Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The God Wouldn't Do X Fallacy

In recent comments, John Loftus has assured us that unlike his bird-man argument, he is indeed serious about his dog argument. Loftus's dog argument is simple: Loftus really loves his dog and wouldn't treat a dog the way that God treats man.

Naturally, there are several problems with Loftus's argument. Firstly, men are not dogs (even including atheists in the mix). The intellectual capacity of a man is vastly different from the intellectual capacity of a dog. Dogs are not human, no matter how much Loftus would anthropomorphize.

Secondly, Loftus's treatment of dogs can be summarized here:

We didn't hit him, spank him, or pluck out his eyes. We didn't burn him, bust his jaw, or break his leg. We taught him gently (for the most part), and we punished him within reason just to let him know we were not pleased. That was enough.

There is a child rearing method known as Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) that has been around for a few decades. Children are not to be spanked, but loved. Discipline is done by taking away priviledges alone. Again, no spanking (which stands in stark contrast to the Biblical injunction "spare the rod, spoil the child")! If this method is done consistently and in love these children are well adjusted youths and adults. [Just read the reviews of the revised editon of this book if you don't believe me].
Now apparently, Loftus is claiming that God hits, spanks, plucks out eyes, burns, breaks jaws, breaks legs, and otherwise behaves "brutally" toward people. I would imagine he thinks of these things in the context of hell--but hell is not something that occurs on Earth. It's not like God is behaving that way toward anyone in this moment; in point of fact, Christians would argue God's behaving quite mercifully to everyone.

Ironically, Loftus writes this about God:

While I reject the Garden of Eden story as myth, even if it happened, just compare how God teaches humans and compare that to how my wife taught Franky, or how parents could raise heathy children. The punishments do not have to be so draconian in scope, especially if the goal is to teach us to do better. Just God's displeasure alone could be enough. Just taking away priviledges could be enough.
But what was God's punishment of Adam and Eve if not "taking away priviledges"? Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden. They were removed from the presence of God. Indeed, God apparently did exactly what Loftus demanded God do. In short, God's temporal punishments for disobedience seem to be exactly what Loftus would demand of God. It is only God's threat of hell that gets Loftus's ire here.

Let us, for the sake of argument, pretend that Loftus's concept of hell is Biblical. (John, note I said "for the sake of argument"; I did not say you were right.)

This brings me to the third point. Loftus engages in what I call The God Wouldn't Do X Fallacy. Here's how that fallacy works.

Loftus said:

I cannot fathom having to send my kids to hell for anything, and I cannot fathom having to pluck out Franky's eyes for anything he would do wrong to teach him to obey. But that's what we see in the Bible. So the Bible provides me a reason to reject it along with the God described in its pages.
Thus, we see Loftus arguing:

GIVEN: X is "people get sent to hell."

(1) God does X.

(2) John Loftus cannot fathom doing X.

(3) Therefore, God does not exist.

But (3) is an obvious non sequitur. In reality, all this proves is that God doesn't do what Loftus would do (or more specifically, God does what Loftus would not do). It says nothing as to the existence of God.

This is, in reality, nothing more than what Paul pointed out in the blog post Loftus admitted to not reading: "At any rate, I don't know why a *subjective* reason would allow for the atheist not to bother with the *objective* existence of something. My son doesn't like vegetables, but I don't think that should be 'another reason not to bother with belief in [vegetables] at all.'"

Loftus's dog argument is nothing more than the same God Doesn't Do X Fallacy. God doesn't do what Loftus wants God to do, therefore God doesn't exist. Loftus doesn't like God, therefore Loftus will decide not to believe in God.

This is not an intellectual argument; this is a post facto rationalization.

56 comments:

  1. But what was God's punishment of Adam and Eve if not "taking away priviledges"?

    The priviledges you refer to have brought disasterous consequences upn mankind. While you are sure to disagree with me, the equivalent scenerio with regard to my dog or to children in general, would be for me to leave Franky to fend for himself, or to abandon my children, especially if there was no one else who would take them in. They could not go it alone, and that is what you believe a good God did.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Loftus's dog argument is nothing more than the same God Doesn't Do X Fallacy. God doesn't do what Loftus wants God to do, therefore God doesn't exist. Loftus doesn't like God, therefore Loftus will decide not to believe in God.

    Not at all. In the absence of the possibility that you will admit of an internal critique to your beliefs, which you admitted isn't possible, what I'm pointing out is the obvious.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Loftus said:
    ---
    The priviledges you refer to have brought disasterous consequences upn mankind.
    ---

    Says who?

    Loftus said:
    ---
    While you are sure to disagree with me, the equivalent scenerio with regard to my dog or to children in general, would be for me to leave Franky to fend for himself, or to abandon my children, especially if there was no one else who would take them in. They could not go it alone, and that is what you believe a good God did.
    ---

    So basically you're arguing that God should not have given people what they wanted?

    Loftus said:
    ---
    In the absence of the possibility that you will admit of an internal critique to your beliefs, which you admitted isn't possible, what I'm pointing out is the obvious.
    ---

    Except you are engaged in the God Doesn't Do X Fallacy. You can pretend it's "obvious", but what is obvious is that you are not avoiding the fallacy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Peter, I want to thank you for engaging me with a respectful tone. I hope that can continue.

    1) God does X.

    (2) John Loftus cannot fathom doing X.

    (3) Therefore, God does not exist.


    This is correct. Is it a fallacy? I don't see how it is. After all, all I have to go on when considering if such an Omni-God exists, is what I can reasonable fathom. What else is there to go on?

    To say I should believe in something that I cannot fathom is like asking me to believe regardless of what seems obvious to me.

    It's just obvious that a perfectly good being who has more knowledge than I, would love children better than I, and would know what they can do or not do. So when I don't see this in the beliefs you hold to, I must question the existence of such a being. I cannot reasonably do otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Loftus said:

    "This is correct. Is it a fallacy?"

    Yes, John. It is a fallacy, since the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises. However, the argument can be restated in a nonfalacious manner:

    (1) If God exists, he would act exactly as John Loftus expects him to act.
    (2) God does not act exactly as John Loftus expects him to act.
    (3) Therefore, God does not exist.

    Here there is no fallacy, and everyone would grant that premise (2) is true. However, no one in the universe who isn't an ardent Loftus fan would grant premise (1).

    But I'm glad you admitted that this is your real argument. Notice that it certainly isn't an internal critique. Christians do not believe that God will always act as you say he should act.

    I respect your honesty however. I once pointed out that this "If God exists he would be more like me" mentality is behind Carrier's case against God. He denied it, but you admitted it. This gets you some cool points, John.

    Here's my critique of Carrier on this issue:

    If Richard Were God

    ReplyDelete
  6. I said:
    ---
    1) God does X.

    (2) John Loftus cannot fathom doing X.

    (3) Therefore, God does not exist.
    ---

    Loftus replies:
    ---
    This is correct. Is it a fallacy? I don't see how it is.
    ---

    It's non sequitur. It does not follow that because you cannot fathom an aspect of some thing, that thing does not exist. It would be akin to me saying, "I cannot fathom Chinese, therefore the Chinese language does not exist."

    You are in essence saying, "Unless I can fathom God, He cannot exist."

    But clearly, your subjective understanding and comprehension does not determine objective reality.

    Loftus said:
    ---
    To say I should believe in something that I cannot fathom is like asking me to believe regardless of what seems obvious to me.
    ---

    But I am not asking you to "believe in something that [you] cannot fathom." I am pointing out to you that your inability to fathom something is no argument that that thing does not exist. Remember, your inability to fathom God caused you to conclude: "So the Bible provides me a reason to reject it along with the God described in its pages." But this is not providing a reason against the Bible, all it does is demonstrate it is incomprehensible to you. This is not the same thing.

    Besides which, implicit in that is the concept that your understanding is the arbitur of what is real and what is not. You are saying nothing can be real unless you can fathom it; but you would not accept that regarding quantum physics, the IRS tax code, or the philosophy of relativism.

    Finally, the way that you cannot fathom this is not the same as the way one cannot fathom "2 + 2 = 5" for there is no logical contradiction in what you cannot fathom about Christianity. All you have is the argument that you would have done things differently. That does not prove a logical contradiction in the way God did things.

    Loftus said:
    ---
    It's just obvious that a perfectly good being who has more knowledge than I, would love children better than I, and would know what they can do or not do. So when I don't see this in the beliefs you hold to, I must question the existence of such a being.
    ---

    Of course there's another possibility. You don't see it in the beliefs I hold to...because I don't hold to the beliefs you think I hold to. There's a reason that all of us are constantly having to correct your misrepresentations about Christian beliefs....

    ReplyDelete
  7. (1) If God exists, he would act exactly as John Loftus expects him to act.
    (2) God does not act exactly as John Loftus expects him to act.
    (3) Therefore, God does not exist.


    Yes, David you are correct, I didn't look very closely at what Peter said, since I think I know what he meant.

    Except that instead of "John Loftus" I would insert any human being.

    You should know that Peter's discussion with me is based upon the fact that he claims there can be no "internal critique" of his beliefs, so I'm claiming he should consider the obvious, which I linked to earlier.

    But you have not claimed what he did. I still think I offer an internal critique of the Omni-God hypothesis. Here I'm moving into Peter's territory, that's all. Since he refuses to move into mine.

    ReplyDelete
  8. PP: You are in essence saying, "Unless I can fathom God, He cannot exist."

    But clearly, your subjective understanding and comprehension does not determine objective reality.


    I understand this, and I could be wrong, but I have good reasons for what I believe and that's all I can do.

    ReplyDelete
  9. David said: In other words, Richard’s underlying belief is: “If God exists, he should be just like me.” Since God isn’t just like Richard, God must not exist. No matter what God does, atheists are always free to complain.

    David, it is simply disengenuous to claim we want to complain and that we are looking for ways to reject God. When I was a Christian I deperately wanted to hold on to my faith, but it fell through my hands, and I felt alone like never before in this cold universe. It was mentally painful, as was the fact that I would have to leave the social relationships I had developed for 20 + years.

    Please, no more of this stuff, even if you continue to believe it. Hearing it is painful to me. I did not choose to become an unbeliever. That's where my mind led me. This best describes what was once me.

    When it comes to God and me, I have a right to expect that God follows the same ethical commands we find him revealing in the Bible, if he did. And I simply do not see any evidence he acts like we are supposed to act when we see a burning child, or a rape, or a con-artist who is trying to con someone out of her money. That's an internal problem.

    Furthermore, I think if God wants me to believe in him and he is unfathomable to me, then why should he expect I should believe in him? How can I expect someone to love me when I don't show that person I love her?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Loftus said:
    ---
    Here I'm moving into Peter's territory, that's all. Since he refuses to move into mine.
    ---

    Except you are not moving into my territory, since I can critique your beliefs internally.

    For instance, we've already demonstrated multiple times that your atheistic morality cannot be effective beyond you personally (you have no objective morality, and thus you cannot claim God is objectively evil), yet you continue to use morality as if it is objective. This means that you have to both believe morality is objective and that it is not objective at the same time and in the same relationship: a contradiction.

    Your beliefs fail the internal critique, so you are not on the same footing.

    Loftus said:
    ---
    I understand this, and I could be wrong, but I have good reasons for what I believe and that's all I can do.
    ---

    Provide your "good reasons" then. Thus far, the only reasoning we've examined from you is based on a non sequitur. Surely you aren't going to claim that is "good reason"! Or are you?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Loftus said:
    ---
    And I simply do not see any evidence he acts like we are supposed to act when we see a burning child, or a rape, or a con-artist who is trying to con someone out of her money.
    ---

    1) Did God burn a child, rape anyone, or con anyone out of anything...or did people do that?

    2) If God did so, then you'd have to be a theist or else you're denying what you saw.

    3) If God did not do so, then He has not done what He has commanded people not to do.

    Where is the problem?

    ReplyDelete
  12. One last post here, and then anyone can have the last word. We seem to repeat ourselves. That's when we've gone as far as we can go.

    1) Did God burn a child, rape anyone, or con anyone out of anything...or did people do that?

    2) If God did so, then you'd have to be a theist or else you're denying what you saw.

    3) If God did not do so, then He has not done what He has commanded people not to do.

    Where is the problem?.


    The problem is what God wants us to do when we know a con-artist is doing a number on someone. We have an obligation to intervene if we care. Why doesn't God?

    I also argue the the more power and strength a person has then the more of an ethical obligation he has to help, based upon Christian moral principles. If all it takes is a snap of the fingers for someone to save a woman from rape, then such a person has a greater moral obligation to help than someone who might die trying.

    ReplyDelete
  13. John Loftus said:

    "Except that instead of "John Loftus" I would insert any human being."

    So you're saying that God should do what "any human being" says he should do? This doesn't even make sense, because different people think God should do different things.

    But perhaps you know what people SHOULD say that God should do. But here we would only have:

    (1) If God exists, he should do exactly what John Loftus thinks all people should say that God should do.
    (2) God does not do exactly what John Loftus thinks all people should say that God should do.
    (3) Therefore, God does not exist.

    Premise (1) is no better than it was earlier. Again, no one who's not already a huge Loftus fan would accept it.

    Loftus said:

    "David, it is simply disengenuous to claim we want to complain and that we are looking for ways to reject God."

    But you are looking for JUSTIFICATIONS for unbelief, and I don't see how you could deny this. In fact, I would say that, for both you and Carrier, the impression theists get is something like this:

    RICHARD AND JOHN: "If God judges us, it won't be fair, because we have reasons X, Y, and Z for not believing. Hence, since God did not remove reasons X, Y, and Z, we are not to be blamed, and any God who would judge us for unbelief is mean and unfair."

    In other words, the point of your argument doesn't seem to be "God doesn't exist." Instead, your underlying claim seems to be "God isn't fair." And there's a world of difference here, my friend. The former is atheism. The latter is rebellion.

    ReplyDelete

  14. 1) God does X.

    (2) John Loftus cannot fathom doing X.

    (3) Therefore, God does not exist.


    When putting words into someones mouth I think it only polite to try to represent their position as accurate, fully and generously (in the sense of not stating the position in a way that makes it sound more unreasonable than it is) as possible.

    So lets try to rewrite this argument with that in mind:

    1. God does X

    2. God is defined as omnibenevolent (perfectly good).

    3. It seems infathomable to John Loftus that a being of even a marginally benevolent, much less perfectly benevolent, disposition would do X.

    4. Therefore John finds the claim that God exists implausible.

    ReplyDelete
  15. addendum to what I said above:

    5. therefore John invites anyone who believes God exists to convince him he is mistaken by giving a plausible reason to think X is not inconsistent with God's benevolence.

    6. upon hearing an proposed reasons (usually called theodicies) further analysis of said reasons will ensue.

    ReplyDelete
  16. David Ellis said:
    ---
    2. God is defined as omnibenevolent (perfectly good).
    ---

    Two problems. 1) omnibenevolent doesn't mean "perfectly good", it means "all good." 2) God isn't "omnibenevolent" if, by that, you mean He is equally benevolent to all without discrimination.

    Further problems arise. God's punishment of evil is a good thing, even if the one being punished doesn't like it. The one being punished might claim God is "being mean", but God's justice is still Good.

    God's mercy is likewise good. Thus, God can be perfectly good while treating people differently.

    So there is no tension here.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Loftus said:
    ---
    I also argue the the more power and strength a person has then the more of an ethical obligation he has to help, based upon Christian moral principles.
    ---

    Okay, name those Christian moral principles then. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  18. "When putting words into someones mouth I think it only polite to try to represent their position as accurate, fully and generously (in the sense of not stating the position in a way that makes it sound more unreasonable than it is) as possible."

    The problem with this statement is that Loftus affirmed the accuracy of Peter's syllogism. If Loftus himself says it is accurate then how are words being put into his mouth?

    ReplyDelete
  19. The point is, the way he stated the position seemed, to me at least, to have been specifically designed to make it sound unreasonable. Even when you disagree with someones position I think it best to stick to a principle of interpretative generosity.....that is, stating your opponents position in its strongest possible characterization. The same way you would if you were stating your own position.

    ReplyDelete
  20. To make my point observe David Wood's version of Loftus's position:



    (1) If God exists, he would act exactly as John Loftus expects him to act.
    (2) God does not act exactly as John Loftus expects him to act.
    (3) Therefore, God does not exist.




    Unfortunately, Wood is quite prone to this sort of characterization of the position of others.

    ReplyDelete

  21. Two problems. 1) omnibenevolent doesn't mean "perfectly good", it means "all good." 2) God isn't "omnibenevolent" if, by that, you mean He is equally benevolent to all without discrimination.


    By perfectly good and omnibenevolent I mean having a desire for the well-being of all living beings capable of suffering (which includes not wanting them to sin and, therefore, fall short of their potential as moral agents).....I do not mean by the term that he treats, or ought to treat, all people the same.


    God's punishment of evil is a good thing, even if the one being punished doesn't like it. The one being punished might claim God is "being mean", but God's justice is still Good.


    Perhaps, but this alone is insufficient to solve the problem. All too many infants have suffered horrible agonies from congenital defects which they cannot have earned as punishment since they are lack the capacity to make moral judgements.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "The point is, the way he stated the position seemed, to me at least, to have been specifically designed to make it sound unreasonable."

    But, again, if Loftus himself says the syllogism is accurate, then your impression was mistaken.

    "To make my point observe David Wood's version of Loftus's position:"

    But this doesn't establish your point either because Loftus also affirms the accuracy of Wood's syllogism. So, as before, how can Wood's syllogism be a mischaracterization of Loftus when Loftus affirms the syllogim's accuracy?

    ReplyDelete
  23. John Loftus, earlier, when you introduced your problem of evil argument, you quoted a Christian professor as saying "If you believe in God and the Argument from Evil doesn't keep you up at night, then you don't understand it."

    However, what you didn't tell us, and what is clear from the link you provided, is that this is a quote from James Sennett.

    James Sennett appears to be in the *atypical* position of going through a *major faith crisis*, even going as far as to write a book about it.

    Sennett has said in your comments: "Neither theism nor atheism can be honestly maintained without severe rational struggle"

    This is fanciful hubris. I haven't had a 'severe rational struggle', and I'm also not 'dishonest'. I'm sure the same can be said for the vast majority of theists.

    Why, John, did you feel the need to provide a quote from a 'Christian professor' without informing us about his faith struggles?

    Isn't this highly misleading? Isn't this a deliberate deception on your part?

    Answer me and don't lie.

    ReplyDelete
  24. David Ellis said:

    "Unfortunately, Wood is quite prone to this sort of characterization of the position of others."

    J. Matthew,

    I've told Ellis several times that he's too quick to accuse people of mischaracterization, and this is a perfect example. Triablogue posts a version of John's argument, and John agrees with the argument. I restate the argument to avoid the fallacy, and John agrees that this is indeed his argument. Then Ellis comes in and says I'm misrepresenting John's position.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ellis said,

    "Perhaps, but this alone is insufficient to solve the problem. All too many infants have suffered horrible agonies from congenital defects which they cannot have earned as punishment since they are lack the capacity to make moral judgements."

    Above he said,

    " Even when you disagree with someones position I think it best to stick to a principle of interpretative generosity.....that is, stating your opponents position in its strongest possible characterization."

    Perhaps Ellis will present the former quote in terms of the doctrine of Federal Headship.

    Anyway, either he doesn't heed his own advice, or he's unfamiliar with Christian theology. In that case, we can add a new rule: "Opponants should seek to study their opponants before engaging in a critique of them."

    ReplyDelete
  26. hostus twinkius2/27/2007 11:54 PM

    Or maybe restating John's position the way Peter and David did actually strips it down to it's bare essential parts, therefore showing it to be, in fact, unreasonable. Perhaps this is what's bothering Mr. Ellis? To insist that it was a mischaracterization of John's position when John himself affirmed that it was accurate, is odd, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  27. David Ellis said:
    ---
    By perfectly good and omnibenevolent I mean having a desire for the well-being of all living beings capable of suffering (which includes not wanting them to sin and, therefore, fall short of their potential as moral agents).....I do not mean by the term that he treats, or ought to treat, all people the same.
    ---

    Okay, but surely you see that the above criteria presupposes what counts as the "well being" of an individual, right? You've even included certain things into that, such as keeping sin out of the picture and maximizing potential. But what is the basis by which you make the argument that this is the definition of "well being"?

    Could I not argue instead that the definition of "well being" is "being able to morally act as one pleases" and therefore, under that definition of "well being", the potential for great evil is a necessary consequence of my well being? (I am not saying this is my definition, but the very existence of this alternate defintion causes you problems; namely, how do you decide which definition to use?)

    Furthermore, the definition of "well being" here is 100% anthrocentric. That is, your definition of "well being" only takes into view the well being of people, not the well being of God.

    Consider this example. If we can be better off (by whatever matrix you choose to measure this) by the sacrifice of an animal through scientific testing (for instance, using a mouse to find a cure for cancer), then man's benefit increases even while the benefit to the mouse decreases. Isn't it possible to say that man's benefit trumps the mouses' and, as a result, using animal testing is a good thing?

    In the same way, if God's glory is increased even though we may not personally benefit, isn't it possible to say that God's benefit trumps ours?

    In such a manner, is it not conceivable for a Calvinist such as myself to argue (as I have in the past) that God's goodness is mostly highly displayed in two ways: 1) in the just punishment of sinners and 2) in the merciful imputation of Christ's righteousness to undeserving people who hate God? And if God's goodness is mostly highly displayed in both those points, this necessitates an evil people to exist in order for God to demonstrate His ultimate goodness; thus, bad things happen to people in order that God's ultimate goodness is demonstrated.

    Now, even if you disagree with this assessment, you must admit that it renders your logical dilemma null. The above Calvinistic answers are not logically inconsistent, for the Calvinist is putting the highest good where it belongs--in God, not in man--and it demonstrates that God's actions, being for that highest good, outweigh any objection man might have to them. This is logically sound regardless of whether you like what it states.


    David Ellis said:
    ---
    Perhaps, but this alone is insufficient to solve the problem. All too many infants have suffered horrible agonies from congenital defects which they cannot have earned as punishment since they are lack the capacity to make moral judgements.
    ---

    This ignores one of the central tenets of Christianity (it's an orthodox point that used to be held universally, although you may find a few who claim to be Christian who disagree today): that is the doctrine of Original Sin.

    Secondly, you assume that congenital defects, etc. are a result of their sin, when the Bible clearly points out that these things are unrelated to the specific individual's sin (cf. John 8 and the healing of the blind man).

    Thirdly, this assumes that it is worse for the infant to live with congenital defects than it is for the infant to have never existed at all. But if I were to argue that existence alone, in whatever state that existence may be, is better than non-existence, then how would you refute this?

    Furthermore, we can personify this (and I must give credit to Steve Hays for the genesis of this idea).

    Each of us are born into a fallen world by fallen means, some more obvious than others. Each of us has sinned, and each of us is born of sinners. Some of us are even born as a direct result of sinful actions (e.g. the children of rape, incest, adultery, promiscuity, etc), but none of us are here apart from the various interactions of sinful people since the Fall.

    As such, the very fact of your own personal existence only comes about due to a vast chain of sinful deeds in the past. Now we know due to the Chaos Theory that "For the want of a nail, the kingdom was lost." As such, were any of these sinful actions different, then we would not be here. There may have been other children born in our place, of course; but it would have been impossible for the DNA combinations to produce us specifically.

    Now, if it is to my benefit to exist rather than to not exist, then you must acknowledge that for my own personal benefit, the fall is a necessary antecedent. The same is true for you. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, there never would have been any man who raped any woman, there never would have been any woman who fell for "pillow talk" from a boyfriend who would dessert her the instant he found out she was pregnant, there never even would have been men who pretended to be other than they were just to get a girl to like them. Or, to look at it another way, perhaps your great grandmother would have loved a different man had that man not been murdered before she ever met him.

    In short, none of us would exist apart from the very specific chain of "random" events that preceded our existence.

    Thus, in a very real sense, it is to all our personal benefit that sin happened. This in no way mitigates against the fact that it was sin that occured before this. But that sin is used despite itself for good.

    ReplyDelete

  28. Perhaps, but this alone is insufficient to solve the problem. All too many infants have suffered horrible agonies from congenital defects which they cannot have earned as punishment since they are lack the capacity to make moral judgements.
    ---

    This ignores one of the central tenets of Christianity (it's an orthodox point that used to be held universally, although you may find a few who claim to be Christian who disagree today): that is the doctrine of Original Sin.


    You are assuming, apparently, that I am mounting an internal critique. I am not. Original sin is an absurdity.


    Secondly, you assume that congenital defects, etc. are a result of their sin, when the Bible clearly points out that these things are unrelated to the specific individual's sin (cf. John 8 and the healing of the blind man).


    Actually, I simply responded to your own claim concerning why its morally acceptable that God allow extreme suffering(that punishment of sin on God's part in just).

    So: do infants sin? why is it morally acceptable to allow infants to be born with congenital defects causing a slow agonizing death? Because of original sin? If so, explain.



    Thirdly, this assumes that it is worse for the infant to live with congenital defects than it is for the infant to have never existed at all. But if I were to argue that existence alone, in whatever state that existence may be, is better than non-existence, then how would you refute this?


    I am making no such assumption. I am assuming that an omnipotent being had the ability to prevent that congenital defect from occurring and that any being of decency who had that ability would have exercised it.

    So far your only reason given for not exercising it is a two word response: original sin.

    So please explain precisely what you conceive original sin to be and why it makes it morally acceptable (in your opinion) for God to allow infants to be born with congenital defects.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Ellis,

    Don't you think you should apologize for your false accusation? Everyone noticed it immediately.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Ellis,

    You're still employing a principle I pointed out when we discussed animal suffering. Your principle goes something like this: "All beings deserve a world without (intense) suffering, unless they do something really bad."

    However, I can't think of a single good reason for this principle. And keep the following in mind:

    (1) Christians believe in a Fall, which resulted in a curse.

    (2) Babies are sinners too. They're simply sinners who haven't reached their full capacity as sinners.

    (3) God knows the future. In other words, your objection is that babies haven't sinned yet, and that God therefore has no right to allow them to suffer. But God knows that they will sin as soon as they have the opportunity. If you object to this view, you're going to run into all kinds of problems. Here's why. I constantly hear atheists say, "But why didn't God give Hitler a heart attack before he started the Holocaust?" What does this claim presuppose? It presupposes that it would be morally permissible for God to kill someone for things he hadn't yet done. Now why would it not be morally permissible for God to allow babies to suffer for sins they hadn't yet committed?

    (4) Besides, I don't even agree with your view on the purpose of pain (i.e. that all pain and suffering is punishment). You know my view of the Fall. God separated himself from us because we chose to live apart from him, and the world starts falling apart, because God is the sustainer of everything. We are here to learn the difference between good and evil, and part of learning this difference involves experiencing suffering.

    (5) Finally, don't forget about theodicies, Ellis. You're acting as if the theist's entire response to suffering rests on the Fall. But this isn't true. Christians have offered a number of reasons why God might allow a world of suffering. So if babies are going to be a part of this world, they would be a part of a world with suffering. (I'm saying this because, like other atheists, you tend to treat each theistic response as if it were the theist's entire response, instead of what it actually is--a part of a cumulative case. And yet you continue to complain about misrepresentation!!!)

    ReplyDelete

  31. You're still employing a principle I pointed out when we discussed animal suffering. Your principle goes something like this: "All beings deserve a world without (intense) suffering, unless they do something really bad."



    But to be clear about YOUR OWN position, are you claiming that human beings, even infants, deserve extreme suffering?


    (1) Christians believe in a Fall, which resulted in a curse.


    You are apparently assuming I am mounting an internal critique....I'm not. I'm interested in pointing out the absurdity and cruelty of your opinions. That's more than sufficient for me.

    Take for example this one:


    (2) Babies are sinners too. They're simply sinners who haven't reached their full capacity as sinners.


    Again, are you claiming that its morally acceptable to you that God allow babies to be born with congenital defects causing them to slowly die in agony because they are sinners?

    This sounds simply monstrous to me.


    (3) God knows the future. In other words, your objection is that babies haven't sinned yet, and that God therefore has no right to allow them to suffer. But God knows that they will sin as soon as they have the opportunity.


    So, as I understand you, its OK to allow babies to suffer slow agonizing deaths because they would grow up to, at the very least, be morally imperfect beings.

    Again, monstrous! (and yes, that's an external critique---why should I limit myself to only judging whether your moral opinions are internally consistent---I'm much more concerned by their great cruelty).


    Finally, don't forget about theodicies, Ellis.


    I haven't. I'm just waiting for you to actually present a good one.

    ReplyDelete
  32. You refer to my position as being that ""All beings deserve a world without (intense) suffering, unless they do something really bad."

    My position is more accurately stated as this:

    "a benevolent being (even a marginally benevolent one) would not want others to undergo extreme suffering".

    My position is about what is in the character of a caring being....not what living things have a right to (that would assume moral truths and, as I've told you so many times, the version of the POE I find best is about what's in the nature of caring entities....NOT what would be wrong to do or allow).

    ReplyDelete
  33. Finally, Wood, please tell me if the following statement accurately states your position (I wouldn't want to misrepresent you):

    God is a caring and loving being but he allows extreme suffering because we are all sinful creatures and, therefore, deserve it.

    This is precisely where I find your religion so strange and monstrous in its system of values. The idea that because beings are morally imperfect they are deserving of suffering great agonies, even, in most versions of christianity, an eternity of unimaginable agony.....and this you call "Justice".

    That, I think, more than speaks for itself.

    And, on that, I conclude my part in this discussion of the problem of evil.

    I've spent far more time on that topic than it deserves.

    But if anyone is interested in discussing christian vs atheist positions on meta-ethics I'd be glad to have a conversation on that. The topic is far more interesting to me and has been brought up frequently but not discussed in depth.

    ReplyDelete
  34. But to be clear about YOUR OWN position, are you claiming that human beings, even infants, deserve extreme suffering?

    I didn't claim that at all. In fact, I specifically said that I wasn’t claiming that. I would, however, say that human beings deserve a world (1) where God doesn't cause everything to go the way we want it to go, and (2) where God isn't upholding and sustaining everything perfectly. As it turns out, a world where God isn't sustaining everything perfectly is subject to suffering. And the only way for you to argue that God is morally obligated to give us a world without suffering would be to say that we deserve a better world (and that God therefore isn't just, because he doesn't give us something that we deserve). But so far, I've only seen a presumption, not an argument.

    Again, are you claiming that its morally acceptable to you that God allow babies to be born with congenital defects causing them to slowly die in agony because they are sinners?

    Did you read what I said? Let's review here.

    (1) The atheist complains about suffering.

    (2) The theist responds that we are in a fallen world (i.e. that there is a relationship between our nature and the way things are in our world).

    (3) The atheist replies, "Well, but babies aren't sinners, so why should they get a fallen world?"

    (4) The theist points out a number of problems with the atheist response, including (a) the fact that babies are sinners (i.e. they are beings who will inevitably rebel against God), and (b) that the atheist's own argument about Hitler's heart attack shows that atheists think it's okay to punish someone prior to sinning, provided the person will indeed sin. Hence, that part of my response was meant to point out an inconsistency in the atheist argument. Now, if you say that it's wrong to allow someone to suffer for something they haven't done but will eventually do, please say it so I can reference you the next time Loftus raises the Hitler objection (which will probably be later today on some website).

    I'm just waiting for you to actually present a good one.

    By "good" I assume you mean "one that will convince people who will do absolutely anything in their power to reject God," and I'm not sure that's possible. Take you, for instance. You claim that life formed out in the ocean, no intelligence necessary. And yet, when I ask you to defend this view, you say, "Well, all I need is a self-replicating molecule (which I don’t have). As far as I’m concerned, that’s all I need to get life." That's what qualifies as a "good" explanation in your world. And yet when the theist presents a dozen theodicies showing that suffering plays a number of significant roles in our world, you immediately shift into an emotional tirade: "But what about babies! Babies! Babies! And cute little animals! Mean God! Mean! Mean! Mean! Stop misrepresenting my position! John Loftus, stop misrepresenting your own position! Babies! Oh why can't anyone give an answer that will convince me! I'm so open to the evidence!"

    Let's face the facts, Ellis. You are completely inconsistent in the level of skepticism you apply. When atheism is on the stand, your skepticism level is set at "2," and anything qualifies as a "good" response. But when Christianity takes the stand, all of a sudden your skepticism level goes through the roof, nothing qualifies as a good response, and you become the world's foremost advocate of baby rights. Get over yourself, man. Your arguments provide outstanding evidence for man’s rebellion.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Ellis said:
    ---
    You are assuming, apparently, that I am mounting an internal critique. I am not.
    ---

    If you really are mounting an external critique, then you must demonstrate your external critique. By this, you must demonstrate why your external morality is valid and why even Christians must hold to it.

    So tell me, Mr. Ellis, why I should care about your external morality.

    But then you said:
    ---
    Actually, I simply responded to your own claim concerning why its morally acceptable that God allow extreme suffering(that punishment of sin on God's part in just).
    ---

    Which is it? If you are responding to "[my] own claim" then that implies an internal critique, doesn't it? I read that as you attempting to show an internal problem between my claim and my view on God. Because if you're showing an external problem between my view and your idea of God's morality, I couldn't care less that we disagree. It's irrelevant.

    David Ellis wrote:
    ---
    So: do infants sin?
    ---

    Let's see...an infant is self-centered, will steal toys from others, will bash other children in the head with his Legos...

    Nope, no sin there....

    The answer to your question is: Yes. Infants sin. They do not obey the Law of God.

    While they may be "excused" for their sin (that is, while God doesn't necessarily hold them accountable for their sin) that does not mean they did not sin in the first place.

    Ellis said:
    ---
    why is it morally acceptable to allow infants to be born with congenital defects causing a slow agonizing death?
    ---

    A) I already answered this from the Christian worldview (thus, no internal problem).

    B) Your secular worldview does not consider it immoral for infants to be born with congenital defects either (thus, no external problem).

    Ellis said:
    ---
    I am making no such assumption. I am assuming that an omnipotent being had the ability to prevent that congenital defect from occurring and that any being of decency who had that ability would have exercised it.
    ---

    You assume that congenital defects, etc. have no purpose in God's plan. How do you know that "an omnipotent being had the ability to prevent that congenital defect from occuring" while still being able to accomplish His ultimate goal?

    Ellis said:
    ---
    So far your only reason given for not exercising it is a two word response: original sin.
    ---

    I argued far more than that. Just because you've ignored it doesn't mean it's not stated.

    ReplyDelete
  36. what a pointless discussion.

    Its obvious to anybody that isn't "drinking the kristian koolaide" that babies don't deserve to be tortured.

    Its mind numbing to see Christians try and work their way around this obvious fact. They wouldn't treat a baby that way, but have no problem with God doing it. And yet we're supposed to strive to live like Christ/God.

    ReplyDelete
  37. We shouldn't blame the fall, or its effects, on God. Suffering comes in degrees. Childbirth itself typically involves both the suffering of the mother and the child, but the result is often the graduation of a very young person in utero to one who can breathe on his own and continue to mature. The suffering is not the ends, but the means. The ends are the glorification of God. God isn't glorified when a fallen world doesn't suffer from a broken relationship with its Creator.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Weird said:

    what a pointless discussion.

    Its obvious to anybody that isn't "drinking the kristian koolaide" that babies don't deserve to be tortured.


    Weird,

    Your argument certainly lives up to your name. Who here is claiming that babies deserve to be tortured? No one. My point was that babies don't deserve anything, whether a world of bliss or a world of suffering. Hence, the world will have be be selected on other grounds. Due to the Fall, and due to certain goods that play a role in various theodicies, we ended up with a world which contains some suffering. The atheist response is that babies deserve something better. I have questioned this view, and so far no one has responded. Instead, the atheist side proceeds as if theists are arguing that babies deserve to be tortured. I find it interesting that you can't deal with the Christian response without this sort of misrepresentation. It's kind of weird.

    ReplyDelete
  39. And, Mr. Weird, I'll add, just to point out an obvious inconsistency:

    It's obvious to anyone who isn't "ingesting the Atheist Applejuice" that universes don't spring into existence uncaused, that there can be no fine-tuning without a fine-tuner, that inanimate matter doesn't build itself into living organisms, that consciousness doesn't arise from that which lacks consciousness, that objective moral values require an ultimate moral being.

    In other words, until you come up with a worldview that accounts for things better than theism, you should probably be careful about saying what theism doesn't explain. More on this in my recent post here:

    www.problemofevil.org

    ReplyDelete
  40. Wood said, I constantly hear atheists say, "But why didn't God give Hitler a heart attack before he started the Holocaust?" What does this claim presuppose? It presupposes that it would be morally permissible for God to kill someone for things he hadn't yet done. Now why would it not be morally permissible for God to allow babies to suffer for sins they hadn't yet committed?

    These cases are non-analogous. The reason why God should've killed Hitler as a youth is because of the numbers of people he killed. The result of his death would have been good for millions of people. Most people do not cause such intense harms to humanity.

    Besides, if God is all-powerful, why did he let Hitler slip through his fingers when 40,000 people, mostly children, die everyday of hunger? Does anyone really think that the millions of children who die from hunger deserved death but that Hitler wasn't killed? If God spared Hitler but kills all of these other children, then those children were probably going to grow up to be hideous monsters! But how likely is that?

    By the way, this, once again, is stating the obvious. How you can repeatedly dispute the obvious is indeed bizarre to me. Bizarre. That's what you defend here. Bizarre beliefs. Why can't you admit it? Why are you so sure of your beliefs when they repeatedly dispute what is obvious?

    Maybe God exists, and maybe he doesn't. But where does your sense of certainty come from? That too is bizarre to me. Why not just say, “I think God exists.” Why not admit he might not? Why is there this overwhelming attempt to show that Christianity is the only rational position to take? Do you do that with anything else, in any other area, when there are cases to be made for both sides?

    What is so obvious to you that you must deny what is truly obvious when it comes to the problems I have dealt with concerning suffering in this world?

    Do you really believe that the nebulous arguments for the existence of a creator God, and that your particular historically conditioned interpretation of some ancient documents (which were continually edited until canonized) are so obvious to you that you must deny what we would all expect from God in creating a world? Sure, you are trying to come to grips with your God in light of the presence of evil, and so you struggle with additional premises and implausible theories. But surely you cannot deny that this is not a world you would expect to find if such an omni-God exists.

    Bizarre. If you don't want to give up on the existence of this God, surely you can accept a deist God or a process theology God. What's the harm here? The fear of hell? Is that what you fear? It must be. That's all I can figure. For you are repeatedly denying the obvious.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Loftus, Ellis and Wierd,

    Not being at all an accomplished philosopher or debater, I have one simple comment and two questions:

    Comment: As a Christian I live with the tension of being able to reason through the PoE (as described sufficiently in the last few posts/comboxes) as well as dealing with the practical implications of evil. I get angry and greatly distressed that people, not just babies, and animals are mistreated, abused and tortured. I am not angry at God, but at people who have exercised their freedom of choice to rebel against God. I am distressed by the pain and suffering that many people endure. Christians do not simply shrug, and go on our way. As part of the "greater good", God has also called us to take care of the orphans and the widows, to bind up the wounds of the injured, and do all we can to relieve the emotional stress of those around us. So please don't imply that we don't care because we have a good argument.

    Now to the questions.

    Question 1: Are you pro-life or pro-choice?

    Question 2: How many fully atheistic aid and humanitarian agencies can you name off the top of your head? (You are not allowed to include secular government and international agencies that do not espose an overtly atheist creed, nor individual atheist contributors)

    ReplyDelete
  42. And David, you continually seem to be responding to what atheists say, as if they are the only ones asking these questions. That is NOT true. Christians ask the same type of questions, and you know it. The difference is that when we ask them we don't think you can answer them satisfactorily, whereas Christians ask them seeking to learn the answers. That's the only difference. So please, don't continue with this fortress mentality as if atheists are trying to breach the walls while Christians are all safely tucked inside.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Speaking of "nebulous", John, do you realise how nebulous all these claims of "bizarre beliefs" are to a Christian?
    Reminds me of what Paul Manata has repeatedly said to you - you believe in alchemy, lizards turning into birds, spontaneous generation, non-intelligence spawning intelligence...
    Indeed bizarre.
    So we each think the other guy's beliefs are bizarre, great. I'd like to see more discussion from your end as to which is more rationally defensible, and in particular which is less subjectively-based.

    ALAN

    ReplyDelete
  44. Alan, can we just dispense with this by looking at what you believe in addition to denying the obvious?

    I find it implausible to believe that a Triune (3 persons in 1?) God has always and forever existed without cause and will always and forever exist (even though our entire experience is that everything has a beginning and an ending) as a fully formed being (even though our entire experience is that order grows incrementally) with all knowledge (and consequently never learned anything), with all power (but doesn’t exercise it like we would if we saw a burning child), and who is present everywhere (and who also knows what time it is everywhere in our universe even though time is a function of movement and bodily placement).

    ReplyDelete
  45. Loftus said:
    ---
    The reason why God should've killed Hitler as a youth is because of the numbers of people he killed.
    ---

    But Hitler didn't kill anyone as a youth. You're saying God should have killed Hitler before Hitler did anything wrong, while also arguing that God is killing innocent children who have yet to do anything wrong....

    Make up your mind, Loftus.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Loftus said:
    ---
    The difference is that when we ask them we don't think you can answer them satisfactorily, whereas Christians ask them seeking to learn the answers.
    ---

    By the way, thanks for admitting you're not seeking answers to your questions. Which is why no one takes your questions seriously, BTW.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Loftus said:

    And David, you continually seem to be responding to what atheists say, as if they are the only ones asking these questions. That is NOT true. Christians ask the same type of questions, and you know it.

    John, you continually seem to think that I'm trying to answer your questions. I'm not trying to answer your questions. I'm trying to respond to an argument. A question goes like this: "Why X?" Nothing is claimed to be proven by asking the question. An argument goes something like this: "Since X and Y, therefore Z."

    True, theists can ask questions. But you're claiming to prove something by an argument. And the more I examine your argument, the more weak and flawed it seems.

    In fact, the more I read your responses, and the more inconsistencies I find, the more I realize that the only view that makes sense here is the one that says you are in rebellion against God, and that evidence is merely a smokescreen for you.

    Oh well. If your questions help you feel better about your treason against God, ask away.

    ReplyDelete
  48. John,

    I know how it feels to get piled on in a forum where you're in the minority, so respond only if you have time, energy, and inclination.

    I want to point out that it's funny how easily this gets switched around:

    I find it implausible to believe that the universe came into existence without cause and will always and forever exist (even though our entire experience is that everything has a beginning and an ending) as a nascent universe that would eventually arrange for the formation of a fully-formed human being (even though our entire experience is that order does not come out of non-order) with no direction (and consequently no reason to care about anything), with lots of power (but no reason to govern or guide how that power might be used or apportioned), and which is simply present (w/o anything to have gotten it there).

    That's what I was saying.
    Funny thing is, writing this out I realise how many times this has been made clear to you and you keep saying the same things over and over. My admiration for team Triablogue's patience is growing.

    ALAN

    ReplyDelete
  49. Alan, I agree with you. Both the theist and the atheist have problems describing the origin of it all.

    But Christian theists have additional problems when they must deny the obvious when it comes to the presence of intense suffering and an omni-God.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Now apparently, Loftus is claiming that God hits, spanks, plucks out eyes, burns, breaks jaws, breaks legs, and otherwise behaves "brutally" toward people.

    God allows for the brutal beatings, starvation, disease, cruel disability, and deaths of innocent children all around the world every day. Why does he allow this if he loves these children? I suppose you will say such things happen because of the Fall of the Man, that God has nothing to do with it. Which brings up the other point about what happened in the Garden of Eden – Adam and Eve didn’t simply have their privileges taken away. They cast a death sentence onto the life (and soul) of every single human being who will ever come into existence! Says who? Um, the Bible that you quote. Is that what a loving parent does? Punish every child, including those not even born yet, for one child breaking the rules? It doesn’t make sense.

    ReplyDelete
  51. John,

    Since you didn't attempt an answer, and since you said this:

    "Both the theist AND THE ATHEIST have problems describing the origin of it all"

    I see that you concede that you (and by "you", I mean your conception of the atheist worldview) have problems describing the origin of existence. Good deal.

    Only, as I'm sure you know, I don't concede I have a problem describing the origin of it all.
    But this is your pattern - I recall that you admitted your worldview contains absurdities when you were discussing w/ Paul Manata on Gene Cook's show recently.
    But again, I don't concede that for the Christian theistic worldview.

    And... atheists have additional problems when they must deny the very existence of a meaningful objective standard by which they might decipher why suffering is bad.

    It's amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  52. John,

    For your consideration - I would love to see you back w/ the people of God.

    --You admitted that atheism can't explain origins and contains absurdities
    --You assert that Xtianity can't explain origins and contains absurdities

    Given that, why don't you come over to Jesus?
    PROS:
    Jesus loves you and salvation is free
    You think there are absurdities and faulty explanatory power in atheism
    You would have a rational basis for discerning and decrying what is evil in the world in a credible way

    CONS:
    You hate Jesus
    You think there are absurdities and faulty explanatory power in Christianity
    You have heretofore been comfortable living w/ the fact that atheism, your chosen worldview, can't explain origins and contains absurdities


    I think the PROS are stronger, but that's just me. But I'd love to see you come and would welcome you.

    ALAN

    ReplyDelete
  53. You hate Jesus.

    Now why would I hate a man I never met?

    So, if you bet against the Colts in the Super Bowl, can I say you hate the Colts?

    We disagree on so many many issues that it is literally ignorant to say that the reason someone doesn't agree with us is because he hates someone or something.

    Sheesh.

    Ignorant.

    Do you hate Allah?

    Do you hate Joseph Smith?

    Come on. Be real.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Ignorant?
    You have no idea where I came from, sir. To throw around "ignorant" like that says a lot about you.
    Indeed, one would be linguistically and contextually justified in saying that you are ignorant of where I've been. That would be a correct use of the term "ignorant."

    And yes, I hate Allah and I hate Joseph Smith. I guess that's just for the record.

    And I guess you're not taking the offer and not commenting on your admitted absurdities of your own worldview. It's a shame.

    ALAN

    ReplyDelete
  55. Alan said: I hate Allah

    So, 1) You believe Allah exists; and 2) You hate him.

    Correct?

    If not, what you said is ignorant no matter where you have come from, out of the sewer or just out of elementary school.

    So I see no reason to discuss anything further with you.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Hi John,

    --You believe Allah exists
    >>I'm sitting here shaking my head. You are merely playing games w/ people. Are you really trying to say that I believe that Allah exists, in the same conception as the Muslim?
    The only reason you would say that is to make headway in some imagined rhetorical war and divert attention from the thrust of my comments.

    As a Christian, I believe Allah exists as a conception begun in the mind of sinful man. Whether Allah came about thru demonic influence is impossible to say but I suspect it might be the case.
    You'll say, "That's bizarre!" and to you, that will be true. But it won't be rational.

    Or you could just try to divert and waylay the point like you just did. So it's no big loss to me if you don't want to discuss further w/ me.

    ReplyDelete