further review, I would say that annihilationism doesn't really fall into the same category as no-hell or unitarian philosophies, because it's a more severe (in many respects) punishment.

    Don't you think that there can be practically good and decent people who don't accept Christ? Asking for Christ's helps seems to be an awfully esoteric, arbitrary (I know that term is inviting further debate), and rather imperfect measure for a person's definitional goodness.

    The terrible means of transmission of the Christian message would be that the majority of what makes up the message was revealed to a semi-literate tribe of flea-ridden nomads in a politely described-backwater. Despite your beliefs about Christ's universality, I don't know that a completely logical God could have found a means to distribute the terms of the New-Covenant to far-flung regions of the world within even a millennium of the sacrifice.

    That and it seems to share many traits with most other major superstitions, which I assume are not acceptable or true in your opinion.

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  77. I don't believe that agnosticism and atheism are mutually exclusive. In fact, I think atheism is a natural outgrowth of agnosticism. Atheism, defined as the disbelief in God, seems only logical, if I also believe that I lack the required evidence to make such an affirmative choice to believe in a deity.

    Societally, what James Holmes did was wrong. Universally, not so much. I don't think you can make an appeal just based on personal feeling that claims there is objective moral truth. I think the onus to provide evidence resides with the person who makes the affirmative claim of existence of a particular thing. Absent such evidence, it seems hard to substantiate such a notion.

    Eventually, everyone relies on intuition and cannot live a perfectly empirical life. That being said, however, I think it is incredibly important to base one's deepest philosophies and beliefs on quantifiable metrics, measured patterns, etc. Logic may not be empirical on its own, but it is empirically verifiable. You can test to see if something equals itself or not. You can't test God, you will likely have a hard time testing for an objective morality that exists independent of humans.

    As I don't believe in objective right or wrong, I can't say that I am ever fussed by my own, or anyone else's selfish actions (as long as they don't affect me). And, I suspect that you aren't always bothered by your selfish actions. Acting selfishly would be to act in your own self-interest, do you feel bad every time you eat? Every time you buy something? Every time you have fun?

    I do not need to originate morality. Even in a universe lacking objective morality, an imperfect being could be judged by both society's standards as well as the standards that reputedly flow from the deity itself.

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  78. I apologize for my delayed response, I was away from a computer for quite a time. First, when there is little to indicate that any potential realities are more valid than others, I suspect it is limiting to hold to just one.
    I don’t think it’s true that there is little to indicate that certain potential realities are more valid than others, but let’s say you’re right. If it is correct that “there is little to indicate that any potential realities are more valid than others,” then why are you advocating the validity of certain potential realities such as materialism and moral non-realism to the exclusion of others? Now I don’t think that it’s true that “there is little to indicate that any potential realities are more valid than others” because I trust my senses, and information gathered from my senses is consistent, and that consistent information excludes many potential realities such as the Hindu concept of non-dualism and the atheistic postulate of moral non-realism. Also problematic for this view is that there’s an infinite number of potential realities, I think it is literally impossible to live consistently with this view.

    When speaking of 'moral' problems with a particular religious view or philosophy that lead you to avoid belief in said systems is more like an atheist trying to fit the material world around its views than scientists disclaiming string theory. One is based on an objective, measurable approach that says the math doesn't fit, the other is a subjective, "this doesn't feel right" process.
    If you are correct and humans do not apprehend objective moral values then you are right and this process is subjective unlike skepticism regarding string theory. But of course I think you’re wrong, it seems to me that I apprehend the objective truth that babies *ought* not be napalmed as clearly as I apprehend the objective truth that I just ate a delicious Danish.

    I've investigated all but annihilationism. Upon further review, I would say that annihilationism doesn't really fall into the same category as no-hell or unitarian philosophies, because it's a more severe (in many respects) punishment.
    I’m not sure what you mean hear, I assume you meant “universalist” not ”unitarian” but assuming that’s correct it doesn’t make sense to talk of degrees of punishment.

    Don't you think that there can be practically good and decent people who don't accept Christ?
    Of course there can be in the normal sense of those terms, and they can be good and decent because they apprehend the objective moral values and duties that permeate reality. One need not believe in a God to apprehend objective moral values and duties just as one need not believe in authors to read a book. It is on your view that there cannot be any good or decent people, and this is true regardless of whether or not they know Christ, additionally on your view there can be no bad and despicable people.

    Asking for Christ's helps seems to be an awfully esoteric, arbitrary (I know that term is inviting further debate)
    It doesn’t strike me as esoteric or arbitrary at all, the evil that is done by people is done against God, and so it makes sense to me that the offended party be the one to grant forgiveness.

    and rather imperfect measure for a person's definitional goodness.
    I’m not sure what you mean here.

    The terrible means of transmission of the Christian message would be that the majority of what makes up the message was revealed to a semi-literate tribe of flea-ridden nomads in a politely described-backwater.
    Semi-literate flea-ridden backwaters seems rather impolite but I’ll leave it to others to be offended. Quite frankly I don’t think God gives a rip about how flea-ridden or backwatery people are; I think what he cares about is their character. Furthermore it seems in keeping with a general pattern of divine action to use the weak for great purposes rather than the powerful.

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  79. Despite your beliefs about Christ's universality, I don't know that a completely logical God could have found a means to distribute the terms of the New-Covenant to far-flung regions of the world within even a millennium of the sacrifice.
    Well probably He could have, but I don’t think that would have been best, the onus is on you to show that there's a better way and given the complexity of reality I doubt anyone's up to the task, particularly if you are comfortable with unknown unknowns.

    That and it seems to share many traits with most other major superstitions, which I assume are not acceptable or true in your opinion.
    By “superstitions” I assume you mean “religions” though I’m sure you’re somewhat taken with the more pejorative connotations of “superstition.” Anyway no I disagree with you here, most major religions have a lot of truth in them but not only truth and not all the required truth. That Christianity shares traits with them shouldn’t be surprising at all given the we all apprehend the same moral law and that all (or most) are attempts to find the truth about God.

    I don't believe that agnosticism and atheism are mutually exclusive. In fact, I think atheism is a natural outgrowth of agnosticism.
    No they are mutually exclusive. The atheist claims to know that there is no God. The agnostic claims to not know if there is a God, it’s logically impossible to both have knowledge of something and not have knowledge of that thing.

    Atheism, defined as the disbelief in God, seems only logical, if I also believe that I lack the required evidence to make such an affirmative choice to believe in a deity.
    No this is not the case, a lack of evidence for something does not justify disbelief in it unless there is a lack with regard to some specific evidence predicted by the properties of the hypothetical thing. For example there’s zero evidence of gold nuggets on the moon but nonetheless this does not justifying anyone in saying “There are no gold nuggets on the moon.”


    Societally, what James Holmes did was wrong. Universally, not so much. I don't think you can make an appeal just based on personal feeling that claims there is objective moral truth.
    "Societally" the sun went around the earth for most of history, this is a meaningless term with regards to discovering reality. To the second part, this is not an appeal to personal feelings it’s an appeal to direct apprehension, just as all arguments in courtrooms and labs are conducted by people who draw directly on their apprehension of memories, I am appealing directly to our apprehension of objective moral laws. And keep in mind that to show that such a law exists one needs only to demonstrate that a single such law exists like for instance: “one ought not to torture babies for fun.”

    I think the onus to provide evidence resides with the person who makes the affirmative claim of existence of a particular thing.
    Oh I fully agree, and here I’d just say: don’t you think that it is objectively wrong to torture old people for fun? If you disagree, well then we disagree, I have no further argument other than to appeal to what I suspect you apprehend as clearly as I do.

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  80. Absent such evidence, it seems hard to substantiate such a notion.
    There are in philosophy entities called properly basic beliefs. These are beliefs that one must hold in order to make sense of the world but that may not themselves have any external justifying reasons. Examples of properly basic beliefs include the efficacy of logic, the existence of a self and an external world, the reality of the past and the reliability of our physical senses in finding truth. I add to this list the reliability of our moral sense in finding truth and actually I think belief in God is properly basic as well. That our moral sense apprehends moral truths is sufficiently clear to most people that the vast majority of people who have ever lived have been moral realists and moral realists now constitute a majority (or near majority) even among atheistic philosophers.

    Eventually, everyone relies on intuition and cannot live a perfectly empirical life. That being said, however, I think it is incredibly important to base one's deepest philosophies and beliefs on quantifiable metrics, measured patterns, etc.
    Why is this so incredibly important? You are a moral relativist, you cannot say truth is objectively valuable. Further it seems to me that you’re assuming that empirical methods are the only way of finding truth. I think this is false. If it’s true I’d like you to demonstrate empirically that only empirical methods can find truth.

    Logic may not be empirical on its own, but it is empirically verifiable.
    No it isn’t, if it is I would like you to demonstrate this to me.

    You can test to see if something equals itself or not.
    Yes but only by using logic, you can’t use logic to prove itself, that’s just reasoning in a circle.

    You can't test God, you will likely have a hard time testing for an objective morality that exists independent of humans.
    Actually I think you can test God in a very specific sense. You can devote your life to him for a decade or more and see if you don’t come to know Him. I’ve done this, I know Him… test successful!

    As I don't believe in objective right or wrong, I can't say that I am ever fussed by my own, or anyone else's selfish actions (as long as they don't affect me).
    Wait, even if they affect you why would you care?

    And, I suspect that you aren't always bothered by your selfish actions.
    Perhaps if they’re minor ones I don’t notice but if I notice that I was acting selfishly it always bothers me I think.

    Acting selfishly would be to act in your own self-interest,
    No this is not how I’m using the term “acting selfishly” (and I don't know anyone except for Ayn Rand and some atheist rhetoricians who use it this way)I define acting selfishly as acting in my own self interests while unjustifiably excluding the interests of others.

    do you feel bad every time you eat? Every time you buy something? Every time you have fun?
    Not applicable given the above.

    I do not need to originate morality. Even in a universe lacking objective morality, an imperfect being could be judged by both society's standards as well as the standards that reputedly flow from the deity itself.
    While this is certainly true it’s not relevant. An imperfect being could also be judged by the standards of a random moral law generating program or the flip of a coin and so could any other being. Without an objective moral law however, these judgments are literally groundless.

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  81. You might apprehend what feels like an objective moral standard, but you cannot possibly prove that such a perception is a real reflection of an objective morality or simply a result of evolved kin or class altruism and societal inculcated urges.

    As a series of mammals seems to exhibit such 'moral' behavior, I think represents evidence in favor of the materialistic conclusion, whereas your own personal feelings don't represent good evidence.

    But, I obviously cannot prove that there is no objective morality.

    It makes sense to speak of the severity of punishment when considering whether one version of Christianity is pandering to the 'feel-good' instincts of a modern western group.

    Yes, in my view there are no objectively good or bad people. But in your view, there is an objective morality against which people and their actions can be judged, this is ostensibly also the view that has a god that would punish those normally good people to hell for failing to be convinced that they needed to ask for his help.

    David, a man after God's own heart, certainly reflects that God cares about character, you know, with all that adultery, murder, etc. Hey, actually, that doesn't seem so far off.

    I'm under no obligation to outdo your deity or his son (who's also him, very confusing). You hold an unsubstantiated and likely unsustainable belief that the message of Jesus' sacrifice spread about the world by some heretofore unexplained means within a relatively short period after his death so as to provide all humans with the opportunity to avail themselves of its protection. Oddly enough, there's no mention in China or India, the largest polities at that point of such a message, likewise in Australia or the Americas.

    Strong atheism: there is no god. Weak atheism: I do not believe in god.

    By your reasoning, however, it seems that lack of evidence isn't sufficient for you to disbelieve in anything. Watch out for unicorns on your next hike. I mean, I know there's no evidence that they exist, but hey, that's no reason not to believe in them. You certainly don't behave as if there are unicorns running through the Arizona wilderness.

    It seems lack of evidence is sufficient grounds to disbelieve in something or at the very least disregard its potential existence until such time as evidence is made clear.

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  82. I don't actually mean superstition in a pejorative manner. I use it because I don't believe that there's anything to choose between the various past and present religions of the world, and they all are superstitious by definition.

    So apparently, virgin birth, common in almost all superstitions, is essential and based on a universal truth?

    Yes, for thousands of years the sun revolved around the earth. And, that perception remained valid until disproved by better science and explanation. And, my belief that there is no objective morality and yours that there is remain as presently unassailable as a non-heliocentric world view was 2,000 years ago.

    As an attorney, I can tell you that witnesses' apprehension are shoddy at best and never approach what could be termed truth in their testimony or associated outcomes.

    Again, what you think you experience as objective morality could just as easily be evolved or inculcated responses.

    I don't agree that torturing old folks or babies is objectively wrong. I think it is societally and evolutionarally wrong. When the sun burns out, or the big rip occurs, it won't matter that somebody perpetrated wrong against someone else.

    You might need a moral compass to make it through the day, and it might help that you think it comes from God. But, you can't prove that it does. You can't prove your sense of morality is the experience of an objective norm or whether it's been bred or brainwashed into you.

    Not believing in objective right or wrong isn't the same as abdicating my ability to valuate items, ideas, or other things. It may not be objectively valuable, it doesn't have to be. I think it's more important to base life on the scientifically verifiable rather than a two millennial old delusion.

    You're telling me that you cannot test logic? You're saying that logic in unverifiable using the physical world that can be empirically shared?

    Your test of God is patently non-empirical and open to observer and confirmation bias. Spending a decade ardently worshiping a stuffed goat would likely render a similar feeling of 'knowing.'

    If someone selfishly steals my car, I'll be annoyed at the inconvenience.

    I'm using the basic notion of economical self-interest. If there is no objective morality, there is no objective difference between self-interested acts that don't unjustifiably exclude the interest of others and those that do.


    Does this discourse still interest you? I would hate for you to feel obliged to answer what you likely consider inanity.

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  83. You might apprehend what feels like an objective moral standard, but you cannot possibly prove that such a perception is a real reflection of an objective morality or simply a result of evolved kin or class altruism and societal inculcated urges.
    Right but likewise I can’t prove that the external world isn’t just an illusion and my five senses aren’t being fooled, it makes more sense to trust what you apprehend than not, particularly when 7 billion other people are apprehending the same thing.

    As a series of mammals seems to exhibit such 'moral' behavior, I think represents evidence in favor of the materialistic conclusion, whereas your own personal feelings don't represent good evidence.
    You’re mischaracterizing my position to make it easier to attack. I’m not appealing to personal feelings. For example I might feel like stealing my little brother’s piece of cake but none-the-less I know that I’m morally obligated to not steal his cake. What I’m appealing to is not a feeling but a moral faculty that apprehends moral truths in a fashion similar to how we apprehend memories. And quite frankly, myself and at least 99% of the population are as certain that torturing babies for fun is objectively wrong as they are about pretty much anything. Regarding mammals that “seem” to exhibit moral behavior, well if we’re questioning our perceptions it could be that such animals don’t actually exist and we’re all Boltzmann Brains, more realistically though, I think the dubitably ethical behavior of these animals can be explained by kin selection and other such amoral mechanisms whereas the acts of Oskar Schindler and many others cannot.

    But, I obviously cannot prove that there is no objective morality.
    Then you should be an agnostic on the issue shouldn’t you?

    It makes sense to speak of the severity of punishment when considering whether one version of Christianity is pandering to the 'feel-good' instincts of a modern western group.
    If you’re basing this argument on psychoanalysis in search of belief genesis doesn’t it commit the genetic fallacy?

    Yes, in my view there are no objectively good or bad people. But in your view, there is an objective morality against which people and their actions can be judged.
    Correct imo

    this is ostensibly also the view that has a god that would punish those normally good people to hell for failing to be convinced that they needed to ask for his help.
    You persistently mischaracterize my position to make it easier to attack. Nobody goes to hell for failing to be convinced of something, they go to hell for being convinced of something and failing to take the action that should logically follow from that realization. Additionally I would like to know what you mean by “normally good.” Certainly you can’t be appealing to some objective standard of your own since you reject moral realism. Further you can’t be appealing to my standard because under my standard there are no good people, we’re all sinners. So what standard are you appealing to?

    David, a man after God's own heart, certainly reflects that God cares about character, you know, with all that adultery, murder, etc. Hey, actually, that doesn't seem so far off.
    Right… “after God’s own heart” does not mean “identical to God in character” David was condemned by God for his adultery murder etc. so clearly transposing David’s character on God is illogical. Furthermore it seems again here that you are trying to condemn God on moral grounds. But you reject moral realism; so coming from you such moral condemnation is logically incoherent.

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  84. I'm under no obligation to outdo your deity or his son (who's also him, very confusing).
    I don’t find it confusing; would you like to add the coherence of the Trinity to the subjects being discussed?

    You hold an unsubstantiated and likely unsustainable belief that the message of Jesus' sacrifice spread about the world by some heretofore unexplained means within a relatively short period after his death so as to provide all humans with the opportunity to avail themselves of its protection.
    Um, no I don’t, where did I claim that?

    Oddly enough, there's no mention in China or India, the largest polities at that point of such a message, likewise in Australia or the Americas.
    Strong atheism: there is no god. Weak atheism: I do not believe in god.

    As a philosophical position there is no such thing as strong or weak atheism, you will not find any professional philosophers saying “oh I’m a strong atheist” or “oh I’m a weak atheist” and the way you’ve defined them here makes very little sense. On your definition strong atheism is a claim to knowledge (there is no God) but weak atheism is not a claim to knowledge but a claim about some individual’s personal psychology. Well frankly I’m not very interested in your personal psychology I’m interested in knowing if you have any good reasons for believing the things you do. Now I do think a meaningful distinction can be made with the terms weak and strong with regards to atheism. All atheists, by definition, affirm the statement “God does not exist” but some atheists might claim they have proof of this (call them ‘strong’) and other atheists might take the more modest position that they affirm the definitional statement for other reasons such as emotional reasons.

    By your reasoning, however, it seems that lack of evidence isn't sufficient for you to disbelieve in anything.
    No you’ve failed to note the qualifier I added to my statement; it is that disbelief is not justified “unless there is a lack with regard to some specific evidence predicted by the properties of the hypothetical thing.” So let’s take you’re example of unicorns. I’m defining a unicorn as a horse with a single horn that is usually white in color; it eats poops and reproduces somewhat like a horse. I assume you’ll agree with this definition and given it unicorns should be made of baryonic particles and thus be visible to the human eye and other optical sensors, they should leave hoofprints in the ground and unicorn hair with DNA slightly distinct from that of horses on bushes and fences, they should give birth and leave placentas that crows peck at, they should leave fossilized remains and skeletons behind when they die, they should leave teeth marks in the flora they consume and unicorn droppings in the flowery meadows. Of course none of these expected evidences are observed so one is justified in believing that unicorns don’t exist.

    Watch out for unicorns on your next hike. I mean, I know there's no evidence that they exist, but hey, that's no reason not to believe in them. You certainly don't behave as if there are unicorns running through the Arizona wilderness.
    There’s a pattern to this latest reply of yours where you alter statements I’ve made to make them silly and then attack the caricature you’ve set up rather than dealing with what I’ve actually said. In any case I don’t worry about unicorns in AZ because everyone knows they only live in grassy meadows and there’s no grassy meadows in this state, when I’m hiking back home in Canada though, I always bring my Unicorn repellent.

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  85. It seems lack of evidence is sufficient grounds to disbelieve in something or at the very least disregard its potential existence until such time as evidence is made clear.
    Oh really? So you don’t believe that there are any undiscovered elementary particles or that a US Senator is currently eating a squid or that there’s a small child walking down your street right now (hey don’t look!)? In any case I think there is plenty of evidence for God’s existence.

    I don't actually mean superstition in a pejorative manner.
    Of course! But you know that everyone who reads it will attach such pejorative connotations to the word.

    I use it because I don't believe that there's anything to choose between the various past and present religions of the world, and they all are superstitious by definition.
    They are by definition? What definition are you using? Actually I think atheists are superstitious, they tend to believe in weird things like unobservable universes and biocentrism and not believe obvious things like the finititude of the past and that it’s objectively wrong to eat grandmas; but I usually don’t use such inflammatory language because it doesn’t add anything to the conversation. And yes there’s plenty to choose between various past and present religions. Do they affirm an infinite past? Then science and philosophy rule against them. Are they polytheistic? Then Occam’s Razor shaves down the probability that they’re true etc. etc.

    So apparently, virgin birth, common in almost all superstitions, is essential and based on a universal truth?
    No I’m not making an ad populum appeal here; I’m appealing to your moral faculty as well. Also could you make me a nice list of religions that include virgin births? I read one by “Archaya S” (aka DM Murdoch) once and saw one in the movie “Zeitgeist” but further investigation reveals that these lists used a ridiculously broad definition of “virgin birth” that no one who’s not trying to make a long list would use.

    Yes, for thousands of years the sun revolved around the earth. And, that perception remained valid until disproved by better science and explanation.
    What do you mean by “valid”?

    And, my belief that there is no objective morality and yours that there is remain as presently unassailable as a non-heliocentric world view was 2,000 years ago.
    No I think the claim that there are no objective moral values or duties is as assailable as the claim that there is no external universe.

    As an attorney, I can tell you that witnesses' apprehension are shoddy at best and never approach what could be termed truth in their testimony or associated outcomes.
    (edit: warning, rhetorical expression of personal incredulity following) You’re an attorney that rejects moral realism???? That’s just hilarious! “You’re honor all this talk of things being objectively good and bad is grounded only in an illusion fobbed off on you by your genes. Furthermore the entire US legal system is predicated on achieving the arbitrary ideal of human flourishing. Your honor why not Polar Bear flourishing? Or Mosquito flourishing? Or HIV virus flourishing? “ …*crickets*… “Sir if there are no moral obligations why I am morally obligated to fairly weigh whatever evidence you produce in favor of your client?”

    Again, what you think you experience as objective morality could just as easily be evolved or inculcated responses.
    It could be but it could also be that what you think you experience through your other senses are illusory as well, you could be a Boltzmann Brain. If we can’t trust our perceptions we have no basis for knowing or acting. I think the belief in the accuracy of one’s perceptions is properly basic.

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  86. I don't agree that torturing old folks or babies is objectively wrong. I think it is societally and evolutionarally wrong.
    Claiming its societally wrong is just admitting that the judgment has no basis in reality, society is governed by group psychology, which is in a constant state of flux and has no direct causal power over the constituents of reality. What does it mean to be evolutionarally wrong other than it doesn’t aid in the reproductive success of an individual?

    When the sun burns out, or the big rip occurs, it won't matter that somebody perpetrated wrong against someone else.
    Couldn’t agree more if we assume that your view is correct.

    You might need a moral compass to make it through the day,
    I’m not sure if I need it, Malaria seems to be fine without such a thing, but I have it and have never been without it.

    and it might help that you think it comes from God. But, you can't prove that it does.
    Yes actually I think I can, or rather I think I can show that it must come from something very much like God.

    You can't prove your sense of morality is the experience of an objective norm or whether it's been bred or brainwashed into you.
    Right and you can’t prove that the external world exists or that there has been an actual past… and neither can I. None-the-less I think placing some degree of trust in our perceptions is required if we are going to make decisions… which we must.

    Not believing in objective right or wrong isn't the same as abdicating my ability to valuate items, ideas, or other things.
    Yes it is, if it’s not I would like to know what ontic grounding you have for valuing items ideas or other things.

    It may not be objectively valuable, it doesn't have to be.
    If it’s meaningful and not arbitrary it has to be.

    I think it's more important to base life on the scientifically verifiable
    Why?

    rather than a two millennial old delusion.
    Nice inflammatory language, I of course think that atheism is a such-and-such old delusion but sideways insults don’t add anything to the conversation.

    You're telling me that you cannot test logic? You're saying that logic in unverifiable using the physical world that can be empirically shared?
    Yep, feel free to prove me wrong.

    Your test of God is patently non-empirical and open to observer and confirmation bias.
    How do you know it’s non-empirical? And why do you value the empirical if you deny moral realism? In my case there are specific empirical results which I can share with you if you like.

    Spending a decade ardently worshiping a stuffed goat would likely render a similar feeling of 'knowing.'
    Are you sure? Have you empirically tested (that thing you inexplicably seem to value) the stuffed goat hypothesis? And wouldn’t such a test be open to observer and confirmation bias if you conducted it anyway?

    If someone selfishly steals my car, I'll be annoyed at the inconvenience.
    Why do you value convenience?

    I'm using the basic notion of economical self-interest. If there is no objective morality, there is no objective difference between self-interested acts that don't unjustifiably exclude the interest of others and those that do.
    Well yes, assuming you’re correct… you’re correct.

    Does this discourse still interest you? I would hate for you to feel obliged to answer what you likely consider inanity.
    No I don’t consider it inanity, I wish it was a little more focused but you’re persistent enough that we’re getting to the roots of some issues, usually such discussions devolve into snide sound bites and ad hominem nonsense before the logical underpinnings of the opposing views can be thoroughly dissected. I think this discussion is an excellent addendum to the original post.

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  87. First let me thank you for your patience, it is a rare opportunity to enjoy such a thoroughgoing discourse on this topic without animosity or severe annoyance.

    Let me try to make it a little more focused, and a little less silly.

    We're presently focused on objective morality as the main point, so let me offer some corrections and realignments.

    First, when I say there is no objective morality or reject moral realism, I am not saying your apprehension of moral values is at all illusory. In fact, just the opposite; as a psychological phenomenon it as just as real as your hormonal urges to procreate or your desire to eat when hungry and drink when thirsty. My love for my family and friends is not measurable (presently) but I don't deny that I feel it.

    I am not saying what you are apprehending as moral value is illusory, I am saying that I don't believe the source of what you are feeling is an immutable, objective, universal moral norm as laid down by a deity.

    Because torturing babies is contrary to the aims of reproductive evolution, it's easy to understand why so many people would find it abhorrent.

    Present inability to prove something doesn't mean that there isn't evidence that points in one direction or another. So, I don't need to be entirely agnostic on the issue.

    I don't know that Oskar Schindler or any other act of incredible self-sacrifice or altruism can be explained by Darwinian evolution. Societal inculcation (undeniably based on Judeo-Christian norms in the West) I think provides an adequate answer.

    To clarify, you think all people are convinced of the correctness of Christianity, and their failure to act on that conviction is why they are punished?

    I used 'normally good' because you said 'in the normal sense' people could be good and still be condemned to hell. So, I mean normally like you meant normal.

    I am not appealing to an objective standard, I am talking about people who live mostly Christ-like (or benevolent, altruistic, magnanimous, if you like) lives without being Christian.

    It's my recollection that you said that all people had the ability to avail themselves of Christ's sacrificial protection, and that such belief might put you in the minority.

    I believe that Michael Martin maintains that agnosticism entails weak (or negative) atheism. Anthony Flew might have argued for the same distinction between positive atheism (there are definitively no gods) and weak or negative atheism (I don't believe in a god). In the case of agnostics, "I don't believe in God, because I don't have enough evidence to do so."




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  88. From my vantage, there is a similar lack of predicted evidence that would indicate the existence of a god.

    Belief in the possible existence of something is not belief in that specific thing. I equally believe that there could be hitherto undiscovered particles and a deity. But I don't believe in specific undiscovered particles, and I don't believe in a god. I don't believe in either because there is not enough evidence to convince me to make the affirmative choice to do so. But, I certainly don't preclude the possibility of a deity's existence. The difference in the example of undiscovered particles and god is that probabilities suggest that there are more undiscovered particles out there, because so many particles have already been discovered. To date, no gods have been discovered.

    Superstition: the belief in or reverence of supernatural beings.

    I don't presently believe in unobservable universes or biocentrism nor do I take a firm position on the existence or non-existence of time, past, etc.

    By valid, I mean that for those people, life simply went on despite their misunderstanding of nature of our solar system. I guess what I meant to say is for them, it was acceptable or workable.

    Again, positing the absence of an immutable, objective, divine moral code is not to similar to saying the world physical world doesn't exist. I'm not saying that you are experiencing something with no basis, I am saying you are more likely experiencing a mix of evolved instincts and socially learned responses.

    Good thing I am not a trial attorney.

    And, I think we're back to our starting point of objective morality.

    Again, please let me reiterate. I am not saying you shouldn't trust your moral apprehension, in fact I think it largely produces sociable behavior. I am not saying your apprehension is illusory, not anymore illusory than your other instincts, feelings, or urges that are regulated through hormones or electrochemical processes.

    It's not that you're perceiving something that's not there, it's that I think we disagree about its source.

    You're right, something being societally wrong is not based in physical reality, it's based on group dynamics and psychology. I'm not sure why that's a problem.

    You're right on with your question on evolutionary morality. It's about successful propagation of genes.

    How do you propose to show that a moral compass must come from a god-like thing?

    I can't prove that the external world definitively exists, but I think I've explained why I think that's a spurious relation to existence of divinely sourced morality.

    So, it is more than acceptable to trust your perception of morality, but that perception doesn't speak to the source of the morality, its immutability, its universal applicability etc.

    From my view, nothing has intrinsic value. Only once a creature valuates something does that thing have value. It may not be a universal, immutable, objective value as you might like, but it's still value. Other than limited applications, gold is intrinsically worthless until humans say it has value.

    Meaning can be derived from human values. There doesn't need to be a universal standard for meaning. I enjoy helping energy companies lower their tax bill as much as possible, it gives me meaning. Doing so, however, is meaningless in a vacuum. It only means something to me. It's not arbitrary because I have reasons for liking it.

    Once society became more scientifically literate and less religiously oriented, quality of life began to increase far more dramatically than ever before in recorded history. I draw a correlation between science and a more comfortable and bearable existence.



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  89. I value convenience and better standards of living because they set off the pleasure centers of my brain without harming me in a measurable manner. I enjoy the thought that my family and friends can live easier lives because of convenience and advancement because I know that makes them happy without harming them in an appreciable manner.

    I don't have to base value on some sort of immutable, objective, divine yardstick. I'm capable of valuing things, may not be objective, but it doesn't really matter.

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  90. First let me thank you for your patience, it is a rare opportunity to enjoy such a thoroughgoing discourse on this topic without animosity or severe annoyance. Let me try to make it a little more focused, and a little less silly. We're presently focused on objective morality as the main point, so let me offer some corrections and realignments.
    Sounds good and thanks again for standing by, I apologize if some of my (attempted) reductio ad absurdum arguments sound rhetorical in this post. I find rhetoric is almost always reversible.

    First, when I say there is no objective morality or reject moral realism, I am not saying your apprehension of moral values is at all illusory. In fact, just the opposite; as a psychological phenomenon it as just as real as your hormonal urges to procreate or your desire to eat when hungry and drink when thirsty.
    Right this is my point, if the moral values we apprehend merely correspond to some physical arrangement or action in our brain; then we are not apprehending truth when we apprehend these moral values and duties. The reason for this is that we perceive these moral entities to be objectively true, that is we think they were true before our brain existed and we think they will be true after our brain dies, if we are wrong about this then these perceptions are illusory. Identical to these perceptions then, would be the physical arrangement or action in my brain that leads me to think that onions are delicious. I know it’s not an objectively true thing to say: “onions are delicious” I can only rightly say “I find onions to be delicious” I have friends that think they’re gross and my girlfriend finds them neutral in taste, when I die I don’t think it will somehow still be true that onions are delicious. Moral values and duties, if they are like this, are not binding on anyone, are not objectively true, and are thus illusory. We think it is true that there actually are states of affairs that are right and others that are wrong not that we just subjectively think so. I don’t just affirm that I am obligated to not arbitrarily stab my classmates; I affirm that YOU are obligated to not arbitrarily stab your classmates either and that this rule also applies to those who lived 200 years ago. But no one would say (except as a joke) “you are obligated to like onions” because we all understand that taste is a subjective thing with no reality outside an individual’s brain. But myself and the vast majority of people, and all governments that I’m aware of, believe that these things are not a matter of taste but a matter of objective fact. For this to be true there must be an objective standard outside of the individual to which we can appeal otherwise we’re just asserting our particular tastes at each other, which by the way is what the Nazis claimed at the Nuremberg war trials. They were indicted on the basis of there being “a law above the law” the Nazis could not be indicted from within their own system because it was internally consistent and thus an appeal to an objective standard was needed to show wrongdoing.

    My love for my family and friends is not measurable (presently) but I don't deny that I feel it.
    Right, you also probably feel that chocolate cake is delicious, there is no ontological difference between these two feelings if you are correct.

    I am not saying what you are apprehending as moral value is illusory,
    Yes I think you are, you’re saying that there are not actually some states of affairs that are right and others that are wrong but only that *I think* that there are some states of affairs that are right and others that are wrong because some sort of evolutionary process has programmed my brain to think so, and that were evolution to be re-wound and let play again my perceptions of what ought to be and of what ought not to be could be completely different, for example I could think that rape was morally good, as there are many species that reproduce almost entirely through forced copulation.

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  91. I am saying that I don't believe the source of what you are feeling is an immutable, objective, universal moral norm as laid down by a deity.
    You are actually saying more than this, you are saying that you do know what the source such “feelings” is. You are saying that the source of what we “feel” is a bunch of atoms in our brain that have been programmed by evolution to desire certain states of affairs because these states result in some sort of reproductive advantage.

    Because torturing babies is contrary to the aims of reproductive evolution, it's easy to understand why so many people would find it abhorrent.
    I can see how this could be contrary to the aims of reproductive evolution but it’s not necessarily so. One need not actually kill the babies to torture them, plus they could be the babies of some rival group who will inhibit your own offspring’s reproductive success, rabbits frequently chew each other’s gonads off and I dare say they’re better at reproducing than people. Other behaviors such as using contraception are much more obviously contrary to the aims of reproductive evolution and yet I don’t believe there exists a person on the planet who would choose torturing babies over using contraception.

    Present inability to prove something doesn't mean that there isn't evidence that points in one direction or another. So, I don't need to be entirely agnostic on the issue.
    Yes you do, if you do not affirm the statement “God does not exist” then you are not an atheist. If you affirm the statement “there is an 80% chance God doesn’t exist” you are an agnostic. If you affirm the statement “there is a 99% chance God doesn’t exist you are still an agnostic. Now you can still behave as if God doesn’t exist regardless the probability you assign His existence, I think there are even plenty of people who affirm the statement “God exists” and yet still behave as if He doesn’t. Further, you are admitting here that you can’t prove God’s non-existence, now you don’t have to prove it to affirm that he doesn’t exist but if you do so you must either gamble or act without justification.

    I don't know that Oskar Schindler or any other act of incredible self-sacrifice or altruism can be explained by Darwinian evolution. Societal inculcation (undeniably based on Judeo-Christian norms in the West) I think provides an adequate answer.
    While I agree that societal inculcation is a powerful motivator it leaves unexplained the class of altruistic events that are defined by moral revolutions against society, such as William Wilberforce’s opposition to slavery. And really this somewhat misses the point as my argument here is that we perceive moral values and duties to exist objectively.

    To clarify, you think all people are convinced of the correctness of Christianity, and their failure to act on that conviction is why they are punished?
    No but I think that all people are convinced that they are sinners and that the action that should logically follow from this realization is repentance. How many people do you know who would answer in the affirmative to the question “are you perfect?”

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  92. I used 'normally good' because you said 'in the normal sense' people could be good and still be condemned to hell. So, I mean normally like you meant normal.
    Well that’s sort of funny because I only used the term in an attempt to preserve the meaning of your previously used phrase: “practically good and decent people” so my question then becomes: I would like to know what you mean by “practically good and decent people.” Certainly you can’t be appealing to some objective standard of your own since you reject moral realism. Further you can’t be appealing to my standard because under my standard there are no good people, we’re all sinners. So what standard are you appealing to?

    I am not appealing to an objective standard, I am talking about people who live mostly Christ-like (or benevolent, altruistic, magnanimous, if you like) lives without being Christian.
    “People who live mostly Christ-like” is an objective standard but I reject the notion that anyone lives even mostly in this way. I concede however, and I think this captures your point, that there are non-Christians who live in a more Christ-like way than some who self-identify as Christians, and I think this is because they’ve just been more diligent in following the moral law that they apprehend.

    It's my recollection that you said that all people had the ability to avail themselves of Christ's sacrificial protection, and that such belief might put you in the minority.
    Right but this is not through some sort of oral communication with other humans. What I’m claiming is that Jesus, as a person of the Trinity has always existed and has always been accessible to anyone who seeks the source of the moral law on his heart or the teleology in nature.

    I believe that Michael Martin maintains that agnosticism entails weak (or negative) atheism. Anthony Flew might have argued for the same distinction between positive atheism (there are definitively no gods) and weak or negative atheism (I don't believe in a god). In the case of agnostics, "I don't believe in God, because I don't have enough evidence to do so."
    Yes I believe Flew invented the position you’re describing, but he also later abandoned it himself. And I agree with Michael Martin (assuming you’re correct, I did not verify it) that agnosticism entails a lack of belief in God, but it also entails a lack of disbelief in God, it means you do not believe one way or the other.

    From my vantage, there is a similar lack of predicted evidence that would indicate the existence of a god.
    Right I’ll address this in the ever delayed Part 3.

    Belief in the possible existence of something is not belief in that specific thing. I equally believe that there could be hitherto undiscovered particles and a deity. But I don't believe in specific undiscovered particles, and I don't believe in a god.
    Wait so you believe that there could be a deity but you don’t believe there could be a god? What distinction are you assuming exists between these two words?

    I don't believe in either because there is not enough evidence to convince me to make the affirmative choice to do so. But, I certainly don't preclude the possibility of a deity's existence.
    What you are describing is agnosticism.

    The difference in the example of undiscovered particles and god is that probabilities suggest that there are more undiscovered particles out there,
    Really? What probabilities? Were you actually aware of any such probabilities when you wrote this?

    because so many particles have already been discovered.
    Right but with the (apparent) discovery of the Higgs Boson, the Standard Model is now complete, any additional particles have, at least currently not been predicted by the standard model.

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  93. To date, no gods have been discovered.
    I was discovered by One.

    Superstition: the belief in or reverence of supernatural beings.
    Webster disagrees with you, and I think gives a definition much closer to how people actually use the word than what you’ve written here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superstition

    I don't presently believe in unobservable universes or biocentrism nor do I take a firm position on the existence or non-existence of time, past, etc.
    Good to know, maybe I’ll note you disclaiming biocentrism at the end of the discussion in part 1, it actually seems like a very anthropocentric, and thus teleology-friendly theory.


    By valid, I mean that for those people, life simply went on despite their misunderstanding of nature of our solar system. I guess what I meant to say is for them, it was acceptable or workable.
    Oh… by this definition Christianity is valid and atheism and Mormonism are valid etc. etc. The only other place I’ve seen the word “valid” used like this is in Hawking’s latest book.

    Again, positing the absence of an immutable, objective, divine moral code is not to similar to saying the world physical world doesn't exist.
    Yes it is, you’re saying my perception that moral values and duties are objective is illusory, so I can run a parallel argument and ask: are you also willing to say that your perceptions of the exterior world are illusory? And I can offer you the consolation that it seems you’re trying to offer me by saying “well they’re not really illusory… after all they do exist in your brain right?” but I think it becomes clear here that claiming that they exist only in your brain is identical to claiming they are illusory.

    I'm not saying that you are experiencing something with no basis, I am saying you are more likely experiencing a mix of evolved instincts and socially learned responses.
    Evolved instincts and socially learned responses that are deceiving me into thinking that something is there which is actually not there. Of course it could be that evolved instincts and socially learned responses are deceiving me in other ways to like making me think that there’s an external world when really there isn’t one.

    Good thing I am not a trial attorney.
    Touché

    And, I think we're back to our starting point of objective morality. Again, please let me reiterate. I am not saying you shouldn't trust your moral apprehension, in fact I think it largely produces sociable behavior.
    What’s so good about sociable behavior?

    I am not saying your apprehension is illusory, not anymore illusory than your other instincts, feelings, or urges that are regulated through hormones or electrochemical processes.
    Right but none of these other physical processes lead me to believe that there is something going on outside myself. For instance in regards to these other feelings all I can do is refer to myself. *I* am hungry, *I* need to defecate, *I* want to have sex. Moral values and duties however are apprehended as being something that resides outside ones body, *you* should not tip over the porta-potty while I’m in it, *everyone* ought to love their friends, we believe that the truth of these things is not contingent on our brain states… don’t we? This is what I perceive, but it is illusory of you are correct.

    It's not that you're perceiving something that's not there, it's that I think we disagree about its source.
    I perceive that moral values and duties are objective, are these objective things there?

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  94. You're right, something being societally wrong is not based in physical reality, it's based on group dynamics and psychology. I'm not sure why that's a problem.
    It’s a problem because that means if the next generation of humans evolved to think that whenever a female turns 50 it’s morally good to cut off her legs with a band saw then it would be true that whenever a female turns 50 it would be morally good to cut off her legs with a band saw. Clearly this is wrong. It’s a problem because the group dynamics and psychology of interwar Germany resulted in a group dynamic that affirmed the goodness of killing Jews. Clearly this is wrong.

    You're right on with your question on evolutionary morality. It's about successful propagation of genes.
    And why is successful propagation of genes good or relevant to the issue?


    How do you propose to show that a moral compass must come from a god-like thing?
    I’ll get to that in part 3, sorry I keep referring to it rather than answer hear but I’d like the discussion to stay organized.


    I can't prove that the external world definitively exists, but I think I've explained why I think that's a spurious relation to existence of divinely sourced morality.
    Right and I think I’ve answered that explanation.


    So, it is more than acceptable to trust your perception of morality, but that perception doesn't speak to the source of the morality, its immutability, its universal applicability etc.
    No I think that perception does speak to its universal applicability, don’t you think rape was wrong before you were born?


    From my view, nothing has intrinsic value. Only once a creature valuates something does that thing have value. It may not be a universal, immutable, objective value as you might like, but it's still value.
    Adolf Hitler valued killing Jews, does that mean killing Jews has value? I think it’s clear that your definition makes the term “value” arbitrary and meaningless.

    Other than limited applications, gold is intrinsically worthless until humans say it has value.
    You’re confusing economic value (as in the phrase: “this boot is valued at 2 dollars”) with moral value (as in: “values voters came out and made the difference in the 2004 election”).


    Meaning can be derived from human values.
    Well yes it can be, but it’s illusory if these values don’t correspond to something real in the universe.

    There doesn't need to be a universal standard for meaning.
    There does if the word “meaning” has any real meaning.

    I enjoy helping energy companies lower their tax bill as much as possible, it gives me meaning. Doing so, however, is meaningless in a vacuum. It only means something to me. It's not arbitrary because I have reasons for liking it.
    What are those reasons? Now whatever you answer here I’m just going to ask why you value those reasons etc. etc. until we reach your explanatory stopping point, if you don’t have an explanatory stopping point that explains where values come from then your reasons for valuing these things are arbitrary.


    Once society became more scientifically literate and less religiously oriented, quality of life began to increase far more dramatically than ever before in recorded history. I draw a correlation between science and a more comfortable and bearable existence.
    Science itself was born out of Christianity, men began to look for rational laws in nature because they believed it was made by a rational law giver, but why do you value a more comfortable and bearable existence?

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  95. I value convenience and better standards of living because they set off the pleasure centers of my brain without harming me in a measurable manner. I enjoy the thought that my family and friends can live easier lives because of convenience and advancement because I know that makes them happy without harming them in an appreciable manner.
    Right so why is setting off pleasure centers and making people happy and avoiding harm worth anything?


    I don't have to base value on some sort of immutable, objective, divine yardstick. I'm capable of valuing things, may not be objective, but it doesn't really matter.
    Well if you’re correct then nothing really matters. It sounds to me like what you’re say here is that you’re just pretending that things have value because pretending these things have value makes you feel good. What is the difference between you pretending that these things have value and what you described?


    Now I've written maybe more than necessary here by saying the same thing in different ways but I the clearest way I think of found to express my disagreement is that I do not think that moral values and duties are contingent on brain states.

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  96. I think much of this can be pared down as you have mentioned. It's rather interesting to me how much of this discourse is obtaining the actual understanding and meaning of one another rather than riposte.

    Oxford defines illusory as something that is not real. I do not think that your apprehension of morality is illusory, I think it is very much based on something real.

    That is semantic, obviously.

    With regard to morality's objectivity, I think that is also a question of semantics. I think you mean true objectivity, something that exists regardless of human existence. But, I think a perception of objective morality could equally be a result of the fact that the genesis of such feelings is (to use my Scottish hosts' term) outwith you. The source of your perceived objective morality is not just you, it is the millions of years mammalian evolution and thousands of years of social evolution. In that respect the morality you perceive has its genesis outside of you, which could account for the feeling of objectivity.

    Beyond that, you seem to take the approach that if you appeal to what you believe is also my innate objective moral apprehension, I will somehow be appalled by a non-objective morality that doesn't condemn, in perpetuity, all heinous acts. Unfortunately for your efforts, I am not one to reject my opinion because it offers ugly or disgusting or disconcerting results. Just as I would not abandon an opinion of materialism as truth just because it portends a complete lack of free-will, I cannot abdicate my position on morality simply because, if true, it means that rape, pederasty, torture are objectively permissible, and could become commonplace in the future on that basis. I do find it ironic that torture was once commonplace based on the apprehension of an objective, Christian morality. Or that Moses, the law-giver, ordered the murder of young children who were of a conquered enemy. As well as the divinely ordered genocide of the Amelakites. Some nasty things happened under the banner of an ostensibly objective morality.

    Likewise, I am not at all troubled by the lack of universal, objective meaning in life if there is no objective standard. First, I'll never know if there is or isn't, so it's not really productive to fuss about it. Secondly, I am more than happy to apply 'arbitrary' and non-objective values to my life. It's completely arbitrary that I love to travel and live in foreign lands, but I like doing it, so I do it, and all-in-all, I'm a happy dude.

    Lastly on the count of meaning, my own and the people I care about are enough for me. Society, with all of its horrible and bloody fits and starts, provides all the meaning I need. I don't need an objective, universal meaning to exist, for my life to be filled to the brim with meaning outside of myself.

    On the question of my atheism or agnosticism, I think I again rely on semantics. Belief is an affirmative action, disbelief is not. One has to take a step, a movement toward faith. One needn't take any action to not believe in god.

    Two discreet points: 1. Economic value, as posited by economists, captures moral value as well. I value freedom of speech and thought just as much as I value a Bentley Continental.

    2. Religious people certainly began the scientific journey, just as astrology did give way to astronomy and alchemy to chemistry. That is not to say, however, that religion has not had a tortured and deadly relationship with scientific inquiry.

    When it comes to improving people's material lives, religion isn't in the same county as science.

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  97. Pre. S. This reply was sitting half finished on my desktop all semester, this last semester was busier than anticipated and prevented me from writing at all on this blog. But… the Christmas bells are ringing, ‘tis the season to resume this interesting discussion!


    I think much of this can be pared down as you have mentioned. It's rather interesting to me how much of this discourse is obtaining the actual understanding and meaning of one another rather than riposte.
    Yah I think this is how it *should* be if it is, in fact, a search for understanding

    Oxford defines illusory as something that is not real. I do not think that your apprehension of morality is illusory, I think it is very much based on something real.
    I think you’re equivocating here. Oxford defines “illusory” as “something that is not real” which is a definition that I like but then you go on to say that objective moral values and duties are not illusory because they are “based on” something real. But being based on something real and being real are completely different things. In fact I think *all* illusions are based on something real, there really is a (2 at night) blind spot in your eye that your brain hides from your consciousness with some kind of sophisticated “software,” the drugs that make people think the sky is on fire (in the case of one person I know) actually do interact in some way with the chemicals in the user’s brain in a real way; so saying that my “apprehension of morality” is “based on something real” gives no grounds to justify the claim that it is not illusory

    That is semantic, obviously. With regard to morality's objectivity, I think that is also a question of semantics. I think you mean true objectivity, something that exists regardless of human existence. But, I think a perception of objective morality could equally be a result of the fact that the genesis of such feelings is (to use my Scottish hosts' term) outwith you. The source of your perceived objective morality is not just you, it is the millions of years mammalian evolution and thousands of years of social evolution. In that respect the morality you perceive has its genesis outside of you, which could account for the feeling of objectivity.
    While I agree that it could be true that the “source of [our] perceived objective morality is not just [us], it is the millions of years mammalian evolution and thousands of years of social evolution” I don’t think that there are any good reasons to believe that it actually is true. Because while it is true that the “source of your perceived objective morality is not just you “ this is also true of all our other perceptions on your view (as well as on my view) so I don’t then see why we don’t believe all things to be transcendentally existing exterior to us, do we believe that tastes, smells and colors somehow have an objective existence somewhere? Sounds like pseudo-Platonism. Also you’re proposing something very interesting here. You’re saying, and I’m not sure if you actually believe this, that there is information in everyone’s brain that our consciousness believes is foreign or partly foreign to the brain. Is it really plausible that the brain can somehow label a piece of itself foreign (since on your view this information must be physically stored somewhere within the brain and thus be a part of the brain)?

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  98. Beyond that, you seem to take the approach that if you appeal to what you believe is also my innate objective moral apprehension, I will somehow be appalled by a non-objective morality that doesn't condemn, in perpetuity, all heinous acts. Unfortunately for your efforts, I am not one to reject my opinion because it offers ugly or disgusting or disconcerting results.
    If I came across this way I did not intend to, in fact I agree that we should seek and embrace truth regardless of how nice or nasty we find it, and I believe this because I think we have an objective moral duty to seek and embrace truth. On what grounds do you believe we should seek and embrace truth? Additionally I think that the truth is *often* unpalatable! for example as a Canadian who pays fairly close attention to America’s financial predicament it is clear to me that the US will either have to face the unpalatable reality and make some very painful spending cuts or else follow Greece into practical insolvency.

    Just as I would not abandon an opinion of materialism as truth just because it portends a complete lack of free-will, I cannot abdicate my position on morality simply because, if true, it means that rape, pederasty, torture are objectively permissible, and could become commonplace in the future on that basis.
    Right I’m not advocating you change your opinion because it might lead to something you and others subjectively don’t like, I’m advocating that you change your opinion because it is self refuting and leads to anti-realism. Here’s how I think it leads to anti-realism:
    1. There is no relevant difference between how we perceive morality and how we perceive other characteristics of the external universe
    2. There is thus no reason to trust other perceptive faculties more than we trust our moral faculty
    3. Therefore if we can’t trust our moral perceptions we can’t trust any perceptions
    4. If we cannot trust our moral perceptions we therefore cannot trust any of our perceptions
    5. If we cannot trust any of our perceptions we cannot know what is real.
    And here’s how I think it is self refuting. It seems to me at that you are saying “I really ought not change my opinion that there are no real ‘oughts’ because it is true that there are no ‘oughts’ and I really ought to pursue and embrace truth.” Invoking ‘oughts’ under the assumption that ‘oughts’ don’t exist objectively is logically incoherent. If you claim that the ‘ought’ you are invoking is not objective then there’s no reason for myself or anyone else to acknowledge that you’ve communicated anything meaningful, and in fact you haven’t communicated anything objectively meaningful if this is the case.

    I do find it ironic that torture was once commonplace based on the apprehension of an objective, Christian morality.
    Do you also find it ironic that most places in the world where torture is now not common were born out of “Christendom”? There are plenty of places in the world where torture is still commonplace.

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  99. Or that Moses, the law-giver, ordered the murder of young children who were of a conquered enemy. As well as the divinely ordered genocide of the Amelakites. Some nasty things happened under the banner of an ostensibly objective morality.
    Well first off it’s interesting that you don’t offer the disclaimer here that really on your view there was nothing wrong with any of these things. In bringing up examples of apparently unethical deeds perpetrated by God or Biblical protagonists I think you are regressing to your previous moral critique of Christianity that was based on the flood, so I’ll just re-state my answer to that objection here. It is only true that these divine actions are bad if there was no better alternative. Whether or not there was a better alternative is currently inscrutable so I don’t think this argument holds any logical force though I do agree it carries significant emotional force. Additionally, it’s important to note that on the Christian view maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain does not constitute the purpose of life. The purpose of life, on this view, is to gain knowledge of God and so suffering, even apart from that caused by human free choices ought to be expected; “God whispers in our pleasure and shouts in our pain” as CS Lewis said.

    Likewise, I am not at all troubled by the lack of universal, objective meaning in life if there is no objective standard. First, I'll never know if there is or isn't, so it's not really productive to fuss about it.
    If you are incorrect and I am correct then you actually will know if there is. On the other hand if you are correct and I am incorrect, it is actually I who will never know of my incorrectness and thus need not “fuss about it.”

    Secondly, I am more than happy to apply 'arbitrary' and non-objective values to my life. It's completely arbitrary that I love to travel and live in foreign lands, but I like doing it, so I do it, and all-in-all, I'm a happy dude.
    This is tantamount to admitting that you are just pretending.

    Lastly on the count of meaning, my own and the people I care about are enough for me. Society, with all of its horrible and bloody fits and starts, provides all the meaning I need. I don't need an objective, universal meaning to exist, for my life to be filled to the brim with meaning outside of myself.
    Given that you deny that objective moral values and duties exist, how is your claim that “yourself”, society, etc. have meaning any different from just pretending that they have meaning?

    On the question of my atheism or agnosticism, I think I again rely on semantics. Belief is an affirmative action, disbelief is not.
    Yes it is, provided I understand you correctly, affirming the statement “I do not believe x” is logically equivalent to affirming “I do believe not-x.” Or perhaps you are referring to things that you do not believe or disbelieve because you are simply not aware of them?

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  100. One has to take a step, a movement toward faith. One needn't take any action to not believe in god.
    I don’t see how this could be true, given the proposition “God does not exist” or the proposition “God does exist,” I don’t see how affirming one is any less an “active step” than the other.

    Two discreet points:
    1. Economic value, as posited by economists, captures moral value as well. I value freedom of speech and thought just as much as I value a Bentley Continental.

    I don’t think this is quite true, while I agree that money can have a moral component, moral values and duties would still exist in a world absent currency. Are you really saying you would pay about $250,000 for free speech and not more or less?

    2. Religious people certainly began the scientific journey, just as astrology did give way to astronomy and alchemy to chemistry.
    I’m not sure what you’re trying to communicate here, are you saying religion is to science what alchemy is to chemistry and astrology to astronomy? In any case I don’t think it’s accurate to say that astrology “[gave] way to” astronomy, the first astronomer, Copernicus, never had any interest in astrology so far as we know, and astrology lives on today.

    That is not to say, however, that religion has not had a tortured and deadly relationship with scientific inquiry.
    Of course atheism has had at least as “tortured and deadly” a relationship with science, just look at the purgings of scientists and philosophers during the French revolution, the Russian revolution and the Chinese “Cultural Revolution.”

    When it comes to improving people's material lives, religion isn't in the same county as science.
    “Improving” is a value-laden term; absent some objective standard of value it is meaningless. Also I don’t think that your assertion is correct, science is a tool and can be used for good and bad things, without God I don’t think there can be such a thing as objectively “good” or “bad” things so claiming that science has done “good” things is impossible absent God, but I think God does exist and therefore we do know what things are good and bad and so we can use science, a very powerful tool, to pursue the good… or the bad.

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