Isn’t a Deist God a little less troublesome?

I got this question from John:

Perry, I am a former Christian turned deist. I could not believe in the god of the Bible because of the Bible’s flaws and because of morality problems with how the Old Testament Yahweh is portrayed but I could not give up my belief that an Intelligence had to have jump-started all this and then put natural laws into place to guide it to where we are today.

I read your thesis and would like to comment on how much I enjoyed it. I think your strength is to take a basically simple message–cell design/replication is intelligently designed–and explain it in simple, no-nonsense, no-frills terms.

I liken what you say to the belief by some atheist biologists arguing that chance could explain billions of English letters floating in a giant bowl of soup and then spelling out the complete works of Shakespeare when it is poured onto a table, given enough time.

Just curious: have you ever been drawn to deism as a better explanation for the origins of life–an Intelligence that has no note of or concern about the unspeakable levels of suffering that goes on down here regardless of how many prayers are sent up to Him?

My Reply:

John,

I can well relate to the

disappointment that leads one to prefer a deist God over a personal one. And I can understand the scientific logic that nonetheless indicates a supreme level of order in the universe.

But even if I were to try very hard, I’m not sure it would be possible for me to be a deist. Because I have had too many direct personal spiritual experiences. Ignorance is bliss but you can’t un-learn a truth.

Just two trails you can follow for now, of my personal story:

www.coffeehousetheology.com/miracles

www.perrymarshall.com/34766/the-story-behind-the-story/

Re: the Bible…

I think the Old Testament makes a great deal more sense if you look at it from an evolutionary viewpoint. The pivot point is the modern notion of equality, which I describe here:

cosmicfingerprints.com/faq/#equality

The notion of equality of human beings simply did not exist anywhere in the human race before Jesus. I flesh this out in the link above.

I would argue that before Jesus the very possibility of equality didn’t even exist. It was a Darwinian world. Period. There was no law or rule that said when you fight your enemies you should not kill them dead and take whatever you want.

There was no equality between the Jews and the Canaanites. None whatsoever. Not in theory, not in practice. A person from 1000 BC listening to our horror at those wars would be utterly mystified.

The only reason that you have this notion of “Old Testament Genocide” is from New Testament equality and visions of peace.

For those reasons, you can’t hold Old Testament God to New Testament morality, because before 30 AD there was no basis for spiritual equality of human beings in the first place.

Human equality is entirely a metaphysical construct (it’s manifestly false from an experiential point of view after all), and it comes from Christianity. 

In Christianity, ALL men (not just kings and queens and religious figures) can be literally regarded as sons of God; which suddenly causes “evolution” to mean something incomprehensibly different than it ever did before.

Equality post-Jesus might even mean that we attempt to provide free health care for everyone on earth.

No one in 1000 BC would have begun to imagine such a thing.

38 Responses

  1. Philip Strand says:

    Agree with the belief that New Testament was the new beginning, Christianity is different than the religion of the old teatament.

  2. Michael Champion says:

    Christianity is far worse morally speaking in explaining the problem of evil. You cannot have an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god at the same time while also having this world we live in exist in its current state. It is an absolute and obvious double standard of morality to say that God cannot intervene to fix the world without violating free will, but human beings with limited power are morally obligated to do good things and try to improve the world. The simple fact of the matter is that using power to help people, whether it’s omnipotent power or lesser forms of power, is not a violation of free will and is undeniably a good thing in all sorts of situations. Let’s say someone shoots a mass murderer who’s on a killing spree because they had an opening, that is seen as obviously good by the society and an action that saves lives, a good use of power. The more power you have available and the easier it is for you to safely save the day the more common sense dictates that you are obligated to save the day. Leading to the only logical conclusion, if you have Omnipotent power and there is literally nothing you can’t do, you are obligated to stop every form of violence from inflicting harm on any being in existence, full stop. To make this easier to understand I will give you a question, what would you do if you had the power of God? Would you sit around and say that intervening is a violation of free will, or would you very actively intervene to try to help everyone? Given that you believe in free universal healthcare you have no choice but to say you would click the Free Healthcare button to magically heal everyone from their injuries and illnesses if you had Omnipotent power like God supposedly does. To say otherwise would be a violation of your beliefs as you believe free healthcare should be established by humans even with their limited power and capabilities, so it’s the only logical conclusion. And if you say “Yes, of course i would do that” you must then say that God is worse at being God than you would be, as he obviously is not doing this and is letting millions of people die of starvation disease murder and all sorts of horrible things. With that example if you read the whole thing you should be able to see that ultimately an Omnipotent God cannot be omni benevolent at the same time and sit by and allow the world we are living in today since even a limited human brain that does not have perfect knowledge of what is morally right can conclude that this should happen and God is not doing it. Please note that just because the God character has perfect knowledge does not mean that human intuition is incorrect about what would be a better world, it just doesn’t know all the full details beyond what it has already figured out to be true.

    There is another important issue with the Christian belief in God, it doesn’t have an objective foundational basis. You will cite spiritual experiences and i will tell you those do not require a God to function, if you have seen people healed by the power of prayer that does not mean God did it, it means those people praying for the person to be healed from cancer did it. Although I predict these people would be more effective at healing and other things if they did not always believe God to be responsible for everything and always think they are powerless. The Judeo-Christian idea of God is not part of observable reality and should not be presupposed when there’s an observable source of these psychic healings, the people praying/wishing for them to happen.

    Also even when people have spiritual experiences where they say they see or talk to God, that doesn’t mean that the Judeo Christian God you’re imagining actually exists and the Bible is accurate. Since people’s reports of seeing God vary a lot it is good evidence there isn’t a real existing being there and if anything it might just be a thought form created by the mass mind. And they are just imagining their version of God when they have these spiritual experiences.

    What you might say is that God has to have existed otherwise DNA couldn’t have come to be, as you have basically implied in your book Evolution 2.0. This isn’t very logically coherent. As we look at the progression through evolution from cell all the way to human we see a dramatic rise in complexity and intelligence. It would be a lot more coherent to say that this trend of Less Intelligence->More remains the same with the origin of life and the original consciousness ‘designing’ the original primordial ancestor to DNA and self replication, that it was as simple a form of consciousness as is possible. We probably still need to know more about how DNA works to calculate how simpler self replicating molecules evolved into it but it’s clear from the trend that’s observable that God does not make sense to presume here.

    I agree with the principle of your book that the evidence of ordered and controlled cell activity is very indicative of intelligence behind it, and that basically the atheists have not set any goal posts for what level of noticably ordered behavior would prove to them that intelligence exists since it’s a dogma to them that no intelligence exists. However, your presumption of God seems very much based on your Christian indoctrination. And let’s be frank it is indoctrination, ‘if you don’t believe you will burn in hell forever or stop existing’, this is mainstream Christianity. Even the ‘Christianity Lite’ versions where people say they don’t believe in hell are the same thing, they all thank their Omnipotent God for everything good and don’t question the total stupidity of that assumption, and how much they debase and deprive everyone really responsible for good things by always crediting God. In the most extreme cases, this leads to them being Predestination Believers just like the Atheists are. As in Atheism all is random chance, therefore Predestination is true, there are no decision making agents that can change the outcome of any event and whether we can observe the pattern of this random events in the universe fully or not it was bound to happen one sole way from the beginning according to Atheists.

    There is no reason to assume an Omnipotent being exists. It is not just because of the problem of evil but because it doesn’t even make any logical sense, any conscious being has a limit to how much energy and matter they control, “Omnipotence” is an idea that only exists as something people make up. Let me try to make this clear by turning it into a question:How much energy, precisely, is God controlling right now? No matter what it’s always going to be a set amount and this is undeniable really. So if God has X amount of power there is obviously a limit to the power. Omnipotence as a concept makes no sense and philosophers have proved this for ages. Not only does it not make sense but the origin of it also makes no sense. Christians take the First Cause argument to immediately assume an infinitely powerful omniscient being which is really the most ridiculous thing ever. Think about it. Just because a first cause may be necessary does NOT mean that first event requires a God, there just has to be an original event at the start of the universe and that is it.

    I hope from this you understand how your reasoning process is being twisted by Christianity and logical reasoning concludes christianity is false. Or at least give some clear answers on what your fundamental attachment to Christianity is and why you are persisting in the non logical reasoning where your thought process looks like this:

    Christianity must be true->Try to find proof of God->Find something that proves consciousness drove evolution->OK God Must Have been responsible, no more thinking needed

    Instead of this:
    Find proof of consciousness driving evolution and being more primary than matter->Conclude consciousness must have originated at some point or another->How did it originate?->From less complex consciousness as it has throughout all of history, possibly some fundamentally least complex version of consciousness that is the basic nature of intelligence and caused the first DNA ancestor to originate through an as of yet unknown trait of natural law

    I know you mentioned natural law possibly creating consciousness in your book but you still are fixated on God as shown in your writing, where you use God as your Primary Assumption, not some natural emergence of consciousness which is more coherent and logical. You’re still stuck in the God of the Gaps mentality and your version of God of the Gaps is that God created the universe and planned everything so DNA would arise and create intelligent beings. You’re still trying to jam God into your thought process in an unnatural way IMO.

    Anyway to summarize:
    1)Please say what you would do if you had Omnipotence like God is supposed to
    2)Please say why you are still attached to the idea of Chrisitanity, and how many Christian ideas you believe in( Being good means obeying God like an obedient slave, you must believe in Jesus to be Saved/You are saved by someone else and have no power over your fate, Jesus will return and gladly send everyone who doesn’t submit to his rule to eternal torture)
    3)Please answer why you think God must have designed DNA and how God is supposed to have originated, and why you are presupposing a God instead of something much less complex
    4)Please be specific, and say if you believe morality is what God dictates(divine command theory) or if you accept the conclusion of Euthryphro’s Dilemma, that even if God exists he can only be a messenger reporting what is objectively right and wrong, regardless of what he says. By the way, the inevitable conclusion of the latter is that what is right and wrong for humans to do is the same as what is right and wrong for God to do, so my point on moral double standards becomes a big problem for your belief system, if you believe in an omnipotent god.
    5)Please set the goal posts for what would make you not believe in your idea of God.

    I will set the goal posts for what would convince me of God, if you could somehow overturn the logical reasoning process I’m using and convince me that things like Omnipotence are possible, and that I should have a reason to assume an infinitely complex God was the first being to exist instead of far less complex beings growing to more complex ones as evolution is indicating.

    All that aside your book is great proof of evolution and makes it far simpler to understand and shows a lot of interesting mechanisms. But these issues just make me cringe hard, seeing the Christian logical loops and circular reasoning spread throughout your book with the correct rebuttals of them not included in the book.

    • You are clearly very angry and you are being insulting.

      Here, you pile on all kinds of reasons why you think I’m irrational and frankly it seems like you have emotional issues and assumptions about Christianity that are far too complex and numerous for me to address on a blog.

      I do not really think you have rebutted anything here. You have just made assertions. You dismiss real documented events like miracles with a mere wave of your hand.

      You’ll have to do a lot better than that for me to take you seriously.

      Let’s start with just one issue, because this seems to be the starting point.

      You are assuming that an omnipotent loving God would intervene and solve our problems.

      Where do you get this assumption?

      I fully, totally get the emotional reaction when a child drowns or some other tragedy, that God could have prevented it.

      This is a question that Christianity does not flinch from. Not in the slightest. The question is written all over scripture and Christian history.

      But just because that question exists, doesn’t address the possibility that God has left humans in charge.

      You are assuming that if God loved us, God would fabricate a totally safe environment for all of us. We would be fed and clothed and God would prevent all accidents and life would be safe and comfortable at all times.

      Or… maybe you think it would be mostly safe and mostly comfortable and God would allow minor accidents but step in to stop the severe ones?

      Please explain. In detail. What your conception of God would actually do. Because this is certainly not my conception of God.

      I say this is a straw man version of God and if you actually go ahead and attempt to describe a world in which God does this, you will end up with a world that makes no sense.

      Tell me:

      What events and catastrophes would God prevent?

      And which ones would God allow?

      Can you explain to me how humans would have freedom if God was the constantly intervening helicopter parent?

      Can you explain to me how anyone would grow up into a mature responsible human being if God prevented all of our problems?

      • Michael Champion says:

        Yes, it’s partly an emotional post. What can I say, these are my emotions on the subject, and it is difficult to filter them out from time to time. Sorry if that made it too emotionally charged to read the main points.You say you understand this reaction and after that you decided to be really defensive and focusing on questioning my model of God. With yours being the default for now. OK, I accept that your version of God that doesn’t do much is the status quo in your mind, but hopefully I can convince you to change that status quo.

        “Can you explain to me how humans would have freedom if God was the constantly intervening helicopter parent?”
        It is not violating people’s freedom to intervene, it safeguards it. Just as it is with humans intervening for humans. I think most people would be pretty grateful if someone stepped in and suddenly stopped someone from violently raping or killing them, whether that was through omnipotent power or not. If I was God I would not make it so i have to intervene over and over again. Actually I do believe that this theoretical intervention would soon become obsolete.If I was God, first I would set up a post scarcity civilization where the humans have a resource abundance and don’t need to fight anymore, then the humans would at one point or another agree with me and realize how irrational fighting and violating each other’s freedom is. It’s a parasitic behavior, while a post scarcity civilization that operates from the bottom up without a top down hierarchy would be a Symbiotic system where nobody needs to get manipulated like a peon. Similar to the symbiotic nature of the human body where all the cells work together harmoniously for the benefit of the whole. And unlike in nature, you would have enough to go around for everyone so you don’t need to sacrifice the individual’s needs for the group.

        The goal of every parent is to do their best to help their children become independent and self sufficient. So the goal of every Omnipotent God should be helping everyone to become independent and self sufficient in essentially every way, rendering violence and conflict obsolete. But since a parent has limited time and resources they can only help to a limited degree. A God does not have limited time or power. This is a really important difference.

        “Can you explain to me how anyone would grow up into a mature responsible human being if God prevented all of our problems?”
        What you seem to be arguing is that people always require hardship to become mature people. That if someone grows up in a safe environment they cannot become self sufficient and good as a person. I don’t really believe that is true, there are quite a few cases where an easier and more secure environment facilitates development. Such as with the internet, people are now able to access all sorts of information for free, this environment enables them to do things they couldn’t before. Given that you believe in universal healthcare, this is the same idea, creating a safety net, just a more effective one. I agree that people in tough environments sometimes surpass their environmental obstacles and manage to become more disciplined and independent. But a safe environment is more reliable overall as a concept, it leaves the individual free to choose. People who overcome tough environments generally do it through their own willpower, but many do not break out of these environments. Said willpower could still be used in a safer and easier environment where they have all sorts of options available to them to pursue with their intrinsic motivation. In a society where their needs were met unconditionally i think most people would eventually gain quite a lot of intrinsic motivation to expand their knowledge. I’ll ask what you would do if you lived in a society where your needs would met unconditionally and you were basically safe from all violence as well. Would you decide to be a lazy bum? I doubt it. Even though a lot of people say that humans have no intrinsic motivation and must be manipulated by punishments and rewards, I do not believe any of that to be true. Not saying you’re saying it, but it is a commonly said objection to meeting people’s needs unconditionally, and i think it is worth pointing out that people would have plenty of motivation to become mature and responsible individuals even if their needs were met already.

        • It sounds like you’re saying that if God were a loving omnipotent God he would swoop in and rescue people from disasters. He’d be what the government is intended to be but more powerful.

          But how do you know he would let you do what YOU want to do?

          I could make a very strong argument that if everyone simply obeyed the 10 commandments, earth would be 1000% better overnight. It seems self-evident.

          But if I tried to enforce that with might, most people (especially those who lean left) would start riots.

          And if there were a “dotted line” beyond which God would not allow people to go, people would tow that line constantly.

          How exactly do you propose that God’s enforcement of safety should work? Please be specific.

          And yes my life experience at age 49 is that if people don’t have hardship and challenge they become undisciplined and flaccid. We have animals who have their needs met unconditionally. They’re called pets. Or they live in a zoo. I don’t know too many humans who aspire to that. I believe man is intended to accomplish far greater things than be fed and cared for by some external entity. Man is intended to mature and work out his problems and that includes getting along with each other and taking care of the poor.

          You said:

          The goal of every parent is to do their best to help their children become independent and self sufficient. So the goal of every Omnipotent God should be helping everyone to become independent and self sufficient in essentially every way, rendering violence and conflict obsolete.

          Bingo. I think that is exactly right. We agree. And INDEPENDENT and SELF SUFFICIENT are not possible if the parents constantly show up and solve the problems.

          We have all the moral instructions anyone needs in order to solve most of society’s problems. But people use their FREEDOM to do otherwise.

          God ostensibly values freedom far more than God values safety.

          • Michael Champion says:

            “But how do you know he would let you do what YOU want to do?

            I could make a very strong argument that if everyone simply obeyed the 10 commandments, earth would be 1000% better overnight. It seems self-evident.

            But if I tried to enforce that with might, most people (especially those who lean left) would start riots.

            And if there were a “dotted line” beyond which God would not allow people to go, people would tow that line constantly.

            How exactly do you propose that God’s enforcement of safety should work? Please be specific.”

            The idea is that God would stop aggression, not things considered to be a ‘vice’ that don’t actually harm others. So your example that everyone should follow the 10 commandments is not a match to the logical principle i’m arguing for. A few commandments partially follow this rule like “Thou shalt not kill”, although that should really be amended to “Thou shalt not murder”, but most of them don’t. And some of them partially work as ideals for model behavior, but not as enforcable laws.

            The other side of the coin from stopping aggression is providing resource abundance as a temporary measure until the humans have it under control and their post scarcity civilization is fully set up with no further intervention required. Needless suffering is obviously possible even without direct aggression. AKA in the modern world you could starve to death if you fail to get a job. Or simply if you’re born in a poor country in Africa you are likely to get malaria or die to the AIDS epidemic over there.

            Since there’s a chance you may not have heard of the general concept of an open source post scarcity society I recommend this informative documentary describing how it is supposed to work:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z9WVZddH9w
            Essentially the idea is to localize everything in the economy as much as possible so individual people and individual towns and areas are as self sufficient as possible without relying on extensive wasteful supply chains as modern capitalism does today. Food and other needs would be supplied for free and many pointless jobs would be eliminated. Rather than relying on a network of manipulatory incentives and punishments to push people into action like machines, intrinsic motivation would be the primary psychological motivator for the population.

            “And yes my life experience at age 49 is that if people don’t have hardship and challenge they become undisciplined and flaccid. We have animals who have their needs met unconditionally. They’re called pets. Or they live in a zoo. I don’t know too many humans who aspire to that. I believe man is intended to accomplish far greater things than be fed and cared for by some external entity. Man is intended to mature and work out his problems and that includes getting along with each other and taking care of the poor.”

            Pets are not that smart. No offense to pets but they just don’t have the cognitive and physical capabilities to function in a human civilization in any way other than just sitting around eating. Humans are different in a lot of ways. The first thing I noticed about your response was that you responded to my specific question about what you would do with a generalization about (other) people. Do you count yourself into the group as someone who would get lazy if you knew you would be supported? If so please explain why you would be lazy to whatever degree you would be.

            It’s important to analyze the full context of why people become lazy. And why others do not get lazy at all, even when they are rich enough that they could easily live off their money the rest of their life. Research has shown very well that extrinsic motivation can undermine intrinsic motivation. When people get used to doing something only for a reward or only to avoid punishments, and you take away the incentives/punishments, they stop wanting to do it. There have been all sorts of studies on the subject but if you want a place to start check out this video which references a few:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

            The implications of motivation research like this are wide ranging, showing that not only is our 1800s era schooling system wholly undermining students potential but the same can be said of our modern capitalistic system of work as a whole.

            Safety and freedom are not really conflicting. When people are safe they tend to have more room to be free, as long as safety is about defending liberties and not enforcing external control on people. People should not have the freedom to successfully murder each other but they can engage in self destructive behaviors if they really wish, as irrational as these behaviors are.

            Yes, I agree with self sufficiency as an ideal, but you may not realize how much modern capitalism runs counter to that goal. Capitalism necessitates cyclical consumption of goods regardless of whether this is actually necessary or healthy for the environment. That leads to goods being designed to be replaced the next year by a new one, rather than let’s say designing it to last 30 years and be easily updatable as new technologies emerge for improving it. Here are some examples.

            In electronics there is a new Iphone every year, with only tiny new features, and every one is designed with glued in batteries to make it break more easily so people have to buy a new one. Advertising is designed to induce artificial wants, like the ad campaigns to get people addicted to smoking by making it sound ‘cool’, since causing mass numbers of cancers and deaths this way is profitable and creates dependent addicted consumers. You can see this to a lesser degree in the video game industry which is designed to get people addicted. Software and video are copyrighted because it would be easy to mass-copy it and make it widely available for no resource cost, so software companies like Microsoft need to keep it all locked up under a patent so they can maintain profits. Even though if all software patents were removed sharing of information would be possible allowing far more innovation and preventing redundant research of the exact same thing by each different company, wasting a lot of time.
            Medical research is heavily impacted by cyclical consumption as taking the effort to research a cure that you may not find is a potential waste of money compared to guaranteed profit from cyclical treatments . Also, if you actually managed to find a cure that would be bad for profit too since curing everyone for free destroys your cyclical treatment industry. Which is a major influence on companies not putting far more effort into researching cures regardless of how many lives that might save. Plenty of people dislike the oil industry, but the reason we are stuck on a completely unsustainable energy infrastructure is inherent in capitalism. If everyone got efficient solar that handled their energy needs enough to provide a full charge for their car whenever they wanted they wouldn’t need to buy gas anymore, removing a huge industry. This is also why you don’t see America building mag rail systems across the country to let everyone get wherever they want easily, if that happened it would be a major profit loss for the oil and automobile industries.

            In all these examples the same trend can be observed, the more you try to meet people’s needs permanently the more that goes contrary to capitalism and is heavily discouraged by the system. Hopefully these examples may start to convince you that our modern system of capitalism isn’t that great an idea. I know this discussion might seem like it’s off topic but it is important to mention to bring into full context this question of what an Omnipotent God should do since it answers what is a more ideal society and what isn’t, and how a more ideal society like this is fully compatible with an Omnipotent God trying to get it established.

            • If God prevented all acts of aggression, how would freedom exist?

              Please define the line at which an act would be considered aggression. Please be extremely detailed so we understand what God would allow and not allow.

              • Michael Champion says:

                Of course freedom would still exist. Freedom isn’t defined by aggression. It’s the same as how society operates today deeming certain types of behavior not allowed.

                Certain things are very obviously aggression and would never happen again if an Omnipotent and even semi benevolent God existed, even a normal human could figure out that preventing all rape and murder is a good thing to do. Theft would disappear since everyone would have the resources needed anyways but if someone still wanted to do it and threatened violence if someone didn’t hand over their resources or whatever then sure, an all powerful God might do something. If he even needs to and the people aren’t already going to handle it on their own without dying or getting shot. All these instances of aggression are just proceeding from the same logical principle of what violence is so it’s not really that hard to understand. When you use force directly or use the threat of force to make someone do something that’s aggression. No being prepared to use force on someone if they themselves use force does not count as aggression it’s just a reaction to aggression.

                Direct prevention of violence would mostly become obsolete though if you just prevent structural violence and meet people’s needs after which they won’t have reason to be violent. As I went over with the discussion about capitalism and linking those documentaries that i guess you have not had time to watch yet.

                • “When you use force directly or use the threat of force to make someone do something that’s aggression.”

                  Is it OK for God to use aggression to prevent people from using aggression?

                  • Michael Champion says:

                    I explained 1 line below that how the logic is coherent for God, and more importantly normal people, to use the threat of force in self defense against other people using the threat of force. To be more specific initiation of force is what is wrong here not the use of it reactively and defensively. As a disclaimer I will mention that vast numbers of Americans who use this argument are Anarcho Capitalists and do not realize that Capitalism is pretty inconsistent with anarchism in general. And i’m not an AnCap. But nonetheless it’s a true statement on its own, just not in the context of the Anarcho Capitalist worldview which is inconsistent.

                    Normally this would lead to veganism too, but i do believe this to be objectively unhealthy as shown with science. To resolve the contradiction my personal solution would be more research in developing artificially meat growing technologies which doesn’t require killing animals, and once that’s well researched enough and able to be done on a mass level factory farming can be gotten rid of. As to whether it’s actually right to still eat animals in the meantime, that’s debatable, but i personally view it as close enough to being right when not doing that means having a very unhealthy diet and potentially dying.

                    • Michael,

                      The rationale you would invoke to reason through what kind of force is reasonable for anybody to use would be “just war theory” which is a very well developed body of work. Many scholars have written about this.

                      So you could try to apply just war theory to what God could or should do.

                      But it is painfully obvious that God, if God exists, doesn’t work that way. We obviously do not live in a world where God blocks bullets and stops rapists.

                      But now I’m going to take a turn you may not expect and point out that God does such things OCCASIONALLY and supernatural events do occur for which no skeptic has any plausible explanation.

                      There is a very well documented story from George Washington, for example:

                      https://colonialquills.blogspot.com/2015/03/george-washington-bullet-proof.html Indian chief says:

                      “I am a cheif and ruler over my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes and to the far blue mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man’s blood mixed with the streams of our forest that I first beheld this chief [Washington]. I called to my young men and said, mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the red-coat tribe–he hath an Indian’s wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do–himself is alone exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies. Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss–’twas all in vain, a power mightier far than we, shielded you. Seeing you were under the special guardship of the Great Spirit, we immediately ceased to fire at you. I am old and soon shall be gathered to the great council fire of my fathers in the land of shades, but ere I go, there is something bids me speak in the voice of prophecy. Listen! The Great Spirit protects that man [pointing at Washington], and guides his destinies–he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire. I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of Heaven, and who can never die in battle.”

                      You can search history books to your heart’s content and verify that this conversation really did happen, and you can investigate the context and who the Indian chief was etc etc. Skeptics may dismiss this but I’ve seen all kinds of miraculous things in my life. In the blog post above I link to a lengthy article where I describe a whole series of miraculous events that I’ve personally witnessed. http://www.coffeehousetheology.com/miracles I’ve been in the room TWICE when people deaf for 30+ years got their hearing back. The second time I was sitting right next to the woman, Dierdre, when the hearing in a deaf ear came back.

                      Now what skeptics will always say is (in a mocking whiny voice, usually) “But why did God heal THAT lady and he didn’t heal _____??? He didn’t prevent the tsunami. He didn’t stop the earthquake. He didn’t heal uncle Carl. Doesn’t he love THOSE people?”

                      Two years ago some friends of mine Jordan and Erica lost their 10 week old baby to crib death.

                      A few months later I stopped by their house and we spent the whole evening talking about their loss. One of the things we talked about was that in the New Testament you have two very interesting stories which juxtapose.

                      You have the story of John the Baptist being arrested, being thrown in prison. (Matthew 11) He sends his disciples to Jesus and asks if he’s actually the real deal:

                      2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds Christ had done, he sent his disciples to ask a question: 3 “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: 5 The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. 6 Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

                      In Matthew 14 a girl asks Herod for the head of John the Baptist and it gets served to him on a platter.

                      Contrast this with Peter being let out of prison in Acts 12. An angel comes, his chains drop, and he walks out the door unimpeded.

                      WHY DID GOD RESCUE PETER AND NOT JOHN????

                      We are not given an answer.

                      But life is like that.

                      Why did Jordan and Erica’s baby die, yet you can EASILY find stories of children that were miraculously saved? Chronicles of very well documented miracles are absolutely rampant. All you have to do is start looking for them and you will find volumes and volumes of them.

                      So what is going on here?

                      AND here’s the rub:

                      When you finally realize that miraculous events DO happen, and God does intervene in the world, then you have in some sense an even more disappointing problem than you had before.

                      If God NEVER shows up then you maybe live in a deist world and you have to just deal with it.

                      But if God SOMETIMES shows up then you have this ugly thorny question about why sometimes and not others. Why some people and not others.

                      Well the starting point is that I myself simply CANNOT deny the reality that these things happen. The only way I could possibly do so would be to slip into a level of denial that is inconceivable. I have seen so many synchronicities and miraculous events in my life it’s a daily or weekly experience.

                      But neither can I deny that it’s NOT 100%.

                      I can make the observation that people who diligently pursue a relationship with God do experience a LOT more miracles in their life than people who don’t. I can absolutely assure you of that.

                      What I can also say is the notion of a God who shows up every time anything bad happens in the world has nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity or Judaism. If you think God is “supposed to” show up and prevent all your problems and stop thieves in their tracks, you’re talking about a god that has no relationship to real theology or Judeo Christian scholarship or life experience.

                      Practically speaking I find that the miraculous stopping of bullets such as reported with George Washington is rare. And it only happens when people put themselves in the line of fire in the first place. (By the way I believe the George Washington stories because I’ve seen deaf people get their hearing back. I don’t find the Washington story difficult to believe at all, it comports with my experience of the world.) But practically speaking I know people who listen to God and obey God all the time, and more and more blessings come into their lives. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Washington was well known to be a man of prayer.

          • Michael Champion says:

            It’s been 5 days, so you have had a lot of time to approve and respond to my comment in this thread from August 11th. Don’t mean to be picky here but it helps if you respond within a certain time frame so i do not have to keep checking to see if there was a response. Also keeps the rate of information exchange fast enough that conveying all the ideas and addressing concerns gets way faster. At this point with my yet to be approved post I conveyed the most key ideas about capitalism but have yet to do the critical stage of addressing your response. Maybe after 3-4 more posts I will run out of key concepts to relay over to you and be mostly done saying all the main ideas but that is why it would help if you respond. Most especially you addressing the August 11th response which is at least 3x more important than any later responses I may make and probably even the ones before it as it gets to the core of the issues.

            • I have a lot on my plate. I respond as I am able.

              • Michael Champion says:

                Ok. I guess you are very busy. But at least you have time now.

                • Michael,

                  I think we’re dancing around the real question here.

                  I think the real question is: If there is a “loving God” out there somewhere, why is there so much f***ing pain and suffering and confusion and husbands beating their wives and savagery and unemployment and starvation.

                  And you’re very angry about it and you’re just putting your anger out there.

                  I get that.

                  Well, so here’s perhaps the real problem with a blog like this, if I may just be transparent with you:

                  The real problem is that I’m trying to have a logical rational discussion because I believe that belief in God is entirely logical and rational. But DIS-belief in God comes from anger, frustration, rage, disappointment, sadness, trauma… and it’s real hard to get people to talk openly about what is REALLY bothering them – when it’s in public in front of everyone, on a blog where everything you say might be here or somewhere on the internet for the next 20 years.

                  I mean really, are people going to cut a vein and bleed? Isn’t it a lot easier to hide behind “scientific” facts and argue about fossils or something?

                  Well you’re welcome to tell your story here and if you’re willing I’ll respect that. Your story is your story is your story and I don’t think anybody can argue with it.

                  Or we can argue about scientific facts. Well I’ve done this for a very long time (about 20 years) and I’ve never met an atheist who can ground their disbelief in God with a scientific fact. (Although they can certainly argue against an excessively literal interpretation of Genesis, I’ll grant them that!) At the end of the day the only logical conclusion you can possibly make is that there HAS to be an uncaused cause. But they’re always angry and they don’t want to accept that so [while I am trying to have a logical discussion] they always change the subject and go on yet another rant about the old testament or a tsunami or whatever.

                  Maybe a good question to ask might be: Despite the fact that I was a pastors kid growing up in a VERY abusive church environment, why am I still a Christian? I tell a rather chilling story here:

                  http://www.coffeehousetheology.com/anne-rice-leaves-the-church/

                  Video version if you prefer:
                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wIraVtNfe8

                  Now these stories are only 0.1% of the pain I’ve experienced in my life but they do give you an idea. I totally get that the world is hard and capitalism puts a gun to your head every day and you have to go out and win some bread. As a consultant to entrepreneurs I get that more than most people.

                  I’m not angry about these things any more…. but I was for a long time. I do not believe that erasing God from the picture would have helped my anger. I think there are other ways.

                  • Michael Champion says:

                    Yes, there is a big emotional component to any talk about the existence or non existence of God, but it’s not like that means it’s incompatible with the logical argument. There are plenty of cases where logic or emotion will lead to the same conclusion. For example someone could say that the idea of an all powerful lazy god does not seem quite right from an emotional standpoint without getting why. While if they knew the logical argument too they would say that the reason is because it’s a double standard between what people should do and what a god should do if God is not allowed to do anything. Atheists are often only capable of making a logical and not an emotional argument though in some cases. They will be able to understand what a double standard is and say ‘Here is the logical fallacy’ in 5 seconds, but their belief system tells them that nothing is really right or wrong so technically it’s ‘not wrong’ if God were to just use a double standard like this. Even though internally they recognize to some degree something isn’t right with that they simply ignore that emotion as ‘illogical’ since what their intuition is telling them is that there must be some form of objective morality and their belief system does not agree with that.

                    “At the end of the day the only logical conclusion you can possibly make is that there HAS to be an uncaused cause. But they’re always angry and they don’t want to accept that so [while I am trying to have a logical discussion] they always change the subject and go on yet another rant about the old testament or a tsunami or whatever.”
                    I didn’t change the subject and you didn’t answer what i said about this exact topic, you are still assuming there HAS to be a God behind the initial event of history, it may be true that some form of consciousness had to be around if consciousness cannot be explained as coming from matter, but that doesn’t mean it had to be an all knowing all powerful God. As I said earlier, it’s a lot less logically explainable to start with huge complexity instead of starting with a simpler form of life.

                    I read the article you linked and it seems like the church caused a lot of problems with all the people there. Yes they are attached to it since it’s their only source of any belief in meaning in life but that doesn’t mean that Christianity is actually true.

                    “I do not believe that erasing God from the picture would have helped my anger. I think there are other ways.”
                    Just keep in mind that for me it is not about erasing God from the picture since he isn’t even in the picture, I don’t have a reason to believe, the idea isn’t natural to me. Christians sometimes make the argument that other people secretly believe in God and this is just a totally wrong statement.

                    If you want to really make an ultimate argument for God, the best way would be if you could just derive everything logically and show that it’s unavoidable that an omnipotent God is required. But i’m not seeing that, i’m just seeing this uncaused cause argument a lot of times which is just saying ‘something’ caused the initiation of the universe, it isn’t saying God did it. For example, if early in human history we saw no stars but the sun, and 1000 years later on suddenly 1 billion stars appeared in the sky at once(due to the light from them all having traveled the distance to earth in the same timeframe) that would be pretty good evidence of an intentional Design act. But that hasn’t happened. And it wouldn’t be proof of an Omnipotent God, just one powerful enough to perform the act it displayed. It may actually be logically impossible to prove Omnipotence even if we lived in a vastly different universe where there was some obviously existing Omnipotent God since no matter what feats occur to demonstrate omnipotence , omnipotence necessarily means that God could do something 10x more grandiose. The same goes with Omniscience.

                    But the history of the universe is not like that to the chagrin of Young Earth Creationists, it’s a lot more coherent to assume there was not a massively powerful God creating the universe. Although even in such an odd universe like the idea i mentioned, it would still be needed to explain why the God is the uncaused cause and the uncaused cause is not instead the basic nature of life and consciousness in general, which would include the nature of God.

                    • “If you want to really make an ultimate argument for God, the best way would be if you could just derive everything logically and show that it’s unavoidable that an omnipotent God is required.”

                      The following is as close to that as you can get, as far as I’m aware:

                      http://www.perrymarshall.com/godel

                      It’s not proof that God has to be infinite and boundless and all powerful; but it’s proof that such an entity necessarily has to exist IF the universe is rational.

  3. Michael Champion says:

    @PerryMarshall:
    Seems like the same thing happened with the other thread too. I read through the article on Godel’s incompleteness theorem but the thing is, God would fit inside a circle too. If God is a conscious being then I can draw a circle around “All matter, all energy, all conscious beings” and God won’t be on the outside.

    Something I am noticing about this theorem is that the only thing i cannot delete from the equation are laws of nature. If I draw a circle saying “All laws of physics, all energy, all matter, all conscious beings” what is still left outside? It has to be explanations for how the laws of physics and everything else work, justifications for them. So your argument seems great if you apply it to the idea that there must be more fundamental laws of nature behind all of them, or laws of how consciousness would work at its most basic level, but not for inserting God since God can be put in a circle. Explanations of how nature and consciousness work are the most ‘gaseous’ and simply cannot all be stuffed in a circle with everything else no matter how hard you try.

  4. Tom Godfrey says:

    Michael Champion,

    May I join your conversation with Perry? You have covered several issues, but if I may, I would like to focus on what appears to me to be a logical problem with claims in the first paragraph of your first comment for this thread. If you disabuse yourself of one key logical fallacy, other issues might soon vanish.

    Let’s start with this claim: “You cannot have an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god at the same time while also having this world we live in exist in its current state.” You should understand that universal negatives like this are notoriously hard to prove. You can make the claim with ease, of course, but can you prove that it is true? I doubt that you can, but you can certainly believe that the claim is true by faith, right?

    You may protest that you can turn it into a logical problem for people like me who believe in God. I give credit to Greg Bahnsen for helping me understand the problem of evil. To save you the trouble of reading his long article about it, I will explain it briefly right here. Just in case you are want to read his article anyway, here is a link to it.
    http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa105.htm

    Let’s turn your claim into a syllogism that begins with two premises or presuppositions.

    1. God is omnibenevolent (completely good).
    2. God is omnipotent (completely powerful).

    What we have so far is not a problem for believers, but we still have another premise to add.

    3. Evil exists or happens.

    As Bahnsen points out, no evil, no problem. We evidently agree on the need to accept this third premise, but does this lead to a logical problem for believers? Does the third premise require rejection of one or both of the first two, or, in other words, does it force us to conclude logically that the kind of God in which we have put our faith cannot exist? This may surprise you, but the answer is no, because of our option to add a fourth premise or presupposition.

    4. God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.

    I think you must have realized that the syllogism was not quite complete after you added the third premise, because you went on to say this at the end of your first paragraph: “Please note that just because the God character has perfect knowledge does not mean that human intuition is incorrect about what would be a better world, it just doesn’t know all the full details beyond what it has already figured out to be true.” Please correct me if I misunderstood, but I think this means that you prefer a different fourth presupposition.

    4 (MC). God does not have a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.

    So which fourth presupposition is true? You have racked your brain to think of a morally sufficient reason that God might have for the evil that exists, and yet you cannot think of even one, right? You might challenge me to think of one. If I can’t think of one either, can we therefore logically conclude that no such reason can possibly exist? Your fourth presupposition is another one of those universal negatives. Can you prove that it is true? It could be hard to do, especially if we agree that argumentum ad ignorantiam is a logical fallacy. Given your statement of confidence in human intuition, quoted above, I suppose I should not jump to any conclusions about what you recognize as a fallacy, so if anything I have said here should be considered controversial, please explain why.

    This coin has another side. I cannot prove that my own version of the fourth presupposition is correct either, but we are each free to prefer our own version of it by faith. I think the upshot of this is that your syllogism is not really a logical problem for believers after all, regardless of how obvious this may be. We certainly do not know the full details beyond what we have already believed to be true. God is believed to be eternal, omniscient, and omnipresent too. What about us? What business do we have pretending to be like God in these respects?

    Bahnsen went on to explain that unbelievers still have a problem asserting the third premise while also believing that there is no God. I think you recognized this in your August 18, 2018, 8:01 pm, comment, where you wrote, “Atheists [… believe] that nothing is really right or wrong so technically it’s ‘not wrong’ if God were to just use a double standard like this. Even though internally they recognize to some degree something isn’t right with that they simply ignore that emotion as ‘illogical’ since what their intuition is telling them is that there must be some form of objective morality and their belief system does not agree with that.” To keep our focus sharp, let’s set this issue aside and settle the fallacy issue I described above first, before moving on.

    You challenged Perry to explain what he would do if he had the power of God. I suppose I should not ignore this challenge, because you may well present it to me too. Well, I think this hypothetical is actually irrelevant to a proper analysis of the syllogism of interest. If I had the power of God without knowing what God knows, I admit that my actions and judgments could be very different but not necessarily better. If I were in God’s “shoes” with all of the standard divine attributes, I guess that my actions and judgments would be exactly the same as his. Why not? One could speculate, of course, but how would this subjective exercise be relevant to the logical issue before us?

    If you have spotted a problem in my own logic here, please explain.

    • Michael, I just want to mention that Tom Godfrey does not believe that science can tell us anything about history, and since our philosophies are completely incompatible and mutual agreement is inherently impossible, I no longer engage with him.

      • Michael Champion says:

        Well that is really a shame. I guess Christianity has too much of a hold on him so he decides to be anti science. When that fundamentally makes no sense. If any metaphysical things you postulate are true then they would unavoidably have to scientifically true too, science is just the discovery of consistency and truth in the world.

  5. Tom Godfrey says:

    Perry Marshall,

    I posted my comment twice yesterday, because the first time I tried, my comment failed to appear with a message saying that it was awaiting moderation. Please feel free to remove the duplicate and try to see what might have gone wrong, so that this won’t keep happening. It would also be nice to get rid of the extra fields at the bottom of our comments that repeat our first and last name.

    Your explanation for not engaging with me reflects a basic misunderstanding that ought to be clarified. I am not anti-science at all. We evidently just disagree about what science is. For me, it is all about studying and observing nature and understanding the laws of nature through hypotheses and repeatable experiments that can be used to verify or falsify them. I have no problem with this at all. In this context, methodological materialism makes sense.

    What I reject is calling it science when modern experts speculate about origins and the history of life on earth based on their interpretation of currently available, necessarily incomplete physical evidence, especially if this is done under the same no-miracle presupposition. I doubt that this kind of speculation can be falsified. To me, it looks like educated guesswork, not the ordinary kind of science that supports technological progress.

    You are under no obligation to engage with me, of course. As far as this discussion with Michael Champion is concerned, I believe we may actually be on the same page. Maybe we can set aside our differences regarding science and focus on helping him think about the problem of evil and related ideological issues.

  6. Tom Godfrey says:

    Michael Champion,

    Thanks for accepting my participation here.

    I started my “long post” by quoting one of your claims and challenging you to prove that it is true. I gather that your response is basically to challenge me to prove that it is false. Well, you are right about my not trying to disprove it, but this was not my goal. I was not going to accept an argumentum ad ignorantiam from you, and I do not want to fall for this fallacy myself either. Where did I set up a default presupposition? You can take whatever presuppositions you please. So can I. Can we agree then that your claim was actually just a belief or opinion, not part of a logical syllogism that you can rationally defend? If so, I think we can move on.

    You went on to say, “There is no reason to assume an Omnipotent being exists. It is not just because of the problem of evil but because it doesn’t even make any logical sense, any conscious being has a limit to how much energy and matter they control, ‘Omnipotence’ is an idea that only exists as something people make up.” Now that the problem of evil is behind us, let’s think about your claims in this quote from farther down in your opening comment.

    How do you know that “any conscious being has a limit to how much energy and matter they control”? We can quickly agree that plenty of conscious beings have such a limit, but I think you intended to claim that no conscious being, not even God, has unlimited control. If so, I think you are facing another one of those universal negatives that is notoriously hard to prove. Can we agree that this also is merely an opinion that you hold by faith without proof?

    You may be thinking that God can control only the energy and matter in the universe, and since the universe itself is finite, then even God must respect this limit. If so, I see two problems with this idea. First, correct me if I am wrong about this, but I don’t think we have found any outer boundary of the universe. For all we know, it could be boundless, right? Second, if God created all of the universe that we can see, do we really have any reason to conclude that he could not create even more energy and matter at will and without limit?

    Before we leave this, we should realize that an omnipotent being could have “a limit to how much energy and matter” is under his control as long as this limited amount is all-inclusive. The prefix omni- means all-, not unlimited-. If we agree on this point too, we may be ready to conclude that neither one of the reasons you gave for the leading claim about assuming existence withstands scrutiny, leaving you with yet another universal negative to defend (“There is no reason to assume an Omnipotent being exists”).

    It is one thing to claim that there is no reason, another thing to claim that there is no sound reason. If you are honestly searching for a reason, I can give you one. Just ask. By now, you should give up on the idea and retreat to a statement that you can rationally defend, such as a bare or groundless statement of faith that no omnipotent being exists.

    I reject the way you frame the problem before us. Our goal should not be to prove that we have a good idea. We ought to recognize that our knowledge and intelligence are limited, so no matter what we may believe and judge to be good or morally justified, God could actually know better. I think this is consistent with the teaching in Is. 64:6. God gets to be the final Judge in the end. It does not follow that we should refrain from even trying to make judgments about what is good or morally justified. We just do the best we can. Fortunately, God knows our limitations (Ps. 103:13-14, Is. 64:4-5).

    • Michael Champion says:

      “Can we agree then that your claim was actually just a belief or opinion, not part of a logical syllogism that you can rationally defend? If so, I think we can move on.”
      The point is your reason for presupposing God has a good reason is your Christian beliefs. You’re not logically deducing those beliefs you’re just using what you were told is true by authority figures. So i have no reason to agree with you when that is your reason for making this logical stretch. You don’t have a reason why God should act in this way so i conclude your thought here isn’t based on your actual reasoning process. “God MUST have a reason because my religion says so” is what it seems like you are saying. You should try to be an independent critical thinker here and examine whether the religion makes sense. My syllogism is completely logical here, you’re the one who refuses to make an argument instead reverting to an argument that it is impossible for anyone to know anything true about what’s right and wrong.

      “How do you know that “any conscious being has a limit to how much energy and matter they control”? We can quickly agree that plenty of conscious beings have such a limit, but I think you intended to claim that no conscious being, not even God, has unlimited control. If so, I think you are facing another one of those universal negatives that is notoriously hard to prove. Can we agree that this also is merely an opinion that you hold by faith without proof?”
      I can’t give some perfect proof here as it is a problem to prove double negatives. But do you have a reason to believe this is the case?

      ” If you are honestly searching for a reason, I can give you one. Just ask. ”
      It looks like you really missed the point. I don’t just believe the idea of God is unreasonable, but I don’t think it is a good idea at all. It’s an idea emerging from an authoritarian worldview, designed to induce obedience into the public. Why should one person get to have all the power compared to everyone else? That’s a dictatorial mindset.

      “I reject the way you frame the problem before us. Our goal should not be to prove that we have a good idea. We ought to recognize that our knowledge and intelligence are limited, so no matter what we may believe and judge to be good or morally justified, God could actually know better. I think this is consistent with the teaching in Is. 64:6. God gets to be the final Judge in the end. It does not follow that we should refrain from even trying to make judgments about what is good or morally justified. We just do the best we can. Fortunately, God knows our limitations (Ps. 103:13-14, Is. 64:4-5).”
      You’re stuck in a limited religious mindset. Why do you not want to know anything about what is morally right? That’s the only way you can act effectively after all, if you try to learn what’s the right course of action. You think it’s all based on what God tells you but how do you know that if you can’t evaluate for yourself whether what your religion says makes sense and should be done? You’re not thinking independently. Please do. Although since you are religious it is basically your job to deny anything against your faith as otherwise you will be socially ostracized by whatever religious community you’re in. Meaning you’re inherently biased right from the get go as you don’t value reason and truth as a higher priority than what religion tells you. I’m not saying you couldn’t overcome your indoctrination anyways, but there are many social pressures that are going to be pushing you against following the evidence where it leads.

  7. Tom Godfrey says:

    Michael Champion,

    When I invited Perry to delete my duplicate comment, it did not occur to me that my original comment might be deleted instead, so that the timestamp of the remaining duplicate makes it look as though I posted once long after you replied. I was really disappointed to discover this morning that your reply was deleted along with my original. In hindsight, I should have left well enough alone. Sorry about that.

    Let’s not hold this against Perry. I was assuming that he does his own work on maintaining his blog, but for all I know, he has delegated this work to a new guy who needs more experience. I would be surprised if your deleted comment can be recovered at this point, but hopefully, we can carry on anyway. At least my reply to you has direct quotations that may be good enough to allow our discussion to continue.

    By the way, I do not distinguish between things that are “scientifically true” and things that are true only in some other sense. As I see it, a claim is either true or false or mysterious without any adverb needed. As you probably know, what some scientists believe is true may or may not be believed by others, and even a consensus may have to be adjusted as more is learned. This is a problem that people face if they prefer the physical clues approach to learning about origins and the history of life on earth. What they may think they know about this topic is merely tentative speculation. That’s the nature of science. Think of phlogiston, for example.

    • Michael Champion says:

      Yeah, i noticed the original got deleted but only noticed now.

      I don’t get your point. Of course scientific truth is different than others. Anyways, you didn’t really respond to anything i posted in my most recent comment that i can still see. Religious brainwashing, the basis for your beliefs, your Authoritarian mindset, and so on.

  8. Tom Godfrey says:

    Michael Champion,

    When I first checked this morning, your reply late yesterday had not yet passed moderation, so I could not see it. After I posted my comment this morning, it did not appear right away, so I could only guess whether it got through successfully. No feedback. At least I didn’t try again and post a duplicate. It is inevitable that moderation requires delays, but the current arrangement is not user-friendly. I think website code-behind changed recently, probably when the two superfluous name fields started showing up under each comment. I assume you see the same issues. Anyway, I guess we can live with these defects for now and hope that they will be fixed before long. We can complain, but otherwise, it is out of our hands.

    You told me that your syllogism is completely logical, and I suppose it is, but the conclusion depends crucially on the choice of the fourth presupposition. If 4 (MC) is included, you may conclude that no God having the attributes claimed in 1 and 2 exists. If believers’ 4 alternative is included instead, such a God can exist, and the “problem of evil” is not really an unsolved problem for us. You may protest that I did not logically deduce my belief in the truth of my 4 alternative, but I think you need to admit that you did not logically deduce yours either. How could you? It is another one of those universal negatives that may not even be possible to prove without having a divine attribute yourself, like omniscience. I think the upshot of my analysis is that we both walk by faith. Neither one of us has proved anything with this syllogism. Logically, a wrong presupposition can lead to a wrong conclusion. Are you ready to admit this? If not, please explain where you think I went wrong.

    You advised me to “try to be an independent critical thinker,” but I believe I have been one for practically all of my life. Let’s think about this. Are you thinking that my belief in God merely reflects my Christian upbringing and required no independent critical thinking on my part? If so, why? You are only guessing, right? I actually remember a time when I rejected my upbringing and the unseen prompting of the Holy Spirit, but then, while continuing to exercise my independent critical judgment, I decided to put my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The fact that I ended up deciding to agree with other parties does not negate the fact that I am “an independent critical thinker.” You agree with other parties too, right? Would it make sense for you to change your mind just so you can try to be “an independent critical thinker”? Think logically. I am no more “stuck in a limited religious mindset” than you are stuck in a limited atheistic mindset. We are both free to change our mind. I have already done this several times in my lifetime. It could happen again.

    You said I missed your point, but I think you missed mine as well. You made a universal negative statement, gave two reasons to believe it, neither one of which you defended, and now instead of admitting that you cannot defend the main statement either, you want to talk about how good or reasonable the idea of God is, right? Well, okay, you can dodge my point, but let’s think about your new reason for believing that the idea of God is neither good nor reasonable: “It’s an idea emerging from an authoritarian worldview, designed to induce obedience into the public. Why should one person get to have all the power compared to everyone else? That’s a dictatorial mindset.”

    I don’t see the connection between belief in God and an authoritarian worldview. I think there are lots of worldviews, many of which embrace the idea of an omnipotent God. I suspect that most, if not all, of them call for respect for some authority who can demand obedience. Does this make them authoritarian? Even if a worldview is authoritarian, by what logical principle does it follow that any belief that emerges from it is necessarily bad or unreasonable? Your question about one person having “all the power compared to everyone else” puzzles me. Who do you suppose that one person is? Maybe you just did not explain your reason well enough, so feel free to reword it in a form that you can defend with confidence.

    You asked why I don’t “want to know anything about what is morally right.” How do you know what I want? I do the best I can to know. I evaluate for myself what makes sense and what should be done while realizing that my knowledge and conclusions may well be imperfect. What is the problem here? Is it any different for you? If so, how? Do you claim to lack bias?

    • Michael Champion says:

      You said earlier that you thought people shouldn’t try to figure out what’s right and wrong and instead figure out what the Bible tells them to do due to their imperfections. That’s basically saying you don’t want to figure anything out.

      ” but I think you need to admit that you did not logically deduce yours either. ”
      It’s not like I can know as an absolute truth that no omnipotent God could possibly exist. But it just seems more reasonable than the other option. If all normal standards of morality would mean God would change the world, then most likely God doesn’t exist. You can’t explain why God wouldn’t do anything other than appeal to your own ignorance. If you can actually explain why an Omnipotent person shouldn’t do anything to improve the world you can try that but you haven’t done that yet. You’re still appealing to your own ignorance and the argument that since God’s omniscient he could know way better what’s right and wrong. But at that rate, why trust yourself that God would know better if you can’t trust yourself to decide what’s right or wrong for anything else?

      I get it that I cannot just prove beyond all doubt any of my conclusions. But that is not even the point here. As for what you did talk about with what’s right and wrong, you said that many worldviews appeal to some kind of authority. But what I am saying is that religion simply tells people to believe or go to hell, this is an authoritarian system of beliefs where nonbelievers are essentially executed for not obeying. How is that not wrong? It obviously is. Unless you don’t believe in hell?

  9. Tom Godfrey says:

    Michael Champion,

    Now I can see your 12:05 pm and 1:40 pm comments. If you posted another one after those, it must be in moderation still. I hope Perry fixes this blog so that we get some immediate feedback after we post a comment.

    You may either have me mixed up with someone else on another thread or have trouble quoting me exactly. You can use Ctrl-F to search for “Bible” and quickly verify that I haven’t even mentioned the word before this comment, and I didn’t say I “thought people shouldn’t try to figure out what’s right and wrong.” Near the end of my most recent comment, I said, “I do the best I can to know [what is morally right]. I evaluate for myself what makes sense and what should be done while realizing that my knowledge and conclusions may well be imperfect.” Why would you assume that I think others should not do this too? Of course, our evaluation or figuring stuff out can take into consideration guidance found in the Bible, but so what? It certainly does not follow from this that I “don’t want to figure anything out.” Maybe you only exaggerated for dramatic effect and did not really mean what you said. If so, please clarify.

    We may be making progress. Thanks for admitting, perhaps in a roundabout way, that you have no absolute proof to support your belief that no omnipotent, omnibenevolent God could possibly exist in view of the problem of evil. I have already admitted that my own version of the syllogism (with presupposition 4) does not absolutely prove that such a God exists. We both walk by faith in this regard. I think this means that we can move on and consider the “problem of evil” solved for anyone willing to accept presupposition 4.

    I understand that you do not accept it, evidently because you still believe that 4 (MC) is more reasonable than 4 and more likely to be true, even though you now admit that you cannot prove that it is. If this really does come down to a difference in probability, I think you would have to admit that you lack knowledge of the parameters needed to calculate an actual probability. You are really only estimating, right?

    Can you even defend you claim that 4 (MC) is more reasonable? As far as I know, “all normal standards of morality” take into account the knowledge of the moral agent, not the knowledge of a victim or some third party. Think of a case of negligent homicide, for instance. I am reminded of the scenario where a man wearing a mask cuts the heart out of an unconscious man while several witnesses see this happen and do absolutely nothing to stop him. Let’s suppose that each one of those witnesses is a moral agent familiar with normal standards of morality. Was it right for them to do nothing or not? Does it matter what they knew? I think we can agree that it does. While at first blush you might think you should scream at them to stop the man before it was too late, you might not, if only you knew what they know. They are all medical students observing a heart transplant in a hospital operating room.

    So what does this have to do with the issue at hand? If God is the moral agent, then he needs to be judged based on the complete knowledge that he has, not on the incomplete knowledge that you or any other fallible human has whenever a moral judgment is made here on earth. It is irrelevant that God has not disclosed his morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists. It is irrelevant that I cannot guess what it might be with confidence. So what if we can’t explain what his reason is? It would be a fallacy to conclude from this that no such reason can possibly exist.

    Given my belief in the nature of God, it seems practically certain to me that such a reason does indeed exist. If you believe that God does not exist, then for you the “problem of evil” converts into a challenge to explain the existence of “normal standards of morality.” How did they originate without God? Why shouldn’t we simply do what is right in our own eyes?

    You asked, “… why trust yourself that God would know better if you can’t trust yourself to decide what’s right or wrong for anything else?” The stated if-condition is not true. I can and do trust myself to decide what’s right or wrong, but my decision will necessarily be based on consideration of guidance and information from sources outside of myself. My decision could be wrong. I dare say it works the same way for you too. My belief that almighty God knows all and loves the world has nothing to do with foolish attempts to judge his moral decisions based on one’s own limited knowledge. If I am ever hauled into court, I might choose to judge the judge, but his judgment would certainly be weightier than mine. It’s the same with God. He rules. I don’t. It’s actually a good thing. May his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

    Thanks for honestly admitting that you “cannot just prove beyond all doubt any of [your] conclusions.” You went on to say, “But that is not even the point here.” Okay then. What is the point?

    When you say, “… religion simply tells people to believe or go to hell,” you are using figurative language. Religion is not an animate agent, so it does, says, or tells people absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, the word is also very vague. As far as I am concerned, even atheism is a religion. Let’s be more specific and consider the teaching in John 3:16-18. This is actually the message you had in mind, right? If not, please be specific.

    Otherwise, let’s consider your summary statement that “nonbelievers are essentially executed for not obeying.” This looks like a gross distortion to me. Where did you get this idea? It has been known for centuries that people are free to disobey God without necessarily being immediately executed (Psalm 73), and we are all destined to die eventually, regardless of how well we obey (Heb. 9:27). It is not up to me to judge God because of consequences suffered or to be suffered eternally by people who make bad choices of their own free will. How can I even be sure I know exactly what those consequences will be in any specific case? I do feel obligated to encourage people, you included, to make wise choices.

    • Michael Champion says:

      Sorry for the late response. Other issues came up and I forgot to check this thread.

      You concluded you cannot make a judgement on God with incomplete information but this is not quite right. Consider this analogy for objective morality:If an omniscient God would have an infinitely accurate microscope to see all details, that does not mean normal people can conclude nothing as they still see. If people can observe objective morality and truly determine some things are right and wrong they can make judgements on what would be right and wrong for this christian God idea, too. Their judgements don’t have to be entirely perfect to still be a good approximation of the truth.

      So this argument:
      ” It is not up to me to judge God because of consequences suffered or to be suffered eternally by people who make bad choices of their own free will. ”
      is wrong. Also the terms are wrong, too. “To be suffered of their own free will”? Imagine someone diving headfirst into a flaming lake of fire. Obviously it is not like that, nobody would want eternal torture. The word choice you are looking for is “punishments inflicted on” not “consequences suffered by”. Which shows you’re using a euphemism. You should also realize this biblical punishment system is rejected in the real world, that’ why nobody gets burned at the stake or tortured by the church for being a heretic anymore. If you accept the real world treating religion this way as morally right because religious freedom should be respected you must see the contradiction with calling it morally right for the Christian God character to torture people for eternity.

  10. Tom Godfrey says:

    Michael Champion,

    No need to apologize. Life goes on. We both need to be patient if we use this blog for our discussion. My comment dated August 31 had to wait in moderation over the Labor Day weekend, so you would not have seen it until it finally passed only two or three days ago. Thanks for not giving up.

    I agree that I can “make a judgement on God with incomplete information.” You and anybody else can do this too, of course. By the same token, I also agree that “… normal people … can make judgements on what would be right and wrong for this christian God idea, too.” This much is not in dispute.

    You may have read my statement too quickly and inadvertently set up a straw man here. We probably agree that it would be unreasonable to expect any fallible human to have the complete knowledge of any omniscient being, but in the scenario under consideration, I think we ought to agree as well that there is simply too much relevant information beyond our grasp for us to pretend that our hypothetical judgment in a case against God ought to be taken seriously, let alone have consequences that God ought to fear.

    Our judgments in cases involving human agents are not like this, because the defendant can actually be put on trial and have a fair opportunity to make a case for acquittal. Someone on trial for murder could reasonably argue that he did not realize his reckless behavior would cause a fatal accident, so the charge might be reduced to negligent homicide. Who could serve a subpoena on God, let alone properly judge whether his defense case is true, even if he did appear in our kangaroo court?

    Of course no one dives headfirst into hell of his own free will. Let’s not make another straw man of this either. The suffering I had in mind was “because of consequences suffered or to be suffered eternally by people who make bad choices of their own free will.” It is eternally irrelevant whether a “punishment system is rejected in the real world.” God is holy and not bound by our modern preferences. Nevertheless, I know of no society where bad choices necessarily go unpunished or without undesirable consequences.

    Sometimes, the guilty party may feel that the punishment received is too great for the crime committed (Gen. 4:13). In any specific case involving eternal punishment, we are in no position to tell the full extent of either the crime or the punishment to be received. God rules. We do not. Life can be tough. If God choses to torture people for eternity, it is not up to you or me to judge whether this is morally right or wrong. It would not matter if we did this anyway. Maybe, to quote Robert Burns, the big idea is that we should either “guess and fear” or else be saved from the “wrath to come” (1Thes. 1:10).

    Maybe we have beaten this horse enough. Unless we still have a realistic hope of substantial forward progress, let’s move on next to consider something else you told Perry in your opening comment: “I hope from this you understand how your reasoning process is being twisted by Christianity and logical reasoning concludes christianity is false. Or at least give some clear answers on what your fundamental attachment to Christianity is and why you are persisting in the non logical reasoning … “ Maybe by now you see that the “problem of evil” is not such a good example of the allegedly twisted reasoning of believers, let alone a good reason to conclude that Christianity is false, so let’s focus next on another logical issue you covered in the same comment. The next two paragraphs here are direct quotes from it.

    “How did [consciousness] originate?->From less complex consciousness as it has throughout all of history, possibly some fundamentally least complex version of consciousness that is the basic nature of intelligence and caused the first DNA ancestor to originate through an as of yet unknown trait of natural law

    “I know you mentioned natural law possibly creating consciousness in your book but you still are fixated on God as shown in your writing, where you use God as your Primary Assumption, not some natural emergence of consciousness which is more coherent and logical. You’re still stuck in the God of the Gaps mentality and your version of God of the Gaps is that God created the universe and planned everything so DNA would arise and create intelligent beings. You’re still trying to jam God into your thought process in an unnatural way IMO.”

    One point you may notice right off the bat is that “From less complex consciousness” or even “some fundamentally least complex version of consciousness” is no good answer to the question you posed. Even if consciousness actually did evolve from simpler to more complex forms, this would not explain how the earliest form of it originated in a primitive universe without any consciousness at all. Neither would it explain how it eventually developed sufficient skill or means to supply the information found in DNA. I suspect that any materialistic theory advanced to explain either one of these two origins is going to be unscientific, unfalsifiable, data poor, and imagination rich, but maybe you know of one that deserves respect. If so, please enlighten me. Otherwise, ask yourself whether such a theory should be considered reasonable.

    As you probably know, even a nonsensical idea can be believed if only the problems with it are ignored, dismissed, or overlooked. One value of a discussion like the one we are having is that we expose our own ideas to critical scrutiny, and in the process, problems may come to light that had been left in the dark or swept under the rug, so to speak. Please explain why you believe that “some natural emergence of consciousness … is more coherent and logical” than a supernatural, eternal consciousness as a reasonable source of the information in DNA. Maybe before you do, it would be helpful to watch this video clip where Stephen Meyer talks about “the God of the Gaps mentality” that you evidently consider problematic. It takes only about two and half minutes to watch it.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGqzCA1mnyM

    • Michael Champion says:

      “You may have read my statement too quickly and inadvertently set up a straw man here. We probably agree that it would be unreasonable to expect any fallible human to have the complete knowledge of any omniscient being, but in the scenario under consideration, I think we ought to agree as well that there is simply too much relevant information beyond our grasp for us to pretend that our hypothetical judgment in a case against God ought to be taken seriously, let alone have consequences that God ought to fear.

      Our judgments in cases involving human agents are not like this, because the defendant can actually be put on trial and have a fair opportunity to make a case for acquittal. Someone on trial for murder could reasonably argue that he did not realize his reckless behavior would cause a fatal accident, so the charge might be reduced to negligent homicide. Who could serve a subpoena on God, let alone properly judge whether his defense case is true, even if he did appear in our kangaroo court?”
      This is just an argument that God doesn’t exist, not that it’s impossible to make judgements. Since God doesn’t exist, it’s all just hypothetical but talking about the idea is still possible. You can look at the ideas proposed in the bible and judge those.

      “Of course no one dives headfirst into hell of his own free will. Let’s not make another straw man of this either. The suffering I had in mind was “because of consequences suffered or to be suffered eternally by people who make bad choices of their own free will.” It is eternally irrelevant whether a “punishment system is rejected in the real world.” God is holy and not bound by our modern preferences. Nevertheless, I know of no society where bad choices necessarily go unpunished or without undesirable consequences.”

      The intent behind jail and etc in the modern world is to isolate dangerous people from society where they can commit further crimes. I would 100% agree with the argument against the death penalty, if things were actually implemented the right way and people who can realistically be expected to just go kill more people are not let off early to go do it again. So in some cases maybe a death penalty can be justified, but that’s only in the context of a criminal justice system that doesn’t work and lets people go who will go cause a lot of harm to others once again. A more ideal one wouldn’t.

      You’re just making a double standard where God gets to be special and ignore all the rules of morality. This is an authoritarian mindset which seems like it’s just fear based.

      “Sometimes, the guilty party may feel that the punishment received is too great for the crime committed (Gen. 4:13). In any specific case involving eternal punishment, we are in no position to tell the full extent of either the crime or the punishment to be received. God rules. We do not. Life can be tough. If God choses to torture people for eternity, it is not up to you or me to judge whether this is morally right or wrong. It would not matter if we did this anyway. Maybe, to quote Robert Burns, the big idea is that we should either “guess and fear” or else be saved from the “wrath to come” (1Thes. 1:10).”
      This is exactly what i’m talking about, you are in a fear based mentality where saying you believe in God in hopes of not getting tortured for eternity is what you do because you are afraid of getting punished. It’s going to make you biased. Again you’re using the argument of Might=Right because you say since God rules nobody else has room to object. But Might=Right means that anyone in power in the real world must then be ‘right’ even if it’s some genocidal maniac. So I doubt you really believe that, you probably believe right and wrong are separate from who is powerful and can control others.

      “One point you may notice right off the bat is that “From less complex consciousness” or even “some fundamentally least complex version of consciousness” is no good answer to the question you posed. Even if consciousness actually did evolve from simpler to more complex forms, this would not explain how the earliest form of it originated in a primitive universe without any consciousness at all. Neither would it explain how it eventually developed sufficient skill or means to supply the information found in DNA. I suspect that any materialistic theory advanced to explain either one of these two origins is going to be unscientific, unfalsifiable, data poor, and imagination rich, but maybe you know of one that deserves respect. If so, please enlighten me. Otherwise, ask yourself whether such a theory should be considered reasonable.”
      The problem with the origination of the least complex version of consciousness isn’t something I’ve figured out the answer for, but this idea solves a lot of other issues. Maybe the least complex version of consciousness is somehow natural to the universe, not an emergent process. Why that would be the case, I don’t know. Christianity and religion haven’t solved the issues of their origins, and have a lot more inconsistencies than many other systems of belief.

      I watched the video. He says that because we know information and codes can emerge from minds that the code of DNA must have come from a mind, rather than natural processes which we can’t explain as making codes. The problem is this, he jumps to the conclusion that God did it when all he can think of right now is that some mind may be responsible for codes. Even if consciousness in some form caused DNA to emerge that does not mean it was an omnipotent omniscient god like Christians say.

      Your idea right now is that there is no explanation on how an earlier form of consciousness, or a least complex form of it, could have originated itself. But why is God special in comparison? If the explanation for why God is eternal is that he just is eternal, why couldn’t some form of consciousness also be eternal? It would remove the issue of origination. All we know is that at least some kind of consciousness is probably responsible for the origin of codes if we assume that only minds can generate codes, but that does not mean God did it. You haven’t derived the existence of an Omnipotent Omniscient God here. Perry made an attempt to prove that, but it still wasn’t fully logical as i showed in the other comment thread with him.

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