Have you ever noticed how many militant unbelievers are emotional hemophiliacs?
Every time you bruise the frail constitution of their atheism, they begin to bleed emotionalism out of all their pores.
You’d think I’d taken out a full-page ad in the NYT leveling a personal attack on Anonymous or George.
I did a post on Sam Harris. Suddenly this eruption of personal pique.
All I can say is that if your atheism is so delicate that you hemorrhage hysteria every time you get a bump or scratch from a Christian blogger, even when someone else was in the cross-hairs, then it’s best to avoid contact sports for your own protection.
Please refrain from reading Triablogue if a rhetorical nick from my keyboard would prove fatal to your seculatory system.
“Nice straw man dude. Violence is not a "biological imperative". If you don't see a difference between the limited mental capabilities of a lion and the advanced reasoning skills of human beings then you are a bigger dumbass than I give you credit for. I guess you have never heard of the benefits of altruism and cooperation in the evolutionary process? Why the [expletive deleted] do you think human beings live in societies instead of hermits in caves?”
1.This is another funny thing about so many militant unbelievers. Not only are they ignorant of our side of the argument. They are often just as ignorant of their own side of the argument.
As I pointed out in my previous reply to George, there are secular scientists who by no means regard my claim as a “straw man” argument:
A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (MIT 2000)
by Randy Thornhill, Craig T. Palmer, Margo I. Wilson
Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (Mariner Books 1997) by Dale Peterson, Richard Wrangham
I realize, of course, that we must make allowance for the fact that MIT Press is a hotbed of Bible-thumpers while the Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham is probably a closet Fundy too.
2.Anonymous appeals to the benefits of altruism and cooperation. But he overlooks so many obvious counterexamples. One of the many problems with secular ethics is the frequent a conflict between altruism and self-interest.
It may be in everyone's general self-interest to be altruistic, but that also means that I may have to sacrifice my personal gratification for the common good. And why, if I'm an atheist, would I want to do that?
It's easy to be altruistic when it doesn't cost us anything, when everyone is the beneficiary.
But, to take the textbook example, the benefits of altruism will quickly break down on a lifeboat.
Altruism only works when there's enough to go around for everyone, and everyone benefits from a spirit of sharing and cooperation.
But what about a competitive environment with limited resources?
This question comes up all the time in bioethics, with the rationing of medical services.
A consistent atheist knows that he has only one life to live, and the only future he has a personal investment in is his own short-term future, because he won't be around a 100 years from now.
Moreover, we quickly pass our physical prime, so the clock is ticking. I may live to be 90, but I can't do at 90 what I could do at 30.
From a secular standpoint, hedonism is far more logical than altruism.
“I know, I know, it is impossible for you to believe that someone who doesn't believe in your god can still have morals. If you absolutely require a god to keep you from killing, then please, I beg you, keep believing.”
The question is not whether an atheist can still have morals, but why an atheist should still have morals.
And it isn’t just the Christian who raises this question. As I documented in my previous reply to George, this is a question which divides the secular community, with many unbelievers adopting some form of moral relativism.
Once again, Anonymous is clueless about his own side of the argument.
This is because atheism is ultimately antisocial.
For the record, here are some of the challenges confronting the atheologian as he deploys the problem of evil:
Firstly, one who accepts either a divine command theory of ethics or non-realism in ethics is in no position to raise the problem of evil, that is, to offer the existence of evil as at least a prima facie good reason for rejecting theism. This is because a divine command theory, in taking morality to be dependent upon the will of God, already assumes the truth of that which is in dispute, viz. the existence of God (see Brown 1967). On the other hand, non-realist ethical theories, such as moral subjectivism and error-theories of ethics, hold that there are no objectively true moral judgments. But then a non-theist who also happens to be a non-realist in ethics cannot help herself to some of the central premises found in evidential arguments from evil (such as ‘If there were a perfectly good God, he would want a world with no horrific evil in it’), as these purport to be objectively true moral judgments (see Nelson 1991). This is not to say, however, that atheologians such as David Hume, Bertrand Russell and J.L. Mackie, each of whom supported non-realism in ethics, were contradicting their own meta-ethics when raising arguments from evil – at least if their aim was only to show up a contradiction in the theist’s set of beliefs.
Moving on the George:
LOL…I’m not really interested in playing your games of semantic hair splitting Steve. I must have missed the big list of “gratuitous” versus “garden variety” evil in my copy of the bible.
You’re dodge is noted for the record.
I'm sure it will be a trend.
Just like Anonymous, George doesn’t know his own side of the argument. So I beg the indulgence of my readers while I give him a remedial course in Atheism 101.
“Gratuitous” evil is a necessary ingredient in the existential problem of evil as formulated by atheologians:
William Rowe’s version is often regarded as the classic formulation:
The second premise is sometimes called ‘the theological premise’ as it expresses a belief about what God as a perfectly good being would do under certain circumstances. In particular, this premise states that if such a being knew of some intense suffering that was about to take place and was in a position to prevent its occurrence, then it would prevent it unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse. Put otherwise, an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good God would not permit any gratuitous evil, evil that is (roughly speaking) avoidable, pointless, or unnecessary with respect to the fulfillment of God’s purposes.
Here’s another illustration:
There are a number of evidential arguments from evil. The most common of these simply reformulates the logical argument into a probabilistic argument:
(1) Gratuitous evils probably exist
(2) Gratuitous evils are incompatible with the God of theism (omnipotent, omniscient, all-good)
(3) Therefore, the God of theism probably does not exist
Clearly, many evils can clearly lead to greater goods, for example suffering the slight pain of an injection in order to receive a life-saving drug. Advocates of AE do not generally have this kind of thing in mind when they refer to suffering or evil. What is meant by ‘evil’ is gratuitous or pointless evil.
Notice that I’ve taken my “semantic hairsplitting”, not from my own side, but from George’s side—unless, that is, he suspects that The Secular Web is really a front organization for witch-burning theocrats.
Perhaps Richard Carrier and I are in cahoots. Ya never know!
Now, from a Reformed standpoint, the doctrine of predestination rules out the possibility of gratuitous evil.
So it’s hard to see how the problem of evil can be deployed as an internal critique of Calvinism.
However, other traditions may be more vulnerable on this score.
I’m not sure if a backache makes the list of gratuitous evil. And not being superstitious and credulous, I am also not convinced that every piece of good fortune a Christian prays for, and comes true, is the result of your personal, invisible gods’ intervention.
That’s called the Fallacy of Coincidence. It’s the fuel that keeps the engine of your Christian superstition burning.
The fallacy of coincidence may explain cases attributable to coincidence. But some cases resist such a facile interpretation.
Again, feel free to provide me the list, and the evidences, of all the "evils" your personal Christian god has prevented using this nebulous process you call “common grace”. I assume this is your fancy term for “my god’s magic powers”.
One widespread example is the psychological oddity of the unbeliever who continues to believe in altruism even though that’s inconsistent with his secular worldview.
Will there be a day of reckoning for your god, and all the evil he caused, and all the evil he allowed to transpire, that he could have allegedly stopped, and all the evil that his followers did to others who wouldn't believe like they required?
I'm looking forward to it...let me know when it is, so I can put it on my calendar.
You’re one of many unbelievers who raise theodicean objections without ever bothering to consult the answers.
Sure it does. I’m surprised you’re not familiar with your own mythology. Your mythology claims your god created the first man and woman in an idyllic garden where there was no death and disease.
This is, of course, unresponsive to what I originally said. What I said was: “Christian theology doesn’t deny the existence of death and disease.”
Your reply is a labored equivocation. Since you’d only resort to equivocation because you can’t offer a respectable argument, I accept your admission of defeat.
“Again, I’m kind of surprised you are not familiar with the words or your Lord and Savior.”
One of the things I’m familiar with debaters who resort to sophistical tricks like acontextual prooftexting when their back is to the wall.
“1. Christians don’t like to die premature, painful deaths from disease. They think that this is a ‘bad’ thing. Some may even call it ‘evil.”
Christians are not the source or standard of Christian theology. The Bible is. You are attempting to shift ground from an internal critique of Christian theology to anecdotal decoys.
“2. Christian theology states that their god loves them and cares about their well being, and also the well being of sparrows.”
The Bible does not promise that Christians will be exempt from suffering in this life. Quite the contrary.
“3. Christian theology states that ‘things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive’."
If you’re a five-year old in Sunday school. But for the Christian theology of prayer, try:
D. A. Carson, ed. Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible & the World (Baker 1994).
R. Longenecker, ed. Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament (Eerdmans 2001).
“4. Christian children get sick with diseases, and they, and their believing parents, friends and entire church congregations, pray for their recovery.”
“5. Yet the children still die.”
“6. Thus, Christians like you, have to rationalize why your god doesn’t care, or only cares ‘sometimes’.”
No, the problem is with people like you who begin and end with a Reader’s Digest version of Christian theology’
“7. That's your problem in a nutshell.”
No, that’s only a problem for people like you who try to shrink Christian theology down to the size of a nutshell.
“I must have missed the part where the Christian god appointed you the Bishop of ‘right expectations and true beliefs’. I think perhaps your little blog site has gone to your head. “
And I must have missed the part where the natural selection appointed you the Bishop of “right expectations and true beliefs”. I think perhaps my little combox has gone to your head.
“You're just one of countless internet apologist wannabes, who calls himself a 'Christian' and who is trying to convince me that he speaks for the one true god. So far I’m not impressed with your intellect or your authority to speak for yourself, much less a god.”
You're just one of countless nullifidian trolls, who calls himself a 'secularist' and who is trying to convince me that he speaks for the one true infidelity. So far I’m not impressed with your intellect or your authority to speak for yourself, much less humanism.
“Well then I would hope you have evidence to support that claim, you being so ‘logical and unemotional’ in your presentation of your arguments. Do you?”
And what would you count as evidence?
“I’m not really interested in what Paul Helm or Bertrand Russell or any other atheist philosopher has to say right this moment. They are not here to debate me. And you are wrong to assume they have some magical authority over my position, like Saul of Tarsus does for yours.”
1.Paul Helm is a Christian philosopher, not a secular philosopher.
2.This has nothing to do with an argument from authority. Rather, Russell, Helm, and the others I’ve cited are giving reasons for their respective positions.
Your unwillingness to interact with their arguments bespeaks your inability to interact with their arguments.
3.You accuse me of misrepresenting secular humanism, so I quote representatives of secular humanism. I'm answering you on your own ground—or should I say?—quicksand?
“And you’ve yet to convince me with any evidence that your personal Christian god has ever ‘intervened’ at anytime to stop any gratuitous evil. But I’m sure if I wait long enough, you’ll get around to that.”
What do you count as evidence?
It seems your position is:
I know my personal god isn’t intervening much, but I think he might be intervening some, I just can't offer any conclusive evidence that he is, or why he is only doing it for certain situations.
Sounds like a perfect rationalization of projecting your invisible god onto the probablistic events of a natural world where no gods are ever intervening.
Actually, you’re confusing my position with yours. You’re acting as though the only evidence for divine intervention would be the uniformity of divine intervention, as if divine intervention should operate with the law-like regularity of a natural force.
Of course, divine intervention is personal and discretionary, not mechanical and invariable.
And if divine intervention were universal, you’d immediately discount it as indistinguishable from the laws and forces of nature.
“The fact that you’re a smug, pusedo-intellectual Christian, who's read a few books on logic and philosophy, and who looks down his nose at other. lesser educated Christians…
I see. And you look up to lesser educated Christians, is that it?”
Actually, I hold all Christians to the same standard (myself included), which is the authority of Scripture.
“I am getting them from the natural world. You and I are part of the natural world…Because I have the capacity to make value judgments and disapprove of things I don’t like. Is this hard for you to grasp?”
You say that you’re getting your value judgments from the natural world at the very same time you’re rendering value judgments about the natural world of which you’re a part. You stand in judgment over the very source of your standard.
To use the standard to judge the standard is viciously circular. Is this hard for you to grasp?