Saturday, February 24, 2007

If Evil, Then God

Below is a rather pleasant discussion I had with atheist Malcolm Pollack. Pollack is definitely more sophisticated than the usual suspects dealt with here (viz. Loftus, Bethrick, Sapient, The DC crew, &C). He's also a much more rational and level-headed, this makes it easy for both sides to avoid any cutting sarcasm.

Our discussion took place on Dr. Alan Rhoda's blog. The thread we discussed in is located here. The topic: If an atheist gives up an objective basis for morality, can he offer an external problem of evil argument?

I obviously don't think so. To see why, read on. I do agree that one can launch an internal critique. But the problem here is that most people aren't knowledgeable enough regarding Christian theology to make a proper internal argument. I'd argue that to the extent that you represent Christianity properly, no successful internal argument can be given. Now, maybe due to my sin and finiteness, I can't see how one could be done, but this doesn't meant that I still can't know (where 'know' isn't meant to imply infallibilism) that one can't be done, or that one has, up 'til this point, been done.

Further, I think it was pointed out that not only does giving up objective morality lessen the tools in the atheologian's tool box, it also has absurd and highly problematic outcomes. And so I think that was shown in the discussion.

At any rate, I hope the brothers and sisters will find something useful in the below dialog. No doubt the atheist population here will give the obligatory ":::YAWN!!!:::" and ":::SNIZZ!!!:::."

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Mr. Pollack,

You said,

"No, I do not presume an objective morality; in fact I am extremely doubtful that such a basis exists, other than the objective adaptive advantage that our evolved moral intuitions may confer."

So then you don't use the problem of evil argument or think it's a good weapon in the atheologian's hand?

~PM

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Paul,

The problem-of-evil argument still has some force for the atheist, because even if morality is not to be grounded in absolute objectivity, that doesn't mean that there isn't much in the world that still seems evil and awful by our own subjective and innate sense of morality. Regardless of whether torturing babies is objectively evil, it still feels wrong to us, and it certainly seems odd that any God would permit it.

The problem-of-evil argument still gives theists fits because for them, of course, they have to square it with some objective model of morality. But for the atheist, even if it falls short of a rigorous and compelling philosophical proof, it's still another reason not to bother with belief in God at all.

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Malcolm,

So the problem of evil argument for atheists who are not moral realists is that God's existence is problematic because of our subjective opinions? So, the atheist problem of evil argument shouldn't give theists cause for worry, then?

For the theist, it's not a problem if they accept what Michael Martin might refer to as "extended theism."

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."

~PM

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Hi Paul,

Yes, for an atheist who doesn't see the need for an objective grounding of morality, the problem-of-evil argument against the existence of God would be something like:

"I find it hard to see why, if there is a God, He would permit the innocent to suffer so, and to allow so many wicked people to do so many awful things."

While it may be that there are those who manage to justify, to their own satisfaction, such cruel behavior, it still runs counter to my own moral intuitions, and serves, for me - regardless of whether or not there is any "objective" basis for those intuitions, beyond their explicable adaptive value - as another reason to doubt the existence of God: not with the force of proof of God's nonexistence, but reasons for doubt don't require such force. It is hardly necessary for me to mount a compelling philosophical proof that torturing babies is objectively evil in all possible worlds, etc., in order to be informed by my own moral sense, and to live a life that is moral according to that intuition.

The evidence for the existence of vegetables is of a different order altogether, as there are many compelling reasons to accept that they have an objective existence - they are ordinary objects that can be photographed, weighed, eaten, and so forth. The alleged objective foundation of morality is, by comparison, a vaporous abstraction.

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Hi Malcolm,

I don't see how your argument from evil gives you "reasons for doubt" unless you think that *this* argument, by parity, also provides you with "reasons to doubt" the existence of God. The argument the existence of God would be something like this:

{Assumption: God's favorite color is red and Malcolm’s is blue}

"I find it hard to see why, if there is a God, he would like the color red and allow so many things to be red-colored."

Second, to say that I justify "cruel behavior" is begging the question. The cruelty, or lack thereof, of God's behavior is in dispute.

A successful POE argument must be an internal critique, or else you beg the question. A successful POE argument must also take the existence of evil seriously, not like a matter of subjective likes and dislikes. If you drop the existence of real evil but want to claim that the theist has a problem of evil given that he believes evil is real, I find no reason to accept this claim. Given the totality of my worldview, there are no gratuitous evils. Michael Martin calls this "extended theism."

And so I'll still have to conclude that your position renders you without the use of a POE argument. Unless, of course, you think God's liking red over blue is likewise a reason to doubt his existence?

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Paul,

I think you are missing the point here. I'm not attempting to mount a knockdown argument against the existence of God based on the existence of evil in the world. I agree that if morality is not philosophically objective - meaning that we might have different views about what is evil and what isn't - then there is no way that such an argument can be universally compelling. Anyone might just look around and say "What evil? I don't see any evil around here."

My point is that for those who look around them and do consider much of what they see to be evil (in their own subjective opinion), and given also that we consider evil to be, by definition, abhorrent, then it is perfectly reasonable for such a person - regardless of truth or falsity of evil's alleged objectivity - to doubt the existence of (or at least to consider unworthy of worship) a God that would permit such things.

And the empirical fact of the matter is that most of us do look around and see much that is evil, because nearly all humans do indeed share a general moral intuition. You may say that cruelty is what is "in dispute", but really, most people will agree on what is cruel and what isn't, because of that shared moral heritage. Some may not, but that has no bearing on the force the POE exerts on those who do. That fact that God permits things that are repugnant to me is sufficient to weaken my own confidence in God's alleged existence. If that argument is insufficient to convince everyone, with the force of a philosophical proof, well, that's just the way things are in the real world.

I see the point you are trying to make with the color argument, but the analogy is imperfect, in an important way. What color God may prefer is a very different matter, because we attach no normative assertions to color preference, in sharp contrast to the way we regard doing good vs. doing evil.

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Hi Malcolm,

I don't think you're trying to offer a knock down argument, but I think you may be missing my point. Giving up any objective basis for morality, i.e., opting for moral anti-realism, leaves you unable to mount an external critique from the PoE against God (or, Christian theism). Rather, if you still intend to use a PoE argument, it must be an internal one. But I've never seen a successful internal argument from evil against Christian theism, except, perhaps, Arminianism.

Anyway, back to my point:

Mushrooms are "repugnant to me" and so should I argue that "this gives me a good reason to doubt God's existence? Why would he make such horrid tasting things! Doesn't he know how much I abhor mushrooms?"

Now, you attempt to avoid the reductio (and the triviality of your PoE) by claiming that "we attach" normative assertions to morality but not to color preference (or, mushroom preference!).

First, it is not the case that everyone attaches normativity to their ethical claims. Indeed, normativity itself is hotly disputed. Indeed(!), norms seem to be problematic in a physicalist worldview. And why, given the subjectivity of morality, ought I do the things you think moral? But I digress.

At any rate, the norms attached are subjectively attached. And so why could someone not do this with the shrooms? Indeed, we do this all the time (i.e., attach normative claims to things).

We often subjectively evaluate things: "Orange looks good on you." "Mushrooms are gross." "That table looks better over here than over there." "Vanilla ice cream is the best." etc.

And so why can't people who hate orange, mushrooms, tables under windows, and vanilla ice cream, all use this as "reasons" to doubt the existence of God? What if you "abhor," and find "repugnant," the smell and taste and texture of mushrooms. Indeed, you hate it so much that to have to eat it at a dinner party almost causes you to gag. Should I walk away from that party and "doubt God's existence?"

And, who are you to say that your subjective dislike of child rape is a better subjective reason to doubt God's existence than my subjective dislike of mushrooms?

Finally, you say that you do look around and see much evil. But why is it evil? Just because you've subjectively chosen to call it such. Could we, on your worldview, have evolved to love little children? Would then sex between adults be morally evil? Or, does society determine what we subjectively call evil? Could society in the future call child molestation not evil? Would you then use sex between consenting adults as a "reason to doubt God's existence?"

No, I'm afraid that giving up any objective basis for morality you must likewise give up any external PoE. I mean, maybe God subjectively likes to do all those "evil" things. From his perspective what he does is not evil. From yours, he is. I mean, are there things other countries do that you consider morally wrong but they do not? Are you prejudice against other cultures for what they subjectively desire to do? If not, why treat God different? Some people think homosexuality is wrong, some do not. Is anyone right according to you? No. So, how's it different with God?

I think you just need to opt for internal critiques against God. That God does things you don't subjectively like isn't a reason to doubt his existence. If so, Maybe I'll doubt Nero’s existence. He was "evil" and did all sorts of atrocious things (though in his case we could easily show the evil was gratuitous). I could deny his existence, claim historians made him up. Claim that ancient people made him up. Claim that he's a psychological projection. And the list goes on. Therefore, since Nero did things we don't subjectively like, does this mean that we could "doubt his existence," and be rational in doing so?

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Hi Paul,

Taking a step back, let’s review what it is, exactly, that we are disagreeing about. My original comments were in support of the view, pace Dr. Rhoda, that one need not believe in an objective basis for morals in order to live a morally informed life. I’m not sure where you stand on that point, but my view is that we live according to a set of moral intuitions and skills that are both built-in and learned, and that the metaphysical fact of the matter regarding the ultimate basis of morality - which is, given that we and others are continue to argue about it with no resolution, still an open question, and may always be – need have no bearing on how we live our lives.

But the question that you seem more concerned with is what bearing the truth or falsity of moral realism may have on the “problem of evil” argument, and on whether that argument makes it reasonable for anyone, particularly atheists, to doubt the existence of God.

I suggested that an atheist, contemplating this issue, might quite simply say: “I find it hard to see why, if there is a God, he would permit the innocent to suffer so, and would allow so many wicked people to do so many awful things.” There is nothing in this that depends on the unknowable “fact of the matter” regarding the objective truth of moral realism; although it is, for the atheist (or the agnostic), an “external critique”, it is exactly the same question that a theist might ask. Regardless of the ultimate source of our moral intuitions, we have them nonetheless, and they are what inform our actions, our judgments, and our doubts. Both the atheist and the theist alike, contemplating God’s relation to the world, may be equally troubled by the prevalence of that which they regard as abhorrently evil; it doesn’t matter at all to me whether I abhor torturing children because I have simply evolved to feel that way, or because it is intrinsically abhorrent in some extended metaphysical way – the result is the same, namely that it is difficult for me to imagine how a Divine Creator who is allegedly perfect in goodness and mercy would allow such suffering.

You wrote:

“Giving up any objective basis for morality, i.e., opting for moral anti-realism, leaves you unable to mount an external critique from the PoE against God (or, Christian theism).”

You offer as an example that one might find mushrooms as repugnant as evil, and if so, one might use that, too, as a basis for doubting God’s existence. Because mushrooms are only subjectively distasteful, you argue, we might as well use them as the basis for our doubts about God as any subjective misgivings we may have about torturing children.

You ask:

“… who are you to say that your subjective dislike of child rape is a better subjective reason to doubt God's existence than my subjective dislike of mushrooms?”

The answer, of course, is that I’m not saying that my dislike of child rape is necessarily a better reason to doubt God’s existence, for you.

As far as I am concerned, I rather routinely expect that there will be things that will be unpleasant to eat, and I wouldn’t really hold their existence against God. My moral sense, on the other hand – wherever it comes from - impels me to find the notion of raping children intensely repugnant. If God is supposed to be perfectly good, all-powerful, and perfectly merciful, then for anyone who encounters such evil in the world, it is hard to understand why he would allow it, and an alternative model – one in which there simply is no God – might begin to seem a more parsimonious account.

But if you, on the other hand, believe that God’s perfect goodness should manifest itself in such a way that bad-tasting foods are a reason to doubt his existence, or to consider him unworthy of worship (you might even, for all I know, mount an argument that our sense of the flavors of foods must have an objective basis, and call your position “gustatory realism”), then I suppose you’re welcome to take that position.

In other words, as I said before, given that I think that morality is not objectively grounded, I realize that you or anyone else might not share my views of what is moral or what isn’t . This doesn't mean, however, that we must abandon our own moral intuitions. If I see you torturing children, I am not going to bother about whether you think it's morally justifiable or not. I think it isn't , and I'm going to stop you. You may consider my interference unjust; that's just too bad. We live in a world of such conflict precisely because morality is not objective.

You wrote:

“Finally, you say that you do look around and see much evil. But why is it evil? Just because you've subjectively chosen to call it such. Could we, on your worldview, have evolved to love little children? Would then sex between adults be morally evil? Or, does society determine what we subjectively call evil? Could society in the future call child molestation not evil? Would you then use sex between consenting adults as a "reason to doubt God's existence?”

No, I'm afraid that giving up any objective basis for morality you must likewise give up any external PoE. I mean, maybe God subjectively likes to do all those "evil" things. From his perspective what he does is not evil. From yours, he is. I mean, are there things other countries do that you consider morally wrong but they do not? Are you prejudice against other cultures for what they subjectively desire to do? If not, why treat God different? Some people think homosexuality is wrong, some do not. Is anyone right according to you? No. So, how's it different with God?”


You are entirely misunderstanding the point here. I see evil, and I call it evil, because it arouses in me an intuitive moral revulsion. That’s all. The same happens in all of us, although some of us may imagine that the intuition is based in some metaphysically objective foundation, God for example. It may indeed be so, and it may not; I think not, but the intuition is equally strong in either case.

You ask if we might we have evolved to love (I assume you mean sexually) little children? As a purely logical possibility, I suppose so, but it is hard to see how such behavior would have been selected for. Had it been so, though, then I suppose our moral intuitions might indeed have been different.

You ask if society determines what we call evil. Of course it does; we see it happening all the time. Two hundred years ago, the subjugation of other humans as slaves was regarded as morally unobjectionable; now it is considered unambiguously evil. And if we are thinking of looking to Scripture as a moral compass, there is much in the Bible that would get you in a good deal of trouble today. Stoned an adulteress lately?

If morality is based in objective, eternal standards, why is it so mutable? Why do we disagree about so much of it, as we do with the other cultures you allude to? If morality must flow, objectively, from God, then why does it vary so locally, both in time and place?

You suggested also that “maybe now I’ll doubt Nero’s existence.” You are welcome to, of course, but this example has no bearing whatsoever on the question at hand, simply because nobody is suggesting that Nero is the source of our moral intuition, or is the all-powerful Creator of the world, with a responsibility for its contents.

Finally, there was this:

“First, it is not the case that everyone attaches normativity to their ethical claims. Indeed, normativity itself is hotly disputed. Indeed(!), norms seem to be problematic in a physicalist worldview. And, why given the subjectivity of morality ought I do the things you think moral? But I digress.”

Well, it’s rather a stretch to imagine that ethics is free of normative assertions, when ethics concerns itself entirely with what should guide us as we try to choose between right and wrong. Take the “oughts” out of ethics, and you haven’t much left.

So why, you ask, given the subjectivity of morality, ought you do the things I think moral? For you, perhaps no reason at all, obviously. (As I said, people do indeed disagree about right and wrong, which is a good reason to doubt that morality is objective.) For me, it’s really quite simple. The reason that I think you ought to do them is that I think they are the right thing to do.

One last thing that I see I passed over above. You asked:

"Are you prejudice[d] against other cultures for what they subjectively desire to do? If not, why treat God different? Some people think homosexuality is wrong, some do not. Is anyone right according to you? No. So, how's it different with God?”

You don't seem to understand my position at all. As I've said, the possibility that moral realism may be false does not mean that I am under any compulsion to abandon my own moral intuitions. Am I "prejudiced against other cultures for what they subjectively decide to do?" You bet I am. For example, I consider cultures that treat women as chattel, mutilate their genitals, and deny them education, to be worthy of the deepest contempt. By my lights, such behavior is morally wrong. As you say, "so how's it different with God?" Well, quite right, it isn't; just as permitting such behavior prejudices me against another culture, so would it prejudice me against God. There is one important distinction to be made, though: other cultures are just other people, as was Nero. We know them unambiguously to exist, and we also ascribe to them no supernatural properties or powers. God is in another category, however: he is claimed to be an invisible, all-powerful agent, who Created all that there is, and from whom all goodness is imagined to flow. The idea that such a being would permit such horrors in the world, however, seems inconsistent with what he is claimed to be, and quite reasonably prejudices me against believing in or worshipping him, especially when there are other explanatory models to embrace.

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Hi Malcolm,

As I take a step back with you I note that you expressed agnosticism regarding "where I stand" on the point that, allegedly, Dr. Rhoda made - which was, "that one need believe in an objective basis for morals in order to live a morally informed life." You held the contrary: "that one need not believe in an objective basis for morals in order to live a morally informed life."

I suppose I could give you my brief answer here:

1) I doubt Dr. Rhoda is of the opinion (though he may correct me if I presume too much!) that a person S needs to believe in an objective basis for morality in order for S to be moral. I have the suspicion that Dr. Rhoda would hold to something like what Dostoyevsky's Ivan Karamazov said, "Without God (or, an objective basis for morality) everything is permitted."

2) And (1) provides insight into my position. I believe that there are moral atheists and immoral theists (and vice versa!). I believe that one can believe that in morality, "anything goes," and this person can be a fine, upstanding moral citizen. So, you can be moral. But without an objective standard you cannot condemn or praise other's (im)moral actions in any interesting way. At best, it's rather like condemning someone for not liking chocolate ice cream.

Now, as far as our discussion goes, you're quite right that I have questioned whether you have a problem of evil argument (a staple in the atheist's diet of devouring theists). To be more precise, I have specifically said that your position of moral subjectivism means that you must give up any external critique of Christianity. I have admitted that all is not lost for the atheologian, you still have the option of mounting an internal critique. But, and I find support in Michael Martin, I can't see an internal critique penetrating the defenses of Christian theism (at least my version of it! Needles to say, the Calvinist tradition does have a fine pedigree going back for quite some time, and so it's not an ad hoc position).

Now you seem to disagree here (for some odd reason!). You want us to believe that you can mount an external critique. Thus you claim,

"I suggested that an atheist, contemplating this issue, might quite simply say: “I find it hard to see why, if there is a God, he would permit the innocent to suffer so, and would allow so many wicked people to do so many awful things ... [this] is, for the atheist (or the agnostic), an “external critique”..."

But as ethicist (and non-theist) Russ Shaefer-Landau has pointed out,

"We don't need objective morality to level an internal critique... [b]ut don't we ever wants to criticize the ultimate commitments themselves? For this we need an external critique. ...If these [ultimate commitments] can ever be misguided - not just according to me, or my culture, but misguided period - then (so long as there are any correct moral standards at all) there must be some objective morality that reveals error." (Landeau, Whatever Happened to Good and Evil, Oxford, p.16-17)

And so I'm afraid that you might not fully understand what an external critique is, Mr. Pollack. It's not just that you're simply critiquing a position without assuming the truth, for arguments sake, of said positions premises. It's that you're saying that a position is wrong based upon some objective standard. But you don't have one. So, as "they" say, "You can't beat something with nothing." Apparently, though, you think you can beat an objective ontic claim with subjective opinion. I think not, let's see why below:

Now, let's be clear on what my claim is. I'm not saying that you can't object to God's existence. You can do (almost) anything you like here in America. What I'm saying is that your objection is either trivial or irrational. You seem to think that your subjective opinion is actually a rational reason to doubt the existence of God.

Now, I offered a reductio which I was sure you'd see, but you swallowed it! I had claimed that your objection could have the same status as a reason to doubt God's existence for someone as this claim:

C1: That an all-good God would permit the existence of gross tasting mushrooms is reason for me to doubt his existence.

I see almost zero difference between that and your claim that:

C2: That an all-good God would allow the existence of people who do gross things to children is reason to doubt his existence.

Now, you appear to agree that (C1) could have the same status for someone as your claim, (C2), has for you. Says you,

"But if you, on the other hand, believe that God’s perfect goodness should manifest itself in such a way that bad-tasting foods are a reason to doubt his existence, or to consider him unworthy of worship (you might even, for all I know, mount an argument that our sense of the flavors of foods must have an objective basis, and call your position “gustatory realism”), then I suppose you’re welcome to take that position."

Again, to be clear, it's not that I'm claiming that "you're [not] welcome to take [the] position" that "gross acting people" provide you a reason to doubt God's existence. Rather, my position is that though this may be some kind of reason (and I use that term loosely!) to doubt God's existence, it's not a rational one. And for it I draw support from what I think is prima facie obvious: (C1) is not a rational reason to doubt God's existence. The argument runs thus: If (C1) is not a rational reason to doubt God's existence, then neither is (C2), (C1) is not a rational reason to doubt God's existence, therefore (C2) isn't one either.

We can also point out that your claim is trivial. You claim that "[I am] entirely misunderstanding the point here." Why? it is because you "see evil, and [you] call it evil, because it arouses in me an intuitive moral revulsion. That’s all." And since there is no objective standard, no claim is objectively better than any other claims. And so "child molestation" may "arouse moral revulsion in you." But, it could be the case that for someone not to "love" children in the above way (indeed, not "loving them" may be a sign of one's hatred for them), "arouses moral revulsion" in another person. And so we have another claim:

C3: That an all-good God would not make more people "lovers of children," and stop the heinous persecution of people like me, gives me reason to doubt his existence.

What would have to say here? "Then I suppose you’re welcome to take that position." But (C2) and (C3) are contradictory. So, it appears that contradictory claims can both be "reasons" (rational?) to doubt God's existence! Of course, you can deny that your reason to doubt God's existence is rational. Fine. I'm only interested in fielding rational objections to the faith. After all, if one takes this out, then I suppose I could tell you that I disbelieve in macro-evolution because the notion of "survival of the fittest," isn't my cup 'o tea. I doubt that would get published. Least of all because it is totally uninteresting to the truth of the matter.


For the remainder of the post I'll just copy and paste some of your objections and claims. I'll interact with them as well:

MP: "You ask if society determines what we call evil. Of course it does; we see it happening all the time. Two hundred years ago, the subjugation of other humans as slaves was regarded as morally unobjectionable; now it is considered unambiguously evil. And if we are thinking of looking to Scripture as a moral compass, there is much in the Bible that would get you in a good deal of trouble today. Stoned an adulteress lately?"

PM: It seems like you switch between moral relativism and moral subjectivism. Like you claim that "society" is what determines right and wrong, as well as claiming that "you" determine what is right and wrong.

At any rate, if society determines what is wrong, moral reform would seem impossible. Moral error would be unintelligible or uninteresting as well.

And, the fact that societies have given different answers to moral questions, and conventionally said X is evil, or X is good, does not mean that there is not an objective standard. Realists do not deny conventional morality. We just insist on the existence of a non-conventional morality which serves as the standard for assessing the merits of various conventional moralities.

Lastly, I have not stoned an adulteress today. For one, only the civil magistrate had that power. Thus to critique regular Christians as being inconsistent is off the mark. And, though I may get "in trouble" today does not make the practice back then wrong on your position. At best, all you mean is, "I (we) disagree with that." People who like chocolate ice cream are not wrong for doing so.

MP: "If morality is based in objective, eternal standards, why is it so mutable? Why do we disagree about so much of it, as we do with the other cultures you allude to? If morality must flow, objectively, from God, then why does it vary so locally, both in time and place?"

PM: Again, different answers do not prove that there is no correct answer. In fact, people disagree about many things in philosophy, logic, mathematics, &c., this does not mean that there is not objective basis to answer the questions.

Ironically, it is the moral subjectivist who has the problem with moral disagreement. What is there to disagree about? Take the claim that "abortion is immoral." Now, since I'd like to think the best of you, I'll assume that you think abortion is immoral. :-) We will then look at Theresa, who thinks abortion morally acceptable. On your position, your subjectivism boils down to the position that:

--Malcolm agrees that abortion is immoral

--Theresa agrees that abortion is moral.

Now, as long as the above report true feelings, then neither of you are wrong. In an uninteresting way, for Theresa to say that Malcolm is wrong, is just to recognize the truism that Malcolm disagrees with Theresa. Neither of you can be mistaken, though. And to the extent that you're both telling the truth, you're both infallible. Thus moral disagreement presupposes the falsity of moral subjectivism and cultural relativism!

Again, I'll cite Shafer-Landau,

"Right off the bat, we can see that moral skepticism is a doctrine of moral equivalence. If there are no right answers to ethical questions (nihilism), or what right answers there are are given by personal opinion (subjectivism), then any moral view is just as (im)plausible as any other. If relativists are right, then the basic views of all societies are morally on par with one another. On all skeptical theories, the basic moral views of any person, or society, are no better that those of any other." (ibid, p.18)

You also ask how on my view there can be moral disagreement morality "flows from God." I don't know about it "flowing" from God, but despite the metaphor, the Christian position includes the doctrine of sin. Man seeks to avoid God and God's law, thus he attempts to formulate his own law. Add that God made humans in his image, which makes them creative, and you get all sorts of wild ethical theories.

MP: "You suggested also that “maybe now I’ll doubt Nero’s existence.” You are welcome to, of course, but this example has no bearing whatsoever on the question at hand, simply because nobody is suggesting that Nero is the source of our moral intuition, or is the all-powerful Creator of the world, with a responsibility for its contents."

PM: (First, notice that my initials are the reverse of yours!) I think you fail to see the reductio. If subjective dislikes about _______, could be used to deny the objective existence of ______, then I don't see how your position denies the rationality of my doubting Nero's existence. Of course you can admit that on your view your PoE doesn't give you any rational reason to "doubt God's existence." I fail to see how God being the "source" of our moral intuition (whatever that means) and God being "responsible" for the contents 9whatever that means) of the world means that: subjective dislikes about _______, could be used to deny the objective existence of ______. Since Nero isn't the source of morality, and responsible for the contents of the world, does that someone mean that I can't deny his existence because he did thinks I find morally repugnant? Indeed, if God allows evil, why is that a problem? Just because you subjectively think so? Well, I subjectively think that one doesn't have to be the "source" of morality for me to not like what he does and so doubt his objective existence. Why is your position my rational than the Nero-doubter?

MP: "Well, it’s rather a stretch to imagine that ethics is free of normative assertions, when ethics concerns itself entirely with what should guide us as we try to choose between right and wrong. Take the “oughts” out of ethics, and you haven’t much left."

PM: It's not a stretch when one holds a worldview where everything is capable of being described in the language of science.

MP: So why, you ask, given the subjectivity of morality, ought you do the things I think moral? For you, perhaps no reason at all, obviously. (As I said, people do indeed disagree about right and wrong, which is a good reason to doubt that morality is objective.) For me, it’s really quite simple. The reason that I think you ought to do them is that I think they are the right thing to do.

PM: But in actuality, they are not the "right" thing to do. You see, the voodoo priest thinks that human sacrifice is the "right" thing to do.

How do we determine who is right?

Malcolm: Human sacrifice is immoral.

Voodoo priest: Human sacrifice is moral.

As pointed out above, if you're not a moral nihilist but a moral subjectivist, then both of these claims, if the claimers are uttering the truth, are true. Neither is in moral error. If you are both speaking the truth, then we have a contradiction. But from a contradiction we can prove anything:

1. A & ~A

2. A

3. A v B

4. ~A

5. :.B

Let A = Human sacrifice is immoral.

Let B = Christianity is true.

Hence Malcolm's position allows for the truth of Christianity!

Now, Malcolm may say, "No no, it is just true for them, but not for me." But this is just another way of saying that a person believes it. So, why ought I do what Malcolm believes is moral? His answer: "Because I believe it is moral."

My question: "But why ought I do what Malcolm believes is moral?"

His answer: “Because I believe it is moral.”

See the problem?

best,

~PM

**********

Hi Paul,

Well, I'm beginning to think we are not going to make further progress here. You seem bent on trying to press me into making several claims that I'm not making; in particular you seem to think that I am trying to hold onto the right to criticize other people's morality on some objective basis (what you call condemning or praising the behavior of others in an "interesting" way) while denying that morality has such a basis in the first place. But I think you are simply unable to grasp that this is exactly what I am NOT trying to do. I freely admit that in the absence of objective moral "facts" there is no reason why my moral critique of anyone else's actions should have any compulsive force upon them. I will ask, however, how, if there are such facts, we are able to examine them, question them, evaluate them, or get at them in any way other than through our moral intuitions, which is what we all rely on anyway. I will continue, of course, to follow my own moral compass, but I am not under the illusion that it is rooted in some objective metaphysical foundation, and you have offered us no reason to believe that it is.

As for the problem of evil, regardless of the subjectivity of my own intuitions about what is evil and what isn't, you are ignoring the fact that much of what goes on in the world simply seems contradictory to the claims that are made for the nature of God. It is quite transparently simple to see how a person, wondering whether or not to believe in God - and who imagines that if there is a God, that he is supposed to be a fount of mercy and justice (the common definitions of which include such concepts as sparing the innocent form suffering, etc.) - to then look around the room and see the innocent suffering right and left. You return again and again to your mushroom metaphor, but never acknowledge that conventional descriptions of God say nothing whatsoever about edible funguses, but quite a lot about love, justice and mercy. Let me spell it out once again:

A) It is proposed that there may be a Supreme Being who is responsible for the Creation and maintenance of this world.

B) Such a being may or may not exist, but if he does, he is all-powerful, and nothing that happens may happen without his consent.

C) This Being, should he exist, is loving, protective of the innocent, just, and merciful.

D) In the actual world, the innocent suffer horribly, and often. Justice is rare, as is mercy.

E) Therefore, it seems that either this Being is not as described (and thus, perhaps, unworthy of worship), or...

F) ...perhaps the most parsimonious account of all: he simply does not exist.

Nowhere, however, in the usual accounts of God is it suggested that he promises that all mushrooms will be delicious. Likewise, nowhere in accounts of Nero is it suggested that he is an invisible, all-powerful Creator and Maintainer of All That Is. You attempt to trivialize these objections by making remarks like "Indeed, if God allows evil, why is that a problem?", but in fact, it is of course a central problem, because God is specifically alleged to have the properties of perfect mercy, justice, and so forth. The problem is that the alleged nature of God conflicts with what we see in the world, namely the suffering of the innocent. If you wish to modify "God" so as not to be committed to the protection of the innocent, etc., then you do manage to avoid this objection, but at a rather dear cost.

You continue rather doggedly to miss my point with your example of the voodoo priest. He claims human sacrifice is moral; I say I think it isn't, and then you ask "How do we determine who is right?"

But the point is, as I freely admit - as in fact follows tautologically from the falsity of moral objectivism - that neither of us is "right" in the sense you are looking for. So how, then, shall you determine who is "right"? Well, you check you own conscience, just as we all do. You seem to think you are offering up reductios, but unlike you, I don't see the conclusions as absurd. You also repeat your question about why you ought to do what I think is moral - merely pointing out again that you don't see why you ought to do what I think is moral, and then saying, rather archly, "See the problem?" But once again, you seem to be thinking I am trying to claim something I am not, namely that my moral opinions will have any binding force over you. Why do I think you should do what I think is moral? Because I think it's moral. But why should you think you should do what I think is moral? No reason at all. I never said there was. You will, of course, do what you think is moral. If I see any voodoo priests whetting their knives on my block, I'm going to intervene. They may think this an immoral act on my part, but that's just too bad. Who's right? Well, it depends who you ask. There may well just be no "fact of the matter". I can live with that; my own moral sense, which is what we all depend on anyway, tells me what I'm doing is right. You may disagree.

And you are quite right: if there are no moral facts, then to a disinterested third party, "the basic moral views of any person, or society, are no better that those of any other." But to the person or society themselves, these moral intuitions have just as much persuasive force as they would if they were grounded in external facts, especially as we have no way of knowing whether they are or they aren't.

A few more remarks, in response to other objections of yours:

You wrote:

"It seems like you switch between moral relativism and moral subjectivism. Like you claim that "society" is what determines right and wrong, as well as claiming that "you" determine what is right and wrong.

No, no, no. Please try to work less vigorously at nit-picking sophistry, and try to grasp the broader idea here. Our moral sensibilities, although they have their origins in our evolutionary history, are also subject to cultural and memetic revision. We aren't slaves to our genes; as human beings, we engage in continuous cultural innovation, and our moral systems change over time. The gradual abolition of slavery throughout the world is a good example. For each of us, our moral views are inescapably influenced by the era and culture in which we are embedded.

When I point out that the existence of objective moral standards is called into question by the great variety of moral systems among different cultures, you respond:

"And, the fact that societies have given different answers to moral questions, and conventionally said X is evil, or X is good, does not mean that there is not an objective standard. Realists do not deny conventional morality. We just insist on the existence of a non-conventional morality which serves as the standard for assessing the merits of various conventional moralities. ...

In fact, people disagree about many things in philosophy, logic, mathematics, &c., this does not mean that there is not objective basis to answer the questions."


Very convenient - there are objective moral standards, but they don't carry enough weight actually to have much influence over people's sense of right and wrong. Let me ask: what evidence can you offer that such objective "facts" even exist at all? And if they do, how can we get a look at them? If we are considering an action, and want to know whether it is "objectively" moral, how can we find out? You speak of there being a "right" answer to moral questions. If I disagree with you about the rightness of an answer, to what reference may we appeal? What demonstration can you make to the skeptic who thinks that the entire notion of moral absolutes is a wishful fantasy, a delusional attempt to provide Godlike authority to one's own moral intuitions? Argument along the lines of "there must be moral absolutes, or else the whole foundation of our moral system has nothing upon which to stand" won't do, because nowhere are we guaranteed that our moral system will have such a foundation.


**********

Hello Malcolm,

I note that again you accuse me of misunderstanding your position. I don’t think so. But, I do think you have terribly misunderstood my arguments above. I wanted to be careful before I accused you of that, until I could make it explicit. For some reason, the constant accusation that someone has “misunderstood” you, without anything to back it up, seems a bit hollow. Seems like a cheap way to score some debate points. I hope to show below how you’ve entirely misunderstood the context of my arguments. In fact, you’ve misunderstood them so bad that I think you may not have read everything I’ve written, or bothered to give it that much attention. At any rate, I do not think you’ve purposefully misunderstood what I’ve been arguing. Well, fine speech, can I put my money where my mouth is? Let’s see:

Previously I wrote: “Now, as far as our discussion goes, you're quite right that I have questioned whether you have a problem of evil argument (a staple in the atheist's diet of devouring theists). To be more precise, I have specifically said that your position of moral subjectivism means that you must give up any external critique of Christianity. I have admitted that all is not lost for the atheologian, you still have the option of mounting an internal critique. But, and I find support in Michael Martin, I can't see an internal critique penetrating the defenses of Christian theism (what he calls “extended theism”), specifically my version of it! Needles to say, the Calvinist tradition does have a fine pedigree going back for quite some time, and so it's not an ad hoc position.”

So, the context of the discussion is that your giving up objective standards of morality reduces you to not being able to mount an external critique against Christian theism from the PoE. Notice that my position is this:

1) Malcolm cannot mount an external critique against Christian theism from the PoE if he gives up objective morality.

And

2) All is not lost, Malcolm may still offer an internal critique against Christian theism from the PoE, even if he gives up objective morality.

And

3) Malcolm’s “reasons” for “doubting God’s existence” that stem from his moral subjectivism are either trivial or non-rational (possibly irrational) “reasons” to “doubt God’s existence.

I think I’ve been sufficiently clear that (1), (2), and (3), is what I’m arguing here.

And so how have you misunderstood me? Well, for example, when you say,

“You seem bent on trying to press me into making several claims that I'm not making; in particular you seem to think that I am trying to hold onto the right to criticize other people's morality on some objective basis (what you call condemning or praising the behavior of others in an "interesting" way) while denying that morality has such a basis in the first place. But I think you are simply unable to grasp that this is exactly what I am NOT trying to do.

Right. That’s what I think your position is. Here’s where you’re off on my position. You claim that there is no objective basis for morality. You then say that the existence of “evil” gives you “reason” to doubt God’s objective existence. I say you’re welcome to not believe in God for any ole reason you want. Heck, if you want to “doubt God’s existence” from the claim that “ice cream cones don’t have bones,” be my guest. I’m simply interested in people’s rational reasons for “doubting God’s existence.” And so what is your position? Ethical subjectivism. As I pointed out above, for you, to say that “X is immoral” translates to the psychological fact that “Malcolm dislikes X.” Unfortunately, this turns moral statements into non-moral statements. The claim that “X is moral” (as said by Malcolm) translates in the claim that “Malcolm likes X,” and this makes no normative claim. And so what does Malcolm’s position look like as applied to a “reason for doubting God’s existence.” Let’s see:

4) God allows some “evil” thing, T, to happen.

This translates to:

5) I do not like God allowing T.

And so any external critique Malcolm could give for doubting God’s existence would boil down to:

6) I doubt God’s existence because he allows things Malcolm dislikes.

Are (5) and (6) rational reasons to deny God’s existence? I say no. For support, I invoke the prima facie irrationality of doubting the objective existence of God based on a claim like this:

7) I doubt God’s existence because he allows mushrooms to exist, and I dislike mushrooms.

On Malcolm’s view, if (6) is a rational reason to doubt God’s existence for him, then so is (7) a rational reason to doubt God’s existence for person S, a mushroom disliker, or S*, green pea soup disliker. But, (7) is not a rational reason for S (or S*) to doubt God’s existence. Therefore, (6) is not a rational reason to doubt God’s existence.

Moreover, when Malcolm says,

8) I think a pedophilia is a morally unacceptable lifestyle.

He is saying,

9) I disapprove of the pedophile lifestyle.

Now, since God allows pedophiles to exist and to carry out their immoral (subjectively distasteful?) lifestyles, this is a “reason” for Malcolm to “doubt God’s existence.” And so his “reason” to doubt God’s existence is,

10) I dislike that God allows pedophiles to practice their lifestyle.

And hence (10) is a “reason to doubt God’s existence,” for Malcolm. But is it a rational reason? I think I’ve shown that it is not above. But notice something else. If Malcolm’s position is true, then when a pedophile (who is convinced the what he is doing is love, and he has just “evolved” that way, and so shouldn’t be criticized for how he was born) says that,

11) I think the pedophile lifestyle is morally acceptable.

He is saying,

12) I approve of the pedophile lifestyle.

Now this pedophile finds out that Christianity teaches that God will judge pedophiles, and what they do is morally repugnant in the eyes of God, the pedophile thinks this is an “evil” on God’s part. Hence the pedophile’s position is,

13) I dislike that God disallows pedophiles to practice their life style.

And so this could be a reason to doubt God’s existence. As Mr. Pollack says above (with a bit of reshuffling on my part): “"But if you, on the other hand, believe that God’s perfect goodness should manifest itself in such a way that [people should get to love who they were born to love], [should count as] a reason to doubt his existence, or to consider him unworthy of worship […], then I suppose you’re welcome to take that position.”

And therefore, both (10) and (13) can count as reasons for someone to rationally(?) doubt God’s existence on Malcolm’s view. I think this is absurd, on the face of it. Now, if Malcolm wants to admit that his PoE is not a rational reason to doubt God’s existence, then I don’t really have problems with his position. Indeed, I welcome it. All it shows is that people don’t have rational reasons for their denying God’s existence.

Notice also that Malcolm’s position renders claims like (8) and (11) both true. Malcolm cannot say that (11) is in error, in any interesting way. When Malcolm says that “(11) is in error,” all he means is that “I disagree with (11).” But this is a trivial truism. After all, (11) disagrees with (8). To the extend that (8) and (11) report true feelings of people, then are not wrong. And so I’ve noted that when Malcolm “criticizes” another’s moral position, all he’s saying is that he doesn’t agree with it. But he cannot say it is false. And therefore I don’t think I’ve misunderstood him at all. Thus his accusation here is unfounded. And so Malcolm does not have an external critique. His critique, externally, simply boils down to the claim that he doesn’t like what God does. That’s not a critique but a report of Malcolm’s psychological disposition. Not “liking” X does not give you a rational reason for denying the “existence” of X. And this is Malcolm’s position analyzed. No, as I pointed out about external and internal critiques: "We don't need objective morality to level an internal critique... [b]ut don't we ever wants to criticize the ultimate commitments themselves? For this we need an external critique. ...If these [ultimate commitments] can ever be misguided - not just according to me, or my culture, but misguided period - then (so long as there are any correct moral standards at all) there must be some objective morality that reveals error." (Landeau, Whatever Happened to Good and Evil, Oxford, p.16-17) You see, on Malcolm’s’ position, externally, he must not say that God is wrong for allowing pedophilia to occur. Malcolm’s doubt looks like this, then,

14) God is not wrong for allowing X, but I don’t like X, therefore I’ll doubt the existence of God, even though he is not wrong, or in error, for permitting X.

And this Malcolm’s “external PoE” argument as it bears on the rationality of believing in God.

Malcolm then goes on. He writes,

“As for the problem of evil, regardless of the subjectivity of my own intuitions about what is evil and what isn't, you are ignoring the fact that much of what goes on in the world simply seems contradictory to the claims that are made for the nature of God. It is quite transparently simple to see how a person, wondering whether or not to believe in God - and who imagines that if there is a God, that he is supposed to be a fount of mercy and justice (the common definitions of which include such concepts as sparing the innocent form suffering, etc.) - to then look around the room and see the innocent suffering right and left. You return again and again to your mushroom metaphor, but never acknowledge that conventional descriptions of God say nothing whatsoever about edible funguses, but quite a lot about love, justice and mercy.”

Above I showed how I had not misunderstood his position, but merely pointed out that he had no external PoE argument, now I’ll show how it has been Malcolm, not me, who has misunderstood his interlocutor’s argument. What Malcolm just uttered above is what’s called an internal critique. Remember that I claimed that Malcolm could give an internal critique. I claimed this on 2/14/07. I had said that Malcolm didn’t have an external PoE, but he could still give an internal PoE. And so the above is not a critique of anything I’ve said. I never said Malcolm could not launch an internal critique.

Though I could technically end here, since Malcolm’s comments only serve to underscore my point, I had previously claimed that I had seen no successful internal critiques. Does the above count as one? No, it doesn’t. But first, let’s look at the above and see that it couldn’t be a successful external critique.

First, on Malcolm’s view, all he could mean here, externally, is that he doesn’t like what God does, but God is not morally wrong in allowing these supposed innocents to suffer, though. Moreover, apparently one holds the position that if someone is good, then they shouldn’t do evil, and if they do do evil, they shouldn’t promote themselves as being good. Why? Because this is hypocrisy. Apparently Malcolm thinks hypocrisy morally repugnant. But, again, is this really a problem? All Malcolm could mean here is that he disagrees with hypocrisy. But this as been critiqued above. It is not a successful PoE argument to say that someone is not really doing evil, but they are doing something I subjectively dislike. You see, the PoE must take evil seriously. If there is no evil, then a person cannot be blamed for causing evil. All God is being charged with here is for doing things Malcolm doesn’t like.

But, Malcolm could say, well, given your conception of God, given what is claimed of him, then if there is real evil E, this is incompatible with some other property P that God supposedly has. Thus, E is problematic on P. Hence we can see the internal character of this critique. But, unfortunately for those who launch internal critiques, they must include the entire system I the critique. Thus, even though E may be problematic on P, if the worldview includes P1, P2, P3, and P…n, which render E on P unproblematic, the internal inconsistency goes away. Or, if said critique presupposes that cases of E are happening, but the worldview, if true, does not have cases of E happening, the internal critique is defeated. I claim that Malcolm’s rationality defeaters, which seek to show internal inconsistency, can only be made by denying other things true of theism. Hence the de jure objection is not independent of the de facto. His objections can, once analyzed, be stated thus: “If Christianity is not all that it claims to be, then there’s a problem of evil for it.” But of course now we don’t have a defeater for Christianity. Malcolm is free to imagine Christianity as claiming such and such, or not claiming such and such. But then we have Malcolmanity. I’m not here to defend Malcolmanity, or claim it is internally consistent.

So, take the claim that “innocents suffer.” Externally, this is not morally wrong, Malcolm just disapproves of it. “Disapproving of X” is not a moral claim. “X is wrong.” is a moral claim. But, is this a problem internally? Given what Christianity teaches, if Christianity were the case, is Malcolm looking around and “seeing innocents suffering right and left?” Let’s analyze this claim:

a) Christianity claims that there are no innocent mere-human people. “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” “There is none that are good, no not one.” If Christianity is true, there are no “innocents suffering right and left.”

b) When sinners suffer, they suffer the effects of sin. These, on the Christian worldview, are punishments for violations of a holy and perfect law. Hence, God, as a perfect and just judge, can punish criminals.

c) God allows and ordains evil for the greatest good. Malcolm cannot point to cases of “suffering” and show that this is evil. For example, a little child may need a doctor to stitch him up because he fell and received a cut. This causes an “innocent” to suffer. Is the doctor committing an evil? No. But, if the doctor did this for no reason, or it had no greater good, this would be evil. Hence, Malcolm should be aware that what he needs to show are gratuitous cases of evil.

d) I don’t know of the metaphor claiming that “God is the fount of mercy and justice,” but God is merciful and he is just. But God’s mercy, according to Christianity, is selective. God is under no obligation to give mercy to all, or any. God’s love is rather like marital love. I love my wife in a way I don’t love my neighbor’s wife. People don’t deserve mercy, else it’s no longer mercy. But, people do deserve to be treated justly. And what we deserve, as sinners, is nothing short of the cosmic death penalty.

And so given these other claims the Bible makes, Malcolm didn’t attack the Christian worldview, but, rather, Malcolmanity. It would be logically fallacious to claim that since Malcolmanity had internal inconsistencies, therefore, so does Christianity.

Then it appears that Malcolm wants to claim he’s been arguing this way all along. He writes,

“Let me spell it out once again:

A) It is proposed that there may be a Supreme Being who is responsible for the Creation and maintenance of this world.

B) Such a being may or may not exist, but if he does, he is all-powerful, and nothing that happens may happen without his consent.

C) This Being, should he exist, is loving, protective of the innocent, just, and merciful.

D) In the actual world, the innocent suffer horribly, and often. Justice is rare, as is mercy.

E) Therefore, it seems that either this Being is not as described (and thus, perhaps, unworthy of worship), or...

F) ...perhaps the most parsimonious account of all: he simply does not exist.”


Notice that he says “once again.” But, “once again,” I’ve told Malcolm that he’s not forbidden to offer an internal critique. And, (A) - (F) is an internal critique.

Note again, though, that without an external and objective standard of evil, Malcolm has no criticism. He even says so: “You seem bent on trying to press me into making several claims that I'm not making; in particular you seem to think that I am trying to hold onto the right to criticize other people's morality on some objective basis […] while denying that morality has such a basis in the first place. But I think you are simply unable to grasp that this is exactly what I am NOT trying to do.” See, without an objective basis for morality, an external critique looks like this: “I don’t like what God does, therefore I doubt his existence.” This has the form: “If I don’t like Y’s allowing X, then I have reason to doubt the objective existence of Y.” And absurd critique. Again, given Malcolm’s view, God is not morally in error for “allowing innocents to suffer.” Thus we have: “Y is not wrong for allowing X, but I don’t personally like the fact that Y allows X, therefore I have reason to doubt the objective existence of Y.” And so the above cannot be an external critique.

Now, as far as the internal critique goes, (A) - (F) do not present the correct story, and so it is impossible that this could be an internal critique. That is, maybe it is an internal critique of Malcolmanity, but it is not an internal critique of Christianity (at least the robust and long-standing Augustinian tradition I’m representing). So, despite the fact that there are no mere-humans who are innocent, another problem is that this doesn’t show that “allowing ‘innocents’ to suffer’ is an immoral thing on our worldview. God has a good reason for what he plans and allows. We must also note that justice is never rare. God will always punish sin. Sin will never go unpunished. The doctrine of Hell is not included in the above account. Thus Christianity has facts F1 - Fn that have been left out of the internal critique.

Malcolm seems to note this answer. He claims, “The problem is that the alleged nature of God conflicts with what we see in the world, namely the suffering of the innocent. If you wish to modify "God" so as not to be committed to the protection of the innocent, etc., then you do manage to avoid this objection, but at a rather dear cost.” But I have not modified God in such a way. I have modified Malcolm’s understanding of what he’s critiquing. If Malcolm wishes to continue to critique Malcolmanity, he may do so if he wishes, but it comes at a rather dear cost; namely, biblical Christianity gets off Scott free. Furthermore, Malcolm needs to show that the suffering which occurs is gratuitous evil. There’s nothing wrong with causing suffering for a greater moral good (cf. the medical procedure on the child). God uses evil to test his servants (cf. 1 Peter 1:7; James 1:3), to discipline them (Hebrews 12:7-11), to preserve their life (Genesis 50:20), to enable them to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7), and to give them greater joy when suffering is replaced by glory (1 Peter 4:13). All of these specific second-order goods bring God more glory, and these are achieved by His allowing suffering and evil. In the Christian worldview God’s glory, God himself, is the highest good. Furthermore, God glorifies himself cross-attributinally. He does not just receive glory in his allowing the elect to know him better, but in punishing the wicked.

So, given that view, the apostle Paul could say, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). God uses suffering for many reasons. Different people and situations require different amounts of suffering. For one believer God may sanctify him by giving him a couple of flat tires in his life. Another he may sanctify by giving him some physical defect. Another he may take his life. And all of this is not as bad vis-à-vis Job. He needed to be rocked. Take the suffering of Joni Erickson Tada. She’s a Christian who was paralyzed at a very young age. She rejoices in her suffering, knowing that God did this for His glory. To paraphrase Joni Erickson Tada, God allows that which he hates in the short term in order to accomplish that which He loves in the long-term. This is a woman who says that when she gets to heaven she will run up and thank Jesus for putting her in a wheelchair! Tada uses a beautiful illustration in one of her books. Suppose you have an expensive diamond, which you wish to display. How do you optimally enhance its beauty? Would you imbed it in hundreds of diamonds? No. You place it as a solitaire on a dark cloth. Then, you direct a single spotlight on it which reflects its beauty to the fullest.
Joni believes that her paralyzed “earth suit” creates just such a dark backdrop through which Christ may be seen. This brings great credibility to Jesus Christ's worthiness to be praised as the lost and saved alike marvel at her behavior in her circumstances! They think, "Where does she get such strength?" So, God uses our suffering to Glorify Himself. But, God is no less glorified in His love than in His wrath. In Christianity, God’s wrath and justice are glorified just as much as His love and wisdom. Indeed, would not a perfect human judge receive glory for rendering wise and just punishments? How much more then the exemplar of righteousness? John Piper puts it this way: “It is God’s supreme commitment to uphold and display the full range of His glory through the sovereign demonstrations of all His perfections, including his wrath and mercy…”

Next, Malcolm again accuses me of missing his point. But, again, it is Mr. Pollack who misses the point. Says Malcolm,

“You continue rather doggedly to miss my point with your example of the voodoo priest. He claims human sacrifice is moral; I say I think it isn't, and then you ask ‘How do we determine who is right?’ But the point is, as I freely admit - as in fact follows tautologically from the falsity of moral objectivism - that neither of us is "right" in the sense you are looking for.”

But the context of the above discussion was that Malcolm used the fact of moral disagreement as an argument for ethical subjectivism (or, relativism). My point, though, was that real disagreement presupposed moral objectivism. Something is objective if you can be mistaken about it. Given subjectivism, no one is wrong. So, it makes no sense to debate and argue. I hope Malcolm doesn’t debate his dinner guests when they let him know they like chocolate ice cream better than Malcolm’s favorite, orange sherbet! So, note again Malcolm’s false accusation.

Lastly, Malcolm asks what I think the standard is. My answer: God’s holy character is the standard. I don’t expect Malcolm to like this standard, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. He asks what arguments I have for objective moral standards. One is that an all-knowing God has revealed that there are these standards. But, I’ve also offered other arguments in this combox. Either moral objectivism is the case, or some kind of subjectivism is. Now, the refutation and arguments against subjectivism seek to support objectivism. Second, it appears that we can be wrong about our moral beliefs. Bottom line, a child molester is flat out wrong for molesting children. If he is wrong, then there must be a standard by which we can say that he’s wrong. Saying he’s wrong is not the same as saying, “I disagree with him.” The latter is not a moral claim, but a psychological description. Third, the force of a PoE is gone. For a PoE argument to work, evil must be taken seriously. At best, the skeptic can offer an internal critique, but that’s not going to work against extended theism, especially the kind I’ve presented here. Fourth, moral subjectivism leads to moral equivalency. Child rape and love making with your wife are morally equivalent. Fifth, ethical subjectivism implies moral infallibility. As long as Malcolm reports what he truly feels about some moral position, he cannot be in error. Ethical objectivism answers all of these problems. Cultural relativism disallows moral progress. Thus Martin Luther King was actually immoral for advocating equality among the races. Objectivism allows for moral progress. Sixth, ethical obligations can only be made by persons. Non-persons cannot obligate me to do or behave any such way. I am obligated to pay my roofer, who I agreed to pay if he fixed my roof. I am obligated to pay him because he is a person that I have entered into a contract with. It would seem that universal and absolute moral obligations require a universal and absolute person, God. God’s person is the “ground” of morality. Finally, objectivism can say a scene like this is really wrong and morally evil:

“"People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that's a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel....

I've collected a great, great deal about Russian children, Alyosha. There was a little girl of five who was hated by her father and mother.... You see, I must repeat again, it is a peculiar characteristic of many people, this love of torturing children, and children only.... It's just their defenselessness that tempts the tormentor, just the angelic confidence of the child who has no refuge and no appeal that sets his vile blood on fire....

This poor child of five was subjected to every possible torture by those cultivated parents. They beat her, thrashed her, kicked her for no reason till her body was one bruise. Then, they went to greater refinements of cruelty -- shut her up al night in the cold and frost in a privy, and because she didn't ask to be taken up at night... they smeared her face and filled her mouth with excrement, and it was her mother, her mother did this. And that mother could sleep, hearing the poor child's groans!” - The Brothers Karamozov

Best,

~PM

**********

Well, Paul, if nothing else, I must admire your stamina. I never really imagined that anything I might say would pierce such a seamlessly encapsulated worldview; I begin to think that communication across the immeasurable gulf that separates our sets of axioms is simply not feasible, and I weary of the effort. There is no way to gain a purchase on a system of thought that, for example, eliminates even the possibility of the suffering of the innocent on the basis that nobody, not even Dostoyevsky's tormented babe, is innocent; that seeks to quiet the skeptic's curiosity about how one knows there to be objective moral standards by saying that they must be there because God has "revealed" that they are; that suggests no scientific or objective way to access or examine such standards, but insists that they are necessary nonetheless; that permits no objection to be made against God for inflicting unjust suffering because everything that God does is by definition just; that dismisses perfectly reasonable doubts about the alleged existence of an invisible, intangible, supernatural being by fatuously likening them to doubting the existence of common foodstuffs due to gustatory preferences; and that in a truly astonishing philosophical contortion can take the fact that people often disagree about moral issues not to be consistent with the nonexistence of objective moral standards, but as evidence in their favor, and so on.

We live in utterly different worlds, you and I, and if we cannot agree on the most basic postulates, spending further hours in sterile argument is time wasted for both of us. We have got to the point of simply insisting that we misunderstand one another, and it is indeed wearying to be so willfully, intractably misunderstood.

The view you defend is a consistent one, and you present it adeptly; it resembles a polished sphere, self-supporting, without the need to moor itself to any external reality whatsoever. It is that very inability to attach such a view to the objective world in such a way as might be convincing to a skeptic that is the point I have been trying to make throughout this "debate", but I certainly have no illusions about the penetrability of such a structure by anything remotely resembling doubt, or scientific inquiry.

The strength of such a view, however, is also its weakness, as it provides a haven for those who already believe, but offers nothing - not the slightest assistance - to the skeptic who might have been brought around by a worldview of less-perfect circularity.

You may have the last word; I have no doubt you'll take it.

**********

Hi again Malcolm,

Well, since theists allegedly have the burden of proof, and are allegedly in the intellectual minority, I think it wise for me to accept your allowing me to have the last word. Theists need every edge we can get! :-) Seriously, though, this will be my last word and I wouldn't mind in the least if you wanted to close out your thoughts. My closing comments should be brief.... but that's what I thought my last two posts would be!

First, I thank you for recognizing that the theism I defend is a "consistent" one. That's more than, say, the contributors to Martin's and Monnier's The Impossibility of God will allow.

Second, though I know you will disagree, from my perspective there is common ground. You see, whether you like it or not, you're made in God's image, Malcolm. As an image bearer, I know that you really do think that torturing and raping a 5 year old little girl, just for the pure fun of it, is morally wrong. I know that when you hear of reports like that, it's not like hearing reports that some people like to lick a bowl of chocolate ice cream bare, while you like to do that just to vanilla. Chocolate lovers are not in error, child-rape lovers are.

We do not live in different worlds, we live in God's world. There is not one square inch of his creation that does not have his stamp of ownership on it. Not one square inch where the king does not say, "This is mine!"

You do well to recognize that we have different presuppositions. Though I agree with you that mine are "consistent," I'm sorry that I cannot share that sentiment of your worldview. And you see my argument would be, that given your worldview, your presuppositions undermine rationality, morality (as we saw), human dignity, etc.

Third, I do allow for internal objections to God's goodness. My problem is, I've not seen the argument as of yet. When people try it they always attack some cookie cutter version of theism. Some form of Appalachian mountain snake dancing theism. Or, some flat out unbiblical notions of God and his attributes. So it is false to say that I just assert that no internal critique can be given. I don't think one can, but you're free to offer one.

Fourth, that I took the disagreement of moral values (and facts) to be evidence of objective morality is true. We've seen no rebuttal to the contrary. but let's not just say that this is some disease of the theist. Non-Christian and non-theists moral realists make the same points.

Fifth, to say that I need "scientific standards" to determine what is "necessary" strikes me as sorely mistaken.

Lastly, though my position does offer a haven for those who believe, it is false to say that it offers unbelievers answers. But you see, you need the regenerating work of the Spirit of God to enable you to see. I could point to the fact that Christian theism allows for the basic dignity of man, he will not, for example, be sucked into the cosmic consciousness, or become a cog in the grand evolutionary scheme of things. Without the assumption of being created in God's image, then we have Russell's worldview. As Bertrand Russell says in A Free Man’s Worship,

“The life of Man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, towards a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry long. One by one, as they march, our comrades vanish from our sight, seized by the silent orders of omnipotent Death. …Brief and powerless is Man's life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned to-day to lose his dearest, to-morrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness…”

I could point out that God has made us to know the truth. He has made our minds to have faculties aimed at true beliefs. I could say this is better than, say, Rorty:

"The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own increated prosperity but toward Truth, is as un-Darwinian as the idea that every human being has a built-in moral compass--a conscience that swings free of both social history and individual luck." (Richard Rorty, "Untruth and Consequences," The New Republic, July 31, 1995, pp. 32-36.)

I could point out that you could have real significance - as an adopted child of our heavenly Father. Instead of finding significance in our blog entries, our homes, businesses, cars, friends opinions, etc. Quite frequently we see those Christmas newsletters from friends. And each year their picture gets smaller. They want to show them on the balcony of the Waldorf Astoria, but you can barely see them. We are shrinking. I could point out that we become what we worship, what we idolize. Unfortunately, we tend here in the West to idolize impersonal things. Thus we are increasingly becoming less personal. I could point you to Christ, he should be our true idol. As we seek to become more like him, we embrace and exhibit the personal. As Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee." I can point you to a Savior. I can tell you how to get rid of your guilt. Unfortunately, you reject all these things. It's not that I have nothing of "assistance" for you, it's that you don't want the assistance. You want to be your own God, make up your own moral rules, and seek to know everything through a microscope, where you're all powerful, and virtually omnipresent to what is on the slide. Malcolm, maybe you could tell me how I could talk about God and your need for him, to someone who hates God and wants to be his own god? How do you offer assistance to those who think they are well off? Perhaps the fault is not in my arguments, my worldview, or my religion? Perhaps the fault is within your own heart?

For His Kingship,

~PM

**********

Hi Paul,

Well, after such a gracious coda, perhaps I will accept your offer to "close my thoughts". It was late, and I was weary, when I wrote, in some haste, last night, and I regret any incivility of tone.

The fundamental axiom about which our intuitions pull us in entirely opposite directions, of course, is the existence of God, and the psychic need for such absolutes. I cannot demonstrate the nonexistence of God, though my own sense of intellectual parsimony suggests strongly to me that the notion of such an invisible being is an utterly unjustifiable hypothesis at best, and most likely - almost certainly - nothing more than a persistent cultural hallucination. But there is no question that a consistent philosophy can be built upon such a set of axioms, as long as care is taken that none of it is to be exposed to any sort of empirical verification, and as long as the postulates and definitions are shaped so as to allow large internal cavities to which the believer may retreat whenever pressure is applied from one side or the other.

Perhaps an even greater difference between our minds, though, than the need for God, is the hunger for absolutes. You are quite right that for me torturing children is a more important matter than preferences in ice cream; that I see one as morally wrong, and the other not to be a normative matter at all. The difference is that for me, it is enough simply to acknowledge these moral intuitions as part of our human makeup - as part of what makes human society work, a finely tuned adaptive mechanism that is the product of the complex interactions of our natural, cultural, and personal history - while for you, that isn't enough; you must insist that these moral intuitions must also be grounded in "objective" metaphysical bedrock, even if such objective roots are entirely inaccessible in any empirical way. Doubt and uncertainty are not acceptable. It is not enough to have moral preferences; you must also believe that they are objectively "right" as well, even if there is no way to access the alleged underlying facts in any way whatsoever, and no objective way to resolve any moral disagreement by appealing to them. Such insistence upon unprovable and inaccessible abstracta seems to me utterly unnecessary, and wholly unjustifiable.

You are right that my worldview "undermines" rationality, morality, human dignity, if by that you mean that it removes from them the supernatural basis upon which the theist wishes them to stand. But that certainly does not mean that we cannot reason, make moral choices, or respect ourselves; indeed, to the secular mind there is more dignity in an adult, naturalistic worldview, in which we are responsible for our own moral framework, and in which we take the world simply as we observe it to be, than there is in living as the fearful and obedient children of an invisible, intangible hyperbeing that countenances the most wretched suffering for motives that are by definition shrouded in impenetrable mystery, a view whose only empirical support rests upon the claims of a book of Bronze Age folklore.

It may well be, as Russell writes, that the life of Man is indeed naught but a brief spark in a long darkness, and it is certainly easy to understand the temptation of a mythos that offers victory over death. But comfort is not counsel, and those of us who want not reassurance, but Truth, see no reason to drop, in favor of wishful imaginings, our patient inquiry into the world we can actually observe. And to imagine that my life can only have significance if I am the "adopted child of our heavenly Father" seems utterly backward to me; wouldn't it be better to find such dignity in my own life, my own actions, my own choices, than in having a powerful father? Whom do you respect more: the self-made man, or his privileged children? Frank Sinatra, or Nancy?

But you are wrong when you say I hate God, and that I want to be my own God. Implicit in those remarks is another axiom about which we differ: that there need be a God at all. I don't hate God, any more than I hate Santa or Sherlock Holmes. As Laplace said, I simply "have no need of that hypothesis". And I certainly don't want to be God, not at all. I'm perfectly happy just to be me.

Once again, last word to you, if you like (this time for sure).

**********

Malcolm,

My "last word" will consist of two small points - more of a recap, really:

1) I did not detect "incivility of tone," so no worries.

2) Thanks for you time. Perhaps we will run into each other again and debate God's existence, the superiority of the Christian worldview, etc., for now I only sought to prove that giving up objective morality leaves you without an external PoE (a main weapon in the atheist arsenal), and I have no reason to think that an atheists only other option - an internal argument - can be successful. At least there was none offered here. I also attempted to show that you're free to "doubt God's existence" given your understanding of morality, but this boils down to an irrational reason to doubt; certainly not how a properly functioning cognizer would attempt to rationally doubt the objective existence of something. I think both points were argued successfully, IMHO. I no doubt you think you have no need for the God hypothesis (actually, I never presented God as an hypothesis), but from what we've seen here, your "basis for doubt" isn’t a rational one, and rejecting the "hypothesis" leaves you unable to say that child-rape is *wrong.* So, if you want to continue to hold to a worldview that says the difference between child-rape and child-protection is like the difference between liking chocolate ice cream over vanilla, then all I can say is: Speak into the microphone. Let the world know the true options they face.

blessings,

~PM

**********

88 comments:

  1. :::BRAAAPPP!!!!:::

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  2. Hostus Twinkonus2/25/2007 7:05 AM

    Another long winded nightmare.

    :::BLEH!!!:::

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  3. HT-onus,

    I know, this one requires mental stamina. Sorry. Though just to let you know, next week I do plan on posting the entire alphabet. Maybe you could start by reading that. Eventually, you'll move from a 26 letter post, to a 52 letter one, then a 104 one, 208, 416, and so one. Eventually you'll get there. So, perk up lil' camper, there's hope.

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  4. Wow, that was fascinating.

    "I know there is an objective standard because an all-knowing God said so."

    Of course, we don't know that this all-knowing God exists, outside of a man-made book.

    Nice one, question begger!!!!

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  5. pikman,

    Of course you're not representing the entire section you lifted that quote from. It doesn't bode well for atheists when they have to quote mine and make their opponant look weak, so they can look strong.

    Anyway, there are plenty of arguments for God's existence, "outside the book."

    And, that the book is "man made" is what's up for dispute. Nice one, question begger!

    And, why should I not accept God's say-so in his book. What, do you deny that we can know things on the basis of the testimony of other people? So, why should I assume God's testimony is questionable? Any interesting argument you can give here, I can give against most of your knowledge that has been gained by the testimony ofother persons, which is probably 98%. So, nice one self-debunker!

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  6. Well done Paul. As for Malcolm, that was perhaps the most eloquent cop-out I've seen.

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  7. Well said, Paul. Readers should note how Christians are criticized if they don't have answers to objections and are criticized if they do have answers, since having answers supposedly makes a worldview suspiciously "polished". Malcolm lost the dispute over the problem of evil, and his off-topic assertions about a supposed lack of objective support for the Christian worldview were gratuitous and incorrect.

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  8. I find it interesting that you claim to be able to critique my views internally but you refuse to think I can do so with yours. I can always claim you don't understand my views, just as you can do.

    We live in separate worlds, you and I.

    But we must both realize this: if we set the standards for internally critiquing our own view beyond what is reasonable for our opponents to do, and demand that they meet these standards, then we cannot ask them to lower these standards in order for us to properly internally critique their views. Doing so is applying a hypocritical double standard.

    The highest standard of an internal critique is that you accept everything that I do. If that is the demand, then you cannot offer an internal critique of my views, because you've already granted me everything.

    Internally critiquing one another's views has got to be on a continuum, with some arguments that are almost, but not quite external on one side of the spectrum, and with some arguments that are almost, but not quite internal on the other side.

    And that's what I think. This cuts to the chase, even though you assert my views on the matter are not as sophisticated as others.

    If this isn't more sophisticated, then where am I wrong?

    No, really. Tell me. This is what I have always believed and it's akin to the relationship between faith and reason which are likewise best seen on a continuum, with almost, but not quite blind faith on one side, and almost, but not quite reason on the other.

    How can this NOT be the case?

    I'd like you to address this in a manageable to read Blog entry, if you can.

    Cut to the chase. Tell me.

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  9. John,

    Your argument is flawed because your most important premise,

    "The highest standard of an internal critique is that you accept everything that I do. If that is the demand, then you cannot offer an internal critique of my views, because you've already granted me everything."

    doesn't take note of the whole "for arguments sake" aspect I've told you about.

    And so John, I value my time; talking with someone who refuses to let objections, clarifications, qualifications, etc., sink into his head (possibly the cowboy hat is blocking the process?), is a waste of that time.

    And internal critique is simply. Here's what you do:

    Accept all of a worldviews features, F1 - Fn, and show how there is a contradiction, inconsistency, tension, *between* some feature and another.

    Thus I may show that F4 and F9 are contradictory, or, taken together, say, contradict another feature, F17.

    Now, let's say that F4 and F5 are inconsistent with F17, but the inconsistency dissapears with the inclusion of another feature of your worldview, F25. If I leave F25 out of the equation I am not critiquing your worldview, or showing a problem with your worldview.

    Notice above, then, that my critique dealt strictly with the F's of your worldview. My worldview has Christian features, CF's. Notice above that I did not employ any CF's to defeat your worldview. The critique was only between your F's, John's F's, call them JF's.

    Hence, John, if you want to internally critique my worldview, your critiques must include only (and all relevant) CF's and exclude all JF's. By definition, to use a JF to critique CF is to offer an external critique. This is indisputable since it is true by definition. I didn't make the term "internal critique" up, John.

    So John, maybe you could write up a blog entry for us on why it is that every single philosopher in the world is united on this issue, and none agree with you? Why do you think that is, John? Is it part of a Christain conspiracy?

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  10. John Loftus said:

    "The highest standard of an internal critique is that you accept everything that I do. If that is the demand, then you cannot offer an internal critique of my views, because you've already granted me everything. Internally critiquing one another's views has got to be on a continuum, with some arguments that are almost, but not quite external on one side of the spectrum, and with some arguments that are almost, but not quite internal on the other side."

    As Paul has explained, you can't include external elements while claiming that it's an internal critique. And if you're going to include some external elements, then what's your justification for those elements? It seems that you're trying to have it both ways. You haven't been able to get an external critique to work your way, and you can't think of an internal critique that would work, so you're trying to come up with something else. You combine the two while claiming that you're doing an internal critique. You want an external standard to refute Christianity, but your atheistic worldview doesn't give you one. That's your problem, not Paul's (or David Wood's, Steve Hays', etc.). You need to accept the depressing consequences of your chosen worldview.

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  11. Paul "question begger" says:

    "Anyway, there are plenty of arguments for God's existence, "outside the book."

    I must have missed those compelling arguments for Jehovah's existence that don't rely on the Bible.

    Paul "question beggar" says:

    "And, that the book is "man made" is what's up for dispute. Nice one, question begger!"

    So, you assume its "godmade" and I assume its "manmade."

    So compelling you are.

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  12. OK, I'll come clean. I'm not really an atheist, I'm just a theist posting to try to make atheists look bad.

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  13. So once agin, if god is perfectly good, all knowing, and all powerful, then the issue of why there is so much suffering in the world requires an explanation. The reason is that a perfectly good god would be opposed to it, an all-powerful god would be capable of eliminating it, and an all-knowing God would know what to do about it.

    So, the extent of intense suffering in the world means for the theist that: either God is not powerful enough to eliminate it, or God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is just not smart enough to know what to do about it. The stubborn fact of evil in the world means that something is wrong with God’s ability, or his goodness, or his knowledge.

    Only the dense would think this is not offering up a problem that is internal to what a Christian believes. Only the dense...

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  14. Pikmon said,

    "I must have missed those compelling arguments for Jehovah's existence that don't rely on the Bible."

    Oh, well you'll need to do some homework and reading. Sorry, I know it's a bummer. If I were an unregenerate, I'd much rather smoke bong loads and play my PS2 than read philosophy of religion stuff.

    "So, you assume its "godmade" and I assume its "manmade."

    So why was "question begger" being used in a derogatory way, then? If it isn't a problem, then my argument stands, if it is, you refute yourself. Which door will you choose, number 1 or 2?

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  15. pikmin said...

    "OK, I'll come clean. I'm not really an atheist, I'm just a theist posting to try to make atheists look bad."


    I knew it. Your writing looked so familiar. Joel Osteen, right?

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  16. John,

    In the above, you never bothered to address the greater good defense that has been offered time and time again. You left out a feature, John. So, it's not an internal critique. If there is a morally sufficient reason for the evil God plans and allows, then there's no problem of evil. You must show that the evil we see is "gratuitous.* This has not been done, John.

    Amazing. How much ink has been spilled by Hays et al. against you on this, and your above post simply shows that you have not bothered to learn a thing.

    So, though you may have included CF1 - CF3, and then tried to show that this was inconsistent with CF 7, you left out CF 15, which renders the inconsistency between CF1-3 & CF7 unproblematic. Remember my lesson above. Do try to inclide all the relevant features in your critique. Only a dense person would not include CF15 and claim they're giving an internal critique. Only the dense...

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  17. Hi Paul, I'd just like to point out that its not at all difficult for a moral subjectivist (which I am not) to defend a version of the argument from evil. He simply has to base his argument, not on the idea that allowing suffering is evil and God would not, by definition, do evil, but instead on the premise that it inconsistent for a being which is defined as perfectly caring to allow extreme unnecessary suffering.

    Notice that this version of the POE (which I haven't stated formally but can if you insist on it) doesn't involve any claims concerning objective right and wrong.....only what forms of behavior are consistent with a particular disposition (that of being caring/loving).

    In fact, I think this is the more sensible version of the POE, even for the moral objectivist, since it avoids getting sidetracked into long discussions about meta-ethics.

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  18. Hi David,

    If you actually bothered to read what I wrote, this is precisely the point I made.

    This is an internal critique. And yours fails because (a) you haven't shown that there is unnecessary suffering, and (b) there are other attributes that qualify the love of God.

    Next time read who you critique and come to play with an interesting argument that hasn't already been addressed.

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  19. Pinkie Tuscadaro2/25/2007 9:30 PM

    Paul Manata sure is a lightning rod...his false bravado coupled with the moronic anonymous comments makes a good show for all.

    Tis Good Lord to Be Here!

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  20. Non-Paul Ananonymous2/25/2007 9:51 PM

    Pinkie, and your argument refuting what Paul had to say is....???

    ReplyDelete
  21. Pinkie,

    I have no idea what you're talking about.

    Apparently bravado and moronic comments are only accepted if you name yourself after a character on Happy Days.

    Maybe Pinkie Tuscadaro is me? Maybe I posted another anonymous comment just to easily make the person look stupid and me look better. How will we know? Thanks Pinkie! Thanks for helping my "lightning rod" immage.

    Please Pinkie, post more moronic comments and then make fun of moronic comments. The irony is too much to pass up.

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  22. Pinkie Tuscadaro2/25/2007 10:00 PM

    Paul,

    I just KNEW you'd remember me from Happy Days, since you seem to think you're the Christian Fonzie.

    HAW HAW HAW

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. Pinkie,

    I don't *think* I'm the Christian Fonz, I *am* the Christian Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli.

    But, it's better than being the atheist version of Screech Powers.

    Only a nerd like Screech would pretend to be The Christian Fonz's love interest, but considering you're a groupie, I'll let it slide... this time.

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  25. Hi David,

    If you actually bothered to read what I wrote, this is precisely the point I made.




    This is an internal critique. And yours fails because (a) you haven't shown that there is unnecessary suffering, and (b) there are other attributes that qualify the love of God.

    Next time read who you critique and come to play with an interesting argument that hasn't already been addressed.


    Actually, it can be used as both an internal or external critique. An internal critique if he uses it to argue that the christians position is internally inconsistent. An external critique if he uses it to argue that its simply implausible to think a caring being would behave as allow such extreme suffering as we observe in the world.

    Personally, I prefer the second option. Since most christians hold, as one of their beliefs about God, that God always has a morally valid reason for his actions but that they may be beyond our comprehension, I don't think an internal critique is even possible.....not with this sort of "get out of jail free" doctrine as part of the belief system. You simply can't internally critique a belief system that states, as one of its premises, that any seeming contradiction has a resolution which humans don't or can't comprehend.

    And I would appreciate a more civil tone. You do your faith no credit by responding rudely to a post which was put in a respectful manner.

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  26. Oh, and one other thing in response to this comment:


    And yours fails because (a) you haven't shown that there is unnecessary suffering, and (b) there are other attributes that qualify the love of God.


    I wasn't presenting a critique of christianity using the POE. I simply pointed out that there is a version of the POE that doesn't require any concept of objective morality....one that's compatible with the moral subjectivist position (and, as I said in the last post, useable as an external critique).

    ReplyDelete
  27. David Ellis said:
    ---
    An external critique if he uses it to argue that its simply implausible to think a caring being would behave as allow such extreme suffering as we observe in the world.
    ---

    Actually, the above is a mixture of external and internal critique. You take an internal position (that God is caring) but then submit that to an external standard (your definition of "extreme suffering").

    With such a hybrid argument, however, you can neither examine it externally (for such would require you to demonstrate an extral reason for why we should care about "extreme suffering") nor internally (for you do not allow the Christian worldview to argue that "extreme suffering" happens for a moral purpose).

    Now, to focus on some other things you stated:

    ---
    Actually, it can be used as both an internal or external critique.

    ...

    Since most christians hold, as one of their beliefs about God, that God always has a morally valid reason for his actions but that they may be beyond our comprehension, I don't think an internal critique is even possible
    ---

    In other words, it cannot be used as an internal critique, as you basically admit here. Now, you may classify theism as holding a "get out of jail free" card; but I could just as easily argue that it is a "proof that Christianity is correct" card. Regardless, it remains internally consistent.

    Thus, you are left with only an external argument. In which case you must defend your subjective morals. You can say that you can use this argument externally; but can you actually do so?

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  28. David,

    "An external critique if he uses it to argue that its simply implausible to think a caring being would behave as allow such extreme suffering as we observe in the world."

    Actually, if you read the debate, you'd note that this is an irrational reason to doubt God's exisetnce.

    Without an objective morality, the phrase: "X is wrong" means "I dislike X." Something is objective if it can be wrong. As long as someone reports his or her true feelings, they cannot be wrong.

    So, the objection looks like this:

    "I find God's existence improbable because he does things I don't like."

    This is an absurd position to take.

    Hence the external PoE is rendered impotent. Without an objective morality, then a "caring being" allowing "extrfeme suffering" isn't doing anything *wrong.* Thus you find God's existence implausible for not doing anything wrong?

    Lastly, who are you critiquing? Not my worldview. So, even an external critique must critique something. What you portray is Ellisanity. I'm simply here to defend Christianity. Anyway, thanks for admitting that you cannot critique Christianity internally, and your external argument was just hung. So, no what?

    ~PM

    P.S. I'd appreciate the comments about rudeness to stop. If you don't want to get talked to that way, read the material before interacting. It's not very considerate to make people repeat what they already said.

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  29. Paul, let's say I critique your view with something that is obvious to everyone, and you still disagree. Then what? Let's say you are a Idealist disciple of George Berkeley and you don't believe there is a material universe. Kicking a rock and claiming to refute you won't work, will it?

    Did you know that Berkeley probably cannot be refuted any other way? In fact, a professor friend of mine claims that Berekeley cannot be refuted. Why? because he argued for a consistent and coherent system of beliefs.

    Did you know that Pantheism cannot be refuted?

    Did you know relativism cannot be refuted?

    And if we grant you presuppositionalism then Calvinistic Christianity cannot be refuted.

    And there are others. Barthianism probably cannot be refuted too.

    But, they cannot all be right. So even though these beliefs probably cannot be refuted, they cannot all be true. They may all be false.

    Unless a claim is made that can ground a belief outside the system such a view has insulated itself from any all any critiques from the outside.

    And herein lies the rub. Knowing that such internally irrefutable positions cannot all be correct, then thos inside one of these systems of belief must consider the obvious, like kicking the stone, and like the presence of intense evil, as Ellis explains.

    An internally consistent viewpoint that cannot be critiqued externally is a sure sign that the one inside this system of belief should consider these external "obvious" arguments. While internal consistency is definitely a test for truth, if it does not "touch ground" somewhere it may be a castle built in the sky in a delusional world. The only way to evaluate such a delusion is to consider an external critique, and it takes a healthy measure of skepticism, which is a virtue in every other investigative endeavor, to do so.

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  30. Paul, I blogged about this problem here.

    Keep in mind that there is little in what I just wrote that could not have been written by a Christian. You keep responding to me as if my arguments are attacks, and most of them are, but a Christian could've written much of what I just wrote.

    Instead of going into attack mode, consider what I wrote and actually deal with it.

    You seem to attack me as if I'm not interested in the truth, but that is absolutely false. The only reason you think this is because your Bible says differently.

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

  31. Hence the external PoE is rendered impotent. Without an objective morality, then a "caring being" allowing "extrfeme suffering" isn't doing anything *wrong.* Thus you find God's existence implausible for not doing anything wrong?


    First, one point: I am not a moral subjectivist.

    But, that said, I need make no reference to objective morality to defend this version of the problem of evil.

    It is not based on the idea that a caring being would be doing something wrong by allowing extreme unnecessary suffering (though I believe it would be doing wrong). It is NOT based on a moral judgment. Its based on the implausibility of the idea that a person of a caring disposition (esp. one of a perfectly caring disposition) would pass suffering by without taking action to come to anothers aid if they are able.

    One need express no belief that such inaction would be immoral to find such inaction from a person of such a disposition to be utterly implausible.

    ReplyDelete

  32. Anyway, thanks for admitting that you cannot critique Christianity internally, and your external argument was just hung.


    I'm puzzled at this strange idea you seem to have that a critique is only valid if its internal.

    An internal critique can only point out internal inconsistencies between the opinions making up the belief system. Every single belief in a system of ideas can be internally consistent and yet still be false. Once we have established internal consistency the job of finding out if a belief system is true is only just begun.

    Why does this obvious fact evade you?

    ReplyDelete
  33. David,

    DE: First, one point: I am not a moral subjectivist.

    PM: I know, that's what you said. but you came here to defend the moral subjectivist. So, your above point was simply repetative and didn't do anything to further the conversation.

    DE: But, that said, I need make no reference to objective morality to defend this version of the problem of evil.

    PM: What, internal or external? Let's not be sloppy. I've denied the former and agreed with the latter.

    DE: It is not based on the idea that a caring being would be doing something wrong by allowing extreme unnecessary suffering.

    PM: Okay, so God wouldn't be doing anything wrong. It is not immoral or wrong for a caring being to allow "extreme unnecessary suffering." Gottcha. (Besides that, note that you *still* haven't given any examples of "extreme and unnecessary suffering," especially from this supposed moral subjectivist who you're arguing for.)

    DE: It is NOT based on a moral judgment. Its based on the implausibility of the idea that a person of a caring disposition (esp. one of a perfectly caring disposition) would pass suffering by without taking action to come to anothers aid if they are able.

    PM: It is "NOT" based on a moral judgment? Then why cal it a "version of the problem of evil?" Do you realize how your position you're defending looks, David?

    Second, would a caring being "pass suffering by" if doing that was for the greater good, more caring, more moral, etc?

    Third, why does this subjectivist find it "implausible?" Is it because it is "immoral" for a caring person to allow uneccesary suffering? Okay, well prove it's unnecessary first. And, why would that be implausible? Because it's wrong? No, you said that wasn't the case. So, because a person S doesn't like something X, and some other person S* could stop X, then S* must objectively not exist because S subjectively doesn't like what S* is allowing?

    Well, as I said, people can doubt God for all kinds of reasons. You can even doubt that God exists because ice cream cones don't have bones. I'm just here to try to stop what people claim are *rational* doubts.

    DE: I'm puzzled at this strange idea you seem to have that a critique is only valid if its internal.

    PM: I actually never said that.

    But, if you must know, an ultimate presuppositiuon must be defeated internally, since the presupposition is used to determine the validity, existence, power, etc., of all other evidence. Only if you held to naive empiricism would you think otherwise.

    DE: Every single belief in a system of ideas can be internally consistent and yet still be false.

    PM: Yeah, I know.

    DE: Why does this obvious fact evade you?

    PM: Actually, it doesn't. Why dom you come here without doing your homework, reading people's post, studying their positions, etc?

    ReplyDelete
  34. John,

    I think those other positions are subject to internal critiques, but you let me know when you become an idealist and we'll try it out on you.

    We're talking about you and I right now. Our positions.

    Thanks for recognizing that Christianity is internally consistent.

    Now, all that's left is your external critique.

    We're specifically talking about morality here.

    You've admitted that nothing is intrinsicly evil. You're not a moral realist. So, you have no external critique.

    For a moral subjectivist, a moral prescription of the form, X is wrong, breaks down into a psychological description of the form, John doesn't like X.

    Therefore your external critique boils down to this:

    "John doesn't like X, therefore X doesn't exist."

    Or,

    "John likes X, but G says X is wrong, therefore John doesn't agree with G, therefore G doesn't exist."

    Or,

    "John doesn't like X, but G allows and ordains X, therefore G's obejctivise existence is called into question because of John's subjective psychological disposition.

    Any of the above are quite typical of elemtary school children, John.

    John, you have no critique against God. You admit we're internally consistent, and your external critique is an irrational reason to doub God's existence.

    Where are you going to go, John? Where can you run from the Lord of Hosts? He is everywhere John. he haunts you. Dogs your every step. You must be in such turmoil right now, John. You realize you made an intellectually stupid move, but you'd have to eat way too much crow now to admit you're decision to reject Jesus was rash. And, you feel like you can't go back to anyone. To afraid to reconcile and seek forgiveness for those you've hurt. You're a slave to sin. Your life must be miserbale. The turmoil takes its toll on you. We can see it in the way you try to reason and argue. John, it matters not how others see you, but how God sees you covered in the righteousnes of Christ. Don't keep running from the one you know is there. You tried to defeat God. You couldn't. Come back.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Fonzie,

    AAAAAAYYYY!!!!!

    You admit that your internal beliefs may be consistent, and yet not true.

    Time to head up to blueberry hill my friend.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Paul,

    Its quite funny to see you calling out John on his choices...as if he can *CHOOSE* to believe in your silly god.

    :::SNIZZZ!!!!:::

    ReplyDelete
  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Aonymous 1,

    Yes I admit that internal consistency is not necessary and sufficient for truth or knowledge, but that's trivial. So what. The fact that an internaly consistent system *could* be false does not logically imply that it *is* false. So, I also believe my beliefs are true. Got any more sunday school philosophy points to toss out?

    Anonymous 2,

    John can "choose" to believe in God. Try studying up on compatibilism, okay. Are you an atheist who holds to libertarian free will? Do you think choices are uncaused? That they just "pop" into existence from nothing? That there is no *reason* why you choose X over Y. Your choices are like accidents, then? Something kind of irrational? So, :::SNIZ!!!::: your own silly position.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Paul Manata

    Do you believe a person can 'choose' Christ without being called/moved/whatever by the Holy Spirit?

    ReplyDelete
  40. Depends what you mean by "can."

    He is metaphysically able in that his mouth works properly and so he "can" move it to utter the words, "I believe on the Lord Jesus."

    Ethically, he "cannot." He must have a new nature. Then he will choose what he desires.

    Quite simply, my view of freedom is that we are free to do what we want to do. So, if John wants to choose Jesus, he could.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Paul, you said:

    "So, if John wants to choose Jesus, he could."

    However...are you forgetting to add that John can't "WANT" to choose Jesus, unless God grants him this?

    ReplyDelete
  42. John has no desire to choose Jesus unless the Spirit changes his heart.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I would like to see a flow chart of how someone is saved according the reformed position. Does anyone know where one can be found?

    ReplyDelete
  44. the question is ambiguous.

    it could refer to the ordo salutis

    it could refer to the atonement.

    it could refer to the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us.

    Redemption accomplished, applied, or both.

    it could refer to regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification, each individually, or jointly.


    Here's a few of resources:

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/search.php?action=search_links_simple&search_kind=and&phrase=ordo+salutis

    and

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/search.php?action=search_links_simple&search_kind=and&phrase=soteriology

    and

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Doctrines-of-Grace/

    and

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Regeneration/

    and

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Justification/

    and

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Free-Will/

    ReplyDelete

  45. But, if you must know, an ultimate presuppositiuon must be defeated internally, since the presupposition is used to determine the validity, existence, power, etc., of all other evidence. Only if you held to naive empiricism would you think otherwise.


    Lets examine this idea using a hypothetical example. Imagine a man who presupposes the existence of a God who is perfectly loving and yet who demands daily human sacrifices (and the sacrifice of toddlers on alternate Thursdays). He also presupposes that any moral qualms any human may have regarding those sacrifices are simply due to the limitations of human understanding and that God has a morally valid reason which we cannot comprehend.

    Please present an internal critique of this basic presuppositional position showing why some other presupposition or set of presuppositions should be preferred.

    (hint) it, of course, cannot be done for any belief system which is not internally contradictory (or which includes the sort of "get out of jail free" presupposition that any apparent contradiction has a mysterious resolution beyond our comprehension).

    ReplyDelete

  46. Third, why does this subjectivist find it "implausible?" Is it because it is "immoral" for a caring person to allow uneccesary suffering?


    No, simply because it is inconsistent with their disposition.....one need make no moral judgment concerning that disposition to judge what behavior flows naturally from it and what does not.

    ReplyDelete
  47. David,

    Let me know when someone wants to defend that position, and lay out their entire worldview, and I'll let you know hwo I'd critique it.

    If that's *ALL* to the worldview, then how does it account for logic, the uniforminty of nature, man's basic problem, how this problem is fixed, etc., etc., etc.,

    So, either give me more information or tell us that the worldview doesn't provide an account of, say, logic, and thus it'll hang itself.

    I mean, here's a a person who's worldview consists of the belief that P. Now, show an internal contradiction. You can't. But P isn't robust enough to provide preconditions, give answers to basic human questions, tell us about the nature of God, etc.

    Furthermore, not knowing anything about that worldview you present, I don't see why I should believe it. Indeed, not knowing how that god constructed our cognitive faculties, if he designed our cognitive factulties to be aimed at true beliefs, if his design plan was a good one, etc., then I should remain agnostic about the reliability R of my cognitive faculties. So, the conjunction of David's theism DT, and our ignorance I about the source S of our cognitive faculties CF, gives an adherent of that version of theism a defeater D for his beliefs, including the belief that his god is all good.

    What is the probability P of R/DT? We have zero information here. So maybe it's around .2 Hence it's low. Maybe you say it's inscrutible, though. Hence P(R/DT) is low or inscrutible. This is true internal to DT since all we know about DT is what Ellis told us. Hence if I held to DT I would have a reason to doubt all my beliefs.

    Now, Ellis can expand, qualify, make more robust, fill out, etc., his worldview. But I argue that the more he does so the more he'll end up looking like Christain theism. But, also, I don't want to play around with David and his little games. Playing pretend. That's a game for the atheist. I've sufficiently shown how I can, given the info provided above, give an internal critique to DT.

    ReplyDelete
  48. David,

    "No, simply because it is inconsistent with their disposition.....one need make no moral judgment concerning that disposition to judge what behavior flows naturally from it and what does not."

    Yeah, and it's inconsistant with the disposition of the mushroom hater that God should allow mushrooms to be hear on earth. Hence the fact that there are mushrooms here gives the subject a "reason" to doubt God's existence.

    Good one Dave! Look, I never said that one couldn't give any ole reason to doubt God's existenc. I'm here to defend what people take to be *rational* reasons. That a person S doesn't like X, and so thinks it inconsistent that Y would allow X, doesn't give S a rational reason to dout the *objective* existence of Y based upon *subjective* likes and dislikes.

    You seem unable to grasp this point. So I think we're done.

    You can lead a horse to water...

    ReplyDelete
  49. hostus twinkius2/26/2007 11:40 PM

    For the record, I'm the real twinkie. Hostus Twinkonus is my dead beat brother-in-law. Knock it off, you atheist snack cake!

    ReplyDelete
  50. Yes,

    That is why you are HT and he is HT-onus.

    It was quite obvious that the man was an imposter, I have never seen you reason like a three-toed sloth

    ReplyDelete
  51. Manata, you ask for other axioms of this worldview. Why would I need to give any when one of the axioms I have given is that any apparent contradictions in the worldview have a resolution beyond human understanding? Even if you could find an apparent contradiction it cannot be internally critiqued because of this axiom.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I didn't ask for the axioms.

    Perhaps you should read, re-read, then read again, what I posted. If you don't get it, perhapos if you ask me I'll illumine the difficulties I raised for you.

    As it stands, if the infom you gave me constitutes the *entire* worldview, then we have a Humean defeater for this worldview.

    If what you have presented is not the *entire* worldview, then how do we know it doesn't have internal problems.

    Your positionm has been defeated. The one you came here arguing, and the rabbit trail your started. Both.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Paul,

    If the bible taught some form of human sacrifice, say, the offering up of the first born male as a kind of “first fruits” offering prior to Christ’s death, but left the rest of the Christian system intact, then what would be lost from the system that would justify disbelief? Couldn’t the bible be minimally altered to be consistent w/ Old Covenant human sacrifice in such a way that its philosophical/theological utility would remain unaffected? Without question begging, how can one argue that God mandated human sacrifice must *by necessity not* be a part of a true belief system?

    If this altered version of the Faith is the only one you had been presented with, would you still believe?

    ReplyDelete
  54. Anonymous,

    If the Bible left *everything* in tact, but then said to offer humans, then we'd have a contradiction because the offerings were supposed to be unbelmished. Humans are sinful and blemished.

    Now, you ask why human sacrifice must not *by necessity* be a part of the beleif system. Perhaps you forgot about that little detail in the NT, the sacrifice of Jesus? So, the Bible doesn't say that in general there can be no human sacrifice by necessity. But, because of the nature of sin, the sacrifice must be perfect, by necessity.

    ReplyDelete
  55. p.s. Let's remember that this doesn't help David, *even if* I said human sacrifice of babies could be acceptable with a good God. My point to Ellis was that there was another kind of defeater his worldview had if what he told us was the whole story. Mainly, a Humean rationality defeater. A reflective proper-function alethic defeater.

    ReplyDelete
  56. “If the Bible left *everything* in tact, but then said to offer humans, then we'd have a contradiction because the offerings were supposed to be unbelmished. Humans are sinful and blemished.”

    But I asked if the bible could be minimally altered to accept human sacrifice *and* remain consistent—that is, w/o contradicting itself. All sacrifices offered in the Old Covenant were blemished in the *absolute* sense of the term; only in a relative sense were they not. Hence, the same relativity of terms could be in play regarding human sacrifice and thereby maintain conformity with biblical usage.

    “Now, you ask why human sacrifice must not *by necessity* be a part of the beleif system. Perhaps you forgot about that little detail in the NT, the sacrifice of Jesus? So, the Bible doesn't say that in general there can be no human sacrifice by necessity. But, because of the nature of sin, the sacrifice must be perfect, by necessity.”

    I made the necessary distinction that mandated human sacrifice be relegated to the *Old Covenant*, and I would, further, model that hypothetical practice after the actual biblical practice of ‘unblemished’ animal sacrifice.

    ReplyDelete
  57. "But I asked if the bible..."

    You mean, the OT? Keep your story straight.

    "could be minimally altered to accept human sacrifice *and* remain consistent—that is, w/o contradicting itself."

    Well, present your case and we'll see.

    "All sacrifices offered in the Old Covenant were blemished in the *absolute* sense of the term; only in a relative sense were they not."

    And humans are blemished in the absolute and relative (whatever that means) sense of the term. So, there goes your argument.

    "Hence, the same relativity of terms could be in play regarding human sacrifice and thereby maintain conformity with biblical usage."

    Saying so don't make it so.

    "I made the necessary distinction that mandated human sacrifice be relegated to the *Old Covenant*"

    But you said, "belief system." Anyway, I hold to the old and new testaments, so where ever you're going, it's not going to bother Christianity.

    Anyway, a human sacrifice done by the Jews would be murder by the jews, and so we'd have another problem.

    Try a bit harder next time, do a little more legwork, and then maybe we can help you. Right now you're committing the "waht if monkey's flew out of your butt" fallacy.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Maybe I’ve not been clear. I’m claiming that an altered version of the Bible can be conceived that makes human sacrifice a divine mandate *in the Old Testament* (not that I think it couldn’t be fit into the New Testament, but I’m trying to avoid that for the moment) w/o affecting Christian theology. To the extent that the Old Testament sacrificial system foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice, my relegation of human sacrifice to the *altered* Old Testament is significant to the *altered* New Testament in precisely the same way animal sacrifice is relevant to the actual New Testament. I’m just replacing animal w/ human sacrifice (in full or in part).

    What I’m suggesting is a tailor made version of Christianity that leaves intact all God’s attributes as well as the putative epistemological superiority of Christianity to other religious/philosophical systems. To do this, one would add to the Bible a divine mandate to perform human sacrifices in a manner analogous to animal sacrifices and then alter any verses that could possibly be construed as contradicting that mandate and do so in a way that does not alter our descriptions of His nature or the fundamental nature of our relationship to Him. All that would change would be certain historical facts as well as certain moral teachings and practices (So, for instance, your claim that sacrifice by the Jews would be considered murder by the Jews is handled by making an exception in the case of human sacrifice).

    Have I actually constructed this fictional Bible? No, but I can’t see any *clear* roadblocks to doing so and that is why I bother to bring this up. The problem is that human sacrifice seems only contingently forbidden by God but not necessarily. If God reserves the right to take life as He sees fit, He’d be justified taking some lives by way of a systematic ritual designed to honor Him. I want to say any *true* system of belief will not allow human sacrifice, but I fear I can construct a system with the same philosophical/theological weight as Christianity that does allow it. It may not be true, but it is only contingently untrue.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Well, you've not shown this story, so I'll still say no until you do the homework required.

    I've given reasons why this couldn't be:

    (a) the sacrifice wouldn't be accepted, per the OT,

    (b) the Jews were not allowed to murder.

    Now, I've not seen (a) refuted, and your attempt to refute (b) is this,

    "If God reserves the right to take life as He sees fit, He’d be justified taking some lives by way of a systematic ritual designed to honor Him."

    God doesn't murder, or ask others to murder. It is wrong to take the life of an innocent. If you want to make this more plausible, then go ahread.

    " I want to say any *true* system of belief will not allow human sacrifice, but I fear I can construct a system with the same philosophical/theological weight as Christianity that does allow it. It may not be true, but it is only contingently untrue. "

    Now you're back to "belief system." So, are you attacking my *belief system,* or *part* of my belief system, via the OT.

    Your objection isn't even coherent yet. I fail to see how it is applicable to Christianity.

    So, you said you could construct this entire system, do so. Otherwise you're just asserting.

    ReplyDelete
  60. As an example, I think we can agree that God *could* have required some means other than circumcision to serve as a physical sign of a Jewish male’s inclusion in the covenant community (could have been shaved head, tattoo, long hair etc.). The fact that God, in fact, *didn’t* mandate something other than circumcision is irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make here, which is that He well could have, since some moral demands (like circumcision) can be considered contingent: they could have been otherwise w/o violating God’s attributes or impacting the theology of either Christianity or Judaism.

    Similarly, if God had commanded that one (and only one, let’s say) male or female sexually mature first-born between 13-17 yrs be sacrificed each year at the same time first fruits were offered as an atonement offering on behalf of the entire nation, then how would this be a violation of God’s nature as opposed to just being a possible alternative to the method of atonement He did require (in the Old Testament)? Yes, the Bible does not actually allow this (thankfully), but what makes this a necessary requirement as opposed to a contingent one, like circumcision?

    God did kill all the firstborns in Egypt prior to the Exodus to punish Pharaoh; He did kill David’s son to punish David; He did kill the Moabite children and used human agents to do so. I could go on. Why is the extrapolation to human sacrifice for the purpose of atonement not within God’s rights as well? Since none are innocent anyway and since God does get to choose the time and place *and* method, why couldn’t God have used human sacrifice as a vehicle to mete out his Will? Again, why is it *necessary* that God not to allow human sacrifice?

    By the way, I’m not “attacking” anyone or anything. I’m just asking…

    ReplyDelete
  61. the three comments made by Paul's opponent that ring true (and funny if one knows Paul!)


    Listed in descending order of either significance or comedic value...


    6)No, no, no. Please try to work less vigorously at nit-picking sophistry, and try to grasp the broader idea here.

    5)Well, Paul, if nothing else, I must admire your stamina.

    4) I never really imagined that anything I might say would pierce such a seamlessly encapsulated worldview... and I weary of the effort.


    3)The view you defend is a consistent one, and you present it adeptly; it resembles a polished sphere, self-supporting, without the need to moor itself to any external reality whatsoever.


    2)...as it provides a haven for those who already believe, but offers nothing - not the slightest assistance - to the skeptic who might have been brought around by a worldview of less-perfect circularity.


    1)But there is no question that a consistent philosophy can be built upon such a set of axioms, as long as care is taken that none of it is to be exposed to any sort of empirical verification, and as long as the postulates and definitions are shaped so as to allow large internal cavities to which the believer may retreat whenever pressure is applied from one side or the other


    But the funniest part of all is how Paul triumpantly declares that if his opponent gives up objective morality then he gives up the right to the POE.

    What Paul doesn't realize is that in order to hold to his worldview and claim objective morality based on the bible, he must ADOPT and swallow whole a very distastfull to almost everyone else worldview based on a 2000 year old raping, pillaging, murdering, animal sacrificing, daughter selling, slave beating superstitious desert dwelling culture that technologically would have been fascinated by a modern garden hoe.

    The cost of Paul's circle is high indeed. So high in fact that even most christians are repulsed by it.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Those are six, not three.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Anonymous,

    You keep saying something could be the case. Saying so don't make it so.

    Yes, God punished evil people, deserving of the death penalty.

    But, a *sacrifice* for the Jewish people was different.

    This could not, because of God's necessary attribute of holiness, be a non-innocent human.

    Anyway, what are you trying to show. The Christian worldview does have a case were a human sacrifice done. Jesus. So, why the possible worlds approach? You don't need it.

    Was jesus death immoral? I don't think so. So, *even if* you gave a case where human sarifices in the old (but you'd need to let the Jews murder humans, so I still don't see how you've got there. You can say that God could demand their life be taken, and so it would be a judicial punishment for their sins, but then you loose the purpose of the OT sacrifices, you just don't grasp this point, which has been made three times now) pre-figured Christ, then they'd not be immoral because of that.

    But, you say that any worldview that allows human sacrifice is immoral. Well, again, Jesus. God planned this from the beginning. So, you don't need to jump through the hoops you're jumping through.

    I never said you weren't attacking. Neither am I. I am pressing though. Sorry you thought you could just come here and assert that some made up story would be intelleigible. (Btw, yes, circumcision was arbitrary, but that doesn't mean that the concept of atonement, sacrifice, sin, perfection, holiness, etc., is convention. These things are tied up in the notion of sacrifice, and hence we can't have humans sacrificed because (a) if they were truly innocent there'd be no need for Jesus, and the Jews would also be murdering this person (as is said of them in Acts 2 in regards to Jesus), but (b) if the person was not innocent, and this was a case of God's judical judgment, then the person doesn't qualify for a sacrificila "lamb."

    What don't you get?

    ReplyDelete
  64. Fredk,

    But if you don't have an objective morality then none of those things are *wrong.* So you last paragraph should read thus:

    "So the cost of Paul's worldview is that he must accept things that are not wrong."

    How's that for brevity? ;-)

    Come back next year fred, after you've devloped something that takes me two sentences to respond to.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Paul, you have admitted that your circular non-contradictory worldview doesn't necessarily denote truth.

    Come back when you have some tangible evidence for your circle or you are just blowing wind.

    Hows that? Two sentence and you are exposed for the chucklehead you are.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Fredk,

    What is "tangible evidence" and what is some that you would accept?

    At any rate, I don't see how I was exposed for a "chucklehead." Indeed, I did provide proof. If you want to call child rape objectively evil, welcome to theism.

    I've also posted several other posts where I do offer arguments for the truth of theism.

    So, you and your stall tactic, your showing of how unfamiliar you are with the positive arguments I've put forth and endorsed, show us how much of a chucklehead you are.

    At this point, you've refuted none of the arguments or evidence, or reasons I've put forth, and so you're just spouting a bunch of threats without recourse to reality.

    I mean, maybe it's internally consistent for you to act as if I've never provided arguments, but as you note, this doesn't mean what you think internally is true. So, if you want to provide evidence for your position, interact with my arguments, and the arguments I support, go ahead; otherwise, be content in your chuckleheadedness.

    Oh, and thanks for admitting my worldview is internally consistent, sorry I can say the same foir yours. You see, I still get to play. Though not sufficient, internal inconsistency is necessary. If you don't have that, then your worldview is false. So, even if you think I haven'ty provided evidence for the truth of my worldview, I'm still the only game in town, in the game of real worldviews people hold.

    Buh-bye now. Come back later when I have to actually think to refute what you say.

    ReplyDelete
  67. its humorous for Paul Manata to claim that his worldview is impervious to internal inconsistancies.

    Wouldn't one have to be ALL KNOWING to make a statement like that?

    And no, Paul, you can't use the "An all knowing God told me so" line. You don't know that to be the case, that is your hope.

    checkmate.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Paul said:

    Anyway, there are plenty of arguments for God's existence, "outside the book."

    So much for faith, then.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Anonymous,

    I haven't seen an internal critique. Actually, if you read the intro to this post you'll note that I did say that due to my finiteness, there might be some. But, I am warranted in believing that there can't be one.

    Anyway, knowledge isn't infallibilist for humans. So, the *possibility* that I may be wrong about P does not mean that I cannot know that P. Hence, I know there cannot be an internal critique given against my worldview.

    And, god did tell us that. And all-knoiwng being told me so. I can know this since this is knowledge by testimony. Do reject knowledge by testimony? Well then so much the worse for 98% of everything you thought you knew.

    So, as far as anyone has been able to show, Christianity is internally consistent. It's not been shown to be internally inconsistent. But you can keep holding to your faith based atheological arguments and believe that, "some day," we'll find an internal inconsistency.


    Aaron Kinney,

    Yes, so much for your idea of faith. What that has to do with the Bible's, or mine for that matter, definition of faith is beyond me.

    Your objection is like me saying, upon finding out that you claim we didn't evolve from apes, "Wulp, guhu, so much fo the doctine of evolution, guhu." You see, so much for the doctrine of evolution that says we evolved from *apes,* but the concept that we evolved from "ape-like" ancestors is still in tact.

    Anyway, it must be great having just having to brush one tooth and hailing from the Appalachian Mountains, this way you have all the time in the world to keep offering your hayseed objections to the Christian faith.

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  70. p.s. If anonymous thinks you ahve to be all knowing to make claims to knowledge, then anonymous, not being all knowing, doesn't know *this* claim: "Paul can't say he knows that P, since Paul isn't all knowing."

    Steve, is that you pretending to be a stupid atheist again? You're a hoot when you do it. No one does it better.

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  71. Paul, I think its you pretending to be a 'stupid atheist,' as its something you've been known to do from time to time.

    Heck, you even claim to be other posters that you're not really pretending to be....

    How do you keep it all straight?

    God only knows...

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  72. Nothing is funnier than watching Paul rage against people on the internet.

    Pass the popcorn please. I am watching a fiction story about a little angry boy that believes in a supernatural realm and spends all his time insulting people who point out his delusions.

    chomp chomp.

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  73. Paul says:

    "I haven't seen an internal critique. Actually, if you read the intro to this post you'll note that I did say that due to my finiteness, there might be some. But, I am warranted in believing that there can't be one."

    So, there might be some, but you are warranted in believing there CAN'T be one. Might be one, and CAN'T be one. Okey Dokey.

    Paul says:

    "Anyway, knowledge isn't infallibilist for humans. So, the *possibility* that I may be wrong about P does not mean that I cannot know that P. Hence, I know there cannot be an internal critique given against my worldview."

    It sounds like you're saying that although there is a possibility you're wrong, it doesn't mean you can't know that you're right. You could be wrong, but you know you're right. Okey Dokey.

    Paul says:

    "And, god did tell us that. And all-knoiwng being told me so. I can know this since this is knowledge by testimony. Do reject knowledge by testimony? Well then so much the worse for 98% of everything you thought you knew."

    First, I don't think its possible for you to know that an all knowing being told you anything. Could be an advanced alien race for all you know. Could be a bunch of sandpeople that wrote the 'bible' thousands of years ago.

    Second, sure, I can reject some knowledge by testimony. Not a problem for me, as I'm not claiming to know things that aren't possible to know. Nice try though. "Neener neener neener...I'm Paul, and I can't know if I'm right, but neither can you!"

    Paul says:

    "But you can keep holding to your faith based atheological arguments and believe that, "some day," we'll find an internal inconsistency."

    And that bothers me because?

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  74. Anonymous1

    "So, there might be some, but you are warranted in believing there CAN'T be one. Might be one, and CAN'T be one. Okey Dokey."

    Yep. Got an argument? Or is "Okey Dokey" the best we're gonna see from you?

    "It sounds like you're saying that although there is a possibility you're wrong, it doesn't mean you can't know that you're right. You could be wrong, but you know you're right. Okey Dokey."

    Yep. Got an argument? Or is "Okey Dokey" the best we're gonna see from you?

    "First, I don't think its possible for you to know that an all knowing being told you anything. Could be an advanced alien race for all you know. Could be a bunch of sandpeople that wrote the 'bible' thousands of years ago. "

    This assumes infallibilism wrt knowledge. I reject it, care you argue for infallibilism?

    Anyway, you can't know that I can't know the Bible is God's word because, there is a *possibility* that you're wrong and it is God's word. You can't know that it could be san people or aliens, because there is a possibility that you're wrong.

    So, care to refute yourself some more, or have you had enough.

    Way to sound like a hillbilly hick. Thanks for making atheists look like a bunch of benighted fools.

    "Second, sure, I can reject some knowledge by testimony. Not a problem for me, as I'm not claiming to know things that aren't possible to know. Nice try though. "Neener neener neener...I'm Paul, and I can't know if I'm right, but neither can you!"

    Well, since all the things you think you know, *could* be false, then you can't know anything, and so if you claim to know something, you're claiming to know things that, per your own say-so, can't bve known. You're a reall hoot.

    Furthermore, you didn't even get the point. Knowledge by testimony of other is a source for a whole lot of what we know, roughly 98%. So, if you reject this *source* you boot 98% of your 'knowledge' out the window. Now, if knowledge by the testimony of others is a valid source, then that's how I got mauch of my knowledge about God. I guess you can say that *you* don't believe he exists, but that doesn't affect *my* knowledge since I do believe he exists.

    Sunday school atheist hour here.

    "And that bothers me because?"

    I don't know, 'cause you sound like a hayseed, one-toothed Apalachian Mountain inhabitant.

    Just leave me alone and get back to playing Duling Banjos with your wife/cousin.

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  75. Rage away Paul. You are entertaining in the way it is fun to watch some idiot get beat up on cops, and then kick the cop car while locked inside.




    chomp chomp. burp.

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  76. Paul,

    You're awesome!!!

    Best entertainment on the 'net, bar none.

    I especially love it when you post as other users, just to keep things interesting.

    Hoo wee!

    The Lord's Tool!

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  77. Raging internet little boy Paul said:

    " If you want to call child rape objectively evil, welcome to theism."

    And if you want to call offering your daughters for rape moral, raping little girls as the spoils for war, ripping apart 40 kids with she-bears for calling someone "baldy", and dashing infants against rocks, welcome to christian theism!

    Nothing like a contradictory violent ancient fable written by ignorant ancient middle easterners in the hands of a raging little boy to provide entertainment on the internet.

    Pass more popcorn please.

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  78. Paul says..

    "Oh, and thanks for admitting my worldview is internally consistent, sorry I can say the same foir yours."


    Well, setting aside your omniescience for a second ( you really don't know my "worldview", now do you?) I will say I have made no effort to construct a perfectly circular consistent worldview. If I had a desire to do so, I could construct one just as inane as your. However, My mind is still open to new information, Paul, and occasionally I hold contradictory ideas while I work them out. I also have not tried to absolve myself of all the great problems and questions of the universe, grant myself immortality, and seperate myself from the rest of society like you have by constructing said circle. There is zero appeal with most people in insulating their brain in said fashion.

    Further, where absolute knowledge does not exist, then you cannot have total 'consistency' unless like you, you slam the mind shut like a safe without a lock on it and then stand guard over your mind and protect it from the horrors of any new information that interfers with the consistency of the circle.

    Further, while you have protected said "worldview" from attack at all costs, your worldview itself must accept and justify absurdities, contradictions, reject science ,and otherwise embrace ignorance at the cost of real knowledge.

    In the opinion of most people who have read your diatribes, your 'worldview' is anti-intellectualism on a high order and a self-lobotomizing bad joke on yourself.

    So Paul, while you may exhibit a desire to prop up your 'worldview' with bragging, studying philosophy, baiting people into conversations with no desire to really listen to them, insulting people online and other questionable activities, the fact remains that you have no claim to truth other than your insistence that you have had a supernatural being 'choose' you over most other people. Not exactly persuasive Paul.



    Paul said...

    "You see, I still get to play."


    And like a spoiled child, indeed you do.

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  79. Fredk,

    Are the above threats, assertions, tough guy claims, back-patting, et., all you have? Fortunately, for most rational cognizers, the mere presense of a guy telling you that your worldview is inconsistent with the facts, morality, etc., is little cause for worry. Society has a name for this: "All talk." So, you can feel free to shut yourself off from society, continue to issue unproven, unargued, and unsubstantiated acusations, if that makes you feel better about yourself.

    At any rate, perhaps you could provide the statistics of the "most people" who have read my "diatribes" and found them to be anti-intellectual? Or, is lobbing yet another unsubstantiated accusatio all you have for us. Tell me you didn't stroll into a combox with nothing but unsubstatiated accusations and bravado? Tell me there's more to you than a smack talker? Indeed, if you can't present the evidence for your claim about what "most" people who read my "diatribes" think, are you lying? Trying to make me look bad? Tell me you didn't stroll into a combox with a false argumentum ad populum as your only weapon?

    I mean, you claim that I "bait people into conversations with no desire to really listen to them." Are we to assume that you *do* have a desire to listen to me? Why did you come here and make comments to me? Tell me you didn't just stoll in a combox and stick your stinky foot in your mouth?

    Lastly, you claim,

    " the fact remains that you have no claim to truth other than your insistence that you have had a supernatural being 'choose' you over most other people."

    But to know that I had "no" claim to truth, wouldn't that require omniscience? But didn't you mock that at the beginning of your post? Is your mouth big? Tell me you didn't stroll into a combox with a small mouth that needed both stinky feet inserted in it?

    Furthermore, as almost everyone familiar with my posts, public formal and informal debates with atheists, I have presented arguments for the truth of theism. This is indubitable.

    So, you and your stall tactic, your showing of how unfamiliar you are with the positive arguments I've put forth and endorsed, show us how much of a chucklehead you are.

    At this point, you've refuted none of the arguments or evidence, or reasons I've put forth, and so you're just spouting a bunch of threats without recourse to reality.

    I mean, maybe it's internally consistent for you to act as if I've never provided arguments, but as you note, this doesn't mean what you think internally is true. So, if you want to provide evidence for your position, interact with my arguments, and the arguments I support, go ahead; otherwise, be content in your chuckleheadedness.

    You talk about me "insulting people online," but yet you come here and call me a "chucklehead." I mean, do you have more than two feet? Because you need to insert another one into your mouth. At least I don't pretend to be the moral police, and then act contradictory with my espoused moral condemnations. But I guess acting contradictory is all right with you. After all, you did claim, "I hold contradictory ideas."

    So, no wonder why you act like a hypocrit.

    Anyway, was it you or someone else I told to come back and post something where I have to actually think to refute it. Please don't come back with more assertions, unfounded accusations, tough guy talk, and all the rest. Buh-bye now, Fred.

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  80. pass the popcorn..

    Paul is raging out of control again!


    chomp chomp.

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  81. Paul said:

    "After all, you did claim, "I hold contradictory ideas."


    No paul. don't intentionally misquote me. I said I occasionally hold contradictory ideas until I work them out.

    We all do. the differences between you and I are 1) You have insulated a portion of your brain from intrusion where I leave it all open, and 2) I admit it. You don't have the intellectual integrity to face the truth about yourself.

    You are the one that needs to go away until you find something significant to say. As it stands, you are merely a Steve Hayes Parrott wannabe.

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  82. I didn't misquote you. Until you work them out, you hold to contradictory idead. Perhaps that's why you act contradictory in chastising people for one thing, when you yourself do it. I don't know, it was a thought.

    Anyway, your last post was chalk full of more assertions. You've offered nothing substantial here but unfounded accusations and threats. You'be backed up nothing. Sorry I didn't play your game. But I'm here to actually debate, not get into a tough guy contest. Let me know when you actualy want to engage substantively with me, Until then, buh-bye.

    You're great. Chomp chomp.

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  83. Fred Makes a valid point. In order to Paul's "circle" to remain intact, he has to swallow whole all sorts of "objectively moral" nonsense. Like this clear example in his diatribe above where he advocates the practice of stoning to death of adultresses in the old testament.

    Stone-em-and-then-give-thanks-for-consistent-circles pau says"

    "For one, only the civil magistrate had that power. Thus to critique regular Christians as being inconsistent is off the mark. And, though I may get "in trouble" today does not make the practice back then wrong"

    Yep Paul. Stoning them adultress whores to death was an objectively moral thing to do in the old testament. A rock to the temple was just the medicine for them floosys! Your circle is soooo round!

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  84. hostus twinkius3/02/2007 12:50 AM

    Paul,

    I admire your ability to get under the skin of these mental midgets, but these spit wad throwers are getting boring.

    The funniest comment one of them made was, "You don't have the intellectual integrity to face the truth about yourself." That is hilarious coming from an atheist. Other than that, the comments are on the level of :::BRAAAPP!!:::

    Let these guys get back to study hall, I'm sure they have some desks to write on...

    --the twinkie

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  85. Hey Twinkie...go ahead and pick up a rock and smack that whore in the head! Your objective morality says it is GOOOOOOOOOD!

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  86. hostus twinkius3/03/2007 12:22 PM

    The above anonymous perfectly illustrates my point...

    Way to go, champ

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  87. I don't see why it's "objectively immoral" to punish criminals. Why would you think such a thing?

    Now, you may assume that adultary is not a crime, or a sin, but you haven't proven it.

    So, maybe you could make the secular case for objective morality, and then show that the de jure questions doesn't get confused with the defacto question. Also, prove that adultary is not "immoral" according to this objective morality of yours. Btw, you may want to give your name rather than post anonymously. Should your wife, or future wife, know that you have no moral problem with adultary?

    Run along now, bed time lil' fella.

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