Tuesday, July 17, 2007

He done her wrong

John W. Loftus said...

On what basis can Hitchens denounce the evil in the world? Here's how: Christians believe God is good, omniscient, and omnipotent. They also believe the Bible is God's word (however conceived). Based upon the Bible Christians act in the world. Hitchens can legitimately argue that 1) This world is not one that the Christian God would've created based upon the morality that Christians find in the Bible; 2) The morality revealed in the Bible is not something Christians defend in today's world without gerrymandering it to modernize it with our better moral notions; and 3) Christians do not live up to that morality and sometimes cause suffering when they follow it.

If Christianity is true then it needs to show how this present world is evidence of the morality in the Bible and that Christians actually live that morality.

There is no inconsistency in doing this. None. We've gone over this before, but I was wondering if you have any additional thoughts on the matter.

4:29 PM

http://www.problemofevil.org/2007/06/hitchens-wilson-debate.html

steve said...

john w. loftus said...

“On what basis can Hitchens denounce the evil in the world? Here's how: Christians believe God is good, omniscient, and omnipotent. They also believe the Bible is God's word (however conceived). Based upon the Bible Christians act in the world. Hitchens can legitimately argue that 1) This world is not one that the Christian God would've created based upon the morality that Christians find in the Bible.”

That is not, in fact, how Hitchens makes his case. To the contrary, Hitchens denounces Biblical morality as well as Biblical theism. He does not, therefore, consider Biblical theism to be incompatible with Biblical morality, or vice versa.

What Hitchens does, instead, is to attack Biblical theism and Biblical morality alike by his extrabiblical sense of what is right and wrong.

Since that is how Hitchens has chosen to frame the argument from evil, he needs to explain and justify his own source and standard of moral valuation.

“2) The morality revealed in the Bible is not something Christians defend in today's world without gerrymandering it to modernize it with our better moral notions;”

That’s a tendentious overstatement which disregards the many Christians who do defend Biblical morality.

“3) Christians do not live up to that morality”

Meaning what? Since Christians are sinners, they are bound to fall short of their ethical ideal. That does nothing to invalidate the ideal.

“And sometimes cause suffering when they follow it.”

What examples can Loftus cite without begging the question?

2:10 PM

John W. Loftus said...

Steve, suffering is obvious. It's pain pure and simple, and while I accept your point about Hitchens, I was showing how he could do so. He has shown how professing Christians have caused suffering in the world though, and professing Christians are the ONLY kind of Christians we see. According to your own belief system a Christian isn't a perfect person (but instead one who believes), so you cannot plausibly argue that the ones causing this suffering are not true Christians without also claiming Christians are sinless, in my opinion.

As far as God commanding his followers to do what we now consider evil goes, I consider the following commands evil: your God declared that a slave is the property of another man (Exodus 21:21). A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who was not pledged to be married was raped, she was supposed to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

I consider the evidence of evolving moral standards--standards that you yourself now accept--as evidence against the God of the Bible...or can you justify honor killings? Answer me this. In obedience to God would you have stoned a virgin pledged to be married who was raped by a man with him, or not?

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

"Steve, suffering is obvious. It's pain pure and simple."

Shattering philosophy's mirror: a conversation with Richard Rorty - philosopher

"[Richard] Rorty follows Hume and Schopenhauer. Again, Rorty confesses:

'...there is no answer to the question 'Why not be cruel?' There is no noncircular theoretical backup for the belief that cruelty is horrible. Nor is there any answer to the question 'How do you decide when to struggle against injustice and when to devote yourself to private projects of self creation?'... I do not think there are any plain moral facts out there in the world, nor any truths independent of language, nor any neutral grounds on which to stand and argue that either torture or kindness are [sic] preferable to the other (Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity)'."

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1252/is_n9_v121/ai_15256003/pg_6

6:30 PM

steve said...

john w. loftus said...

“Steve, suffering is obvious. It's pain pure and simple.”

Three or four problems:

i) Not all suffering is physical (i.e. “pain”). Therefore, “suffering is not “pain sure and simple.”

ii) Moreover, I, as a Christian, am at liberty to admit the obvious. Yes, there’s such a thing as suffering. Yes, there’s such a thing as pain.

But a consistent physicalist is not at liberty to admit the obvious. Such mental states are inconsistent with naturalized epistemology and evolutionary psychology, which is why eliminative materialism denies the existence of pain and suffering.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/materialism-eliminative/

I’ve pointed this out to Loftus on multiple occasions. Either he’s too much of an intellectual slouch to address the issue or else he doesn’t dare come to terms with a consistent secular anthropology, for were he to admit that pain and suffering are illusory, given physicalism, he would lose the raw materials for his argument from evil.

The only alternative would be for him to defend a secular version of dualism. But while that might be theoretically possible, such a concession makes it harder to argue against Christianity.

Therefore, Loftus constantly ducks the issue.

iii) Furthermore, to say that pain and suffering exist is not to say that pain and suffering are evil. Loftus needs to mount a separate argument to show that pain and suffering are natural and/or moral evils.

iv) Finally, even if he could demonstrate that pain and suffering are evil, that would be insufficient to mount an argument from evil, for he would need another supporting argument to show that pain and suffering are gratuitous evils.

As usual, Loftus’ objection is all gaps and no argument.

“As far as God commanding his followers to do what we now consider evil goes, I consider the following commands evil: your God declared that a slave is the property of another man (Exodus 21:21).”

No, that’s not what it means. What it means, rather, is that a slave is his master’s source of income. Therefore, it would be pointless for the master to remunerate the slave for lost wages since, in that event, the master would be writing himself a check (as it were).

In the meantime, Loftus also disregards the passage as a whole. Slaves had civil rights under the Mosaic Code. If the master killed the slave, the master was subject to capital punishment. And if the master maimed the slave, he had to pay the equivalent of workman’s comp. The legal protections covering a slave under the Mosaic Law are unique among ANE legislation.

For more detailed exegesis, consult the standard commentaries on Exodus by Currid (2:78-79) and Stuart (490-91).

“A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14).”

i) To begin with, in the ANE, marriages were arranged. The idea of consensual marriage is anachronistic.

ii) Loftus has offered no argument for why his modern, provincial, socially-conditioned view of marriage is morally superior to traditional customs which still prevailed in many parts of the world.

iii) A war bride enjoyed civil rights. Instead of suffering the fate of an involuntary concubine, she enjoys the rights of a Jewish wife—which is more than she would enjoy under ANE law in general.

iv) Keep in mind the historical circumstances. We’re talking about survival in a world of warrior cultures. In the ANE, a woman without men to protect her would be completely defenseless.

“If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).”

Either Loftus is too ignorant of the law in question to know what it means or else he is prevaricating.

This is a case of consensual sex, not rape. That is clear from the contrast between 22:23-24 and 25-27, which is a case of rape.

In the case of consensual sex between a woman who was already engaged to another man and a man who was not her fiancé, this was equivalent to adultery, and both parties were executed.

A rape victim was not executed. To the contrary, if you actually read other OT rape laws, such as the very next case law (e.g. 22:25-27), you will see that the rape victim was deemed to be innocent—in cases where rape could be presumed—whereas the rapist was executed.

Once again, this illustrates the fact that women had civil rights under the Mosaic Law. Far from an “honor killing,” it was the man, and not the woman, who was killed.

Why does Loftus misrepresent the law in question? Is he willfully ignorant or willfully dishonest?

i) In the final case, the rapist must compensate the rape victim by providing the ancient equivalent of alimony.

And that’s more that Loftus ever did for the stripper he dumped as soon as she became inconvenient. It’s quite understandable why promiscuous men like Loftus revile OT laws that hold men accountable for their sexual indiscretions.

ii) Finally, we need to read this law in concert with the parallel case law in Exod 22:17. Marriage was not obligatory in this situation.

That’s the nature of case law. A particular case law does not address every possible situation or attendant detail. You need to compare one case law with another.

8:21 PM

43 comments:

  1. How would a secularist try to make a case for dualism? Do they just take the immaterial aspect of it for granted?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mathetes,

    They would make purely philosophic arguments. Arguments from the notion of identity, unity of consciousness, logical conceivability, etc.

    Steve,

    It appears that Loftus' hasn't even read Hitchens' book, or, if he has, he didn't read too carefully. Also, why does he think offering arguments with inconsistent premises is a good argument?:

    "Past and present religious atrocities have occurred not because we are evil but because it is a fact of nature that the human species is, biologically, only partly rational. Evolution has meant that our prefrontal lobes are too small, our adrenal glands are too big, and our reproductive organs apparently designed by committee; a recipe which, alone or in combination, is very certain to lead to some unhappiness and disorder" (Hitchens, p. 8).

    Furthermore, given Loftus' (3), Hitchens' notes that this doesn't affect the truth-status of Christianity:

    "When we consider whether religion has 'done more harm than good' - not that this would say anything at all about its truth - ..." (ibid, p. 217, emphasis original).

    I find it funny that secularists criticize the Bible for all sorts of atrocities - like God telling his people to "rape and murder" innocent people, God sending people to hell, rules about beating slaves, etc., - but then say that this "evil" world is inconsistent with, as Loftus says, "the morality that Christians find in the Bible." Which is it? Is the Bible an evil and immoral book, or is it full of sugar and spice, and everything nice? You can't really have your atheological cake and eat it too. You see, if the Bible is really the "moral" book they say it is, then so much the worse for all the Old Testament atrocities. But, if the Bible is full of atrocities, so much the worse for saying that the evil in the world is inconsistent with the Bible.

    Indeed, Loftus' (2) is inconsistent with his (1). Heads he winds, tails we loose. (1) states that the Bible is a fine, upright, and ethically stellar book of moral principles which are supposedly inconsistent with the evil in this world. But, (2) states that Christians have tried to get around the "evil" and "immorality" allegedly found in the Bible by "gerrymandering it to modernize it with our moral notions." Thus he writes,

    "As far as God commanding his followers to do what we now consider evil goes, I consider the following commands evil: your God declared that a slave is the property of another man (Exodus 21:21). A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who was not pledged to be married was raped, she was supposed to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)."

    But unless Loftus is blind, there are rapes, slaves, etc., going on in the world today. So, by Loftus' own hand, he's saying that the Bible's morality is consistent with the evil of the world today. Thus the (1) is somewhat self-contradictory.


    Lastly, to say that Christians sinning is evidence against Christianity seems a bit odd. The Bible says that true and real Christians will sin (cf. Romans 7). Thus pointing out sinning Christians seems like empirical verification of the Bible's claims about what Christians have done, and will sometimes do. Also, the Bible does make the distinction between the visible and the invisible church. This distinction alone is enough to undercut Loftus' claims. Add that to facts like Romans 7, and Loftus is actually arguing for the truth of the Bible.

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  3. Steve, I dispute your exegesis, but let's grant it. Answer me this. In obedience to God would you have stoned adulterers?

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  4. Ohhh, Loftus disputes your exegesis, Steve. Better get right on that.

    And...

    And that’s more that Loftus ever did for the stripper he dumped as soon as she became inconvenient.

    ZING!

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  5. you only wish this was paul manata7/18/2007 10:55 AM

    If loftus dropped acid he'd be a stoned adulter

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  6. John W. Loftus said...

    "Steve, I dispute your exegesis, but let's grant it. Answer me this. In obedience to God would you have stoned adulterers?"

    Counterfactual personal identity claims ("What if I'd been born in 1200 BC?") are highly speculative to the point of being pretty meaningless.

    That said, if I'd been an OT Jew, I hope I would have honored God's moral law. That's what I should have done.

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  7. Okay Steve. Do you believe God's moral law changes? Surely not. You'd say such a command was a historically conditioned one specifically to those people in that time.

    Three questions:

    1) How do you know that other commands in the Bible are historically conditioned in the same way? Liberal Christians think this is the case, you know, and they have some pretty strong arguments to that effect.

    2) As a human being and a Christian, if you stepped back in time believing what you do now, what would you think while watching adulterers being stoned? Would you join in? Would you think to yourself, I cannot worship such a God who commands these things.

    Mind you, I'm not offering an external critique of your views here, although I would answer my last question with an overwhelming affirmative. I'm asking you to tell me what you think of the God of the Old Testament.

    3) What would have been so wrong for God to tell people a better way to live life, in a democratic capitalism, from the start, with freedom for people to make up their own minds like we have now. After all, certainly you yourself prefer to live in this day an age than a previous one. [You do realize that you would have been tried as a heretic during the Inquisition, and that many of the OT commands you would not want to obey, like slavery].

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  8. I see Loftus is still caught up in his alternate-universe theory. For instance, he asks:
    ---
    What would have been so wrong for God to tell people a better way to live life, in a democratic capitalism, from the start, with freedom for people to make up their own minds like we have now.
    ---

    Aside from begging the question that democratic capitalism is "a better way to live life" (after all, pure democracy is nothing more than mob rule, expressed by the quip "Democracy is two wolves and one sheep voting on what's for dinner") this commits the same fallacy that I addressed here. We don't know how different the future would be if the past was different. It is impossible for us to know. So why bother speculating? The best you can get is a just-so story.

    I find it pretty sad that an "intellectual" such as Loftus would consider Christianity to be wrong solely on the basis of unprovable just-so stories. Then again, when that's all you've got FOR your position....

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  9. > And that’s more that Loftus ever did for the stripper he dumped as soon as she became inconvenient.

    Isn't that ad hominem? The way you guys rattle off all these fallacy names, I'm surpised you missed that one (not really).

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  10. It's not an ad hominem, merely a stated fact.

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  11. John:

    What would you do if you got in the Delorean and went back in time to the days of the caveman and saw them dragging women around by their hair, beating them, and raping them at will?

    Would you have stood up and grunted an "I Have a Dream" type speech? Would you have gotten all prehistoric on them and clubbed the much bigger, larger, and hairier males in the community?

    Would you, the animal advocate that you are, have worn a Wooly Mammoth cape, complete with the head of a Saber tooth tiger as your cap?

    And, tell me this, would you change your name to "Grog?"

    "Me Grog. Me learn under great teacher Crog. I smart. You dumb."

    Would you have talked like that too?

    Or, would you have been the refined self you are today? Chastising the cavemen for their belief in Crom? I don't think you would have lived very long. Your refined and moral character seems a bit uncongenial for survival. How can you transcend your evolutionary desire for survival and engage in a losing battle with the cavemen? Really, when you think about it, you'd be dragging the women around by their hair, beating and raping them too. You'd by spearing Wooly Mammoths and eating meat with the rest of them, wouldn't you?

    There's no God, right. If you were back in prehistoric times, and everyone else was doing it, and if you didn't they'd probably kill the odd little guy with trimmed facial hair and cowboy regalia. No one would punish you. No one would judge you. And it would be beneficial to your health to act like the other men in the clan. So, why should we take your talk about how "human" you are seriously when you'd be raping and dragging with the rest of them? If your assumption is that biblical morality is undermined because Steve wouldn't join in the stonings, and it is undermined as well if Steve would join in because that just makes him "sick and twisted," then isn't your morality undermined? It's either contradictory to evolutionary theory, or just an arbitrary social convention that you can change like so many cowboy hats.

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  12. PP: We don't know how different the future would be if the past was different. It is impossible for us to know. So why bother speculating?

    Would you say that about history in general, and about the events of Easter? NO? We speculate because it's important to understand things. usually people who refuse to speculate are sort of embarrassed by the answers they might have to give. At least Steve bit the bullet.

    Actually there is not much speculating here at all. I'm asking whether or not GIVEN YOUR PRESENT SET OF ETHICS AND MINDSET if you would stone an adulterer like God supposedly commanded in the past? Yes or not? That's not a hard question.

    And democracy is the worst form of government unless it's compared to the other forms, okay? Which makes it the best form of government, barring Jesus reigning from Jerusalem as you may claim.

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  13. >It's not an ad hominem, merely a stated fact.

    You know as well as I that this information was brought in to discredit his argument. None of these fallacy-conscious folks raised a whimper.

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  14. JOHN W. LOFTUS SAID:

    “Okay Steve. Do you believe God's moral law changes? Surely not. You'd say such a command was a historically conditioned one specifically to those people in that time.”

    I’ve answered that question before. Most recently here:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/04/objective-morality.html

    “1) How do you know that other commands in the Bible are historically conditioned in the same way? Liberal Christians think this is the case, you know, and they have some pretty strong arguments to that effect.”

    You’re confounding distinct issues. To quote myself, some things can be right in some situations, and wrong in others. Remember my examples about lying and killing (follow the link). These are ordinarily wrong, but there are moral priorities which sometimes supervene.

    Some things are an end in themselves, while other things are a means to an end. Not ever Biblical command is a moral absolute. The ceremonial law is a case in point.

    But that isn't the same thing as moral relativism. For it doesn't mean the same thing can be licit or illicit in the very same situation.

    Circumstances don't change morals. Rather, certain actions are appropriate to certain circumstances. They are always appropriate under those circumstances, and inappropriate under contrary circumstances.

    Same situation, same duty. Different situation, different duty—if the situation is sufficiently disanalogous.

    “2) As a human being and a Christian, if you stepped back in time believing what you do now, what would you think while watching adulterers being stoned? Would you join in? Would you think to yourself, I cannot worship such a God who commands these things.”

    I would think that God is a just God, and I would be obligated to uphold his righteous commands.

    “Mind you, I'm not offering an external critique of your views here, although I would answer my last question with an overwhelming affirmative. I'm asking you to tell me what you think of the God of the Old Testament.”

    The God of the OT is the same God as the God of the NT. The one true God.

    “3) What would have been so wrong for God to tell people a better way to live life, in a democratic capitalism, from the start,”

    You’re skipping over a lot of crucial distinctions:

    i) What is better in the short-term may be worse in the long-term, while what is worse in the short-term may be better in the long-term.

    ii) Is capitalism better than tribalism, with major property assets held in common by the clan? Each socioeconomic arrangement has its advantages and disadvantages.

    iii) Democracy is a political process. A process is a means to an end, not a value in and of itself.

    A monarchy can either be better or worse than a democracy depending on who is king. The general weakness of monarchic gov’t is that monarchies are dynastic, so that who becomes king is irrespective of his virtue or talent. But every once and a while you get a virtuous and talented monarch who can do more good than a democracy.

    A democracy can be either better or worse than a monarchy depending on the character of the majority.

    “With freedom for people to make up their own minds like we have now.”

    There was no “mind-control” under the OT. The OT law prescribed or proscribed certain forms of speech and conduct. It did not prescribe or proscribe what you thought. True belief was a moral imperative, but not a legal imperative. Heretical “thoughts” were not criminalized. What was criminalized was heteropraxy.

    “After all, certainly you yourself prefer to live in this day an age than a previous one.”

    Oh, I don’t know about that. Didn’t Solomon have a harem of 300 concubines and 700 hundred wives? Life back then did have its compensatory advantages, depending on your station in life :-)

    “[You do realize that you would have been tried as a heretic during the Inquisition.”

    How did we get from OT law to the Inquisition?

    “And that many of the OT commands you would not want to obey, like slavery]”

    That depends. One reason for OT slavery was the disposition of POWs. The practical alternative to enslaving POWs was mass execution. If I were a war captive, I might well prefer to be a slave, with civil rights under the OT law, than be put to the sword.

    Another reason for slavery was indentured service to pay off a debt. Nothing wrong with that.

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  15. Have you ever seen a stoning? It's pretty gross so be forewarned. You can see a stoning here.

    Is that civilized? Don't you think lethal injection is much better and moral and civilized?

    ReplyDelete
  16. What would have been so wrong for God to tell people a better way to live life, in a democratic capitalism, from the start, with freedom for people to make up their own minds like we have now.

    Wow, there's a lot here that advertises John's ignorance of the OT.

    A. There was such a thing as a council of tribal elders in those days.

    B. The Monarchy did not function apart from these elders. Those elders installed the kings.

    C. So, what you have in the OT isn't some sort of woodenly dictatorial political system like the French autocracies of the Middle Ages to the 18th century or Napoleanic Europe. What you have is something more along the lines of English constitutional monarchy.

    D. The history of the OT is all about the people and their leaders "making up their own minds." Isn't that precisely what Elijah called upon the people to do? Doesn't the text of Judges talk about people doing what was right in their own eyes? Don't the Major and Minor Prophets discuss the apostasy of the people - something could only be said and done from the platform of them "making up their own minds?"m

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  17. Anonymous said:

    "You know as well as I that this information was brought in to discredit his argument. None of these fallacy-conscious folks raised a whimper."

    When a disputant is waxing indignant, there is nothing wrong with pointing out that his performance may lack the ring of truth.

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  18. "How did we get from OT law to the Inquisition?"

    Well, you know what they say. No one expects...

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  19. Have you ever seen a stoning? It's pretty gross so be forewarned. You can see a stoning here.

    Is that civilized? Don't you think lethal injection is much better and moral and civilized?


    So, what're you're saying is something like "God should have given them all the tools of modern civilization as we know it" so they could administer lethal injection.

    What, John, are your expectations for the Ancient Near East of that time?

    Methinks this argument is duplicitous, for if they had lethal injections, you'd find something else "uncivilized," probably capital punishment itself.

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  20. 1) How do you know that other commands in the Bible are historically conditioned in the same way? Liberal Christians think this is the case, you know, and they have some pretty strong arguments to that effect.

    2) As a human being and a Christian, if you stepped back in time believing what you do now, what would you think while watching adulterers being stoned? Would you join in? Would you think to yourself, I cannot worship such a God who commands these things.


    To an extent, the answers to these questions are indexed to the discipline of biblical theology, that is to say, the way in which the Old Covenant Law carries over into the New Testament.

    Do we not stone adulterers? Should or would be participate in such stoning today if it was practiced?

    To answer both questions: Yes, on both counts, we do stone adulterers and we do participate in the practice.

    How?

    Christian ethics is bound up to the relation of the New Covenant to the previous covenants. In the New Covenant, we "stone" adulterers by putting them out of the covenant community if they refuse to repent. We all participate in this, since it is the local church as a whole that does this.

    What changes isn't the unchanging principle that underwrites the practice but the concrete exemplar of that command in the way it is practiced.

    Loftus, of course, simply ignores this.

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  21. "Have you ever seen a stoning? It's pretty gross so be forewarned. You can see a stoning here."

    Have you ever seen sin against God? It's pretty gross. I think stoning gives a hint at the heineousness and grossness of the crime.

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  22. Loftus writes:
    ---
    PP: We don't know how different the future would be if the past was different. It is impossible for us to know. So why bother speculating?

    Would you say that about history in general, and about the events of Easter? NO? We speculate because it's important to understand things. usually people who refuse to speculate are sort of embarrassed by the answers they might have to give. At least Steve bit the bullet.
    ---

    Of course Loftus completely misses my point. You can speculate about alternative histories as much as you want. Your speculation can never be an argument though. It will always be a just-so story. It has no more validity than (to use T-Stone's exmaple) Humpty-Dumpty.

    Loftus writes:
    ---
    Actually there is not much speculating here at all.
    ---

    Actually there is nothing but speculating here.

    Loftus writes:
    ---
    I'm asking whether or not GIVEN YOUR PRESENT SET OF ETHICS AND MINDSET if you would stone an adulterer like God supposedly commanded in the past? Yes or not? That's not a hard question.
    ---

    Except my comment had nothing to do with your question about stoning. It had to do with your assertion that God should have put democracy in the Bible.

    Loftus said:
    ---
    And democracy is the worst form of government unless it's compared to the other forms, okay? Which makes it the best form of government, barring Jesus reigning from Jerusalem as you may claim.
    ---

    First, I never said democracy was the "worst form of government", as you seem to imply in your first sentence (a sentence which, I must point it, is completely irrelevant, for barring comparisons democracy would be the "best" as well as the "worst"). I simply said that you were begging the question as to whether democracy is the best form of goverment (something you continue to do in the rest of your paragraph).

    Secondly, when you say "it [is] the best form of government, barring Jesus reigning from Jerusalem as you may claim" you are giving the answer to why it's not in the Bible.

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  23. Wow, John. That is quite a video. I watched it along side two Muslim friends of mine. They are very dear friends. They would bend over backwards for me and I would do the same for them. One is from Pakistan and he informed me in a previous conversation that he thought adulterers needed to be stoned and he would participate if the opportunity arose. We watched this video and he just kind of smiled, kind of knowing how horrified I was and also knowing that he thought it wasn't wrong. Of course he has to think that if he wants to be consistent. He is a very good man that is simply forced to mold his mind into thinking that this is right. And he really does believe it is right. Kind of like the guy at the end of "1984". He was broken and truly from the depths of his soul loved Big Brother.

    How appropriate is that quote from Stephen Wienberg:

    "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion."

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  24. If you want to quote physicists and mathematicians as if they're theological experts, then perhaps we can include Freeman Dyson there too:

    ---
    Weinberg's statement is true as far as it goes, but it is not the whole truth. To make it the whole truth, we must add an additional clause: "And for bad people to do good things—that takes religion." The main point of Christianity is that it is a religion for sinners. Jesus made that very clear. When the Pharisees asked his disciples, "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" he said, "I come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance." Only a small fraction of sinners repent and do good things, but only a small fraction of good people are led by their religion to do bad things.
    ---

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  25. Only a small fraction of sinners repent and do good things, but only a small fraction of good people are led by their religion to do bad things.

    I'm not so sure this is true. It's so easy for me to come up with good people doing bad things in the name of religion, but where are these supposed bad people doing good things in the name of religion?

    We have what seem in other ways like normal people wanting jihad in America. We have the crowds stoning these 4 people merely because they caved to some very natural human temptations. These crowds are presumably made up of people that are not unlike my close Pakistani friend. We have women being circumcised often for religions reasons. Boys as well of course. When my wife gave birth to my firstborn I happened to be in the ICU when another boy was dealing with his circumcision. The pain was obviously intense. The screaming from the child was endless. This steeled my own resolve to pass on circumcision for my son. I was a Christian at the time, but knew that the NT was clear that this was unnecessary.

    You have Muslims rioting in Denmark because of a couple of mild depictions of Mohamed in cartoons. Why did they riot? Graven images are a sin because they lead to idolatry. Drawings and other images could have the same effect, so they are forbidden. Where do they get this notion that graven images and idolatry are so bad? From the OT of course.

    On a personal note, I know a man that spends hours daily in Bible study and prayer. He's a good man, but believes that slavery should be legal, and that slave owners should be allowed to beat slaves to death, provided that the slave doesn't die immediately (Ex 21:20). I know another man that spends hours per day with his bible, yet treats his own wife like a piece of property. She would divorce him, but she knows the guilt trip that would be laid upon her by her otherwise good fellow church members. I see triabloggers treating skeptics disrespectfully (John Loftus being the target more so than anybody) and justifying this rude behavior with Elijah's "taunt songs". I wonder if triabloggers would treat people so rudely if they didn't have biblical justification, or if their religion didn't give them the false impression that they have all of the answers. Maybe admitting you didn't have all the answers would lead to more humility and more understanding of why some people think differently from you. Maybe at root you guys aren't so bad, but it is your faith that distorts you, causing your anonymous poster here to suggest that this horrific stoning really isn't so bad, as compared to the dreaded "sin". Watching that video is tough. What's even tougher to this anonymous poster is the thought of an unmarried couple having sex, or a child lying to his mother about whether or not he's eaten a cookie. What but religion can cause someone to have such a twisted view?

    Now, I'm not saying you're wrong in terms of the frequency of good people doing bad things versus bad people doing good things. I'm just saying that good people acting badly in the name of religion seems so common, and no examples jump out at me of bad people acting good in the name of religion. Can you share some examples? I have thousands of good people acting badly, so where are these supposed bad people acting good in the name of religion.

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  26. i)One of Jon's tactics is to treat all religions as interchangeable, then attribute the atrocities of one religion to the adherents of another.

    ii)He also does a fine job of passing secular atrocities over in silence.

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  27. "Bad people acting good in the name of religion."

    How does Jon define bad people in this context? Does he mean bad religious people or bad irreligious people?

    Many bad people will act better when they conform to the Christian ethic of the general culture. Kenneth Scott Latrouette's Anno Domini on how missionaries elevated the moral tone of the pagan cultures they evangelized.

    This is true even if they're not personally religious.

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  28. Notice that Jon does nothing to explain or defend his framework for moral valuation.

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  29. First, Jon missed the fact that the quote was from Freeman Dyson. It's not something I would say since there's no such thing as "good people" if, by good, we mean adherence to God's law.

    Secondly, the fact is that Dyson is as much a theologian as Weinberg is, which is to say neither of them are. Actually, I'd say Dyson is quantitatively more a theologian since he at least won the Templeton Prize...but that's neither here nor there. The fact is, they're both physicists. And Dyson's view of Scripture is radically different than mine. But his quote serves just as much purpose as Jon's quote of Weinberg does.

    Finally, if you want to see bad people doing good due to religion, every single Christian qualifies. All Christians are all evil people who have been redeemed, justified, and regenerated.

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  30. "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion."

    Yes, Jon, yes! Preach that ole time Lennonite religion:

    Imagine there's no Heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today

    Imagine there's no countries
    It isn't hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace

    You may say that I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope someday you'll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world

    You may say that I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope someday you'll join us
    And the world will live as one


    I say, atheology is an insult to mankind. Sharp people would think sharply, stupid people would think stupidly, but for sharp people to think stupidly, that takes atheology.

    :-X

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  31. First, Jon missed the fact that the quote was from Freeman Dyson. It's not something I would say since there's no such thing as "good people" if, by good, we mean adherence to God's law.

    I understand. You should also understand that when skeptics make statements, they of course intend words to be understood within their paradigm. It's a paradigm you reject, and perhaps the statement makes no sense within your paradigm, but you should try as best you can to understand the meaning within my paradigm and evaluate the rationality of the statement on that basis. Remember, this is a statement I directed towards John, not you.

    It's kind of like me evaluating Reformed theology on the basis of Ephesians chapter 1. If you're arguing with an Arminian about the meaning and I burst in and say that you're talking nonsense because Ephesians is nothing but a Pauline forgery, well that's not really the point or purpose of your discussion. I can recognize the merits of your Reformed argument and evaluate the exegesis without hijacking the whole subject.

    This is what is always going on with presups. The question we're dealing with is whether or not religion often makes good people do bad things, or if perhaps more often than that religion makes bad people do good things. Steve wants to come in with his whole "How do you know what good is" shtick. Why not just discuss the subject at hand for once, rather than returning each conversation about morals to this same topic. Aren't you interested in the question of whether religion makes good people do bad things? Why not discuss it?

    The fact is, they're both physicists.

    I don't know why you think it is in any way relevant that they are both physicists. I didn't quote Wienberg because he is a physicist. I quoted him because what he said is profoundly true. I wouldn't care if he worked at McDonalds. Why would you think that offering an opposing view from a physicist somehow would nullify what Weinberg said?

    Finally, if you want to see bad people doing good due to religion, every single Christian qualifies. All Christians are all evil people who have been redeemed, justified, and regenerated.

    Well, that's obviously the Christian view, but if you want to interject yourself into a statement I'm making to John, why not evaluate the statement within our paradigm just to see where that leads. It's worth doing this as a thought experament. We of course think there is a distinction between a Stalin or a Pol Pot and someone like Ronald Reagan or MLK Jr. Can you understand how within a worldview where such distinctions can be made a person might conclude that it takes religion to make a good person do an evil thing?

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  32. Jon said:
    ---
    Remember, this is a statement I directed towards John, not you.
    ---

    Yes, that's why I provided a quote from Freeman Dyson instead of my own response. You then responded to the Dyson quote as if I had said it, which was why I pointed out that I had not said it and, in fact, took issue with some of what was said.

    This is not at all analogous to you interupting a discussion on Ephesians 1 by denying Pauline authorship insofar as I have kept this at the level you were at, providing a quote from a physicist instead of a theologian just like you did.

    Jon said:
    ---
    I don't know why you think it is in any way relevant that they are both physicists. I didn't quote Wienberg because he is a physicist. I quoted him because what he said is profoundly true. I wouldn't care if he worked at McDonalds. Why would you think that offering an opposing view from a physicist somehow would nullify what Weinberg said?
    ---

    Because it's not "profoundly true" at all, and the fact that he's a physicist instead of a theologian is relevant when you are discussing issues of good and evil (which you do need to define, as Steve has pointed out).

    Is there "good" in physics? Not at all. There are simply laws that occur. When Weinberg speaks of good and evil, he is stepping outside his expertise. I find that to be relevant, even if you don't. It would be like asking an EMT for his opinion on the internal combustion engine.

    Jon said:
    ---
    Well, that's obviously the Christian view, but if you want to interject yourself into a statement I'm making to John, why not evaluate the statement within our paradigm just to see where that leads.
    ---

    I would do just that if you could give me a definition of good and evil.

    Jon said:
    ---
    We of course think there is a distinction between a Stalin or a Pol Pot and someone like Ronald Reagan or MLK Jr. Can you understand how within a worldview where such distinctions can be made a person might conclude that it takes religion to make a good person do an evil thing?
    ---

    You mean like how the atheist Stalin murdered over 30 million Russians, but the religious Martin Luther King Jr. helped form the civil rights movement? that kind of religion making good people do evil???

    In any case, until you define what is good or evil in any meaningful sense, then it is YOU who are hijacking the term, not me.

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  33. You'll consider my statement within my paradigm if I will only abandon my paradigm and jump right into this presuppositional paradigm? I think you are confused, but screw it, I'll let you completely ignore the subject at hand and talk about that same subject that is the only one you guys want to talk about.

    The answer, of course, is that piety is what the god's approve of, right? Or God, if you like. Could be. I'll grant the point if you like.

    Now, can we get back to the subject, or no?

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  34. Jon said:
    ---
    You'll consider my statement within my paradigm if I will only abandon my paradigm and jump right into this presuppositional paradigm?
    ---

    Not at all, Jon. Heck, I love it when people who don't define terms within their own "paradigm" then use those undefined terms to say that someone who holds to another "paradigm" is holding to a "paradigm" that is itself the root cause of evil, as undefined in the original "paradigm" and not as it is actually defined in the secondary "paradigm" of course. It's especially rewarding when said individual then complains that he shouldn't have to define terms because that would require him to step outside of his "paradigm."

    The way I look at it, if my mere asking you to define a term REQUIRES you to abandon your "paradigm" and presuppose mine, then your "paradigm" is already defeated. It can't even define the terms you're using! In essence, you're admitting your "paradigm" is untenable, thus doing all the "hard work" for me already.

    Jon said:
    ---
    I think you are confused, but screw it, I'll let you completely ignore the subject at hand and talk about that same subject that is the only one you guys want to talk about.
    ---

    The subject at hand happens to be the claim YOU BROUGHT UP that religion causes "good" people to do "evil." If "good" and "evil" cannot be defined by you, then there is no subject here. It's just random patterns of letters you're putting on the screen, Jon.

    You can't complain about something being "good" or "evil" without providing a basis for defining those terms.

    Jon said:
    ---
    The answer, of course, is that piety is what the god's approve of, right? Or God, if you like. Could be. I'll grant the point if you like.
    ---

    But if you grant the point, then you cannot argue that behaving consistent with what God "approves" of (using your terminology) is actually evil. The only way you could keep your original claim, via Weinberg, is if you now argue: "For good people to do evil, that takes them disobeying the tenets of their religion." What good does that do for your purpose?

    Jon said:
    ---
    Now, can we get back to the subject, or no?
    ---

    Here's a shovel. Keep digging your philosophical grave.

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  35. But if you grant the point, then you cannot argue that behaving consistent with what God "approves" of (using your terminology) is actually evil.

    I can't argue that and I didn't argue that. Religion makes good people do bad things. Just because a person is religious, this doesn't mean that the gods approve of what he is doing. Maybe this person just thinks he knows what the gods approve of, but really doesn't.

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  36. Jon Curry said:

    "I can't argue that and I didn't argue that. Religion makes good people do bad things. Just because a person is religious, this doesn't mean that the gods approve of what he is doing. Maybe this person just thinks he knows what the gods approve of, but really doesn't."

    Apparently, Jon is confusing T-blog with a Mormon blog. Since none of the T-bloggers subscribes to polytheism, we never predicated ethics on what the gods approve of (or disapprove of).

    In the meantime, Jon continues to assume what he needs to prove respecting his value judgments. Having dealt himself a losing hand, that's the only hand he can play.

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  37. Apparently, Jon is confusing T-blog with a Mormon blog. Since none of the T-bloggers subscribes to polytheism, we never predicated ethics on what the gods approve of (or disapprove of).

    Where did I say that you guys predicate ethics on what the gods approve of? It's just one misrepresentation after another with you guys. I didn't argue that religious people act in a way contrary to what God (or the gods) approve of. I didn't say that you guys derive ethics from a plurality of gods. With all of these reading and logic comprehension problems, you'd think you guys would have some humility instead of displaying such confidence that you're right and everyone else is wrong.

    Another good quote from you.

    A fanatic is a man who consciously
    over compensates a secret doubt.
    -Aldous Huxley

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  38. I mean "a good quote FOR you" of course.

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  39. I'm beginning to suspect that whatever Jon's smoking, it isn't legal.

    Jon said:
    ---
    Where did I say that you guys predicate ethics on what the gods approve of?
    ---

    But earlier he said:
    ---
    Just because a person is religious, this doesn't mean that the gods approve of what he is doing. Maybe this person just thinks he knows what the gods approve of, but really doesn't.
    ---

    Which was in response to my comment:
    ---
    But if you grant the point, then you cannot argue that behaving consistent with what God "approves" of (using your terminology) is actually evil.
    ---

    When shown the erroneous nature of his claims, he now says he was NOT actually responding to me. This is obvious, but now that he has admitted it, it proves his response to be the vacuous nonsense that it is.

    Jon can't respond, so he does some finger waving and hopes to disguise the fact that he can't respond. Too bad for him that he's the only one in the room who thinks he's doing magic.

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  40. Poor little Jon is soooo misunderstood. When he uses polytheistic lingo to characterize our position, and is corrected on his misusage, he goes all pouty on us.

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  41. One more point:

    In response to
    “A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14).”
    I think the Torah honours the right of women to choose whom they can be married to. As in the case of Tselophechad's daughters:
    "Let them marry to whom they think best, only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry."

    An Israelite who would truly want to honour his God would apply this.

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  42. It seems that my earlier comment was not published. I had commented on the so-called slavery in the Bible. The Bible clearly commands the Israelite to love his neighbour as well as the foreigner (Lev 19:34, Deut 10:18-19). It is explicitly commanded that neither the Israelite nor the foreigner was to be oppressed (Ex. 23:9). Deut. 23:15-16 empowered the unwilling servant by allowing him to flee to an Israelite he could trust. This servant was to be given freedom. So when someone says that the Bible endorses slavery, I have to laugh. On the contrary, it is a book that liberates.

    Varma

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