The God Paradox

Religious belief of any sort is completely incompatible with an intelligent, sane, rational, omnipotent, just, loving God. Further, the more one attributes to God, the weaker, dumber, more inept, more incompetent, more malicious, etc, he becomes.

Just look at Intelligent Design: If God truly “designed” organisms on Earth, then he’s obviously not very intelligent. It wasn’t the best idea to make the wind intake mostly the same pipe as the food intake. There were probably better skeletal structures than to give us the same spine and forward-tilted pelvis as apes, but an upright posture. For maximal efficiency, our knees should bend backward. And look at the myriad problems that can easily develop, even before birth. Thus, attributing the structure of the human body to God detracts from his intelligence, and in fact makes him seem a little cruel.

There’s a troubling lack of divine intervention that one would hope would prevent, for instance, atrocities like the Holocaust, slavery, systematic clitoral circumcision, and the vast spectrum of other horrible things we’ve managed to think of to torture and destroy each other with. Thus, attributing the capability of divine intervention to God makes him seem either inept, powerless, or possibly even malicious.

I could continue along this vein, but I guess the best demonstration is the idea of eternal damnation. My friend Matt (Djur) has a succinct analysis of this: “For one soul to be tormented forever in hell would be infinitely worse than the crimes of Hitler and Stalin combined. For, indeed, it’s eternal punishment for sins which are inherently ephemeral. Nobody could possibly do anything that would justify punishment for all eternity. Not if they spent their entire life doing as many hideous things as they could imagine. Eternity.”

To punish someone for an eternity for what is, at least relative to the punishment, an infinitesimally insignificant misdeed, or because they’re afflicted with a condition beyond their control which is the result of something for which they’re not even responsible is cruel beyond the ability of humans to fathom. Thus, attributing this – the whole “hell” thing, eternal damnation, et cetera, which all seems to be a pretty large stone in the foundation of Christianity and many other systems of faith – to God obliterates any illusions about his compassion and love, and makes him seem like the worst monster that could ever possibly exist.

So you see, the more you believe in God – the more you attribute to his control and powers – the less powerful he truly becomes, and the less you find yourself worshiping an omnipotent, intelligent, loving, caring, capable God. And what can you really say about a supposed God that requires such belief?

(More on this and similar ideas later, possibly when I finally manage to get Secular Savior up and running.)

33 thoughts on “The God Paradox”

  1. I think the main problem is not believing in God, but understanding God. What you are trying to do is comprehend something that by its very definition is incomprehencible.
    The terms that you are using (inept, malicious, intelligent, loving, capable, monster) are strictly human terms and ideas and most likely do not apply to what is definitely not human. After all this is the consciousness of the universe that we are talking about, and no matter what you call it (God, Alla, Buddah, The Force, Giand Speghetti Monster) we should realize that this is something that we will not be able to understand.
    My belief is that when our consciousness leaves our physical bodies (read:die), we will experience everything we have done to others. For that reason we should be kind to others and treat everyone with love and respect. I think someone else taught that as well. Who was that…oh right…Jesus.

  2. This “God is beyond our comprehension and therefore all your points about religion not making sense are invalid” argument seems to crop up a lot these days. If this is the best the theists can do, the intellectual battle must be moving in our direction.

    Would we accept such an argument in any other situation? If everything a political leader does shows him to be either incompetent or malevolent, do we just shrug and say, “he must be working to some plan for the greater good which we can’t imagine”? IF a surgeon invariably shows up to the operating room giving every sign of being drunk, and half his patients die during surgery, do we assume he must know what he’s doing, or do we try to get him barred from practicing?

    The points remain valid regardless of the “incomprehensibility” argument. For example, the structure of the human body is randomly sub-optimal in ways which one would not expect if it were intelligently designed. This remains true even if we postulate a designer beyond human comprehension.

    My belief is that when our consciousness leaves our physical bodies (read:die), we will experience everything we have done to others.

    On what evidence? That’s the issue. There’s no evidence that an afterlife takes this form, or exists at all. Back when the human body was widely assumed to be near-perfect, theists claimed this as evidence for the existence of a deity. Now that its imperfections are better known, they fall back on saying, “God is incomprehensible”. But there’s no evidence for such an incomprehensible God, either.

    The universe looks just like we would expect it to look if it had developed according to ordinary physical laws, without conscious guidance. Now, we can assume, without evidence, that some incomprehensible omnipotent being designed it to look that way, or we can assume that it is juat what it appears to be. I know which option seems more reasonable to me.

  3. I guess it is time for some philisophical ping pong.

    Quote by Infidel753: This “God is beyond our comprehension and therefore all your points about religion not making sense are invalid” argument seems to crop up a lot these days.

    Actually, my “God being beyond comprehension” argument supports the idea of religions not making sence. However, it does not support the God-does-not-exist idea. Remember, just because we do not understand something, that does not mean it does not or can not exist.

    If everything a political leader does shows him to be either incompetent or malevolent, do we just shrug and say, “he must be working to some plan for the greater good which we can’t imagine”? IF a surgeon invariably shows up to the operating room giving every sign of being drunk, and half his patients die during surgery, do we assume he must know what he’s doing, or do we try to get him barred from practicing?

    This is the biggest fallacy done by both religious leaders and athiests alike: you are treating God like you would treat a person. Infinity is not a number. God is not a big guy with a white beard looking down on us from a cloud and pushing buttons. I really cannot explain what God is (no one can), but the best I can come up with is “the consciousness of the universe”. I also do not think God micro-manages the universe. It makes sense to me that God would create the machine and let it run on its own.

    Have you ever heard of Occam’s Razor? You have probably heard of the mis-interpretation of it: “the simplest explanation is probably the correct one”. Actually, the razor states, “Plurality is not to be assumed without neccessity.” If you add more details and variables to an argument, not only will it be harder to understand, but it will be more likely to be incorrect. In other words, Keep It Simple Stupid. Because of this, it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God. Any argument either for or against would have to be so complex that not only would no one understand it, it would probably be wrong. Can we leave it at that please?

  4. There’s always the “why is there something instead of nothing?” question to which one can answer “God”. There’s also “it’s a psychological metaphor”, which is what I would use, especially because then you get into recursive “can we figure out why we think how we think by thinking?”

  5. Great points, especially the quote about eternal punishment.
    What I can’t figure out is why, of all things, even most of the people who come to their conclusions about the existence of God after careful intellectual and philosophical reasoning in which they basically determine that there can’t be nothing, so there must be something, still fall back on the Christian model. For example, this guy. Why can’t intelligent people who find a need for faith come up with their own ideas of what it means instead of always resorting to popular organized religion?

  6. Remember, just because we do not understand something, that does not mean it does not or can not exist.

    But you haven’t offered any evidence, or any reason, or any hint of anything at all, that suggests that God (or Satan or Wotan or Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other alternative) might exist. Jabberwock, on the other hand, has given several examples of why the universe at least looks just like we would expect it to look if there were no such entity.

    Because of this, it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God.

    The reason why it’s impossible to prove or disprove most religious propositions is that they have been formulated in such a way as to be immune to proof or disproof. (Note that asserting the existence of a deity with no evidence does assume plurality without necessity, as you put it.)

    I could just as easily say, “There is a live dinosaur sitting on the White House lawn, but not only is this dinosaur invisible, he also has many other traits which are utterly beyond human comprehension, which make it impossible for any test we can imagine to detect his existence.” I could also argue that no one can prove such a statement true or false, because it’s been deliberately contrived to make it impossible to prove true or false; but I think any reasonable person would acknowledge that (a) the burden of proof is on the person who says such a thing to prove it and not his listeners to disprove it, and (b) such a statement is totally useless for figuring out anything about the reality of the world we live in.

  7. There’s always the “why is there something instead of nothing?” question to which one can answer “God”.

    The problem is that this isn’t really an answer. It just moves the question back one step — “OK, why is there God?”

    To the best of my knowledge, science doesn’t yet fully understand the processes that brought the universe into existence; but even if we knew nothing about those processes at all, there would be no reason to assume that they involved a self-aware entity of some sort.

  8. A few things (though Infidel753 nailed it pretty well):

    (This all assumes the existence of God, by the way:)

    You don’t need to understand him in order to observe and analyze the composition of reality. Like Infidel753 said, things are the way the are, regardless of whether God’s intentions are incomprehensible, and, thus, conclusions can be drawn based on the outcome even if we don’t understand the motives.

    If you were God, what would be the point of creating a universe that’s entirely incompatible with the way you think? (Of course, by simply creating such a thing, it’s implicit that it reflects at least some portion of your mind.)

    Why should anyone bother appealing to an entirely alien entity? If God doesn’t possess compassion because it’s a human-specific trait, then what’s the point of even trying? And since his mind is so mysterious, and his plot is so infinitely complex, how can anyone possibly presume they have any idea what he wants us to do? And how can such a will be distilled down into a single book? There is no way that a mind so complex could possibly be translated or interfaced in such a way that humans could understand, so if such a creature expects us to “get it right”, then regardless of whether it’s a human-specific trait, God is a massive asshole.

    I thought God supposedly created man in his own image. Thus, one would imagine the logic would bear even some rough, remote resemblance.

    (Kind of off-topic: One thing that always amuses me is that Christians are so quick to use the “God is baffling and mysterious to the human mind” argument, yet at the same time, they think he’s incapable of complex enough thinking and enough foresight to have created evolution, instead of having to continually micro-manage through direct intervention.)

  9. Hmmmm. Before we get into the whole “You’re a fucking moron for believing in something without irrefutable evidence” thing, maybe we should specify what we are talking about when we say “God”. I used the term “consciousness of the universe” but I should probably elaborate a bit. What I mean is “collective consciousness of the universe”. My feeling is that just beyond our physical plane, there is an energy field. When we die, we return to this energy field. I do not remember the exact specifics, but apparently, according to quantum physics, there is more energy in a cubic yard of “empty space” than in all the stars of the universe. How is that for fucking evidence?

  10. “You’re a fucking moron for believing in something without irrefutable evidence”

    Where did anyone call you a moron (much less a moron who has sexual intercourse)?

    The issue is not “believing in something without irrefutable evidence”. The issue is believing in something with no evidence whatsoever — not even any hint or suggestion of anything which gives any reason to imagine it might be true.

    What I mean is “collective consciousness of the universe”.

    What is your evidence for believing that the universe has a consciousness, collective or otherwise?

    My feeling is that just beyond our physical plane, there is an energy field.

    What, specifically, do you mean by “our physical plane”? What kind of energy field? A magnetic field? A gravitational field? A particular type of radiation? What are you talking about? Do you even know?

    And whatever it is, do you have any evidence that it exists, or is it just a “feeling”?

    When we die, we return to this energy field.

    Why do you believe that?

    I do not remember the exact specifics, but apparently, according to quantum physics, there is more energy in a cubic yard of “empty space” than in all the stars of the universe.

    What does this mean? What kind of energy? “More” by what standard of measurement? What on Earth does this have to do with quantum physics? If you could demonstrate that a cubic yard of empty space did indeed contain a huge amount of energy by some measurable and definable standard, how would this constitute proof that the universe was created and/or is dominated by an all-powerful, incomprehensible, self-aware entity?

    How is that for fucking evidence?

    Never having had sexual intercourse with evidence, I can’t comment.

  11. Alright smart guy. You have spent enough time knocking down my own personal beliefs. So tell me, what do you believe in? And further more, do you have any evidence that supports this belief?

  12. So tell me, what do you believe in? And further more, do you have any evidence that supports this belief?

    Do you expect me to advance some kind of metaphysical or spiritual belief system which you can then denounce? Sorry, but I don’t have one. I “believe in” the existence of verifiable physical reality, the power of human intelligence, and the conclusions about the universe which science has drawn from solid evidence. My degree of confidence about any of these things is directly proportional to the solidity of the evidence backing them up.

    It seems to me that you are trying to change the subject. You have made a great many dogmatic (if vague) assertions about the nature of the universe. I’ve challenged you to provide evidence that they are true. Do you have any?

  13. PS: Remember the concept of the burden of proof. You’re the one who has asserted the existence of a whole menagerie of invisible dinosaurs on the White House lawn — a deity so beyond our comprehension as to be beyond any normal standard of proof, an “energy field” beyond our “physical plane” (whatever the hell that means), an existence after death during which whatever we have done to other people happens to us in return, a “collective consciousness” of the universe. It’s not my job to prove that those invisible dinosaurs don’t exist. It’s your job to prove that they do.

  14. I agre with Linkage inone respect – being a Pagan I observe the seasons and days begin, end and be renewed – the phases of the moon, etc – everything returns to its own beginning. And it’s the same with physical matter. When an animal or human dies its body usually returns to the earth, being broken down by microbes and made into nutrients. And the person sort of lives again in the plants that feed on the nutrients of the body, and the animals that feed on the plants.
    Maybe our consciousness does the same thing, returning to the medium from which it was created, and being kind of reincarnated in a different form…

    However I realise this is a romantic notion and probably has no basis in reality, apart from the vague and romantic observances I have made. It’s far more likely that our brain cells die one by one when our body does, and we cease to exist.

    And I suspect most theists realise their faith is highly unlikely and are using “doublethink”. BEcause.. it’d be nice if there was someone looking out for us I guess. Creepy, but nice.

  15. For whatever it’s worth, I personally feel that it’s equally inaccurate to draw definite conclusions either way about something that can’t be observed or tested. That is, while I don’t believe that God exists because he’s never been demonstrated to me, I’m not going to say for certain that God doesn’t exist either.

    I can kind of see what Linkage is getting at, in a way. There’s more in existence than we’re currently capable of observing. For instance, atoms didn’t just not exist prior to our ability to observe and detect them. Same goes for genetics. Thus, one can somewhat justifiably infer that anything we haven’t yet detected is possible, since evidence to the contrary has yet to be gathered.

    However, there’s a difference between possible and probable. When you begin to trend toward the latter without any supporting evidence, that’s when you begin to detach yourself from reality, by which I mean you’re using the non-observable to measure and interpret and signify observable reality. Once this separation takes place, there’s little difference between one person’s speculation and another.

    Honestly, I think it’s fine for you to believe in some kind of all-knowing, passive energy force that recycles consciousness. Hell, we don’t have a firm grasp on what consciousness is or how it works, and it’s possible that it does somehow recur. Anyway, for me to tell you you can’t believe this is exertion of oppressive force on my part. (Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t mock people a little for believing in something incredibly silly. : P)

    The oppression of individual expression by groups is wrong whether it’s the religious or spiritual controlling and castigating the secular or vice versa. Where I feel we need to draw the line is oppressive propagation of religion, and religious influence in the activities of and restrictions on other individuals. No law or regulation should be based on “because this is what my God/faith/religion/minister/whatever says”. It should all have sound, firm basis in the observable world. Any departure from that, and we might as well be making laws based on dragons and goblins and invisible dinosaurs on the White House lawn.

  16. Er, an addendum to that: I think it’s fine to oppress in order to prevent oppression. For instance, I think it’s fine to oppress the Kurds to prevent honor killings and virgin suicides and all the other horrible things that are taking place in many Middle Eastern countries because of that culture or faith structure. I know it may make me seem like a bit of a culturally-insensitive monster, but I’m all in favor of oppression (but more importantly, hopefully, widespread education, even if it has to be forcefully administered) that will end that kind of shit.

    ————

    (P.S. – Can a few people e-mail me and let me know if the cookie that should keep the entry fields filled in on this page is working for them? I remember it working on some of my other machines, and I’m not sure if it’s just not doing it on this laptop for whatever reason, or if it somehow broke on the server side.)

  17. Way to bring back the social relevance, Jabberwock. Metaphysics is escapism, and ethics is based on observation, too.

    The more science learns about things we currently consider puzzling or unfilled (and I would love to get in on some of that Beginning of the Universe action, please, grad schools, please?) the more it has to discover. Ignorance (my version of the Energy Field beyond our Physical Plane *waves hands around and goes wooooo*) always prevails. There, theists, you win, are you happy? WELL ARE YOU

  18. P.P.S. – I, too, would like to know what the hell quantum physics has to do with anything. Based on what you said, I believe you’re thinking of Zero-Point Energy, but I have no idea what that really has to do with a conscious universe. It’s almost like saying “just look at the Casimir Effect – isn’t that proof of God?”

    Nobody’s calling you a moron. As far as I can tell, nobody has. Please don’t take snark personally, ’cause there’s a lot of it nowadays, especially on the internet.

    But Infidel753 is right, and without any evidence to support your beliefs, you can’t necessarily expect other people to take them seriously.

  19. First off, I would like to apologize for my poor attempt at humor earlier. I guess I was just frustrated that my arguments were instantly bounced off the “Where is the evidence?” wall. The ideas that I am trying to convey have very little to do with evidence, at least not directly. What I am talking about is abstract thought.
    Everything we know about our universe is based off of observation. However, there are things within the universe that we cannot directly observe. For instance, we base our existence on our consciousness. “I think therefore I am.” The problem is that we are unable to define what a consciousness is. Some would take that to mean that there is no such thing, but our very act of thinking seems to put that theory in doubt. For these objects that we have no way of observing, we must turn to abstract thought.
    Unfortunately, to perform abstract thinking we must leave behind our notions of evidence for awhile. Do not worry; we will return to that later. Now, the first thing we must do is allow ourselves to be open to all possibilities. In truth, it is possible for there to be an invisible dinosaur on the White House lawn. Allow your imagination to explore different possibilities of what the universe is.
    While the first part uses your imagination, the next part uses your rationality. This is where you come up with your beliefs. You look at the scenarios you have come up with and examine the probabilities that these could be true. You can find the probabilities based on what you know, not just evidence but facts, laws, and theorums.
    Aristotle thought that heavier objects would fall faster than lighter objects, but that was because he did not know two things: gravity is a force, and heavier objects require more force to move at the same rate as lighter objects. With these two facts, one could rationalize gravity without having to drop two stones from the leaning tower of Piza.
    It was with this method of abstract thinking that I came up with my own ideas about life after death (unproven, but still rationalized). I am aware that peoples rationalities differ, so what makes sense to me might not make sense to you, and that is perfectly fine. The idea that we cease to exist after death does not make sense to me (and you have no actual evidence to support that idea either). We just need to understand that people are going to have beliefs that cannot be supported by what we can observe, and there is no harm in these beliefs as long as they do not try to use them to influence or harm others.

  20. The argument that God and his motives are incomprehensible seems tenable, but I think it’s irrelevant. Even if we can’t understand why something is done, we can make value judgements about it, even if the entity doing the action may not agree with that judgement.

    I find it hard to perceive a benevolent figure controlling the universe in light of the current state of the earth. Sure, maybe he’s not malicious in human terms, maybe that doesn’t even have meaning for a God, but I don’t see how it doesn’t to all intents and purposes come to the same thing.

  21. Infidel753: what exactly does the word “belief” mean to you, and how do you figure evidence into that equation? Because the last time I checked, belief is something that necessarily is without proof. If it had proof or evidence, it would be a theory, if not fact, and the word belief would never legitimately come into the conversation.

    Are Linkage’s statements about the consciousness of the universe and the afterlife verifiable? No. Is anyone else taking issue with him for stating beliefs that are unverifiable? No. Nobody’s expecting you to agree with him, either. So you don’t have to pull out all this “evidence” stuff and try to shoot the guy down, because it’s irrelevent; and particularly so as I haven’t seen anyone put forth evidence which works AGAINST Linkage’s beliefs, unlike what we all enjoy Jabberwock does to Jack Chick, for example of beliefs shot down by evidence.

    And to put my own stake in the matter, I’m even gonna say that I think what Linkage says about a consciousness of the universe is likely. Should there be a creator of EVERYTHING, it would appear tautological that we would not be able to understand its thought process or motives, should it even have any. Do not presume it shares anything in common with humans, or any single thing at all in common with what is depicted in the Holy Bible of the Christians. We have no reason to, and very fair reason to not do so.

    The preceding paragraph represents my theory on the matter. It is not my belief, it is something I entertain and consider likely and think is quite worthy of discussion. If anyone should have substantial reasoning or evidence which works against it I would regard it highly.

    The afterlife bit? I really wouldn’t say. I have my own internal debate about it, and I can’t really decide. It seems to me that it would end up depending on whether or not there is some yet-undetected substance to human beings (popularly called a soul), which has relevence to our essential natures – perhaps memories – and continues in some way after the observed organism ceases life functions. I haven’t decided, but I’m certainly hoping there is something, because I really can’t deal with the concept of nonexistance!

  22. what exactly does the word “belief” mean to you, and how do you figure evidence into that equation? Because the last time I checked, belief is something that necessarily is without proof. If it had proof or evidence, it would be a theory, if not fact, and the word belief would never legitimately come into the conversation.

    No, “belief” means pretty much anything that a person accepts as being true, whether on the grounds of evidence or not. Both the dictionary and common usage agree on that. If you want a word which applies only to beliefs which are unsupported by evidence, that word is “faith”.

    Everything else you address to me is pretty well covered by what I’ve already said here.

  23. great thread — really enjoy it.

    I believe in God and don’t really give a damn if anyone thinks I’m nucking futs or not.

    I also lean heavily libertarian. This means I have a lot of friends that are atheists. The ones that are also libertarian (in action and not just in name) enjoy debating with me and are perfectly fine that I have my belief.

    On occasion we debate religion. Most of the time we don’t. Instead, we debate the application of religion to liberty. So long as the religious and the non-religious are equally free from coercion (negative liberty) and are free to practice their beliefs without coercing others (positive liberty) — it’s all good.

  24. Libertarianism presents an interesting parallel. It begins with a tenet which either you agree with or you don’t: “Liberty should be maximised” in the Libertarians’ case. In many Christians’ case, it is “the Bible is the word of God delivered through humans.” Either is, IMHO, a respectable and valid basic tenet on which to construct a faith.

    The difficulty comes in expecting others to accept your fundamental tenet. You have decided a thing is self-evident, but without evidence you cannot make others accept it. I see no _evidence_ that liberty should be maximised, and do not personally believe it. But neither have I seen it proven that it is not the case that liberty should be maximised, hence I must accept that others are not wrong to take it on. A mistake made by many Christians is to think that because they have told someone what tenet they hold, the other person will automatically agree with their tenet and begin believing it themselves. The same goes for a number of Libertarians I have met!

    I think in the case of a made-up Flying Spaghetti Monster god, Schrodinger’s cat may be permitted to escape the box. The Bible documents a number of genuine people’s perceived spiritual experiences, and is studied and believed in by intelligent people. Libertarianism likewise is a long-established system of thought. The Spaghetti Monster hypothesis must surely be acknowledged as much less likely to be true than either of these others?

    Yes, the Bible has inconsistencies, especially in the way it is presented by evangelicals. I think the problem is more in evangelicals’ interpretation of the Bible than in its actual content: it was written into an ancient society whose thinking was very different to ours, unchallenged as it was by Greek/Enlightenment philosophy. It is no wonder that modern people have difficulty in deciding what it would have meant to those ancient people. Consider the different interpretation your grandparents might have put on a newspaper article you have recently read, and multiply that by a thousand or so.

  25. Libertarianism presents an interesting parallel. It begins with a tenet which either you agree with or you don’t: “Liberty should be maximised” in the Libertarians’ case. In many Christians’ case, it is “the Bible is the word of God delivered through humans.” Either is, IMHO, a respectable and valid basic tenet on which to construct a faith.

    Well, of course, “faith” means a belief unsupported by evidence, so strictly speaking, either of these two postulates — or absolutely any other imaginable postulate whatsoever — would indeed be an equally “valid tenet on which to construct a faith”. “Human slavery should be maximized”, “The works of HP Lovecraft are literally true”, “All left-handed people are possessed by demons” — all equally valid and respectable from that standpoint.

    Nevertheless, I think there are important differences between the two examples you’ve given. The statement “Liberty should be maximized” is, like all statements of the form “X is better than Y” a value judgment rather than a claim about objective reality. It’s analogous to the statement “apples taste better than bananas”, for which it is possible for another person to take the contrary position “bananas taste better than apples”, without it being logically necessary that either of them is objectively wrong — it’s a matter of personal preference. In the same way, an adherent of a non-libertarian ideology could oppose the libertarian creed with, for example, “Human equality should be maximized”, and neither of them is wrong in the sense of having made a statement which inaccurately describes objective reality; they are just asserting different moral values.

    All such statements are really statements about the speaker rather than claims about external reality: “I hold human liberty to be more important than other values”, “I like apples better than bananas”.

    The statement “the Bible is the word of God delivered through humans” is a claim about objective reality, analogous to “Yes, the Holocaust really happened” or “The Earth was created 6,000 years ago”. As such, it is either true or false; if the Bible really is the word of God, then people who assert that it is not are wrong, not just expressing a contrary values preference. And like other claims about objective reality, it is in principle possible for humans to discover whether it is true or false — or at least very likely or very unlikely — by examining evidence. The fact that the Bible contains a great many factual statements which conflict with each other, and that much of it does not make sense when analyzed logically or compared with what we know about the physical world, puts it firmly in the “very unlikely” category. Some of this evidence is what Jabberwock was talking about in the original posting above.

    The Bible documents a number of genuine people’s perceived spiritual experiences

    Every religion on Earth can point to adherents who had subjective experiences they interpreted as supernatural. Flying saucer enthusiasts can point to experiences of alien abduction. Many people have seen ghosts. This doesn’t prove anything.

    By the argument that a long-established system of thought with a larger number of adherents is more likely to be true, a second-century Roman could have argued that belief in the Roman pantheon is more likely to be true than Christianity. For most of the time Christianity has existed, there were far more Muslims and Buddhists on Earth than Christians. Look at the numbers of people who believe in astrology and how long that’s been around. The evidence shows that this is not a good method for assessing the truth or falsity of a belief system.

    Yes, the Bible has inconsistencies, especially in the way it is presented by evangelicals. I think the problem is more in evangelicals’ interpretation of the Bible than in its actual content

    The Bible is full of statements which are simply factually incorrect, and which clearly contradict each other. Unless one embraces “interpretations” which completely scrap the plain meaning of the actual words and substitute meanings which don’t come from the text at all, there’s no way around this.

    Finally, the more rational libertarians would say that the creed “Human liberty should be maximized” is not a mere axiom or assertion but does have concrete justifications — for example, all other things being equal, humans are generally happier when they are free than when they are not free, and the free-market economy is more effective at generating wealth than the alternatives are. These justifications still rest on value judgments — that happiness is better than unhappiness, and that wealth is better than poverty — but these are, at least, value judgments which are almost universally shared and probably hard-wired into human nature.

  26. very good observation. Propenents of liberty make no claim regarding “truth.” Rather, everyone should be free to determine it for themselves.

    On my website, I link to infidel753 and slaying-dragons.blogspot.com. They vehemently disagree on theology, but would be great neighbors because both agree in a free society that allows for each other’s point of view.

  27. Crowley, you have to help me here. I’m having a really hard time not making a crack about how libertarianism fits perfectly into a discussion of religion.

    Oh, well. Guess I just did.

    For what it’s worth, my quoted argument is not an argument against the existence of a god. I am a weak atheist, in that I am aware of no evidence for any entity popularly identified as a god. Nor do I believe there is any evidence for the existence of demons, leprechauns, the cycle of reincarnation, purple unicorns, etc. However, I would stop short of saying that any of these positively do not exist.

    However, I am absolutely sure that there exists no being resembling the God of the liberal Christians. The evidence supports nothing better than an amoral, inhuman monster. There is somewhat more evidence for the jealous, malicious dictator-God of the fundamentalists, but such a being deserves not worship nor belief but resistance.

    And, of course, it is impossible to say anything either way about Spinoza’s or Einstein’s god. I see no real reason to profess belief in such an impotent cipher other than a misguided romanticism or deeply sublimated fear of hellfire.

    Also, quantum mechanics!!!! That’s like science for MAGIC!!! Woo woo woo woo quantum woo woo woo Deepak Chopra woo. Woo woo woo consciousness woo woo what the bleep do we woo.

  28. Djur, you’ve seen What The Bleep, right? Isn’t it a godawful piece of pseudo-scientific self-congratulatory DURR? Subjectivity for morons to make them feel smart! You’re out of harmony with the universe because your brain chemicals are doing the polka!

    I apolologize. I’ll go back to not organizing my thoughts and making snarky asides, now. Libertarianism is faith-based, and like Christianity it isn’t so much the faith that’s the problem as the greed and the denial of compassion.

  29. My atheist friends — I beg for your indulgence here for a moment.

    Janet. I profess a profound faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is not in conflict with my libertarianism. In fact, I tell people I am a libertarian precisely BECAUSE I am Christian.

    Jesus was the biggest individualist of all. One must personally accept his grace in order to be saved. When the Christian Right uses government to coerce people into “moral” acts, they have done nothing to save that soul. Just because someone has been prohibited from committing sin by law odes not mean he/she has accepted Christ. Sin just goes deeper underground. Morality by coercion doesn’t work and is lazy evangelism.

    See my post here for further explanation of your delusion regarding libertarianism.

    http://www.purplethink.com/epinion/Faith.asp

  30. Janet: Yes, What The Bleep is a deeply and profoundly retarded movie made by and propagandizing for a deeply and profoundly retarded cult based around some housewife who realized if she speaks in a lame accent, people will believe she’s being possessed by an Atlantean warrior-spirit.

    It’s utterly ludicrous bullshit.

    Also, bloogedy woo woo I’m a libertarian and I’m saved in Christ woo woo woo.

  31. Apologies for the conversation hop, it was a good read but I’d like to address Jabberwock’s original entry.

    There are several approaches an intelligent philosopher might take to deal with the problem of eternal damnation. I am simply listing these possibilities and not necessarily endorsing them. Unless otherwise noted, I’m assuming free will.

    1. Damnation is self-selecting. Instead of a judgemental God who afflicts the unfaithful with fire and brimstone, we are presented with a deity who leaves the gates of heaven unlocked and wide open. Depending entirely on the individuals own qualities or lack thereof, people sort themselves. Those, irregardless of religion, who follow the example of (important, highly respected religious figures or concepts) will be attuned to God’s will and enter happily. Those who are not attuned can not bear or stand the presence of God, and punish themselves.

    This obviously takes a few pages from the “All truth is God’s truth” line of thinking. While Christ might be my example, others might substitute Buddha or another religious figure or concept which is often considered far better than any of the people who choose to follow it.

    A particularly neat concept, although it may be spurrious, that can be thrown in with this is the non-existance of Hell. There is only heaven, and emptiness outside of heaven. Satan resides in heaven, and only schemes to keep humanity out. This synergizes well with the Revelation account of his rage at being cast from heaven.

    2. Separation from God is a justification for eternal damnation. In order for this to work, Adam and Eve (and various other Old Testament stories) must be viewed as Myth (if instructional).

    If we assume that God does pass judgement on the dead and throw them into eternal torture, in order to maintain the sanity of God we must conclude that separation from God is a justifiably dire sin.

    A helpful thought process is our own value system concerning lies or deception. The less important a person is (or is to you) the less “sinful” the act of a lie. Lying the President would be “worse” then lying to one’s equal.

    As a reiteration, lying to your beloved is worse than lying to your hated enemy.

    Given that God is boundless, a nexus of infinities, he is technically the ultimate authority and should be our ultimate beloved. Given that those aspects of him shuold expand into infinity, a lie (or other sin) against him carries infinite weight. As the result of the sin has no finite measurement (any sin, no matter how small, given a finite value multiplied by infinity is infinity), we can reason that any one sin is justification enough for eternal punishment.

    This synergizes with the Biblical principle that any sin is enough to separate one from God.

    3. Damnation is Earth. It’s rather lacking in Christian foundation, but it is a potential concept to answer the question. If we assume that Hell is Earth, possibly the biggest assumption made herein, then God’s judgement returns us from wence we came to try again until we finally understand. In this way, “eternal” damnation is what is best for us as it will eventually lead us into the fold.

    Obviously, none of these have any verifiable means of scientific study. Neither would any of them work in fundamentalist Christianity or literal interpretations of the Bible. Whether believable or not, they were at least enjoyable thought exercises.

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