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Turning the Problem of Evil On Its Head


Joker

Many atheists are fond of using the argument from evil to debunk the notion of God. It goes something like this:

  1. If God is all-powerful (omnipotent), He could stop evil.
  2. If God is all-loving (omnibenevolent), He would stop evil if He could.
  3. Therefore, if an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God existed, evil would not.
  4. Evil exists; therefore, an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God does not.

Another variation of the argument was put forward by the Greek philosopher Epicurus, centuries before the time of Christ:

Epicurus

Against Catholics, this argument is stronger rhetorically than logically. But against atheists, it's ironically quite devastating. Let me explain what I mean.

I. The Problem of Evil for Catholics

 
Logically, this argument misunderstands what's meant by God's omnipotence. Omnipotence means that God cannot possibly be more powerful than He currently is. His power is perfect. But within these traditional confines, we still acknowledge that God cannot do the logically impossible. He cannot, for example, will what is contrary to His Will. Why? Because that's a meaningless self-contradiction.

Herein lies the easiest answer to the problem of evil:

  1. God gives us free will, because free will is inherently good.
  2. Free will entails the possibility of doing what is contrary to God's will (this is what we know as evil).
  3. Thus, evil exists, because of man's actions, rather than because of God.

Thus, the notion of an all-loving God is consistent with abundant free will, and abundant free will is consistent with the presence of evil (I discuss that more on my own blog.) You may disagree with that solution—you may not see why free will is better than God forcing us to perform on command, for example—but it at least shows that there's no logical problem with the simultaneous existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God and evil.

II. The Problem of Evil for Atheists

 
But today, I wanted to show why this is a particularly bad proof for atheism. It relies (in the fourth point of the argument outlined above) on the proposition “evil exists.” Now there are two things that might be meant by this claim:

  • Subjective evil exists: That is, things exist that I don't happen to like. But if that were the case, the whole argument of evil falls apart. Obviously, an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God might well do or permit things that I happen to dislike. The existence of broccoli and the New York Yankees doesn't discredit God, unless I'm such a narcissist as to think that a loving God would create the universe as best suits my own whims.
  • Objective evil exists: This is what is obviously meant by the problem of evil. Things exist that aren't just contrary to my personal tastes (like broccoli) but which are contrary to what all moral people know to be good (like genocide or the torture of little children).

But here's the problem with that: Objective morality, including objective evil, cannot exist without God. This doesn't mean that atheists can't be moral people, of course. Catholicism teaches that much of objective morality is knowable by natural law. Atheists can and generally do implicitly recognize the moral law, and obey it. The problem is that this behavior appears completely irrational.

More specifically, the problem is that is that there's no way to get from statements about how the world is to how the world ought to be without imposing a value system. And to say something is objective evil—that it objectively ought not to be—you have to believe in objective values, binding everyone (including, in the case of the problem of evil, God Himself). It has to be something infinitely more than whatever your personal values might be.

This, as you can hopefully tell, is a serious problem for atheism, since atheistic naturalism denies any such universally-binding moral laws (since they require Divine Authorship). Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, in his debate with atheist Christopher Hitchens, laid out the problem like this:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values do exist.
  3. Therefore God exists.

Hitchens misunderstood the argument, and flubbed it pretty badly, so I sought out an atheist response. The atheist responding argues that both of Craig's premises are false:

Firstly, objective morals could well exist without God. They could be hardwired into our genes as an evolutionary survival mechanism. So clearly, Craig’s first premise is incorrect.

Others have used this argument before, but it's quite a bad one. A man might simultaneously be sexually attracted to a non-consenting woman, and conscious that rape is immoral. Why, from a strictly biological standpoint, should the man listen to his genetic hard-wiring when it tells him rape is wrong, and not when it gives him an urge to rape? The answer to that question is a moral one, and one that (by definition) can't come from mere evolutionary urges. The urges are the problem, not the solution.

You can see this with virtually any sin: man both desires sin, and knows it's wrong. If both the desire and the moral aversion are nothing more than evolutionary conditioning, why listen to the unpleasant one? Why not act like simply another member of the animal kingdom, a world full of rape and theft and killing.

But for that matter, is it morally evil to go against our genetic hard-wiring? If the hard-wiring is nothing more than the result of random chance over millions of years, it's not at all clear to me why it would be morally evil to disregard it. Your body may also decide to start producing cancer cells at a remarkable rate, but you feel no moral allegiance to quietly let it have its way. We constantly subdue our bodies to make them perform better, last longer, and the like.

And indeed, atheists constantly go against their genetic hard-wiring. For example, I'd venture that most atheists use birth control and don't seem to find this immoral, even though it's transparently contrary to both our genetic hard-wiring, and evolutionary survival mechanisms. They're literally stopping evolution from working: a more direct violation of evolutionary hard-wiring is almost unthinkable (except, perhaps, celibacy).

So at most, evolution can explain urges we have for or against certain behaviors. Some of these urges are worth acting upon, some aren't. But to know which to obey and which to ignore is a moral question, not a biological one.

Significantly, when Hitchens eventually understood Craig's argument, he conceded this first premise—because it's undeniably true. That brings us to the second premise, that objective morality exists. The atheist reply continues:

However, objective moral values de facto do not exist. Not everyone has the same moral standards. Our perception of what is right and wrong have changed over the centuries with Richard Dawkins has termed “the shifting moral Zeitgeist”. Indeed, practices in other parts of the World today which are considered the height of piety seem barbaric to Westerners. You only have to look inside the books of our religions and see what these pronouncements mandate to see that this is the case.

If this is true, we cannot criticize the Nazis for killing millions of Jews, any more than we can criticize the Yankees for beating the Tigers. We don't happen to care for Nazi genocide, but their cultural practices are just different from our American values.

More directly, if objective morality does not exist, the problem of evil breaks down. As I said above, if by “evil” you mean nothing more than what you happen to like or dislike, the term is meaningless. So when atheists raise the problem of evil, they're already conceding the existence of objective evil, and thus, of objective morality.

So atheists can either believe that morality is nothing more than a “shifting moral Zeitgeist,” of no more importance than the latest fashion, or they can criticize what's “inside the books of our religions.” But they can't coherently do both.

III. Objective Evil Exists

 
Just in case some people reading this would be inclined to give up the problem of evil, in exchange that they don't have to admit the existence of universally binding morals, let me be clear. We can see that objective morals do, in fact, exist. We don't need to be told that raping, torturing, and killing innocent people are more than just unpleasant or counter-cultural. They're wrong—universally and completely wrong. Even if we were never taught these things growing up, we know these things by nature.

Incredibly, even the most evil societies—even those societies that have most cruelly warped the natural law for their own ends—still profess these universal morals. Nazi Germany, for example, still had laws against murder, and theft, and rape. They didn't have some delusion that those things were somehow morally good: it's sheer fiction to suggest otherwise. Everyone, with the possible exceptions of the severely retarded or severely mentally ill, recognizes these things to be evil, whether or not they've been formally taught these truths.

Conclusion

 
So is the problem of evil a problem for Christians? Sure. There are intellectually satisfying answers, but it's not for nothing that St. Thomas Aquinas lists it as one of two logical arguments for atheism in the Summa Theologiae. But we shouldn't let this fact blind us to the paradoxical truth: the problem of evil is a dramatically larger problem for atheists:

  1. To complain of the problem of evil, you must acknowledge evil.
  2. To acknowledge evil, you must acknowledge an objective system of moral laws.
  3. Objective universal moral laws require a Lawgiver capable of dictating behavior for everyone.
  4. This Lawgiver is Who we call God.

Ironically, this evidence lays the groundwork for establishing that God not only exists, but cares about good and evil.
 
 
Originally posted at Shameless Popery. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: VK)

Joe Heschmeyer

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Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

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  • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

    How would you respond to the claim that our morality isn't objective, nor genetic, but societal? A deeply ingrained understanding of a standard of behavior required to live in community? Obviously stable families are better, so rape is bad. More people to divide labor up, and to provide for their offspring, are better so murder is out. If there's no "sanctity of property" then people will not work as hard, so stealing isn't good.

    So objective morality could be a social construct that all people who live in societies understand because it is how all of us were raised.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      But that value system would still have no objectively binding authority on individuals. Someone with that belief system could still say, "Perhaps acting in such-a-such a way may lead to more stable families, which may help society, but who cares? Why should I pursue that? I just want to do what's most comfortable and pleasurable for me."

      Also, the worldview faces other disturbing problems like what to do with the mentally and physically disabled. Many in society would think it may seem "better" to dispose of these people--so why not kill them? What would prevent the murder of unproductive or socially disruptive people in that worldview?

      • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

        People put aside what's comfortable for them often, and we can imagine that in a pre-historic hunter/gatherer tribe. If you sit there and say "I'd rather not go out and hunt today, I'm gonna go take a nap by the lake" I'd bet your fellow tribesmen won't give you anything to eat, saying "You made you bed, so lay in it". Point being, an idea of reciprocity could evolve naturally, and it could be applied to establish societal morals. A pre-historic Golden Rule.

        And the worldview does face problem, but I don't think those problems. The Golden Rule, based in empathy, would make you very hesitant to kill off the disabled. What if your child was disabled? you wouldn't like him or her to just be killed off perfunctorily. Again, empathy and the Golden Rule could be used as the cause for morals.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          But at the end of the day there would still be no objectively binding morality: there would be no ought, only a "well, maybe it's a good idea to act this way."

          (Another major problem is that such a worldview requires you to *know* which actions would lead to more "stable families" and the like, before acting. It's a form of Consequentialism. History shows how untenable this is. For example, people thought birth control and no-fault divorce would do that, and therefore should no longer be considered objectively wrong. Look what happened.)

          • Longshanks

            What if "ought" doesn't exist external to our brains/minds?

            What if "ought" is just our way of consciously saying what our unconscious minds, which emerge from the structure of the brain we've evolved in primate social groups, incline us to feel, namely, that breaking the social contract is bad for our genes.

          • Sergio Guzman

            Ought wouldn't matter at all then. For you're speaking about something out of will and the good. In other words, if it misses the Transcendental aspect of the Good, then really the Universe is creating this conversation, and these independent thought in phenomena are just really Determined stimuli or effects.

          • Sergio Guzman

            Whether you know it or not doesn't matter.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Sure, but that doesn't mean that *everything* we thought would lead to stable families doesn't. My argument is that there is no objective morality that emerges from outside of humanity (I'm clearly devil's advocate here, in case anyone thinks my account has been haxxored by atheists). This "communal morality" could be a counter-argument. If there's no objective morality, and instead only a universal morality (we all think these three things are wrong), why does that destroy the problem of evil? We can still look at the Nazis and be repulsed by the evil.

          • Michael Murray

            Damn I'm up voting a theist. What's wrong with me :)

          • Longshanks

            You ought to get your head checked.

          • Sergio Guzman

            Repulsive is stimuli. You are beyond your stimuli. I certainly am. So I would hope in a risky kind of courage (subtle) that you're also.

            If you notice the term philosophy means "Love of Wisdom", not Love of Gnosis. Greeks could have made those distinctions because their language was more into specifics. If you notice it has no "-ology." It isn't Philology (now knowns as a study of the classics), but rather it is hold itself to Love and Wisdom.s
            Something very human is being conveyed here, because when Pythagoras (a very rational mind) coined the term, he excluded the sophists as being "philosophers themselves."

            There is a certain courage to being a philosopher in the metaphysical (first principles) tradition. It has in the Catholic faith at least come to be a synthesis between the Phenomenological and the Ontological. Both breeding a sort of unity between what is real (ontology), and our experiences (phenomena). This allows what Pythagoras intended to permutated even more. That would be that Philosophy would have no master. It was a subject by which no authority stemed. It, however, doesn't mean that one would reject its tradition either.

            Philosophy in the metaphyiscal tradition is kind of courage. A willingness to accept the real before yourself, instead of having the real explained to you first. It requires first submitting yourself to Being. Once you can abstract being, and begin to use it as your ground then it is possible to philosophize in the metaphysical tradition.

            You cannot push someone in. Courage isn't really anything you can teach. You can by example show, your vulnerability, but that is about it.

          • Longshanks

            History shows how untenable this is. For example, people thought birth control and no-fault divorce would do that, and therefore should no longer be considered objectively wrong. Look what happened.

            Yeah, what did happen with divorce?
            http://visual.ly/debunking-50-divorce-rate?view=true

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Well, that site shows that the number of divorces is dropping, but so is the number of marriages (40% of young people in America think marriage is irrelevant).

          • Longshanks

            I mean, if fewer people who are going to be bad partners aren't getting married, isn't that...a good thing?

            If we care about "stable families," shouldn't we only encourage people to marry at an age and maturity that bespeaks serious commitment?

            And anyway, kids r dum.
            (Oh jeez, this might get moderated as harassment)

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I'm thinking about it......

            Anyway I think the good thing would people more people getting married for the right reasons. I think age (to a point) has very little to do with maturity.

            Is it less bad? It would be, if we weren't dangerously close to population sustainability line like we are already. But this is a whole different can of worms.

          • Longshanks

            A tasty can.

            I think there's an abundance of evidence that we long ago surpassed the 'sustainability' line, vis-a-vis resource consumption.

            If you simply mean that you're scared that the population-growth numbers might turn negative, let me ask you: 'why'?

            Why would it be bad for the second derivative of population to drop to zero or go negative?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Because people will be living longer, but living a more lonely life, devoid of children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren. Because no one will be able to pay for my social security benefits. Because there will be fewer babies, and therefore fewer baby memes.

          • Longshanks

            I mean, aren't those who will end-up divorced if we ramp the marriage rate back up destined to be lonely, have broken families with kids not having two parents, AND sinning through divorce?

            Baby memes?

            pff

            Insanity wolf memes, that's where it's at.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            And my social security?

          • Longshanks

            Ah.

            You have me there.

            *Longshank plays card: Ayn Rand Reference*

            "I believe Ayn Rand's first love poem went: Roses are red/violets are blue/finish this poem yourself/you dependent parasite

            —Stephen Colbert"

            (from http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand)

          • Andrew G.

            Money is never the limiting factor. Only real resources and political will.

            If there are enough people in the working population to grow the food, build the houses, provide the medical care, and so on in sufficient quantities for everybody, then the only way you can be denied those is if political decisions impose a rationing system - whether based on money or something else - that excludes you from getting them.

          • BenS

            "Because people will be living longer, but living a more lonely life, devoid of children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren."

            I have none of those but I'm not lonely. I'd probably also go as far as to suggest that if you actually have to breed your own companions then you probably need to work on your people skills....*

            ---

            * This was a joke. I'm funny. ;)

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            You're not lonely now, but wait until all of your close in age compatriots are dropping like flies.

          • severalspeciesof

            Uh, I don't think it works that way... Unless one makes friends and relationships only with relatives...

        • Longshanks

          I'd say this is a pretty close approximation of many of the materialist arguments for morality, although not exactly spot on; I think you're mixing up some ideas about modern culture and the interactions of social animals we see at lower complexities which would potentially mimic the morality materialist might argue evolved in our ancestors, but the effort is noted and appreciated.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I'm trying!

      • primenumbers

        What is the problem with something being disturbing if it happens to be true? In other words, don't discount something as false because it turns your gut, but discount it as true because you've shown it to be false.

        "Perhaps acting in such-a-such a way may lead to more stable families" - which opens us up to testing morality empirically. Test it, see what works and what doesn't. What we see as generally codified moral laws exist not through any truth to their objectivity but because they work.

        • msmischief

          So why should we care about more stable families? Not unless we have some reason to care for the well-being of those inside them. Which would have to be an objectively moral criterion to make the demand.

          • primenumbers

            We have lots of very valid subjective reasons to want to care for people. I don't see how you jump to objectivity in your argument.

          • Max Driffill

            But I think there are also a suite of object facts about human experience that limit what a morality can entail. As AC Grayling has pointed out, "..there are objective facts about human needs and interests that constrain any possible morality. Very few people like to be cold, hungry, afraid, lonely, threatened, in danger, in physical pain, subjected to psychological suffering, deprived of basic physical and psychological amenities, and the like. (From: The God Argument).
            These are real facts about human animals, and over which humans, so deprived, will fight and for which they will agitate. This is probably as objective a basis as we an get. But they do form a useful starting point for any discussion of moral policy.

          • primenumbers

            Good point Max. I think that the nature of our humanity was an implicit assumption that it's good to make explicit in this context.

      • Isaac

        "But that value system would still have no objectively binding authority
        on individuals. Someone with that belief system could still say,
        "Perhaps acting in such-a-such a way may lead to more stable families,
        which may help society, but who cares? Why should I pursue that? I just
        want to do what's most comfortable and pleasurable for me.""

        People do this all the time! What is your argument? When someone's being a lazy jerk, what objectively binding authority should I send them to?

        "Also, the worldview faces other disturbing problems like what to do with the mentally and physically disabled. Many in society would think it may seem "better" to dispose of these
        people--so why not kill them? What would prevent the murder of
        unproductive or socially disruptive people in that worldview?"

        Many? Really?

        But, yes, they used to kill disabled babies in ancient Sparta (darn, more people who don't seem to understand that all morals are universal!). What's your point? The world would be more efficient and productive if we killed mentally and physically disabled people - we don't kill them because we live in a society with so much excess that we are happy to keep them alive and provide for them, even if they aren't able to give back as much as they take.

        But if your question is, what will prevent the murder of mentally and physically disabled people - it's the law and the families of said persons.

  • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

    Also, I really like how this goes to demonstrate an "external law-giver". Dovetails with my post yesterday very nicely. Almost like it was planned...

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Almost :)

    • Susan

      >Also, I really like how this goes to demonstrate an "external law-giver".

      It doesn't Daniel. It doesn't even begin to demonstrate that.

  • Andrew G.

    The very simple response is that this doesn't account for the existence of natural evils that compromise "free will"; some brain tumors, many brain disorders, and a few rare parasites have this effect.

    • Michael Murray

      Not does it account for tsunamis, child cancer, parasites that have to live in human eyes, earthquakes etc etc.

      This is the promised discussion of the problem of suffering?

      Michael

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Michael, per my comment below, the "problem of suffering" (aka "problem of pain") is different than the problem of moral evil. We're discussing the latter today.

        • Michael Murray

          That must be reassuring for the suffering. The dilemma for the theist is the same. Why is there such an enormity of suffering in gods creation?

          • msmischief

            God doesn't exist because a man addresses one argument but not another in a blog post?

      • Vuyo

        Are tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes etc evil? If people didn't live in those areas, would we consider them bad? They happen on other planets as well and we marvel at them as we look from afar.
        I think this post lays out well that objective evil is hard for atheists not natural evil if I understand it correctly.

        • Max Driffill

          The problem of natural disasters is the heap of misery they visit on large swaths of unsuspecting people. Why should a just God allow that? The reason why some of us have brought up natural disasters and the problem of suffering is because of the Epicurus quote. Epicurus wasn't just speaking of moral evil in that quote. If this was an area the author didn't want discussed, it might have been a good idea to leave Epicurus out of it.

          In any event, the character of the three O god is still impugned by the presence of these disasters, and the problem of evil as it relates to the harm evil actions cause the victims of evil actions.

          Assume that robust free will exists and that someone one might chose to violate the law,say to kill an child. That is they have freely chosen to kill a kid. How does this square with the notion of a perfectly loving and just god? The child's choice (to be left well out of her violent death) seems violated to a profound degree. Would a loving god allow this? Would a just god? Would an all powerful god? Why should the 3-O god permit one choice, the evil/immoral one, to triumph over the moral one?

          Evil poses no problem for the atheist, and accepting that some things are objectively bad is in no way rational for atheists to do.

          • Vuyo

            But natural events happen. Should God stop them because you happen to be in their path? I'm not a scientist but wouldn't that potentially cause more problems if the earth wasn't allowed to "breathe". I suppose you would say God should prevent those too.
            My main issue is what we're calling evil. Is cyanide evil or is it evil if used to kill? I get that there are evil people and evil acts but I'm having a problem with calling natural disasters evil.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"But natural events happen. Should God stop them because you happen to be in their path?"

            What caused the natural events?

            >>"I'm not a scientist but wouldn't that potentially cause more problems if the earth wasn't allowed to "breathe"

            Why? What is this "breathe" you talk of? You can't have your cake and eat it I'm afraid.

            >>"I suppose you would say God should prevent those too."

            Not at all, but I'm not asserting a god created world with all it contains.

            >>"My main issue is what we're calling evil. Is cyanide evil or is it evil if used to kill?"

            Let me rewrite that...

            "My main issue is what we're calling evil. Is a Tsunami[ insert other natural cause of suffering as desired] evil or is it evil if used to kill?"

            Now you are not talking about a deist god

            >>" I get that there are evil people and evil acts but I'm having a problem with calling natural disasters evil."

            But given a universe creating super being, what is a "natural disaster"? Is it a weapon of Gods to destroy?

            Colossians 1:16–17

            16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

            Of course, there are those that say that "God can, and does, bring great good out of terrible tragedies", but that is just weaseling. Like the one survivor among thousands of dead is a miracle.

          • Max Driffill

            Sure natural events happen. But it is a very bad parent indeed who lets its children get chewed up by natural events through negligence. If I should see my son opening the back door to go out and play, and I also see a pack of dingos entering my back yard at the same time and I let "nature take its course" I would hope you would, at the very least think me the worst kind of parent. The moral thing to do, as a loving parent would be to get up and latch the door and coral my son. He can't predict what the dingos will do. I can.

            How much worse if I organized the conditions that lead to dingos and the boy meeting, and saw with perfect foresight that it would lead to a very bad situation. This is exactly the situation Christian theology, if it is to have an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient god has created for itself. This god would be ultimately responsible for our current state because it would have seen as far back as its beginning what its course would take. And yet it still chose to do things in a way that resulted in massive suffering, and if Christians are to be believed has chosen to intervene in odd ways that fail to address this problem of random suffering. In fact there is something deeply immoral about punishing people for the wrongs of others to begin with. So from the initial injustice, springs a great fountain of injustice, and unnecessary suffering and misery.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            When kids dies by parental negligence. They don't come back to their fathers. But if God allows to bad things happens despites Parental caring for their children, the being that God created will come back to his creator. YLFE!

            But saying that God is "parental negligent" as if God where human is not talking about God at all nor to know what we Catholics means by God.

            I hate the atheist experience for such bad arguments, as my english :)

          • Max Driffill

            Shackra,

            I'll respond point by point;

            "When kids dies by parental negligence. They don't come back to their fathers. But if God allows to bad things happens despites Parental caring for their children, the being that God created will come back to his creator. YLFE!"

            You seem to have missed my point. In a very real way not only do the Christian god's decisions seem to maximize suffering in this world, they also will lead to eternal suffering after death. God has organized this. If the bible were to be believed, this god knows every hair on my head, and every decision I will ever make.

            "But saying that God is "parental negligent" as if God where human is not talking about God at all nor to know what we Catholics means by God."
            This is the classic shell game of theodicy. Catholics love to say their god is good (in this they are no different than any other sect). On what grounds do they say this? On the basis of their own thinking and reflection. However believers then are forced into intellectual contortions to maintain the claim that their god is all good. They try to prevent human minds from criticizing actions that would have to be called morally reprehensible if any other entity caused them (by action or inaction). Either our intuition is something we can use or it is not. If you cannot, at least in principle say god is bad, then you cannot say it is good either.

            "I hate the atheist experience for such bad arguments, as my english :)"

            Well your english is on par with your arguments.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            so, God, if He do exists, is evil because He don't acts to stop suffering in this world, right?

          • Max Driffill

            Only if he has the power to stop it, and the knowledge to stop it and claims to love us.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            Good. So you say that God is evil in such circumstances. therefore you hold that there exists objective evil, right?

          • Max Driffill

            Evil relative to the lives of humans and other animals with sophisticated central nervous systems (and even not so sophisticated). Such creatures are acutely aware of pain, can suffer etc. Such pain and suffering has very real meaning to our lives. This ability to suffer and experience pain is increased with the sophistication of the central nervous systems in question.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            Why pain should considered as an standard for evil or good? I mean, the sadomasochistic have to be wrong then...

            There exists a lot of immoral things that don't cause pain but pleasure, I don't see why pain should be use as an standard.

          • BenS

            That's because you missed out the other word Max used. Suffering. Pain itself isn't a standard on its own but suffering is a good indicator of evil. Suffering would be unasked for physical or emotional pain.

          • Max Driffill

            My standard is more concerned with suffering, which can be caused by things that cause either pain, or in excess and often via addiction pleasure.

            And no a sadomaschicstic person doesn't have it wrong. If their actions don't cause them angst or suffering and they are sensible about their pursuits. Is their well-being affected by tastes? If so, then perhaps it is time for them to tone it down, or find a different pursuit.

            But the quality of pain, suffering and general reduction in well being are what matter to humans. What else can matter? It is why we have no moral obligation to rocks, or dirt, or even plants.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            or animals...

            But, what I love about a finite existence in this planet is that at the end of the day, you will find out if you was right or wrong on your thought and moral standards.

            cheers :)

          • Max Driffill

            Shackra,
            We are animals.

            Well if I am incorrect, lets hope what ever gods there are really are characterized by justice.

          • BenS

            If they're not, my last conscious act before I'm blasted to oblivion would be to kick them just as hard as I possibly could, right in the plums.

          • Susan

            you hold that there exists objective evil, right?

            I'm not sure what you mean by that. For it to exist. That often gets distorted into the idea that evil is an entity.

            We can call actions evil, and even slip into the idea that some humans are evil when they routinely commit evil actions.

            Trace your intuitions about those evil actions and you will find they are nearly always connected to inflicting unnecessary suffering on a being who can suffer.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"Assume that robust free will exists and that someone one might chose to violate the law,say to kill an child. That is they have freely chosen to kill a kid. How does this square with the notion of a perfectly loving and just god? The child's choice (to be left well out of her violent death) seems violated to a profound degree. Would a loving god allow this? Would a just god? Would an all powerful god? Why should the 3-O god permit one choice, the evil/immoral one, to triumph over the moral one?"

            Yep, as demonstrated in the Book of Job...The story ends with Job restored to health, with a new family and twice as prosperous, everything is put right by God at the end of the little wager Satan and God had after the lesson is ...apart from the three "friends", whom God scolds...SCOLDS.

            "All Job's possessions are destroyed: 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys carried off by Sabeans; 7,000 sheep burned up by 'The fire of God which fell from the sky'; 3,000 camels stolen by the Chaldeans; and the house of the firstborn destroyed by a mighty wind, killing Job's ten children. Still Job does not curse God, but instead shaves his head, tears his clothes, and says, "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return: Lord has given, and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

            What about Jobs sheep, suffering there I think? What about Jobs family, where was their "free will"?

            But it is the premise the whole story is built upon that gets me...

            8 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

            Job chapter 1

            9 Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?

            10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.

            11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

            12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

            What happened to omniscience here? What happened to omnibenevolence here? Free Will? Premise not proven Ma'laud.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            What happened to omniscience here? What happened to omnibenevolence here? Free Will? Premise not proven Ma'laud.

            Yes, the story struck me, as a child, as rather brutal. I always wondered why YHWH did not just use his omniscience to construct what Job would do, and then transfer that picture to Satan? YHWH wins, Satan loses, no body gets hurt. After I grew up, it occurred to me that it was a "just so" fable written by religious priests to help keep the people bringing in sacrifices to the temple (even when things are going badly), which is how they fed their families.

          • Ignorant Amos

            After I grew up, it occurred to me that it was a "just so" fable written by religious priests to help keep the people bringing in sacrifices to the temple (even when things are going badly), which is how they fed their families.

            I think that describes most of the not-so-good book. With a copious helping of snuff literature and a huge dollop of porn that would embarrass Mr. Grey.

          • Michael Murray

            What happened to Jobs first wife and kids?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Apparently she is the most misunderstood woman in the bible.

            http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2011/may/mostmisunderstood.html

            Anyway, she got short shrift as a result of the escapades of Satan and God. She lost the heap and had to look after Job when he was afflicted.

            The kids got wasted during the Satan/God wager...7 boys and three girls. But alls well that ends well.

          • Max Driffill

            An excellent reply, but I would argue that the story of Job negates the label of just, and loving. The god in that story, if it exists, can safely be accused of being an unjust, egotistical jerk.

        • Michael Murray

          That's your answer to all the people drowned in the Boxing Day tsunami: they should have lived somewhere else ?

          • Vuyo

            No. I'm asking is a tsunami evil?

          • Michael Murray

            Who cares. Seriously. The tsunami is created by your god and causes immense suffering and pain. Why ? Thats the question.

          • Vuyo

            Why what?

            This post is about evil and while evil causes pain and suffering not all pain and suffering is caused by evil. You fall of a ladder and break a leg for example. So for the sake of discussion I asked the question are natural disasters evil even though as you said, they cause pain and suffering.

          • Michael Murray

            The post is a bad attempt to deflect the problem of pain and suffering into an argument about the definition of evil. I'm not willing to buy into that deflection.

          • Max Driffill

            It is evil, if it was created, as it must have been, by a 3-O god. who could have created a different system that would not punch people in the mouth so regularly. And by punch people in the mouth regularly I mean kill people and other animals in awful and painful ways that make the cross look rather easy as deaths go.

          • Vuyo

            So if it was created by God and kills people and animals, it is evil? What about fire?

          • Max Driffill

            The fire? No. Again, it is the character of God that must be assumed evil.

          • Vuyo

            *It is evil, if it was created, as it must have been, by a 3-O god*.

            You said that a tsunami is evil but fire is not.

            *It is the character of God that must be assumed evil*

            I agree. That's why natural disasters are not evil.

          • Susan

            >I agree. That's why natural disasters are not evil.

            If this deity of yours created nature, why is he off the hook for natural disasters?

            It's very simple. There is no evidence of an agent being responsible for the nature of this planet so I agree that natural disasters are not evil. They are tragic and horrible, but not evil.

            But if there were a moral agent involved, that agent would be evil. So, yes natural disasters would be evil.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            But why God's character must be assumed evil?

            If there is no objective evil, such thing as "evil" will just mean that you don't like Him. As I don't like broccoli, therefore, your judgment is meaningless!

          • Max Driffill

            Shackra,
            No one here has demonstrated that the god of Abraham has delineated "objective morality" (whatever that is). You, like so many others on this site, just assert that it exists with gods. No one has demonstrated this.

            If other gods were used people tend to have no problem criticizing them as morally reprehensible.

            You are certainly correct in that I dislike a god that would be so callous to human and animal suffering. But I can say, unsell-concsiously that such a being is evil. It is evil because it disregards pain and suffering and actively inflicts both on its creatures.

            I"m not sure why my judgement of this character should be meaningless.

          • Susan

            >No. I'm asking is a tsunami evil?

            It depends on whether you believe an agent designed things.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Andrew, good observations, however this is a different issue than the one under discussion here. For one, what we often call "natural evils" are not "evil" since nature is morally neutral--it does not have a will, and thus cannot make good or bad decisions.

      Second, even if your argument had weight, it wouldn't refute anything in Joe's article. The atheist would still have to account for objective human *evil* and offer a ground for it outside of God. I don't think he can do this.

      • Andrew G.

        A man sexually abuses a child, you'd call this an evil, yes?

        The cause of the man's behaviour is then reliably determined to be a brain tumor (this is a real documented case). Whence now the argument that evil only exists because of free will?

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Then the cause of the evil is a "disease" which inhibits free will, so the problem isn't his free will, it's the disease.

          • Susan

            But if the whole point of the exercise is to give humans free will, why would Yahweh allow brain tumours that impede free will? Isn't that inconsistent?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            That's a different argument though. I hope we do a post on the problem of natural evil (definitely a stronger argument than the problem of moral evil) soon.

          • Susan

            I'm not sure that it is a different argument. The claim is that Yahweh decided to give us free will because it is "good", allowing all the horror that that entails.
            But brain tumours mean that free will can be taken away.
            This is terribly inconsistent.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Other diseases and disorders also impair free will. Both arguments are under the same umbrella for sure (Why did God make a messed up world) but this article is only dealing with the problem of our free will being used for evil. If you'd like, i can email you a pdf of a book by Van Inwagen about the problem of evil (including what you're asking about). It's a pretty quick read.

          • Susan

            >Other diseases and disorders also impair free will. Both arguments are under the same umbrella for sure (Why did God make a messed up world) but this article is only dealing with the problem of our free will being used for evil.

            There is so much wrong with this article that it's hard to know where to start. I'll get to that later.

            In the meantime, I can't get past this "free will" thing.
            The reason your deity allows unspeakable horrors like genocides and child rape is because the importance of humans having "free will' trumps everything. Never mind the loss of free will of the raped children or the victims of genocide.

            Yet, he lets mundane things like brain tumours and parasites remove free will from random humans.
            Can't you see that this doesn't make any sense?

          • primenumbers

            Yet by creating a heaven where we have free will and there's no evil, God has proven "he can do it". Unless the theist comes back that there's evil in heaven, or that people who go to heaven don't have free will.....

          • Longshanks

            I think they did.

            I imagine free will is gone after your judgement.

          • primenumbers

            Another plus on the side of hell then. If free-will is so vitally important (according to the theist's rationalization of God) that it can be said to be more important than unspeakable evils occurring, then I absolutely need to go to hell to continue to have free will.

          • Longshanks

            Oh, I'm sorry, I think you've misunderstood.

            Or I have.

            Or both.

            I imagine that the doctrine states that free will exists until the moment of death, and the instantaneous judgement which occurs thereafter.

            Hell or heaven, whichever way you go, there's no more choosing.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Well, you have a perfect will if you go to Heaven, so you choose to Love God eternally, which is what you chose at the pArticular Judgement (presumably, if you go to Heaven),

          • Ignorant Amos

            How do we know this?

          • Susan

            >How do we know this?

            It's a feeling.

          • severalspeciesof

            So why didn't god give us perfect will here on earth?

            This game is rigged... ;P

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            From there on out, you're outside of time. Can you "change" your mind? Isn't change measured by the state of something at time A and time B? This is eternity, and can we comprehend it? I don't know. I don't have an answer beyond that.

          • primenumbers

            "From there on out, you're outside of time" - like Dave Lister locked in the stasis field on board the Red Dwarf forever then? If that's what you're selling for heaven, I'm not buying. Such an "existence", if we can even call it that, is thoroughly unfulfilling for me and indeed sounds like a fate worse than death.

            "This is eternity, and can we comprehend it? I don't know" - best answer we've had on this thread so far - humble and honest. You're not claiming here to know something that you don't know. I agree with you - I don't know and can't comprehend, but I go further and suggest that the nearest comprehension I do have doesn't sound at all palatable to me. I have a low boredom threshold as it is, and eternity sounds like my worst nightmare come true.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            But it's not fair to take your understanding of time and try to extend it ad infinitum (and nauseum). Eternity is no-time, not forever.

            I always had problems thinking up things to do in heaven and after 300 years I'm pretty sure I'd be bored. But I won't be there for 300 years. I'll be there for no time at all (har)

          • primenumbers

            "Eternity is no-time, not forever." - wouldn't that be a new definition of eternity that seems rather opposed to the commonly used meaning of the word?

            The question becomes though, what sort of existence is it to exist in no-time? And that's a problem as much for the concept of God as it is for the notion of someone in heaven or hell. If hell is for no-time, it's not really much of a punishment if heaven is similarly for no-time, and indeed, I for a temporal being that I am, fail to see either alternative as significantly superior or inferior, and both seem at odds with the traditional Christian views of heaven and hell.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            That's not a new definition, it's the proper definition (to appeal to etymology, it is literally 'e' (as in ex, out of) time.

            I would imagine that, as we will be bodiless spirits, that the fact that there is no time will bother us less when we're immaterial. Instead of no-time say outside of time, and realize that that doesn't mean it's a ray that extends forever, but a point off of the line.

            Eternity makes my head hurt. But it's different from infinity.

          • primenumbers

            So it's an old definition that is still opposed to how the word is commonly used? :-)

            The issue being that we're temporal beings. We have no comprehension of what an atemporal being would be like. We do everything in time - think, comprehend, act, exist.

            "Eternity makes my head hurt" - it hurts my head too, as it should (in either way of thinking of eternity)! I know I said above that we shouldn't reject something as true just because it's un-palatable, but I'm having a very hard time with this one!

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I mean, it is transcendent, as we would be when we're pure spirits.

            But yes, common parliance is definitely wrong on this front. Eternity is not forever. Except it is. But not in a linear sense of time as much as time is a point without dimensions.

          • primenumbers

            I have as much a problem with spirit (non-physical) being as atemporal being. They both pose the same sort of issue to me.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Yep, I was linking the two.

            If you could envision one, the other would be easy.

          • primenumbers

            Envisioning either escapes me.

          • severalspeciesof

            I would say eternity is un-knowable (in the sense that is being used here) not necessarily un-palatable... *edit* IMO it's actually unknowable (fully) in any sense...

          • primenumbers

            If it's truly unknowable it's hard to say if it would be palatable or not :-) Although I think such things are unknowable, we have a number of concepts that seem to fit reasonably with what eternity could mean and those concepts are knowable enough through extrapolation to be determined unpalatable or palatable.

          • severalspeciesof

            Good point... Maybe 'we can only approximate' is a better way to put it than un-knowable...

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I would imagine that, as we will be bodiless spirits, that the fact that there is no time will bother us less when we're immaterial.

            I hope I didn't overlook anything that will make this comment irrelevant, but "we" will never be bodiless spirits. As I believe I mentioned in the thread on the soul, Aquinas says a person's soul is not the person. ("Abraham's soul is not Abraham.") And the sojourn of the soul in heaven (however that is possible) is only temporary. Human beings are physical, and after the Resurrection of the Dead, human beings will have physical bodies. As I understand it, that implies human beings will live in time. Consequently, human beings will "live," after the Resurrection of the Dead, forever, not in some timeless existence called "eternity," but for a never-ending, infinitely long time.

            I will not be bored unless I don't have access to a computer with an Internet connection.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Yes, I was speaking pre-Eschaton. But I don't think it's clear how existence will exist in the New Heaven and New Earth. Certainly some laws of physics will have to be altered to allow for celerity (travel at the speed of thought) and other qualities, is TA was right about it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The English word ‘eternal’ comes from aeturnus in Latin, itself a derivation from aevum, an age or time. So ‘eternity’ means everlastingness. However, in the course of philosophical discussion the idea of everlastingness has been further refined, and two contrasting concepts can be denoted by it. It is usual to make the contrast clear by calling one of these ‘eternity’ or ‘atemporality’ and the other ‘sempiternity’ or ‘everlastingness'.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"This is eternity, and can we comprehend it? I don't know" - best answer we've had on this thread so far - humble and honest. You're not claiming here to know something that you don't know. I agree with you - I don't know and can't comprehend, but I go further and suggest that the nearest comprehension I do have doesn't sound at all palatable to me. I have a low boredom threshold as it is, and eternity sounds like my worst nightmare come true.

            Ditto...people pretending to know what they can't possibly know is the theists Achilles heel...best stopping short with the "I don't know"...which is all most atheists claim. Not me mind you.

          • primenumbers

            That could be another argument. Either way, if free-will is lacking in the afterlife, it's not what the RC's are "selling" to the masses, is it? Trades description act violation?

          • Susan

            I agree. Free will is a mess on so many levels.
            It has never made sense.

          • primenumbers

            And that's why it's not a valid answer to the problem of evil, which remains today inadequately answered by the theist.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            No, what actually happens is that the souls in heaven will see God in all His Glory, so they wouldn't be tempted again to do evil.

          • primenumbers

            Which doesn't disprove that "he can do it". (It's also an ad-hoc rationalization that lacks evidential support)

          • BenS

            So why not simply display himself 'in all his glory'* to everyone on Earth so none of us would be tempted to do evil? Cuts out all the middle nonsense and ensures that no-one ends up going to hell. That's what a loving being would do, surely?

            ----

            * Interesting to note, if people display themselves 'in all their glory' in magazines, religious people tend to get upset. God appears to get another free pass here.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            By the same reason that God don't write "I exists" in the sky or make mountains floating in the air?

            and dude, 'in all their glory' isn't a subjective term. People naked fails to show how their really are :)

          • BenS

            Dude, that reason is what I'm asking for, dude! You say it's the same reason, dude, but you don't tell me what that reason is. Do you not know, dude? Seems pretty evil for a god that could end all suffering by revealing himself in all his glory to leave it so people can end up going to hell. What's up with that, dude?

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            I feel that the answer I read it not long ago:

            > The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that “just as important as the truth, and of the two the even more important one, is the mode in which the truth is accepted, and it is of slight help if one gets millions to accept the truth if by the very mode of their acceptance they are transposed into untruth.”
            > God hides himself so we will come to him in the right mode. He is not an object. He is not an old man in the sky, available to our observation, nor a slight grease on the surface of all things, available to our scientific probing. God is love. What merit is it to know of God’s existence as a man knows the existence of his right foot? God doesn’t want our observation, nor our pitiful attempts to “prove” his existence — he wants our love. He wants to be known in truth, as he is, as love, which is only known in the act of loving.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2013/06/if-god-is-real-why-wont-he-show-himself.html

            And maybe we both have to be familiar with the theology of Beatific Vision http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatific_vision (of course, Wikipedia have not the last word on this)

            But "evil"? I feel that you are cutting the branch of the tree where you sits by saying that.

          • BenS

            I feel that the answer I read it not long ago:

            So... a clump of unsupported assertions? God is this, god is not this, god does this because of this...

            Got evidence?

            But "evil"? I feel that you are cutting the branch of the tree where you sits by saying that.

            I have absolutely no idea what you mean and therefore my point still stands.

            It seems pretty evil for a being that could permanently end all suffering with a magical wave of his midnight growler to not do so and leave billions of people in suffering, some for eternity.

            If you don't think so, you're probably working to a different definition of evil than me.

          • Max Driffill

            Shackra,

            "> The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that “just as important as the truth, and of the two the even more important one, is the mode in which the truth is accepted, and it is of slight help if one gets millions to accept the truth if by the very mode of their acceptance they are transposed into untruth.”

            Soren Kierkegaard is one of the more muddled theologians one can read, and seemed to build his ideas on badly defined terms, that he only dimly understood to begin with.

            How is getting millions of people a slight help if it allows them to enjoy eternal bliss and avoid eternal torture and damnation (for a crime, I have to repeat, in which they had no part). It seems a god could spare human loads of warfare, whole histories of torture and repression by simply engaging in a bit of clarity. If the Christian god is a real thing, then the stakes are very high indeed for his loved ones.

            "> God hides himself so we will come to him in the right mode. He is not an object. He is not an old man in the sky, available to our observation, nor a slight grease on the surface of all things, available to our scientific probing. God is love. What merit is it to know of God’s existence as a man knows the existence of his right foot? God doesn’t want our observation, nor our pitiful attempts to “prove” his existence — he wants our love. He wants to be known in truth, as he is, as love, which is only known in the act of loving."

            This is a case of getting everything precisely backwards.
            I cannot love something I don't know, or find immoral. I can admire a person I don't know even a fictional person if they have attributes and personality that are worthy of respect.

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            So, you "cannot love something I don't know, or find immoral." but you can denied His existence, despite that there is people willing to talk about him (where are you commenting at? hello?), or judge Him as immoral, by your particular and personal value system (which more I think about it, I find it more immoral than anything else). That's... quite... interesting.

            By the way, I didn't quote the blog post of BadCatholic for you to use as a punching bag by "refuting" two paragraphs, I thought you could read and think on reflection by Marc Barnes so you could get it more clearly, like the atheists philosophers of religion.

            Cheers! :)

          • Max Driffill

            Shackra

            "So, you "cannot love something I don't know, or find immoral."
            You cannot choose who, or what you love. I certainly cannot love something I find immoral.
            "but you can denied His existence, despite that there is people willing to talk about him (where are you commenting at? hello?),"

            I am not denying the existence of gods, I don't believe in them because there is no compelling evidence for them. People willing to talk about their particular god in no way constitutes evidence for their gods. I like to talk about Thor, Odin, and Thor's brother in arms Beta Ray Bill (anyone who doesn't think Beta Ray Bill is norse canon is deeply intellectually dishonest), this in no way indicates they exist (except of course for Beta Ray Bill).

            "or judge Him as immoral, by your particular and personal value system (which more I think about it, I find it more immoral than anything else). That's... quite... interesting."
            I find Zeus' actions to be immoral too. But what do you think is so immoral about my value system?

            "By the way, I didn't quote the blog post of BadCatholic for you to use as a punching bag by "refuting" two paragraphs, I thought you could read and think on reflection by Marc Barnes so you could get it more clearly, like the atheists philosophers of religion."

            I don't care why you posted your quotes. You posted them for reflection, but you don't have any control over how I will respond to them. Don't want your reasoning used like a punching bag? Don't post it.

            Cheers! :)

          • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

            «I don't believe in them because there is no compelling evidence for them»

            But you are here. If that is true and you are here, You don't have control over yourself it seems (I cannot do anything but wonder why...). It's hard, indeed, that commentators stops for a moment to read or check for a link so the discussion can move forward.

            But if you like to owned people on Internet... well... nothing. Maybe that's why you are here despite your belief. Cheers!

          • Max Driffill

            Shackra,

            "But you are here. If that is true and you are here, You don't have control over yourself it seems (I cannot do anything but wonder why...). It's hard, indeed, that commentators stops for a moment to read or check for a link so the discussion can move forward."

            What are you on about?

          • Fr.Sean

            Susan,

            If i may take an estimate at your question off of the top of my head. (you're going to have to take it from a biblical point of view sice we're attempting to pair the notion of natural suffering with God). In the Gospel Jesus would often come across people with various aliments. He would call the aliments evil. aka. the woman with scoliosis, or the boy with epilepsy. he would attribute their aliment to the power of darkness. thus angels who chose to go against God became sources of suffering. now, while this is a bit tied in symbolism the notion would support that God isn't the direct cause of suffering caused by nature and Christians are supposed to work at alleviating suffering.

          • Susan

            Hi Sean. We meet again. :-)

            >Gospel Jesus would often come across people with various aliments. He would call the aliments evil. aka. the woman with scoliosis, or the boy with epilepsy. he would attribute their aliment to the power of darkness

            Not just Jesus. This was standard thinking at the time. Sickness was caused by demons. We've since learned that that is not the case.

            > now, while this is a bit tied in symbolism

            Which bit?

            >the notion would support that God isn't the direct cause of suffering caused by nature

            Except that the evidence is that sickness is not caused by demons although we can't blame people who lived 2000 years ago for thinking that was the case

            Nature seems to be the cause of sickness. If you believe your god created nature, then there is no escaping that the nature he created is the cause of sickness and that he is culpable. Remember, this was the case for hundreds of millions of years before there was anything we would remotely call human. So, "allowing suffering" to go on for all that time is just cruel and illogical.

          • Fr.Sean

            HI Susan,
            I suppose when we get into ideas about why God would do such and such a thing from my perspective i have to appeal to the notion of the bible being inspired by the Holy Spirit. That obviously can become a separate issue, nevertheless, when you may pose a question about why my God may do such and such a thing i simply have to answer from my faith perspective and my understanding about what has been revealed. therefore 1. God and eternity is not limited to time and space, although he works within time and space.

            2. The bible (from a faith perspective) teaches faith, not necessarily science or history verbatim although it may referr to them. 3. one of the best ways to do this is by using symbolism because it can reveal truths. ex. the woman at the well in John 4 goes to the well in the middle of the afternoon to get stale well water. stale well water is symbolic for what her life has become. Jesus offers her fresh spring water "welling up into eternal life", the fresh spring water indicates something refreshing, lifegiving which is what Jesus is offering her. (thus she becomes the first evangelist in John's Gospel).

            4. Hence, if the bible teaches faith or divine truths we may glean from Jesus interaction with the woman with scoliosis and the boy with epilepsy that he attributes these things to the Kingdom of darkness. he reveals the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of light, which is antagonistic to the Kingdom of darkness. these forces or entities are to be understood as having an evil source. Thus the bible conveys that suffering caused by nature isn't directly caused by God but is caused by the spirit of darkness that is antagonistic to the Kingdom of God. Christians are therefore called to work against these forces through care, compassion, and healing, or in other words to alleviate people's sufferings.

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            >i have to appeal to the notion of the bible being inspired by the Holy Spirit.

            Respectfully, I have never been given a good reason to accept that nor even given a coherent explanation of what the "Holy Spirit" is. .

            > God and eternity is not limited to time and space, although he works within time and space.

            Again respectfully, this is not a coherent concept, simply an assertion that I have yet to see clarified or supported when the idea is probed.

            In your story about Jesus (and all we really have is a STORY about Jesus) we have a character who believes that disease is caused by a "Kingdom of Darkness" This is consistent with what people believed at the time before they could have known better. Demons caused disease. There is nothing special about a story that is consistent with the beliefs of the time. Nothing "inspired".

            This doesn't really answer my original question, anyway. If your deity allows genocide and child rape because "free will" is paramount, why would he let things happen that took away the "free will" of random humans?

          • Sample1

            If your deity allows genocide and child rape because "free will" is paramount, why would he let things happen that took away the "free will" of random humans?

            God works in mysterious ways.

            This is a phrase I seldom hear anymore but I grew up in an environment that used it. It's the response that stops all questions. Has that saying finally reached a point in society that it exacts immediate derision upon anyone uttering it? I think it has.

            I don't think this is a triviality.

            Whatever society does to eliminate public expressions of uncivilized social memes (racist jokes, homophobia, smoking), it needs to focus on the updated response to "mysterious ways," that being, "because it's my faith" or "it's what I feel." This is all the more imperative when private beliefs negatively affect the well-being of innocent bystanders in a so-called culture war (Prop 8 comes to mind).

            Mike

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I agree that "God works in mysterious ways" is not at all helpful. On the other hand, if there really is a God who created the universe and everything in it (including human beings and human consciousness), should anyone really expect to comprehend him (or her, or it)? Wouldn't it be rather arrogant to criticize God for creating six types of quarks instead of eight? A lot of atheist complaints seem to boil down to something like, "If I had created the universe, I would have done it different. So there must be no God."

            It has always seemed to me that one of the most disturbing aspects of the world is that moments of great pleasure are quite fleeting, but agony can be prolonged almost endlessly. If I had created the world, I would have made it the other way around. But I have to admit that I don't know the first thing about creating universes, so perhaps there is a good reason for the way this one is.

          • Sample1

            Wouldn't it be rather arrogant to criticize God

            Arrogant isn't the word I'd use. Humor mode on: An atheist who criticizes God (instead of the concept) gets cut off from the meals on wheels program that delivers fresh babies to eat. [humor mode off].

            People with naturalistic world views don't bring, as it were, supplication or scorn before the altar of any gods in the same way that you wouldn't dream of criticizing Hanuman, the Monkey god of Hinduism, by stomping on a banana.

            While I agree that to you it may look like atheists take a personal interest in mocking your god specifically, it's usually about a real world claim that doesn't fit with observation. For instance, the "if I created the universe" reply you reference is frequently used to shore up support for the fact of evolution by pointing out the problems of so-called Intelligent Design conjecture.

            Mike

          • Susan

            > A lot of atheist complaints seem to boil down to something like, "If I had created the universe, I would have done it different. So there must be no God."

            I think it more commonly is "The evidence is inconsistent with the many claims about deities."

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            "The evidence is inconsistent with the many claims about deities."

            The point I am trying to make—and only tentatively—is that if there really is a God, how do we claim to be smart enough to evaluate the "evidence"? This is a double-edged sword, of course. The theists give their neat little "proofs" (which are wholly inadequate), and then the atheists quite rightly find the "proofs" inadequate. The theists think they are making self-evident assumptions and basing logically unassailable arguments on them (and they aren't), and then the atheists conclude there is no God when they have pointed out how unpersuasive the theists are.

          • Michael Murray

            I think we can examine the evidence for the claims made about gods though. Do gods answer our prayers for example? If they do but a way that is so mysterious it looks like they don't them I'm just going to take that as a no. A god that is so beyond me it behaves as if it doesn't exist I am going to ignore because it has no implications for me. It's the brain in the vat scenario.

          • Susan

            >if there really is a God, how do we claim to be smart enough to evaluate the "evidence"?

          • cowalker

            "Yahweh is right out. You can't have an old testament patriarchal deity one minute and the ground of all being the next."

            Not to mention a god-man who dies and is then resurrected (or resurrects himself?). Not to mention that "He" is a penis-free spirit who self-identifies as male because.

          • Susan

            >Not to mention a god-man who dies and is then resurrected (or resurrects himself?). Not to mention that "He" is a penis-free spirit who self-identifies as male because

            Yep. If you can make one thing up and get people to buy it without examining its basis in reality, you can make other things ups and keep attaching them.

            Humans are suckers for that sort of thing.
            .
            A false premise can lead to any conclusion.

          • cowalker

            So maybe like this: The Creator of the Universe made us in His image, but if I had created the universe, I would have done it different. So ??????

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            That's a very good question. As i pointed out earlier, if we're discussing a proof for God's existence such as the "unmoved mover" i can appeal to science and philosophy to argue my point. But when the discussion falls into "why my God would permit suffering caused by nature" i can no longer simply appeal to science and philosophy, for the question comes down to my understanding of God from my perspective. If the question appeals to my perspective than i have to refer to what i feel has been revealed, because the question does boil down to how i would answer it, or in other words, you're asking for my subjective opinion. Before we can discuss whether the bible is inspired by God we first have to get to a point that we acknowledge God could exist.

            If we simply posed the question in terms of science and philosophy than the answer would obviously be "i don't know. since i do feel the bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit i believe God has attempted to give us an answer.
            I'm not sure if you read my post about the two woman who had died for a brief period of time and had out of body experiences where one saw a little bit of heaven and the other was on her way there but nevertheless saw some amazing and awe inspiring sights. Both of them told me independently, to my knowledge they did not know each other, for they were from different parishes, that after their respective out of body experiences that they were no longer afraid of death. Moreover, the both said fear was no longer a part of their lives except within their memories. The knowledge of what is waiting for them removed all fear of anything bad that could possibly happen in this life. As your faith grows the knowledge of God's abiding presence and the wonderful things he has planed for you will put any unfortunate event into perspective.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Sean, I do understand that you have deep beliefs in these matters, and you can tell us stories about how you see meaning coming out of scripture. I suspect you could also point out the faces you see in a bank of clouds, and perhaps even describe the emotional states shown in those faces. All of that may count as personal evidence to you, but it is not going to transfer to people who are not believers in the first place.

            Even if you think the meaning is going to be transferable to believers, it depends on what they believe. If you are talking to Muslims, they are going claim that you have misinterpreted the mission of Jesus, the truth of which is reveled to them in the Holy Qur'an. If you tell your NDE stories to devotees of Krishna, they will tell you those people experienced a brief moment of Krishna Consciousness. Don't be surprised if atheists respond by not responding.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Quin,
            You do make a good point simply in terms of looking at the evidence from an exterior point of view. some time around 2000 i remember reading a book written by a psychologist who wanted to do a study on a controlled group of people, or a group who had the same routines day in and day out. the psychologist concluded perhaps one of the best ways to get such a group was to interview a group of nuns since they did live such similar lives. his original intention for writing the book was discarded because he stumbled across something he felt was far more important. Prior to his book most experts in the psychological community simply believed that the human person was made up of mind and body. sometimes one might have problems with the mind, or sometimes the body, or often times both. But what the psychologist determined was that that model was incomplete. after interviewing the sisters for a while he concluded that they were all happy, all well adjusted, they all seemed to have a sense of peace and contentment. yet they had almost nothing we consider important in modern society that leads to happiness. they didn't have a significant other, or a lot of material possessions. they didn't have any profound accomplishments that would feed into their ego, yet they were all happy? they were all content and fulfilled in their lives? due to what he discovered he determined that a more accurate model would be one that included the spirit. thus his new model was reminiscent of an earlier way to understand the person, not just mind and body, but mind body and spirit. I remember reading that a few other psychological books were spawned off of his idea that perhaps had revealed a truth that benefited a psychological approach to help people. as we said before, the "atheist prayer experiment revealed no benefit to the human being, yet praying to Jesus did? I suppose it's possible that this was simply because the sisters were deluding themselves, but a more rational approach may be to see that perhaps the psychological improvement was fueled by something outside of themselves.

            As i had pointed out before about arguing various points. if we feel our argument is strong, it's natural to stick with the facts, if it's weak, or perhaps not all that well thought out there's a natural tendency to change the subject or confuse the issue. when you spoke about the faces in the clouds paired with out of body experiences the analogy tends to convey both of them are like an ink blot test that reveals nothing more than what's taking place in the mind of the viewer. That both of them are akin to tooth fairies or flying spaghetti monsters? but people who have had out of body experiences attest to something much more than a psychological view of something. first as we noted, atheist/agnostic's who've had them have had terrifying experiences, that attest to practically the EXACT same observations, sights, smells feelings etc. some claimed they met a man named Jesus who gave them another chance. all of them radically changed their lives after the event. people of faith had rather different experiences of love, peace, perhaps a gimps of heaven. ALL OF THEM attest to the idea that their experience was NOT just a hallucination or they didn't imagine it. they witnessed things going on in the room around them and recounted details. All of them attested to the observations that their experiences were just as real as this world. now, before we decide to pair their experiences with other people who've had hallucinations or other mental problems we have to recognize that other patients who've had hallucinations acknowledge that their experience was not real or they understand that they imagined it. if people who've had out of body experiences really just had chemical reactions in the brain i would imagine that many of them would in fact convey that they understand it was just a hallucination. why is it that none of them do? Furthermore, remember that love is something we know exists but the ONLY way we can know it exists is that we have experienced it ourselves. if i had never experienced love i might be able to stand on the idea that your apparent description of love is just an illusion or a chemical reaction in your brain. but because i have experienced it, when you talk about it i have my own experience that i can use to identify what your referring to. Love exists, but the only way we know it does is our own experience, perhaps paired with observable chemical reactions in the brain, yet it can't be proved empirically. (noted by the fact that people can fool lie detector tests which show they can manipulate chemical reactions in the brain, thus their lie can't be proven empirically without evidence just as love can't be proven empirically without evidence.)
            With respect to Islam, i would just say that they can't both be right. Jesus said he was the son of God, to believe in him leads to eternal life. Mohammad said Jesus was just a prophet. thus, either Mohammad was wrong or Jesus was. but if you look at both of their lives, Mohammad killed numerous people and would encourage people to kill unbelievers who failed to convert. Did Jesus ever say anything like that? did he ever say anything that seemed to conflict with the natural law? didn't he say, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who persecute you and pray for those who mistreat you?" If you observe their lives which apparent prophet seems to coincide most accurately with the natural law, or the notion of goodness?

            Furthermore, Why would i be so intent on at least getting you to be open to the possibility of discovering who Jesus is. i would certainly be willing to bet that you're much more intelligent that i am, but if I'm standing on something solid shouldn't you at least consider being open to the possibility instead of standing on the outside and saying, "i wont' believe, i won't believe i won't believe? I mean if it's false, what would you have to lose? Moreover, did you ever wonder what it is that compels you to discuss things with believers? is there a possibility that something in your heart is calling you to look at the issue from an objective point of view? Richard Morgan went back on Dawkins website to tell everyone God was real. Why would he do that? to humiliate himself? because he had some illusion that compelled him to do that? an illusion that he felt radically improved his life, or in his words allowed his world to change from "2 dimensional black and white to 3 dimensional in full color?" Could it be that he went back on the website, knowing he was going to be insulted because their might at least be a hope that at least a couple would discover the same thing?

          • Michael Murray

            will put any unfortunate event into perspective.

            Seriously ? You look around the world and all the suffering and pain you see are unfortunate events ? When people talk about pain and suffering they mean the real pain and suffering that is endemic not just a tear in your cassock.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Michael,
            i would agree that often times seeing horrible things happen to people whether caused by nature or other people does seem to convey a God who appears to be indifferent. i really can't say why God allows disasters and emotional pain for some that appears be be unbearable. that woman i spoke of earlier who had lost her son in the boating accident. in some ways he faith was very inspiring to me, she committed herself to prayer and to her faith because it seemed like it was the only thing that gave her comfort. i counseled the woman for a while and it took her years to be able to move on. in fact that story of the silver box with the note in it was ultimately the event that gave her a tangible sense of her sons contact or love. i can't tell you why God allows such things to happen, all i can tell you is the faith seems to give people the help they need to learn to live with it. i felt the two women i spoke of earlier certainly shed' slight on the subject. if we know what's waiting for us, every tragic event is put somewhat into perspective.

          • Michael Murray

            There is a simple answer Sean. He doesn't allow them. He isn't there.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Michael,
            Please forgive me if i'm wrong on this, but if part of the reason you don't believe in God is because your angry at him or he let you down that's okay. there's nothing wrong with being angry at God and you need to get it out. I'm sure you've heard people say, "the patience of Job". That's a pretty good indicator that they are unfamiliar with the book. Job was angry at God, told him he had not been treated fairly. if you do ever want to talk Mike, just go to my website 2fish.co click "contact" then click "as a priest". if i'm mistaken on this please forgive me. for the record, i do have the utmost respect for you mike because you're always respectful towards others and i do believe your really searching.

          • Michael Murray

            You still don't really get it do you Sean ? The reason the majority of people reject the idea of god, not god mind you but the idea of god, is that they find it incompatible with the amount of suffering they see around them in the world.

            The only thing I'm search for right now is a new front light for my bike. There are too many options on the internet.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Michael,

            good luck for the search for your bike, i would imagine it's a motorcycle? i thought about getting one for a while until someone told me, "it's not a matter if you will have to lay it down but when". but i did really enjoy riding. Actually, today's Gospel for Mass kind of reflects what we were speaking of. if you remember that (we believe) Jesus was fully human and fully divine then this woman's tragic loss is healed when she is faced with the presence of Divine Love. Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak,
            and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst, ” and “God has visited his people.”
            This report about him spread through the whole of Judea
            and in all the surrounding region.

          • BenS

            Please forgive me if i'm wrong on this, but if part of the reason you
            don't believe in God is because your angry at him or he let you down
            that's okay.

            But surely if you're angry at a god or irked that it let you down then you'd believe in it. Ergo, those can't, by definition, be reasons for not believing in it.

            Not believing in a god is quite distinct from not liking it. I don't believe in a god because there is no credible evidence that such a thing exists. In fact, there's not even a credible definition of what such a thing is to even begin looking for it.

            If, however, it turns out that proper scientific evidence for a god does exist (one along the lines of those put forward by the Ambrahamic religions, say) then I would believe in it because the evidence supports it - but I wouldn't like it and I certainly wouldn't worship it. That god sounds like an utter shitbag.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            I appreciate your insights. some of the atheists who've converted confessed that the source or root of their atheism began as anger at God and went from there. i know many atheists are atheists for other reasons but if it began simply as anger at God then i just offered to talk about it. there is pleanty of evidence for God but it isn't empirical evidence because God does not want robots, who wants people who want to love him through realizing how much they are loved. God loves you unconditionally Ben but he won't force you be in a relationship with him. your second to the last sentence coincides with the faith. God doesn't send anyone to hell, people chose it.

          • BenS

            I appreciate your insights. some of the atheists who've converted confessed that the source or root of their atheism began as anger at Godand went from there.

            Then I'm afraid they weren't atheists and if you're counting them as a conversion you can cross them off your list. They were theists who had a problem with their god. You can't be angry at something you don't believe exists. Think about it, under what circumstances can you be upset with a unicorn without believing it exists? How can you be livid with a leprechaun or furious with a phoenix without first thinking they exist?

            i know many atheists are atheists for other reasons but if it began simply as anger at God then i just offered to talk about it.

            It was a nice offer but, from what I can see, the atheists on here are actually atheists - not theists angry with god. Still, I think your heart was in the right place. :)

            there is pleanty of evidence for God but it isn't empirical evidence because God does not want robots,

            This I have a big problem with. Following the scientific method to determine the truth of things does not make one a robot. A god that deliberately puts no evidence of his existence to be found and then insists that you believe in him anyway or you're going to be punished is a cretin.

            God loves you unconditionally Ben but he won't force you be in a relationship with him.

            He loves me unconditionally but if I don't love him back I'm going to get punished eternally? That rather sounds like a condition to me. Or is god going to torture me eternally all the while saying 'I love you'? Rather a worthless love then, isn't it?

            God doesn't send anyone to hell, people chose it.

            And how do people make proper decisions? By weighing up the evidence and selecting the most appropriate path. But you say there is no evidence (of the kind that's of any use) for a god. So this god deliberately withholds any evidence of its existence and then shrugs its shoulders when we make the wrong choice which then results in our eternal torture.

            If I gave you a choice between A and B and gave you no evidence to reliably get to the correct answer... and if I then punch you in the face when you give the wrong one, you would quite rightly consider me to be a thoroughly unpleasant individual. Why doesn't this standard apply to your god?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,

            you make a good point. i think there probably a lot of people who are just mad at "God" because something didn't go right in their lives or some other event so they vent their anger by saying they no longer believe in him. But i do know one guy who was raised in a Catholic home who went to church growing up ccd etc. but they guy had a rather bad relationship with his father. as he got older he said he lost his faith because he felt God was never there for him and now he claims he's an atheist. maybe he's not, but i really think he does think the only place God exists is in the minds of believers.

            "Following the scientific method to determine the truth of things does not make one a robot. A god that deliberately puts no evidence of his existence to be found and then insists that you believe in him anyway oryou're going to be punished is a cretin."

            For most of my life i've pretty much always had faith so learning about atheism and how it's tied to science and philosophy is a little bit of a new phenomenon for me. i had always thought atheists were merely people who didn't believe in God and thus wasn't really concerned about the whole issue. From dialoguing with atheists i realize how much time many invest researching or discussing the issue, which helps me to appreciate them a little more in the sense that they are concerned about truth. in other words there not just people who could care less about God and or morality and are just living for themselves. they are diligent about seeking the truth. having said that i think there are different levels of truth or "proofs" for various things that exist. i could almost guarentee that you are reading this one some form of a computer or smartphone right now. that's a solid estimate. But there are other things that aren't as certain but they do have proof of existence. Love for example can't be proven in an empirical way yet we know love exists. the best proof for love is that we have felt it ourselves. one might say that you can measure "love" by monitoring chemical reactions in the brain. But i've read people have been able to find ways of fooling lie detector tests such that they turn out to be negative. so someone can lie and have no way of proving it because they've figured out a way to manipulate the reactions in their brain.

            Love i think is in the same line as proof for God's existence. i think that aquinas's five proofs as well as the fine tuning argument and the source for the natural law are all evidence for a creator because most arguments against these ideas as proof are nothing more than diversions from the proofs, they don't prove them to be false. in other words, if you're losing an argument about a particular issue you aren't entirely sure of there's always a tendency to change the subject. i think the arguments against the proofs i just spoke of are all simply diversions. so i think you can "prove" God's existence or demonstrate truths that reveal his existence but they aren't fist lever proofs or they are not empirical, they are under the same tent as Love.

            With respect to God not wanting robots. Most faith journeys begin with a "fear" of God. they do things either because they are afraid of something bad happening or because they want God to do something for them. but as they grow to discover how "close" and loving God is there motivation modifies to love. If God has appeared and said, "here i am ben, obey me or else? you might not want to face any apparent consequences so you may do so but you would be forced into it. as you grow to realize how much he loves you and how much he wants to be a part of your life the fear is overshadowed by a realization of how important you are to God and how much he loves you unconditionally. There is something about growing to become aware of God's presence that creates love, that i think would be undercut if God just gave you definitive proof.
            Having said that you did make me think. Perhaps at the beginning there's still not quite as much of a choice. I mean if you are doing things because you are afraid of consequences or because you want him to do things for you then that does limit one's choice. i suppose as one continues to follow they're motivation changes to love instead of fear and thus the choice is more pure.

            I've had spiritual direction (which is kind of like spiritual counseling) with many people who simply have an incorrect image of God in their heads. they try to serve or love a God who's like an old man with a whip and they're always afraid of him. as we go through the scriptures to show what God is really like they see him in a different light which enables a more authentic relationship to grow.

          • Max Driffill

            Is natural evil different from actions made by humans? Humans are no less natural, and their choices seem entirely constrained by nature. That is to say we are not infinitely free, even if new information can affect our decisions. A driver who notices a pedestrian in the road has a limited number of choices, (hit the brakes, turn left or right, or if they don't care continue on) but they are not free beyond that. Their choices maybe further limited by factors quite beyond their control (on-coming traffic in the opposite lane, more pedestrians in the path of an evasive maneuver ) which may in turn limit them their options further (say to the poor option of only hitting the brakes and hoping that is enough). This is just a smidgeon of what can limit an agent's options. In what sense was their action freely chosen?

            In the film I, Robot Will Smith's character is haunted by the choice a passing robot makes to save him, instead of a little girl who was also drowning. The robot chose to save Smith's character because the probability of success was very much higher (enormously so). Was the robot agent free to chose to try to save the girl. Its code didn't prevent this, but probably inclined it to make the choice with the highest probablity

          • Sample1

            Then the cause of the evil is a "disease"

            Why do you place the word disease in quotes? A disease has physical properties. I might ask you further questions relating to teachings of Augustine depending on your reply.

            Mike

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            To include disorders. Mostly just to indicate I didn't mean disease only in the medical sense.

  • severalspeciesof

    1. God gives us free will, because free will is inherently good.
    2. Free will entails the possibility of doing what is contrary to God's will (this is what we know as evil).
    3. Thus, evil exists, because of man's actions, rather than because of God.

    #1 Why? I do not see why freewill automatically entails good or evil, just the ability of choice.

    #2 Does this mean god has no freewill? (Remember, this article makes the claim that god is perfect and cannot will against itself.)

    #3 No, see #1 and the fact that god didn't give us total knowledge, which would make freewill perfect. Hence, the blame of our not choosing correctly lies at the foot of your god.

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      1.) The ability to choose the good is greater than the lack of ability to choose at all.

      2) Free will is not defined as the possibility of doing contrary to God's will, it includes it. For people who aren't God, they can manifest this possibility, God can't manifest this possibility because He's God, but that doesn't mean he has no free will.

      3) This one's interesting, and I haven't heard that objection before. My gut tells me to just go with the fact that angels had total knowledge and free will, and many still chose to go against God. Total knowledge won't make you more or less likely to choose to do good, it only makes you better at choosing (aka if you're a good person you'll choose to do good, if you're selfish you'll choose to do what is good for you).

      • primenumbers

        "God can't manifest this possibility because He's God, but that doesn't mean he has no free will." - for a perfect being there can only be one optimal choice. With only one choice, there is no free will. Similarly God cannot be a moral being because for a being to perform a moral act, there must be a choice. God cannot, by your definition chose to do bad, and being perfect, he knows there's only one optimum choice, thus his actions are entirely constrained leaving no room for any free will what-so-ever. So your God is pure automata.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Wait, there is only one optimal choice, that doesn't mean there is only one choice. God *could* choose a non-optimal path to go down, but He doesn't.

          Though, perhaps to attribute something like "free-will" to a deity who is transcendent and perfect isn't even a sensical proposition. Why does God *need* to have free will?

          • primenumbers

            How can a perfect all knowing being choose do go down a non-optimal path of choices? That he doesn't choose non-optimality is not because he decides not to, but because of his inherent character which forces him along an optimal path.

            Now, if we allow for multiple optimal paths, God will become as stuck as the rational donkey between two equidistant piles of hay. Being perfect, God is perfectly rational.

            I'd agree completely that to suggest a God-like deity has free-will is utterly non-sensical. I'd also suggest that a being without free-will (and thus without true comprehension of free will) would not be able to gift free will to another being either.

            Similarly, a being, like God, who cannot perform a moral act (see earlier argument) cannot be the source of an objective morality, because they cannot truly comprehend what they cannot themselves do.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Your conclusion doesn't follow. What does the phrase free-will mean when your will is literally actualized at every turn? You are the ultimate expression of will conjoined with intellece, all other will and intellect would have to come from you.

          • primenumbers

            Free will needs unconstrained choice. Without unconstrained choice there is no free will. I think you've defined your God into an automata.

            It very much seems that the practical conception of a God by theists is very anthropomorphic - their God is a being that thinks and acts and decides, and the biographies of the Gods certainly back up that conception. Then we get the more abstract God of the philosophers that is defined in such ways that theologians will debate on endlessly along the lines of our discussion above. But the religious person, in this case a Catholic, wants both - the anthropomorphic God (and actually so with their Jesus character) and the abstract omni-God. The omni-God is fraught with philosophical challenges by the very nature of the defining statements about that God - knowing everything, being all-powerful, and perhaps most tricky of all, being perfect.

          • severalspeciesof

            Primenumbers... you're a cure for my headache... thanks...

          • severalspeciesof

            And since you say your god is perfect, how is it that since it did not give us that same perfection and yet when that imperfection shows up (because it didn't give us perfect knowledge or will), it gets upset?

            Even if I grant you what you are saying as being true, it would seem then to be the case that our ACTUALLY USING freewill (the way you have been defining it) would be the optimal thing to do. To actually choose the 'wrong' way so that the meaning you have granted freewill actually occurs...

            *I have a headache*

          • primenumbers

            Exactly: If I'm wrong and perfection doesn't limit God's free will, it wouldn't limit our free will either. If as Daniel suggests "God *could* choose a non-optimal path to go down, but He doesn't" then we could be in exactly the same situation .

            What we've not discussed is the strong possibility of an evil God who relishes in such confusion and evil, as the facts of our existence on earth do seem to fit better with an evil God than a good one.

  • primenumbers

    "God gives us free will, because free will is inherently good" - free will is just that. It's neither good nor evil. Although we have the perception that we posses free will, we don't know if we actually have free will. Interestingly though, this issue of free will poses a rather more significant issue for theists in that you assert "He cannot, for example, will what is contrary to His Will." which does indeed mean your God doesn't posses free will, especially as you assert "God gives us free will," that free will is something given by a higher external being (which obviously in the case of your God doesn't exist to be able to give your God free will). The other problem with your argument here is that it doesn't discuss natural evils.

    Your initial argument also fails because although you asset evil exists because of man's actions those actions were known ahead of time by the omniscient God, and man's actions don't stop God from acting to work against any evils that crop up. If you're suggesting that any intervention from God would suppress our free-will, then Jesus is the ultimate suppression of human free will.

    "Objective moral values do exist" - state one and prove it's objectivity. (please, don't appeal to gut instinct as you do in the article).

    Please don't put up straw men to knock down.

  • Longshanks

    The author is not doing his due diligence to Hitchens or the general proposition of 'objective' morality.

    I just looked at the floor of my room for my copy of Harris' The Moral Landscape and caught a glimpse of a bill from Harris bank, maybe god is trying to tell me to be better about paying my bills on time.

    I digress.

    Others have used this argument before, but it's quite a bad one. A man might simultaneously be sexually attracted to a non-consenting woman, and conscious that rape is immoral. Why, from a strictly biological standpoint, should the man listen to his genetic hard-wiring when it tells him rape is wrong, and not when it gives him an urge to rape? The answer to that question is a moral one, and one that (by definition) can't come from mere evolutionary urges. The urges are the problem, not the solution.
    ...
    If this is true, we cannot criticize the Nazis for killing millions of Jews, any more than we can criticize the Yankees for beating the Tigers. We don't happen to care for Nazi genocide, but their cultural practices are just different from our American values.

    As has been said often around these fora by others, and with greater eloquence, focusing on the fact that we have 'morally evil' impulses does not torpedo the idea of morality as emergent from biologically/neurologically/genetically active selection pressures.

    A social organism which is not capable of feeling an urge to self-restraint, or incapable of acting on it, might well be maladaptive in a social setting. We call this realization "objective," as it exists as a fact about us which is not purely the matter of any one person's subjective experience, not because if you pull up the carpet-of-existence you will see a shiny-bright-gold object called 'morality' which we are all dimly perceived in this vale-of-tears.

    The fact that Hitler managed to twist a bunch of urges for revenge, national pride, security, homogeneity, having fears acknowledged, grasping a "real" "solution" to problems, etc... does not mean that the rest of Europe's and America's urges to NOT be German subjects were divinely inspired.

    Of course you can over-simplify the question by calling them 'cultural practices,' but the truth is that there was no cosmic scoreboard on which was writ who would or would not prevail. The Allies were not ordained by god as crusaders against evil who were always destined to win, as if in a Disney movie.

    On this worldview the sacrifice and heroism of the Allies is infinitely greater, as they had no way to know in advance that they would win in their fight against Nazi 'cultural practices.'

    • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

      Longshanks: It seems to me that all you've done here is state that you don't believe moral evil is objective, which does little to dismantle the author's insight that one can't coherently hold a belief in objective morality in tandem with the problem of evil. Aren't you suggesting that human-caused evil doesn't have objective, mind-independent existence? Under this framework, then, how do you advance the "evil exists" premise of the problem of evil? Thanks!

      • Longshanks

        Sorry, I should've waited for your revision.

        There are multiple facets of meaning to the word 'objective,' I'm using in the sense of 'not subjective.'

        We can have objective facts about subjective experiences.

        • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

          That's okay, I hit enter too soon! You were making a good point and I wanted to make sure I approached it fairly.

          I would respond by saying that this isn't objectivity in the sense of mind-independence, which I think is what the author intended the word to mean. Popularity or tradition doesn't give an action its moral dimension. This is mind-dependence, writ large. If 100 percent of people in every culture and every age believed that stealing was okay, due to evolutionary advantage and biochemical urges, the act would still be morally wrong.

          If you deny this, the question remains as to whether one can coherently hold such a view of morality simultaneously with a firm belief in the "evil exists" premise of the problem of evil - for evil, as I understand it, exists outside of cultures as well as individuals. Thanks!

    • Longshanks

      Longshanks - Sincerely, I'm not sure what this does to counter the author's argument. Your comment strikes me as a long tautology: morality is not objective because there's no "shiny-bright-gold object called 'morality.'"

      I don't know why your comment should require deletion, Becklo, it's a fine question...although it's a bit difficult to shift gears from the contention above back to discussing the topic of the article, I welcome the opportunity to try. .

      I am using the term "objective" morality in the sense that Harris argues for; something about which we can learn empirically, while still being a matter of intense subjectivity, like health.

      I would never say that there is an 'objective' standard of pure health , but that doesn't mean we can't talk meaningfully about how to be more or less healthy.

      I'm sure in my tired and stupid state I'm not doing the argument justice, but it's certainly not an argument the article author approached, let alone dismissed.

  • Ben

    There's a LOT in this article taken for granted that really shouldn't be. It suggests a real difficulty for the author in seeing things from a non-Catholic perspective. Having only so much time, I'll start with the conclusion, which incorporates Aquinas:
    "1To complain of the problem of evil, you must acknowledge evil.
    2To acknowledge evil, you must acknowledge an objective system of moral laws.
    3Objective universal moral laws require a Lawgiver capable of dictating behavior for everyone.
    4This Lawgiver is Who we call God."
    This really misses the boat--it misses the whole fleet. An atheist only thinks there would be a "problem of evil" if God actually existed. To an atheist, there is no actual problem of evil, as we accept that we live in a world full of not only disease and disasters but also less than desirable neighbors, whose actions and inclinations cause others suffering. No metaphysical problem, just the world as it is, with practical issues that our own views of the world (whether "subjective" or "objective") tell us could use addressing. Positing the problem of evil is our way of trying to accept as many Catholic/Christian/whatever premises as we can, and noticing that they sure seem contradictory. The world doesn't look like what we'd expect were it run by an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent Being, who has made statements about what goodness by His conception is.
    As mentioned above, this argument also makes some assumptions that you should know atheists don't agree with: for instance, the idea that "objective" universal moral alw requires God to exist. This takes us into Euthyphro territory, which really isn't as easily dismissed as some like to think. Understand that I'm not trolling, but absolutely sincere when I tell you that I don't understand how the existence of a God would make any set of moral laws more "objective" than those developed by men--I can see how if one thinks God is wiser then men one could expect these laws to be more intelligently drawn up, and an omnipotent God surely has more potential enforcement capability (even if He bizarrely decides to exercise it in secret most of the time) but for the life of me I don't see how they are more "objective."

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      In answer to the last question (how could it be more objective), we have a standard of good that resides outside of our species collective social and genetic history.

      • primenumbers

        We usually think of objective as being mind-independent, so I don't see how the mind of God can be an objective source of morality. It would appear that such a source would be subjective on God.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          God could be an objective source of morality as He would be the objective source of the universe and all things contained by it.

          • primenumbers

            God could be an objective source if he's mindless, or are you defining "objective" to mean something other than mind-independent?

            As God cannot make a moral action (he can only do good by definition, and we need the capability to do wrong and a choice to be made for an act to be moral) how can God even begin to comprehend morality?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Objective is, I have always understood, true independent of what you think about it.

          • primenumbers

            To be objective it has to be independent of what anyone or anything thinks about it. It's easiest to say "mind independent" as that includes non-physical minds too.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            But if a mind is the source of goodness (which is what's posited), and that same mind created the universe according to that goodness, then I don't see how it could not be objective.

          • primenumbers

            Because objectivity is mind-independent. What you have described is a morality that is subjective on God.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I think the distinction is meaningless from where we're sitting.

            From a human point of reference, if there is a God who is Good and created everything, His morality is objective morality because we are subject to what He has created.

          • primenumbers

            That, my friend, is plain old special pleading. (and it goes without saying I don't buy it, especially not in a moral argument for the existence of God).

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I'm not making an argument for God, I'm making an argument if God.

          • primenumbers

            The article above makes a moral argument for the existence of God. For your "if God" case, I'm back to special pleading.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            How so?

          • primenumbers

            Because you're adopting a different definition of "objective" to the case of God than you'd use for the case of any other being. "Objective" means mind independent. It doesn't mean "mind independent other than for God's mind for which we'll allow an exception".

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            If something is the very fabric of reality, then it is the point of reference for everything. That's not special pleading, that's logic.

            If it's the point of reference for everything, than as far as everything else is concerned, its object. It's not special pleading, it's a whole different problem that needs to be addressed in a new way. There's a *reason* for the distinction when talking about the morality of God, therefore it's not special pleading.

          • primenumbers

            "If something is the very fabric of reality," that's poetry, not logic. It's also an awfully big if, and it also means you've still chosen a new definition of objective. Or your God could be mindless and then it can be objective.

            "If it's the point of reference for everything," - points of reference are fine as long as that point is not a mind. God is nothing but a mind, so whereas a thermometer can be an objective measurer of temperature (because it's a mindless thing, and it's calibrated off the boiling point and freezing point of water, both mindless), God cannot be an objective point of reference.

          • Ben

            "If there is a God who is Good."
            This is where the wheels fall off the wagon. We're trying to establish what it means for something to be "Good," whether there IS such a thing as "objective Good," and if so what connection it might have to a being who created everything. "Special pleading," as primenumbers said, is putting things very kindly. You strike me as intelligent and well-mannered, and I'm doing my best not to come off as rude here. But if you can't see or acknowledge the problem here then there just isn't a way for us to have a conversation on this topic. The whole point of this conversation is to try to figure out what it might mean to say that God is Good! Using it as a premise has no meaning.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I didn't mean to capitolize good in the previous post. But what we're trying to establish is if God's "good" is objectively "good." So, if there is a God who created eevrything in the universe, then things are good because of Him, whether you're a consequentialist, a virtue ethics person, or what, because all of the standards by which we judge an action to be good find their origin in His structure of the Universe.

          • Andrew G.

            What if the universe was created by an evil God?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            ...then things would be different?

          • Susan

            How so?

          • Andrew G.

            But would they? Philosopher Stephen Law has an extensive series of arguments on the reverse-theodicy needed by the evil god hypothesis, and it certainly looks like all arguments that justify the existence of evil in a universe created by a good God have an exact analogue justifying the existence of good in a universe created by an evil God.

          • Ben

            Am not trying to play chess with you, but I feel like we're still following pretty standard Euthyphro lines. If "goodness" is a creation of the mind of God, I have to start wondering what "goodness" means (and if "goodness" HAS any meaning other than what God decides to call "goodness"). From my view, what you're describing is moving us further from any idea that God can be the source of some sort of "objective" goodness that has any meaning we normally attribute to it. Unless we redefine goodness as I suspect you're doing, I genuinely don't understand why goodness/moral law/etc as decided by God is more "objective" than defintions of goodness created by humanity. If we do redefine it, then sure, "goodness" has an objective meaning, but I'm not sure we're talking about "goodness" anymore, but instead 'obedience-to-Godness."

      • Andrew G.

        But even if you grant that as "objective" (I don't), there is still the problem that we don't have objective access to it.

        It's not a coincidence that what people think that God approves or disapproves of is closely related to what they themselves approve or disapprove of.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          The converse could be true, we have a problem of correlation/causation.

          Just because people don't agree on what is approved or not, doesn't necessitate that a) there is no God or b) there is no group in line with God's thought.

          • Andrew G.

            Maybe not, but it does raise interesting questions as to the burden of proof.

            When two religious groups disagree over some issue (gay marriage, say) and they both produce arguments claiming that God agrees with them, how do you propose to adjudicate the claims?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Why, reason and a judgement of internal cohesion of course.

          • Andrew G.

            And when you try that and nobody agrees on the right answer?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Then you figure out who's biased and how they're biased, and adjust for it, and try again.

            It's all very scientific ;)

          • Andrew G.

            And when there is no agreement even on that?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Then you wait for more evidence. What do scientists do when they disagree?

          • Andrew G.

            That's not what's happening in the gay marriage case, though, is it?

            The only way to get more evidence is to allow it and see what happens, but instead every religious group that opposes it is fighting to keep that from happening.

          • cowalker

            "Why, reason and a judgement of internal cohesion of course."
            "Then you figure out who's biased"
            "Then you wait for more evidence."
            So what advantage do believers have over atheists in carrying out this process? Many believers don't agree on even the most basic moral questions, such as whether a war is just, or what sexual behavior is licit, so they don't even start from the same set of supposedly objective morals. How are they going to get anywhere any faster than non-believers?

        • BenS

          This is the point I tried making earlier. An 'objective morality' (should such a beast exist) is utterly worthless if we don't know what it is. We can only credibly be judged on our actions based on the perceived morality at the time - what WE consider to be right and good.

          Judging us later from a different frame of reference using different rules is like changing the speed limit on a road from 40mph to 30 and then going back over the last year's camera logs and fining everyone doing 35. They quite literally didn't believe they were doing wrong at the time.

  • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

    One of the huge problems, it seems to me, with the Christian arguments about free will is that it does not seem to exist in any of the Christian conceptions of the afterlife. Ultimately, people go to heaven or hell, and that's that. If people who go to heaven can't commit "mortal sins" that merit them being sent to hell, and if the condemned can't repent and leave hell for heaven, then it appears to me that they no longer have free will. In the Christian tradition, Satan made his choice to rebel against God, and repentance is impossible. And yet Satan had (and presumably still has) free will.

    If people in heaven (or after the Resurrection of the Dead) can sin but don't want to, then why can't life on earth be like that? It does not seem to me that it would be impossible for an omniscient, omnipotent God to offer choices to human beings, and to enlighten them in such a way, that their choice is obvious.

    • Dcn Harbey Santiago

      David,

      >>"If people who go to heaven can't commit "mortal sins" that merit them
      being sent to hell, and if the condemned can't repent and leave hell for
      heaven, then it appears to me that they no longer have free will."

      Your assertion would be true if we were to be the same while alive, in heaven or in hell. But this is not the fact. Catholic teaching says that when in heaven or hell we are dis-embodied souls, after the resurrection of the dead we will be reunited with our gloried bodies, into a higher state of existence. So as you see, these tree states of being are very different. The fact is, we do not know how our wills will operate in these two states, which leaves open the possibility that in a mysterious way we will be precluded (perhaps by a new state of awareness or a higher level of intellect) for committing mortal sin while conserving some semblance of "Free Will"

      >>" In the Christian tradition, Satan made his choice to rebel against God,
      and repentance is impossible. And yet Satan had (and presumably still
      has) free will."

      Satan is an angel, a spiritual being, which is a completely different type of being than a us ("en-fleshed" souls). We should be careful when making comparisons between these two types of beings.

      "If people in heaven (or after the Resurrection of the Dead) can
      sin but don't want to, then why can't life on earth be like that? It
      does not seem to me that it would be impossible for an omniscient,
      omnipotent God to offer choices to human beings, and to enlighten them
      in such a way, that their choice is obvious."

      Why wouldn't God snap his fingers and "BOOM!" we are all in heaven? The only though I can offer is this: We are temporal beings. Perhaps this is the only way we can reach higher levels of "enlightenment", by acquiring experience within the context of time. It is very gratifying to accumulate experience and learn new things. I appreciate John Williams guitar playing because of the time I have spend learning to play the classical guitar.

      Of course God can place all those thoughts in my head and save me the trouble, but I think back at the times in which I have learned something and although I get satisfaction from remembering this time, it is nothing like the satisfaction I got when I understood something the first time. I think God understood this when he created us.

      "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
      Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

        Your assertion would be true if we were to be the same while alive, in heaven or in hell.

        This would imply that we have free will on earth, but perhaps not in the afterlife. I thought the whole point was that free will was a good, and God did not want to coerce anyone into loving him, but wanted us to love him freely (of our own free will). But the notion seems to be (as I understand it) that because seeing God "close up" in heaven makes his goodness so plainly evident, one could theoretically choose against him but in reality would never do so. Just as a man dying of thirst would chose a nice tall glass of cool water over container of molten lead every time, so a person in heaven would choose God over any alternative. But this raises the question of why our choices on earth are so murky that people choose something other than God, since it appears that people who can clearly see God will always freely choose him.

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          Hi David,

          >>This would imply that we have free will on earth, but perhaps not in the afterlife.

          I think you problem resides in trying to understand "heaven" by using the Thomistic view of spiritual development, which is expressed on spacial terms (i.e. Our goal is to will ourselves into reaching the beatific vision in heaven and finally stand in the presence of God). This is perfectly valid language but it doesn't denote the intrinsic spiritual growth of the process.

          If you use the Pauline view of spiritual development, which is organic (e.g. 1 Cor 3:11 "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things") then it becomes easier to see that "will" develops as we advance in time. It is different for a baby, a child, an adolescent, etc. It makes perfect sense then to think that in heaven our "will" reaches a much more advanced stage than what we had when we are alive. Not only that, It is perfectly normal to say that while we are alive we can not understand how our will is going to work in heaven since we have not reached that level of spiritual maturity. In the same way a child could never understand why adults behave (engage their will) they way they do. (At least that's what my teenage daughter says :-).

          I hope this helps,

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            It makes perfect sense then to think that in heaven our "will" reaches a much more advanced stage than what we had when we are alive.

            Deacon Santiago,

            The most basic thing the Catholic Church teaches about human persons is that they are made in the "image and likeness" of God, and this is interpreted to mean they have intellect and (free) will. (Actually, it seems to me that anything other than free will is not will at all. What would will be like that was not free?) I deliberately spoke of the afterlife rather than heaven because—although I think it is often underemphasized or even ignored—Catholicism teaches that the disembodied soul's time in heaven is limited. The world will end, the Resurrection of the Dead will take place, and souls will be reunited with bodies for eternal (infinitely long) life.

            I am not sure what a "more advanced stage" of the will could possibly mean. But in any case, if it is true that human beings have intellect and will, then certainly humans with "glorified bodies" after the Resurrection of the Dead will have intellect and will—free will. But if persons are judged once and for all at the moment of their death, it seems they can perform no act of will after death that counts for or against their eternal salvation.

            So during our earthly life, we see "through a glass, darkly." But our earthly life is precisely the time when we need to see with crystal clarity, since it is during our earthly life that we make the decisions that determine our eternal fate. If at some later point the will develops in such a way that it is still free but only makes the right choices (or, for the damned, only makes the wrong choices), it is too late!

            So it still seems to me that it is a huge problem to claim that human fate is determined forever when earthly life ends, and yet it must be the case that humans in the afterlife have free will. But it also must be the case that those who are saved never exercise the capacity to choose against God. The only answer I can think of is that choices in the afterlife for those who are saved will be so clear that they simply won't make a wrong choice. That seems to me perfectly consistent with the idea of free will. But it raises the very serious question why God could not have created humans (and the world they live in) in such a way that choices in earthly life would be as clear as choices in the afterlife.

            There are prayers to God to "enlighten our minds and strengthen our wills." It seems to me that an omniscient and omnipotent God could always enlighten a human mind and will so that the person would always make the right choice. This would be perfectly consistent with free will. The big question is why, according to Catholic teaching, God apparently abandons people so that they "see through a glass, darkly" precisely when they need to see clearly.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            David,

            Your response deserves a lot more time than what I can give to it today. Maybe if I have time over the weekend.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

  • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

    I would not necessarily assume that human beings have free will. And if free will is a reality, it seems to me it is rather limited.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Of course free will is limited. We necessarily choose happiness as our final goal. Our free will consists in choosing means within our limited grasp to to pursue that happiness.

    • Longshanks

      Stolen from Hitchens:

      Believer: "Of course we have free will; God gave it to us!"

      Atheist: "Of course we have free will; we have no choice."

  • gwen saul

    Using the word "retarded" to reference people living with mental illness is an offensive choice to make in a written article. Suggesting that people living with mental illness are unable to understand or recognize that acts such as rape, genocide and murder are at the very least deplorable, is really demeaning.

  • BenS

    "We can see that objective morals do, in fact, exist."

    I don't believe we can. Homosexuality, moral or immoral? Killing a human being, moral or immoral?

    "We don't need to be told that raping, torturing, and killing innocent
    people are more than just unpleasant or counter-cultural. They're
    wrong—universally and completely wrong."

    Innocent of what? I consider homosexuals to be innocent people as I don't consider homosexuality a crime. If someone believes it to be an affront against god and something to be exterminated then killing them isn't 'universally and completely wrong' because they're not 'innocent'.

    Surely the whole concept of an 'objective morality' (which I don't for one moment believe exists) becomes utterly worthless if there's no way of telling what this objective morality is. It's not written down properly and not everyone agrees what is and isn't moral.

    ---

    And hello, everyone. Name's Ben, as per my username. :)

    • Dcn Harbey Santiago

      Welcome Ben,

      I have not read the article (To busy today at work), but I just saw your comment and feel I can address at least part of it with out reading the whole thing.

      You said: "Homosexuality, moral or immoral? Killing a human being, moral or immoral?"

      The Catholic Church teaches that same sex attraction (Homosexuality) is not immoral. Engaging in sex, any type of sex outside of the bond of marriage is immoral (In fact a sin).

      "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
      Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • BenS

        Thank you for that, Harbey, and thank you for the welcome.

        Anyway, your point about sex outside of marriage being a sin is a good example there. I have no problem with that. I've done it loads of times. Sometimes even with other people!

        But this is interesting. If homosexuality is NOT immoral and sex outside marriage IS immoral then is marrying homosexuals moral? If not, it's rather odd to say homosexuality is not immoral but leave it so that having a homosexual relationship is, by default, going to be immoral.

        Also, I'm assuming that any type of sex outside of marriage being a sin only applies to humans - or are plants and dogs living permanently in sin?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          To answer you, BenS, only moral agents can sin. To be a moral agent you have to know what you are doing and choose to do it. Plants and dogs are not moral agents.

          An inclination per se is not a moral act. Only a moral act can be a sin. This is why the Church says homosexual inclinations are not sinful but homosexual acts are.

          • BenS

            But dogs understand, at a rudimentary level, right and wrong. I come down in the morning and see Pepper standing sheepishly next a huge puddle of urine on the kitchen floor and I can see that she knows she's done wrong.

            So, how do you determine what a 'moral agent' is?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I suppose the intelligence and freedom of a dog are not sufficient to make it a moral agent.

          • BenS

            As determined by whom and using what method? Until it's clear what constitutes a moral agent I may as well claim not to be one and thus exempt from sinning.

            Otherwise it seems that dogs have a freedom to do things they know are wrong without being accused of sinning that I do not. More than a little unfair, I'd say.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Yeah, well, you get thumbs so it evens out.

          • BenS

            I dunno. It's heads or tails whether I'd prefer thumbs or the freedom to urinate wildly in people's kitchens...

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            That's not necessarily a sin, don't worry.

          • Longshanks

            Do you know that she know's she's done wrong, or that she knows that you will react in a negative way, and is exhibiting the instincts of a pack animal facing an angry pack-leader?

          • BenS

            Good question. I suppose we then have to ascertain the definitions of right and wrong in such a context. Is doing a thing that provokes the pack leader to action a 'wrong' in the same was a committing a crime that provokes the police into action? If provoking the police (or god, if you like) means you know the thing is wrong then aren't you, in some way, telling right from wrong?

          • Longshanks

            I suppose if we're going to posit a system where doing a thing such that you get a negative response is considered "wrong," then one would be "telling right from wrong" not by "provoking the police (or god", but by "exhibiting the instincts" which would be best calculated to mitigate the negative response from "the police (or god."

          • BenS

            It's the 'best calculated' part there that I think would turn it from being instinctual into driven by some level of mental process and thus determining whether the dog was a moral agent. (Unless you're using 'best calculated' as shorthand for a hardwired behaviour imparted by the long slow grind of random mutation and natural selection.)

            If we can't tell whether it's a hard wired behaviour or the result of some kind of cognitive process then how can we determine whether something is a moral agent or not and therefore, if it has committed a sin?

          • Longshanks

            At the risk of backing out of all the nuance and interesting role-playing this line has elicited, let me say about the boundary between instinct and cognition: I don't know.

            As a side note, I have the honor to be an as-yet-unbanned :P atheist here, so the commission of sins is not a question I am competent or inclined to comment on.

          • BenS

            I don't think it's backing out, I think it's a healthy admission of ignorance on our part. I don't know either. Which is why I have a problem with blithe statements that things like sin can only be attributed to moral agents when no-one has any idea what constitutes a moral agent beyond a vague notion that the entity had to know it was doing wrong.

            It has to be said, you do seem to be skating on the thin part of the ice around those with the banhammer. Be a shame if you fell through, I've enjoyed your many posts on these threads. I'm also having to moderate myself quite heavily, my usual tone is much more... ah... aggressive and wouldn't long be tolerated here. Still, I'd much rather have it civil. There's a reason I don't even bother reading pharyngula any more.

          • Sample1

            But dogs understand, at a rudimentary level, right and wrong

            I'd hesitate applying human terms of right and wrong (that are difficult enough to comprehend in our own species) to a non-human animal species.

            However, it has been scientifically demonstrated that dogs likely possess a strong understanding of fairness. So can vampire bats for that matter. Pump the throat sac of a female vampire bat with lots of air and the communal colony, thinking the large throat is filled with blood, will expect her, as is traditional in a communal setting, to feed everyone's vampire babies. When she doesn't, those adults who witnessed her "selfish" behavior will reciprocate by not feeding that "selfish" mother's babies next time. This is an example of a rudimentary display of the Golden Rule in flying mice. Remarkable.

            But anyway, I'm compelled to take seriously the hypothesis that in the course of at least ten or twenty Catholic Church lifespans, evolution has shaped a false misunderstanding in human brains that is highly beneficial for our canine companions: we mistakenly believe that dogs think like us.

            Mike

          • BenS

            Mike, thanks for the reply. Seems like all my favourite commenters are here!

            I'd hesitate applying human terms of right and wrong to a non-human animal species precisely because they are terms that are challenging enough to nail down within our own species!

            I really should be more precise with my language. You can prefix my comment with 'It seems' or 'Some people think'. In fact, you can pretty much prefix all my comments with that. :)

            Anyway, you're absolutely right to hesitate and this is kind of my point. An objective morality is supposedly a morality that applies to all. If dogs aren't included, why do they get the free pass? If it only applies to humans then it's not objective, it's clearly species subjective. The question of whether it applies appears to be 'only if that creature is a moral agent' - my questions about how we can determine what is and isn't a moral agent haven't been satisfactorily answered yet.

            But anyway, I'm compelled to take seriously the hypothesis that in the course of at least ten or twenty Catholic Church lifespans, evolution has shaped a false misunderstanding in human brains that is highly beneficial for our canine companions: we mistakenly believe that dogs think like us.

            Absolutely. And if a species doesn't think like us, is it bound by the same morality as us? If not, how can that morality be objective? Say, in another 10 or 20 Catholic church lifetimes we bump into another sapient species out there amongst the stars. They, however, don't give a monkey's about their children. They pop out loads and they're supposed to fend for themselves until maturity, at which point they're considered a person. Our moral stance towards the young would be completely different. They might literally not be able to grasp why treat them so. Are they bound by an objective morality relating to care of young or not?

            There are countless reasons why Pepper behaved the way she did, but no evidence to my knowledge, that suggests she can comprehend even rudimentary human morality let alone the related intricacies that tie into our theory of mind.

            So how can we (or anyone) judge her according to an 'objective' morality if she quite literally does not think like we do? This is my problem with an objective morality and why I think it's bunk.

            And there's certainly worse things in the world to do than be a slave to doggy cuteness. Give her a pat for me.

            Quite true, but I'm afraid I cannot. Pepper is a rhetorical device - an ex-partner's pet (Pets! How immoral!) - and if I were to be caught patting Pepper it would breach my restraining order.

          • Michael Murray

            Confucius liked it as well. I expect it goes back millions of years to our non-verbal ancestors.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule

            Thanks for the story about vampire bats. I hadn't heard that.

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          Hi Ben,

          >>Anyway, your point about sex outside of marriage being a sin is a good example there. I have no problem with that. I've done it loads of times. Sometimes even with other people!

          Remind me never to shake your hand :-P

          >>But this is interesting. If homosexuality is NOT immoral and sex outside marriage IS immoral then is marrying homosexuals moral? If not, it's rather odd to say homosexuality is not immoral but leave it so that having a homosexual relationship is, by default, going to be immoral.

          Ok, let me drop the religious-ethical language for clarity:

          You are committing the mistake of thinking that a same gender union is the same as a natural marriage between a male and a female of our species. A natural marriage is oriented towards (among other things) ensuring that a child is raised by their biological father and mother, which is the ideal environment for a successful conservation of our species and the successful transmission and perpetuation of our genetic code. A same gender union by definition can never meet this criteria (i.e. they can not perpetuate their genetic code). Therefore they are not the same thing.

          Please notice I did not make any religious statements in my answer. I purposely used evolutionary theory language, for clarity.

          >>Also, I'm assuming that any type of sex outside of marriage being a sin only applies to humans - or are plants and dogs living permanently in sin?

          Ok since we are talking moral choices now, let me reload the religious ethical language compilers :-)

          Humans are different from animals in that we have reason, which allows us to overcome our natural instincts. Animals (and for the sake of argument plants) only react to instinct, they have no "reason" to engage, hence they make no moral choices, ergo, they can not commit sin.

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>You are committing the mistake of thinking that a same gender union is the same as a natural marriage between a male and a female of our species. A natural marriage is oriented towards (among other things) ensuring that a child is raised by their biological father and mother, which is the ideal environment for a successful conservation of our species and the successful transmission and perpetuation of our genetic code. A same gender union by definition can never meet this criteria (i.e. they can not perpetuate their genetic code). Therefore they are not the same thing.

            You have fallen at the first hurdle sir.

            "Natural marriage is the name given in Catholic canon law to the lawful union of a man and a woman from any type of religious background. Being defined in canon 1055, it is a legal pre-requisite to sacramental marriage or Catholic marriage."

            >>"Please notice I did not make any religious statements in my answer."

            Once you mentioned "natural marriage" you did make a religious statement though. And what followed was a definition based on that religious statement, even if full of errors. If you had just said "marriage", then you'd be on a sticky wicket definitively speaking.

            "Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a social union or legal contract between people called spouses that establishes rights and obligations between the spouses, between the spouses and their children, and between the spouses and their in-laws."

            >>"I purposely used evolutionary theory language, for clarity."

            Unfortunately it doesn't help you out much.

            "A natural marriage is oriented towards (among other things) ensuring that a child is raised by their biological father and mother..."

            Would you deny marriage to a heterosexual couple who, for whatever reason, could not procreate?

            Monogamy was the precursor of marriage, which pre-dates recorded history, so what you define as marriage, isn't strictly accurate for everyone.

            Should we not be considering equality under the law for all? Never mind, don't answer that.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            Hi Amos

            >> "Natural marriage is the name given in Catholic canon law to the lawful union of a man and a woman from any type of religious background.Being defined in canon 1055, it is a legal pre-requisite to sacramental marriage or Catholic marriage."

            1) Perhaps it will help if, next time, you use Catholic sources instead of Wikipedia. Here is the link for the code of Canon Law which covers the laws about Marriage.

            http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0017/_P3U.HTM

            A quick read will show you that the term "Natural Marriage" is no place to seen.

            Natural marriage has always been understood as the marriage contract between a man and a woman. There is no need for the parties to be religious. Here is a quote by Pius XI for CASTI CONNUBII in which he speaks of Natural Marriage among nonbelievers. Par. 35

            35. And if this stability seems to be open to exception, however rare the exception may be, as in the case of certain natural marriages between unbelievers

            The Papal Encyclicals: 1903–1939. 1990 (C. Carlen, Ed.) (396). Ypsilanti, MI: The Pierian Press.
            Can.

            2) The Wikipedia quote is correct in saying that in order for a Sacramental Marriage to exist a Natural Marriage is required.

            3) "A natural marriage is oriented towards (among other things) ensuring that a child is raised by their biological father and mother..."
            Would you deny marriage to a heterosexual couple who, for whatever reason, could not procreate?

            Please notice I am speaking about the right every human being has to know and be raised by their biological parents. The procreative ability of two people have nothing to do with this.

            4) "Monogamy was the precursor of marriage, which pre-dates recorded history, so what you define as marriage, isn't strictly accurate for everyone."

            Please tel,l when did this change, who had the necessary authority to make this change for the whole human race?

            5)>>"Should we not be considering equality under the law for all? "

            By providing the so called "equality" you mention you are removing a right given to children by nature not the law. Or do you think humans do not have the right to know and been raised by their biological parents?

            6) Let me ask you this. It is obvious that the two people who conceived you, your biological parents union was different than the union of two persons of the same sex. After you parents gave you life, and a same sex union is biologically sterile. So what was lost in the union of your parents that makes it "equal" to a same sex union in your eyes?

            7) "Should we not be considering equality under the law for all? Never mind, don't answer that"

            I have spoken to you with respect. I expect the same from you or this will be a very short conversation.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>1) Perhaps it will help if, next time, you use Catholic sources instead of Wikipedia. Here is the link for the code of Canon Law which covers the laws about Marriage.

            >>A quick read will show you that the term "Natural Marriage" is no place to seen.

            >>Natural marriage has always been understood as the marriage contract between a man and a woman. There is no need for the parties to be religious. Here is a quote by Pius XI for CASTI CONNUBII in which he speaks of Natural Marriage among nonbelievers. Par. 35

            >>35. And if this stability seems to be open to exception, however rare the exception may be, as in the case of certain natural marriages between unbelievers

            >>The Papal Encyclicals: 1903–1939. 1990 (C. Carlen, Ed.) (396). Ypsilanti, MI: The Pierian Press.
            Can.

            The word "natural" is an unnecessary prefix that the church has applied that the non-believers have no need for, thus making the "natural" part of the statement a religious statement. Marriage will do just fine. Except for some it won't do will it?

            2) The Wikipedia quote is correct in saying that in order for a Sacramental Marriage to exist a Natural Marriage is required.

            Which makes the term "natural marriage" a religious statement by default.

            >>"Please notice I am speaking about the right every human being has to know and be raised by their biological parents. The procreative ability of two people have nothing to do with this."

            That is as maybe, but the ability for two people to know or be raised by their biological parents resides in the premise that the married people have the ability to have children. My point is, that not all heterosexual marriages facilitate such a scenario, yet the criteria you have offered is not unilaterally demanded, just saying.

            >>4) "Monogamy was the precursor of marriage, which pre-dates recorded history, so what you define as marriage, isn't strictly accurate for everyone."

            >>Please tel,l when did this change, who had the necessary authority to make this change for the whole human race?

            You see no irony here in that comment? Who had the necessary authority at anytime? But I'll defer to cleverer folk...

            Relationships during the rise of civilization:

            Marriage as an institution did not evolve until much later. Relationships between men and women were based on survival. Men and women had to cooperate on a fairly equal basis or all would have died given the difficulty of staying alive. Life was difficult and required constant attention to providing food, protection from the elements, and defense against predators most notably other humans. Sexual unions were necessary for procreation and may have been pleasurable for both parties. Relationships based on love were probably rare and certainly not considered necessary. In fact, until the 19th century,
            marriages based on love were generally looked upon with suspicion. Marrying for love might detract from the necessity of marrying to provide for physical survival, procreation, and the protection of property rights. As civilizations arose and the ownership of property developed, men became more dominant in male-female relationships. Gradually societies moved from being
            matriarchal to patriarchal. Even gods moved from primarily female to primarily male. Ultimately “God” became a single, masculine entity. A male god can be thought of as a
            metaphor for the emergence of male economic and political dominance. (Harvey Joanning, Ph.D.)

            ...more here from the current argument POV...

            http://uctaa.net/articles/reflections/ref02/ref021.html

            "Prior to Trent, marriage was primarily a legal, not religious, distinction, a type of contract between two parties."

            In any case, it appears to have been hi jacked as a religious ceremony, it has been taken back by secularism for quite a while now, time to give it back completely.

            >>By providing the so called "equality" you mention you are removing a right given to children by nature not the law. Or do you think humans do not have the right to know and been raised by their biological parents?

            Oh in an ideal world that would be peachy, but what has that got to do with a same sex marriage? I refer to my original comment, not all heterosexual marriages will provide said scenario either, whats the problem other than prejudice?

            >>6) Let me ask you this. It is obvious that the two people who conceived you, your biological parents union was different than the union of two persons of the same sex. After you parents gave you life, and a same sex union is biologically sterile. So what was lost in the union of your parents that makes it "equal" to a same sex union in your eyes?

            You are getting hung up on a non sequitur. The happiness of two people who get married and live as a loving couple does not depend their ability to have children. We, as a society, do not make the same demands from a non same sex union that has no ability to have children, just because they can't have children. So that argument fails.

            >>I have spoken to you with respect. I expect the same from you or this will be a very short conversation.

            The reason that I remarked "...don't answer that", is because I already had an idea what the answer would be...I was right, you do not see the issue as an equality of human rights issue. Of course, the marriage to someone outside the faith, mixta religio, was once illegal too.

            Nettiquette demands that I am obliged to show YOU respect, even though I am completely unaware of whether it is deserving or not. I am not obliged to give your opinions, thoughts, worldview or ideologies the same. No more than your taste in fashion, genre of music, favorite food, political leanings or make of car you prefer. And you are free to reciprocate.

            I'm not permitted to make personal attacks or insulting discourse, likewise are you. The problem here is the sensibilities of the individuals are easily offended which make any constructive criticism like walking a mine field.

            I apologize for any prickly content.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            Hi Amos,

            >>"Please notice I am speaking about the right every human being has to know and be raised by their biological parents. The procreative ability of two people have nothing to do with this."

            >>>>That is as maybe, but the ability for two people to know or be raised by their biological parents resides in the premise that the married people have the ability to have children. My point is, that not all heterosexual marriages facilitate such a scenario, yet the criteria you have offered is not unilaterally demanded, just saying.

            The problem you are having, as I see it, is that you keep thinking marriage was legally protected by the state to protect the rights of two people, when in fact it was instituted to protect the rights of three: 2 spouses and 1 (or more) potential offspring. I alluded at this when I said in a previous post:

            "...marriage is oriented towards (among other things) ensuring that a child is raised by their biological father and mother"

            Even the link you provided agrees with this point. I quote:

            "Assumption #1: Marriage, as an institution, is solely for the raising of families.

            While marriage does aid in the raising of children, that is not, and never has been, its sole purpose."

            Notice how the pro-marriage position is misrepresented in assumption 1. We have never said that marriage is solely for raising children. What we say is that, extending legal equality to same sex couples will change the definition of marriage. Since the very important part of the rights of offspring will be erased.

            I planned a much longer answer but then remembered the existence of this talk, which explains my position in very succinct terms. Now the talk is more than an hour long. I would not expect you to listen to the whole thing. The relevant part is only about 7 mins long. Just listen from 4.30 to 11.00:

            http://www.loveandfidelity.org/resources/marriage-without-adjectives-explaining-natur
            al-marriage-2/

            >>6) Let me ask you this. It is obvious that the two people who conceived you, your biological parents union was different than the union of two persons of the same sex. After all you parents gave you life, and a same sex union is biologically sterile. So what was lost in the
            union of your parents that makes it "equal" to a same sex union in your eyes?

            >>You are getting hung up on a non sequitur. The happiness of two people who get married and live as a loving couple does not depend their ability to have children. We, as a society, do not make the same demands from a non same sex union that has no ability to have children, just because they can't have children. So that argument fails.

            The funny thing is I have asked this question to multiple defenders of SSM and them (like you) they all have trouble answering it. The all bring it back to couples who can not have children, but the question is about you biological parents, it is obvious your answer does not apply because your were born.

            The answer (which it is very hard for SSM defenders to deal with) boils down to this:

            Your parents relationship and a SSM's relationship by biological imperatives (and the fact that you are here) IS different. To make them equal you would have to subtract from their relationship.

            I believe it is called Cognitive Dissonance.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hello there..

            The problem you are having, as I see it, is that you keep thinking marriage was legally protected by the state to protect the rights of two people, when in fact it was instituted to protect the rights of three: 2 spouses and 1 (or more) potential offspring. I alluded at this when I said in a previous post:

            That is just not true. Marriage in antiquity was to protect the rights of 1 spouse, the male. Women were property. Marriage was a contract of ownership.

            "Feminist theory approaches opposite-sex marriage as an institution traditionally rooted in patriarchy that promotes male superiority and power over women. This power dynamicconceptualizes men as "the provider operating in the public sphere" and women as "the caregivers operating within the private sphere". "Theoretically, women ... [were] defined as the property of their husbands .... The adultery of a woman was always treated with more severity than that of a man." "[F]eminist demands for a wife's control over her own property were not met [in parts of Britain] until ... [laws were passed in the late 19th century]." This patriarchal dynamic is contrasted with a conception of egalitarian or Peer Marriage in which power and labour are divided equally, and not according to gender roles."

            "[T]he cultural, economic, political and legal supremacy of the husband" was "[t]raditional ... under English law"

            "...marriage is oriented towards (among other things) ensuring that a child is raised by their biological father and mother"

            Even the link you provided agrees with this point. I quote:

            Only where children are present. Not everyone who marries wants to, or can, have biological children. Many marriages, ratified by the Catholic church, had nothing whatsoever to do with love or procreation. It was a political device used to create

            People marry for many reasons, including: legal, social, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious.

            The institution of marriage, predates Christianity so Christianity doesn't have ownership of the word or how it is defined.

            Notice how the pro-marriage position is misrepresented in assumption 1. We have never said that marriage is solely for raising children. What we say is that, extending legal equality to same sex couples will change the definition of marriage. Since the very important part of the rights of offspring will be erased.

            Only your definition of the institution. For the umpteenth time...it is not necessary to introduce the red herring that is children.

            http://www.loveandfidelity.org...
            al-marriage-2/

            I listened, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is making an erroneous assertion just as you are. Not surprisingly, she is a Catholic. Her argument fails on a number of levels, non less so than the point of marriage being historically to look after the offspring...so for centuries before the institution of marriage, children were not being looked after. Another flaw is polygamy, many cultures have/had polygamy and who knows how prolific it was pre-history.

            You are entitled to think what a definition of marriage might be, you are not entitled to make it universal. You are certainly not entitled to enforce your narrow definition on those of us who have wish for it.

            The funny thing is I have asked this question to multiple defenders of SSM and them (like you) they all have trouble answering it. The all bring it back to couples who can not have children, but the question is about you biological parents, it is obvious your answer does not apply because your were born.

            There is no trouble answering it when your false premise is removed. Historically, marriage has had nothing to do with having children. I notice that the caveat "biological" is inserted for good measure...a bit sneaky. There has always been a requirement for surrogate parents. There is no reason why those parents need be heterosexual.

            The answer (which it is very hard for SSM defenders to deal with) boils down to this:</blockquote

            Your parents relationship and a SSM's relationship by biological imperatives (and the fact that you are here) IS different. To make them equal you would have to subtract from their relationship.

            There is that word biological being bandied about like it is the all important end all and be all which it isn't. Some people remain celibate, sexless marriages do exist. You are forcing your social norms on those of us who don't subscribe to your social norms, that is wrong and robs some of their basic human rights.

            I believe it is called Cognitive Dissonance.

            Only because you demand your definition of what marriage is to be the jumping off point. It isn't. The world is bearing witness to such.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Incidentally, I found this article while surfing on the subject. I don't necessarily agree on the conclusion, but it is interesting to note yet another contradictory view on the subject by a Roman Catholic.

            "The Purpose of Marriage is Not Procreation"

            Eric Simpson is a freelance writer, poet, and an associate editor of "In Communion: The Journal of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship". Eric's podcast, Seeking Peace, can be heard regularly on Ancient Faith Radio.

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-simpson/the-purpose-of-marriage-i_b_2973061.html

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            Hi Amos,

            Let me deal with this straw man first and if I have time, later, I'll deal with your other message. What straw man you might be asking? I quote from the Huff article:

            "The Purpose of Marriage is Not Procreation"

            "In the Manhattan Declaration, a pronouncement signed by Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy and laity alike, they allude to "Christian tradition" as dogmatically expressing the notion that the purpose of marriage is to sanction the sexual act for the purpose of procreation. Having children, therefore, is the fulfillment and meaning
            of marriage."

            Neither the Catholic Church or the Manhattan Declaration state this. Procreation, like I have been saying since the beginning, is just part of the "goods" of the marriage contract

            between two people.

            To be more specific:

            1) From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            Para. 1601 "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man
            and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."

            2) From the Manhattan declaration:

            "The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law.
            Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it
            would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for
            the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents' marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant."

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hello there...

            Let me deal with this straw man first and if I have time, later, I'll deal with your other message. What straw man you might be asking? I quote from the Huff article:

            I'm afraid you will need to reassess your understanding of the Straw Man Fallacy. It might be considered a Straw Man argument if I was merely proposing my own thoughts as a distortion of yours, but that is not the case.

            "The Purpose of Marriage is Not Procreation"

            Is an argument being made by vociferous Catholics. I am using a fellow religionist perspective to refute your definition of marriage.

            Neither the Catholic Church or the Manhattan Declaration state this. Procreation, like I have been saying since the beginning, is just part of the "goods" of the marriage contract between two people.

            It is the procreation part I was addressing, it is the procreation part that seems to be the biggest bugbear, the rest is window dressing and doesn't count.

            To be more specific:

            1) From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            Para. 1601 "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man
            and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."

            This is one interpretation of the definition of the institute of marriage. A religious one.

            2) From the Manhattan declaration:

            "The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law.

            Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it
            would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for
            the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents' marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant."

            "In contrast to the ancients, whose philosophical discussion of sex and sexual love did not confine it to marriage, Christian philosophers introduced a new focus on marriage as the sole permissible context for sex, marking a shift from viewing marriage as primarily a political and economic unit. St. Augustine (354–430), following St. Paul, condemns sex outside marriage and lust within it. “[A]bstinence from all sexual union is better even than marital intercourse performed for the sake of procreating,” and the unmarried state is best of all (The Excellence of Marriage, ca. 401, §6, 13/15). But marriage is justified by its goods: “children, fidelity [between spouses], and sacrament.” Although procreation is the purpose of marriage, marriage does not morally rehabilitate lust. Instead, the reason for the individual marital sexual act determines its permissibility. Sex for the sake of procreation is not sinful, and sex within marriage solely to satisfy lust is a pardonable (venial) sin. As marital sex is preferable to “fornication” (extra-marital sex), spouses owe the “marriage debt” (sex) to protect against temptation, thereby sustaining mutual fidelity (Marriage and Desire, Book I, ca. 418–19, §7, 8, 17/19, 14/16)."

            Before the religious started poking about, marriage wasn't just for those things that the religious cherry picked from eons of philosophical thinking.

            "In his depiction of the ideal state, Plato (427–347 BCE) described a form of marriage contrasting greatly with actual marriage practices of his time. He argued that, just as male and female watchdogs perform the same duties, men and women should work together, and, among Guardians, ‘wives and children [should be held] in common’ (The Republic, ca. 375–370 BCE, 423e–424a). To orchestrate eugenic breeding, temporary marriages would be made at festivals, where matches, apparently chosen by lot, would be secretly arranged by the Rulers. Resulting offspring would be taken from biological parents and reared anonymously in nurseries. Plato's reason for this radical restructuring of marriage was to extend family sympathies from the nuclear family to the state itself: the abolition of the private family was intended to discourage private interests at odds with the common good and the strength of the state (ibid., 449a-466d; in Plato's Laws, ca. 355–47 BCE, private marriage is retained but still designed for public benefit).

            My point is, you have "A" definition of the institute of marriage, but it is definitely not "THEE" definition of the institution of marriage. And while you are entitled to your narrow view of what marriage means to you and your beliefs, you are not entitled to force your view on those of us in the world that don't accept your definition.

            Based on that, what you are doing is discriminating and withholding a human right because of religious bias.

            The world at large does not agree with you on your premise, as is being borne out by the changes in same sex marriage legislation.

          • Michael Murray

            A same gender union by definition can never meet this criteria (i.e. they can not perpetuate their genetic code).

            Not yet. I wouldn't rest your opposition on this though. Medical science is progressing.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            Michael,

            Perhaps for two woman but I don't think men will ever want to go through delivery. Here is some documented proof, enjoy:

            http://youtu.be/qtR_-MINR1o

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • BenS

            Remind me never to shake your hand :-P

            September's the best time, that's just after my annual bath.

            You are committing the mistake of thinking that a same gender union is the same as a natural marriage between a male and a female of our species.

            What's a 'natural marriage'? There are no marriages in 'nature', it's entirely a social / legal construct. Some species do form monogamous bonds but it's by no means universal across all species and by no means strictly adhered to by those species that do.

            Furthermore, I'm not committing 'a mistake' in holding that same gender union is the same as a mixed gender one, I'm trying to correct your thinking that it isn't and drag your morality a few centuries closer to the present.

            Humans are different from animals in that we have reason, which allows us to overcome our natural instincts. Animals (and for the sake of argument plants) only react to instinct, they have no "reason" to engage, hence they make no moral choices, ergo, they can not commit sin.

            I've asked elsewhere in this meandering thread how we know that's the case and who it applies to. Some animals demonstrate many of the mental skills we do, to varying degrees. Dolphins, some primates, corvids... just for example (to my knowledge, I stand to be corrected).

            And what, then, if we encounter a species that clearly can reason (and better than us) but is a tri-gender species - a male, female and 'apex' which carries to term? Or hermaphroditic. Or something else entirely that I can't even conceive of. If it's a sin to have sex outside marriage and you won't marry them because they're not a single pairing of a male and a female then the whole species is irredemably condemned to sin.

            How about artificial intelligences? Software that can reason. Sexless. Can they get married? If not, if they 'procreate' with another piece of software by joint creating a new piece of sapient software have they sinned?

          • Michael Murray

            I wonder if in 100 years time, after all the homophobia has gone the way of slavery, someone will be having this argument and the Catholic side will be saying how they where in the vanguard of homosexual equality. I'd put money on it.

          • Max Driffill

            Harbey,

            If I may jump in,

            "A natural marriage is oriented towards (among other things) ensuring that a child is raised by their biological father and mother, which is the ideal environment for a successful conservation of our species and the successful transmission and perpetuation of our genetic code."

            Natural marriage is not a real thing. It is a religious category that you seem to be trying to wed to an erroneous conception of what human mating systems do. Marriage in the formal sense is fairly new to our species (when set against the long time our species has existed). There is no indication from anthropology/paleontology or archaeology that human pairs were forever, or that human children have always been raised exclusively by their biological father and mother (speaking of which, didn't God really mangle this model of success with poor Mary and Joeseph). Indeed the evidence from human mating systems seems to indicate that humans are at best described as serial monogamists.

            You also seem to be confused about what evolutionary processes do. Selective processes do not produce long term good of the group adaptations. They produce adaptations that result in short term benefits. Our genetic code could be just as well served by one male and many female units, or a female and two or three males. Or by males and females pairing up, mostly faithfully, but occasionally engaging in extra-pair copulation. All of these systems have been practiced by humans, and a few others besides. All service the genetic code adequately. But why on earth should that be important? Before you can utilize the perpetuation of our genetic code as a worthy moral goal, I think you first must establish why that is a moral good.

            "A same gender union by definition can never meet this criteria (i.e. they can not perpetuate their genetic code). Therefore they are not the same thing."

            Again, so what? Natural marriage is a made up term, and a same gender couple can meet the definition of marriage defined as two lovers agreeing to share their life together, perhaps adopt and love a few kids. Why should perpetuating their genetic code matter to them? Or to you?

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            "If I may jump in," By all means the water is warm :-)

            "Natural marriage is not a real thing. It is a religious category that you seem to be trying to wed to an erroneous conception of what human mating systems do."

            Last night I used the term Natural Marriage as it is intended to be used. To describe a non-religious marriage (Which is the way the law & Church has always understand it). If you want to keep insisting this is religious, there is nothing I can do to change your mind.

            Lastly, you said:

            " But why on earth should that be important? Before you can utilize the perpetuation of our genetic code as a worthy moral goal, I think you first must establish why that is a moral good."

            &

            "Why should perpetuating their genetic code matter to them? Or to you?"

            First of all I never talked about morality, I purposely limited my answer to evolutionary language (I though I made that point very clear) In fact the idea is not mine, I purposely utilized a concept introduced into Evolutionary Biology by non-other than Richard Dawkins (I'm assuming you know who Dr. Dawkins is) in his book "The Selfish Gene" Your argument is with him, not me.

            Here is PDF of this book for you. Just something to read for the weekend.

            http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/selfishgene-dowkins.pdf

            ...and here is a Wikipedia article about the book.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene

            I will particularly point your attention to these passage:

            "Dawkins proposes the idea of the "replicator,"[4] the initial molecule which first managed to reproduce itself and thus gained an advantage over other molecules within the primordial soup.[5] Today, Dawkins postulates, the replicators are the genes within organisms, with each organism's body serving the purpose of a 'survival
            machine' for its genes.

            Dawkins writes that gene combinations which help an organism to survive and reproduce tend to also improve the gene's own chances of being passed on and, as a result, frequently "successful" genes will also be beneficial to the organism. An example of this might be a gene
            that protects the organism against a disease, which helps the gene spread and also helps the organism."

            I'm working on an answer to Ben in which I expand on my points from last night. I will post it sometime this weekend. Stay tuned!

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey

          • Andre Boillot

            Deacon Santiago,

            "I purposely used evolutionary theory language, for clarity."

            With respect (and a great deal of awkwardness), I invite you to look into why the human male's penis is shaped the way it is. Hint: it doesn't lead to the conclusion that evolution has geared humanity towards "one man and one woman".

      • Mary Parenti McCann

        Deacon Harbey, As a Catholic, I understood what you meant. However, Ben does not, (as you can tell from his response). There is much moral relativism in this discussion, and I would be wading in quicksand to respond, so I haven't (only to yours). All I can say is: ..."blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Thank you for your ministry, I wish you blessings!

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          Thanks Mary, please keep me in your payers as I will do the same for you.

          In His peace,

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • Michael Murray

        Engaging in sex, any type of sex outside of the bond of marriage is immoral (In fact a sin).

        I assume this means outside of the bond of Catholic marriage ?

        I found some interesting figures awhile back and posted them here.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(law)#Extramarital_births

        Percentage of children born to unmarried couples.

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          For Catholics yes, they are bound by the laws of the Church. For non Catholics outside of the marriage bond means outside the marital contract.

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          Deacon Harbey Santiago

    • Michael Murray

      And hello, everyone. Name's Ben, as per my username. :)

      Hi Ben. Good name. I borrowed it for one of my kids. Michael

  • cowalker

    I'd say it was far more likely that our "feeling" that harming the innocent is wrong is
    the result of several natural influences in our lives. One of these influences is hard-wired aversion to harming innocent members of our tribe because humans inclined to do this wouldn't have survived to reproduce as often as those who could cooperate reliably. Another is our inborn inclination to empathize with others--another survival trait important to creatures who are interdependent. As our cultures have evolved, we are able to perceive the humanity of those outside of our tribe--our "tribe" has expanded beyond a band of people we are personally connected to on a daily basis and who look just like us. Another powerful influence is the behavior modeled by those around us as we grow up.

    Why do we need anything more to explain the similarity of human morality around the globe?
    Yes, we would all like to claim the support of a supernaturally approved plan to make it clear to all that they "ought" to follow our version of objective morality. But the truth is that even those who claim this kind of support can't agree among themselves. So how are they any better off than the atheists? We are all reduced to persuading others that our moral vision "ought" to be universally accepted.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If what we think of morality is nothing more than gene-survival strategies, I think you should never again complain of anything anyone does to you.

      For example, if you are being murdered, the best you can say is, "Don't kill me; my genes won't survive!" But your killer could reply, "My power over you shows my genes should survive, not yours . . . but only time will tell. Adios!"

      • Longshanks

        Aaaand another morally bankrupt assertion by someone who doesn't understand what he's arguing about.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Why is it morally bankrupt and what am I misunderstanding?

          • Longshanks

            It is morally bankrupt because it is absent moral content.

            What are you misunderstanding? I'm not sure that I'm qualified to provide you with a...comprehensive...list.

            Let me just point out that the theory of 'objective' morality absent supernatural authority does not arise out of the fitness of individual sets of genes for hand-to-hand combat.

            We're not animals, we live in a society.

        • Luke Arredondo

          Come on, Longshanks. Keep it civil.

          • Longshanks

            Really?

            And your call for people to understand one another and not set up straw men to attack is enforced...when?

            Or is it cool if we just don't use mean-sounding words?

            Luke, when did you stop beating your wife?

            Maybe start enforcing the policy of debating the other side's actual points instead of forcing atheists to be constantly accused of moral imbecility.

          • Luke Arredondo

            Hey Longshanks,

            Yes, really. You contribute a lot to this site, and it's great to have people keeping the discussion moving forward. And I don't harbor any ill-will toward you at all. I'm simply supposed to check in, as often as I'm able, and keep an eye out for posts which don't contribute to the discussion of arguments. And your post fit clearly in that category. I didn't set up a straw man. I didn't say anything insulting about you. I simply said that your comment didn't fit in with the goal of the site. I thought perhaps you would like to see why it was edited rather than me just merely deleting it. In the future I'll just delete, if that is what you would prefer. What we would prefer is that you don't harass individuals. I think you are perfectly smart enough to know how to discuss an idea without attacking a person.

            Peace,

            Luke

          • Longshanks

            "I think you should never again complain of anything anyone does to you."

            vs.

            "You don't understand what you're arguing against and what you put in my mouth is a vile thing." (paraphrased, the real words will be removed)

            And I am "harassing" individuals...if you believe that then you should harbor me ill will.

            But you don't, and I'm not. I honestly and bluntly replied to an incredibly dishonest characterization made of me and others who believe similarly.

            I never accused you of setting up a straw man. I am, however, accusing you of being a bad moderator.

            Delete whatever you want, just enforce the standards fairly, or you'll end up with an echo chamber.

            If I cared about your assesment of my intelligence, I would accept your condescending affirmation.

            *Edit*
            Oh, and Peace!

      • primenumbers

        You've just argued from an "is" to an "ought". Evolution describes what we observe - it doesn't tell us what ought to occur.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          So what is the basis of "ought" that everyone should subject himself to?

          • primenumbers

            We've found a number of things work, so the "ought" is pragmatism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay, I agree that pragmatism is useful but it can easily result in incredible injustices.

            For example, Margaret Sanger and the eugenicists thought the world would be better off without certain kinds of people. I bristle at that because I'd probably qualify as one of those who shouldn't be.

          • Longshanks

            In an effort to come down of a high horse so recently mounted, let me tell you that I agree with "pragmatism is useful but it can easily result in incredible injustices."

          • primenumbers

            But of course pragmatism doesn't claim to be anything other than that it is, whereas religious based morality can easily result in incredible injustices, it claims to be much more than a pragmatic approach to morality.

          • primenumbers

            Indeed pragmatism isn't perfect, but it does work well enough.

      • Rationalist1

        Kevin - not appropriate.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't understand why this is not an appropriate argument. I don't mean "cowalker" personally. I mean anyone who argues from this basis.

          • Rationalist1

            No one maintains that genes should determine morality but it is a strawman accusation made against non believers.

          • Longshanks

            You don't understand why it's not appropriate?

            Hmmm.

            Try this.

            Read through this thread.
            Read a well-regarded humanist/materialist who espouses the concept of "gene-survival" based morality. (May I charitably recommend Harris' The Moral Landscape)
            Pick an argument you see in either place.

            Attack that.

            Please do not:
            1) Try to come up with your own arguments that you think we must adhere to.
            2) Using the arguments from 1, reason in an incomplete and non-sequitur way.
            3) Come to a conclusion which debunks "gene-sruvival" based morality from 1 and 2, when in reality you had already decided what the outcome of the argument must be.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ouch.

            I was replying to Rationalist1, not Longshanks.

            This is the gyst of my understanding of what Dawkins argues about the selfish gene meme.

            I promise I will try to understand your arguments as you make them, not as I "imagine" them.

          • Andrew G.

            Something of an aside, but I'm not at all impressed by Harris on morality - other atheist writers have done better, including Richard Carrier and Adam Lee.

          • Rationalist1

            I'm not impressed with his book. Only that he wrote it and gets the dialogue happening.

          • Longshanks

            I'll have to check them out.

            Do you have any free-floating specifics that you want to point out re: Harris?

            (This question is for both Rationalist and Andrew)

      • cowalker

        Behavior influenced by genes isn't a "reason" for behavior. It IS the behavior. It has been shaped by the result of thousands of generations either adapting to conditions or not. Humans wouldn't have thrived as a species if they routinely killed every person they encountered. Of course there is plenty of evidence that one tribe would occasionally wipe out another and thereby reduce competition for resources. That's why human nature has a strong aggressive element. But, thankfully few people interpret this inborn drive to eliminate competitive groups as proving the objective morality of genocide.
        By the way, nobody is saying that we should embrace the process of natural selection and its results as a "good" thing. It is just how life on earth evolved. Acknowledging this helps us understand ourselves.

        Saying things like "You can't criticize the Nazis if you don't believe in objective morality" or "You can't complain about being murdered if you don't believe in objective morality" is completely beside the point. The point is, we all have to struggle to reconcile our individual needs with those of others on many levels, ranging from our close family members through our neighborhood through our nation up through global conflicts. We have found no more benefit in pointing to an objective morality that believers cannot agree on than we have in drawing on tradition, evidence, reason and emotional appeals. In the end, we don't have to order the cosmos--we have to reach working agreements amongst ourselves. It's not easy, neat, universal or eternal. It's what we got.

  • Andre Boillot

    "we cannot criticize the Nazis for killing millions of Jews, any more than we can criticize the Yankees for beating the Tigers"

    First of all, the Yankees haven't been beating the Tigers for some time now (definitely not in the playoffs!). Second of all, see "first of all".

    • Luke Arredondo

      Nice!

  • Rationalist1

    If it's because of free will that we sin and evil exists, then is there no free will in heaven or if there is what happens when someone sins. Do we get another non serviam incident like Lucifer again.
    "And indeed, atheists constantly go against their genetic hard-wiring." No atheist that I know of thinks that genetics is normative. It informs us of our dispositions, it doesn't set them. Otherwise we'd all be breeding like rabbits.

    "To acknowledge evil, you must acknowledge an objective system of moral laws." No, all you need to acknowledge is that humans are capable through reason, empathy, discussion, science, experience, etc. to determine a set of laws that is beneficial for society. And if you say the laws come from God then you are living in a Theocracy and very few people want that.

    • primenumbers

      To think that moral laws come from God is probably an over-active agency detection at work.

  • Rationalist1

    Yes, the moral zeitgeist does change.

    500 years ago being an atheist could get one imprisoned or killed in many western nations, today it doesn't.

    200 years ago slavery existed in many Western nations, today it doesn't.

    100 years ago women couldn't vote or run for office in most Western nations, today they can.

    50 years ago homosexuals were imprisoned in the West for their practices, today they are not.

    What will change in 50, 100, 200 or 500 years from now? Any ideas?

  • severalspeciesof

    This was supposed to be a place for dialogue, yet my last comment was removed by a moderator, along with the comment put up that I responded to. So unless that is rectified or an answer to why this happened, I'm gone... Here's the exchange:

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      There's no record of any deleted posts by you, several. Not that I can see in the disqus record.

    • Octavo

      Let's try to give the mods the benefit of the doubt. Usually when they delete a comment, they say why they did so, and then the comment is replaced by text that says "This comment has been deleted." Something may have just gone wrong.

      • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

        I think what may have happened is that Brandon deleted his comment, so several isn't "responding" to anything, so disqus is confused.

        • severalspeciesof

          This makes some sense. Advice: Don't remove posts, unless of course the posts do not line up with commenting rules, and I didn't/don't see any reason for Brandon to pull his own comment since it did follow commenting rules...

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Maybe he thought he wasn't adding anything constructive. I've removed a few of my own hot-headed posts (not that his was hot-headed, but you know what I mean).

        • Ignorant Amos

          In my experience, Disqus is renowned for getting "confused" Daniel...as a result, folk tend to get snarky ... }80)~

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      And besides, your response was fallacious, several.To do evil requires volition, but volition does not demand doing evil.

      • Octavo

        Plus, Yahweh has commanded evil several times. The Numbers 31 massacre is a good example.

        ~Jesse Webster

      • severalspeciesof

        Is volition freewill? (I'm trying to get at what you mean)

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Yes, I don't see a meaningful distinction in the two words.

          • severalspeciesof

            So let me get this straight. You make the claim that:

            1. God has freewill (I think, correct me if I'm wrong)

            2. God, as per Catholic tradition, cannot do evil (which also means it cannot choose evil).

            3. God gave us freewill so that we could choose evil if we wanted,

            4. Had he not done that (allow us to choose evil) we wouldn't have freewill.

            Please square all 4 for me if you can...

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            3. is false. He gave us free will so we can choose Good. Being able to choose evil is the other side of that ontological coin.

          • primenumbers

            But choosing to do evil is the other side of the coin of free will, and free will is the free choice to do either (or to do things that couldn't have moral values attached to them too). If free will is not a barrier for God or Jesus to only do good, it's not a barrier for us either. In other words, free will is not an answer to the problem of evil.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            We don't have perfected wills. Dcn Harbey had a great post on this thread elsewhere and he nailed it better than I could.

          • primenumbers

            But God have made us with perfect wills and free will, and hence he's still the problem in the problem of evil and free will is not the defence.

          • severalspeciesof

            "We don't have perfected wills."

            And once again then, this whole 'conundrum' can be placed at the foot of god...

          • primenumbers

            Amusing that the theist posits a God with the most awesome of power available and claims all of creation is their's - yet at every opportunity responsibility never belongs to God.

          • Octavo

            So, we're created sick and commanded to be well?

    • Sample1

      severalspeciesof,

      I've had replies removed (2 today and 1 yesterday) though I'm unaware by what mechanism (moderator/user error/disqus/flagging/Georg Gänswein).

      Anyway, I carefully re-read my posts and could not discern any TOU violations. Nuance is a female dog though.

      That said, in both cases, they were back up in about an hour. I hope yours reappear.

      Mike

      • severalspeciesof

        Thanks...

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      severalspeciesof, your comment wasn't intentionally removed. I removed my own comment within seconds after posting, before seeing any replies. Disqus must not have refreshed the cache and still showed it. Thus when you replied, it was removed.

      • severalspeciesof

        Got it, but you really needn't have removed it. It was good bait... ;-)

    • Fr.Sean

      Severalspeciesof,
      I have posted things that have been pro-theist and they have disappeared shortly after i posted them. in fact i started copying my post's right after i type them so that if they get lost again i can just past them again. Disquis seems to take a little tweeking.

      • severalspeciesof

        All is good now Sean, thanks...

  • Octavo

    Misunderstandings like this are why I prefer not to use the terms "good" and "evil." They're not very descriptive. I find that I get more mileage out of the terms "kindness", "cruelty", and suffering. One doesn't need to believe in a christian-style system of objective morals to see that the problem of evil is still a powerful internal critique of theist narratives.

    Your deity is alleged to be very powerful and very compassionate, but the world is filled with cruelty and suffering. Most fictional heroes are able to do more for humanity than Yahweh does and in their narratives, they don't seem to need to violate free will to do so.

    ~Jesse Webster

  • Henry

    I attended a debate last month at UB between David Baggett and John Shook about morality with our without God. I was shocked to hear Shook's atheist position explaining that everyone knows that [torture is wrong and that we must help someone in need - morality exists and has always existed - it just does]. Morality sounds kind of like......GOD

    • Rationalist1

      Do you know if the debate is online? But I would assert that slavery is wrong and always has been, it's just that previously people were blinded by their cultural/religious/philosophical/pragmatic biases to accept it.

      • BenS

        This bit interests me. If slavery is 'wrong and always has been' then it raises the question of whether it's moral to own any other living things. If so, how do we determine which? Can we own an ape? A dolphin? A dog? A bird? An insect? A plant? Where is the line drawn when it stops being wrong and starts being morally acceptable?

        If morality is objective, this line should be clear and easily pointed to.

        • Rationalist1

          I think the two most important things we should do as moral agents is examine how our current conduct conforms to our current morality and to question what moral changes should be made. It's the basis of the question I asked in another post what new morality can we see in the future? Vegetarianism, no abortion, no children in poverty, etc.

          • BenS

            That's exactly what I wonder. I'm a carnivore. I'll eat anything I can catch in the supermarket. Being an atheist also gives me carte blanche to eat babies! However, I fully expect that in two, three centuries from now I'll be considered in the same boat as slave owners are in our time. How on Earth can he eat another animal? What kind of immoral monster is he?!?

            The answer is, I think, that I'm a product of my times and that morality is subjective.

          • Rationalist1

            BenS - I;m a canivore as well and I also think the judgement of history will not be on my side.

      • Henry

        Rat1 - not sure what you mean here. I think you may share the common misunderstanding that the Church only recently turned against slavery. Is this correct?

        • Andre Boillot

          Henry,

          Sorry to intrude. Are you unfamiliar with the passages in the Old Testament where God either condones or instructs the taking and keeping of slaves?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            The Catholic Church has never been ok with slavery.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm a bit rusty, but I believe slavery is condone through the New Testament as well. As for what the RCC's official position has been, I'm less familiar. When did the RCC begin repudiating slavery?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I know Alexander the VI (yes, that one) for all the horribleness that was his papacy, repudiated the American bishops for saying "Well, I mean, slavery, economics, I could see how..." Alexander was like "No, you're absurd." Which was rich, coming from him, but still. Even a horrible example of a Catholic man could step up to the moral plate once in a while.

          • Andre Boillot

            I hope you (or anyone) will give an example of the RCC condemning slavery somewhat earlier than the 1500s.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Well, in that case I have to ask...

            All slaves, or just fellow Christians as slaves?

            There have been movements throughout Church history that said that slavery was wrong with another human, but they never took over until the 1500s (still well ahead of their contemporaries).

          • Andre Boillot

            Daniel,

            "Well, in that case I have to ask...

            All slaves, or just fellow Christians as slaves?"

            You're correct in needing to specify (as with Hebrew & non-Hebrew slaves in the OT).

            Let's ignore that such a distinction persisted as long as it did, and give credit where it's due, if only grading on a curve. I'm feeling charitable.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I appreciate it, as always, Andre.

            Honestly though, if there was one thing that made me question objectivity in morality, it would be slavery. It makes so much sense to the mind, and is so built into our genetics (the will to dominate, the stranger-bias, all of these things).

            But we know now its wrong. Can it be said to have always been wrong?

          • Andre Boillot

            Daniel,

            "But we know now its wrong. Can it be said to have always been wrong?"

            I'm not sure what you're asking. Do you mean something along the lines of "is indentured servitude always wrong?" Or are you asking if the scales slid at some point between the OT and modern times?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I'm asking about cultural/relativistic morality. Not is it always wrong, but has it always been wrong, or was it not-wrong before 1500 or whenever.

          • Andre Boillot

            Daniel,

            I guess I'm still not clear, but I'll pretend I am and answer anyways.

            When you say: "But we know now its wrong. Can it be said to have always been wrong?"

            I'm not sure how you would arrive at knowing something like slavery is wrong "now", and then wonder if it might have been not-wrong at some other point. What kind of definition of slavery and/or morality are you working off of if this is a question? I would say that slavery has always been wrong, but that different societies have attempted to rationalize it's institution in various ways.

            As it relates to this discussion, we're confronted with the divine condoning and commanding to take slaves in the OT, and the seeming condoning of slavery through the NT. Divine sanction which likely helped to lengthen the perpetuation of this institution.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I'm exploring, I'm not probing for a weakness. You answered the question correctly. Fake it til you make it I suppose!

            So would *you* say there is objective morality? Or are some things objectively moral and some things only culturaly moral (like polygamy, for example)?

          • Andre Boillot

            I would probably subscribe to an idea of a sliding scale of things being more or less moral, but that scale would be independent of culture.

            For example:

            Polygamy - to me this is difficult because it seems like something which, on paper, is neutral on the morality scale. It's possible that, for every man who takes several women, there could be a woman that takes several men (which would negate opposition on the grounds of creating numerical gender imbalances). It's also possible that all parties could be satisfied by this arrangement (negating opposition on the grounds that the many spouses aren't equally cared for). In practice, however, polygamy is almost always men taking several women, and suffers from extreme power imbalances and abuse.

            Female circumcision - to me this is an easy one, because I don't care what your culture says, ladies should be able to enjoy the special hug.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            If there's a scale of moral code, is there a terminus at either end? The basest evil and the highest good?

          • Andre Boillot

            Entirely possible, though not necessarily knowable and/or achievable.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            No, not necessarily. But is this an admission that there may be objective good?

          • Andre Boillot

            Daniel, I'll happily admit that anything is possible. We might someday find *the* objective good. In the mean time, it doesn't preclude us from making objective moral judgements.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Andre, I would never say that it would. Have I ever said that? I'm wounded you'd attribute that to me.

            I just ask because, if there's a possibility of an objective good, then there's a possibility of an external law-maker who orders everything according to that objective good.

          • Andre Boillot

            Daniel, you want to have a wound-off? I gave you the "we cool" affirmation long ago!

            Didn't mean to imply that you were saying what you think you thought I was saying you were saying.

            "I just ask because, if there's a possibility of an objective good, then there's a possibility of an external law-maker who orders everything according to that objective good."

            Sure, possibly :)

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I still fondly remember that "we cool"...

            I'm not going to push our agreement by asking about likelihood.

          • Andre Boillot

            Haha

            AND I SAY GOOD DAY TO YOU SIR!

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            We must keep in mind the distinction between *knowing* the objective good and whether it exists, between the epistemological question and the ontological question of objective morality.

            Objective morality may exist--and thus God, too--even if we aren't able to discern that objective morality.

          • Andre Boillot

            Sure.

          • BenS

            "I'm not sure how you would arrive at knowing something like slavery is wrong "now", and then wonder if it might have been not-wrong at some other point."

            We own dogs now. We keep them locked up, they're on leashes when we permit them to go out, we can buy and sell them... perhaps a millenia from now people would look back at this and bemoan our immoral ways and how appalling it is that we try to rationalise it in various ways.

            Visitors from K-PAX already do....

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Right! So the question is, should we even be trying to preempt where we'll end up on the moral scale? Do we search for morality or just let it find us? Am I making sense? It's been a long day.

          • Rationalist1

            We do both. We try to improve our moral principles and are open to ideas from outside.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            But is there somewhere we're progressing towards? Wouldn't an atheist say no? (Not putting words in your mouth, I'm asking)

            We're just, sort of, moving towards a meatless, pet-less future state and then God know where after that?

          • Rationalist1

            No, there's no predefined goal. It's our world and we have only ourselves and one hopes most of us are striving to make it better.

            I don't know about meatless or petless but I do know that siciety has changed on many issues through this process. During my lifetime (and I'm not that old) we have gone from the practice homosexuality between consenting adults being illegal to legal now. One may still disagree with the practice but very few would seek to imprison those who practice it.

          • BenS

            I think that would depend on whether you believe in an objective morality or not.

            If you do, then you don't need to preempt where you'll be on the scale - you should know absolutely where you are or the scale is useless.

            If you don't, then you probably won't be able to. You'll be mired in the prevailing thought of the time and will only dimly be able to see past it.

            If, for example, you absolutely, genuinely believed that black people were more apes than men then your actions towards them, in your eyes, might be gloriously moral. You feed them, clothe them, house them and only ask them to do some menial chores in the field, much like a horse or an ox. It's only with knowledge that you don't have that you might look back at your actions and be appalled.

          • Andre Boillot

            BenS,

            My point was that, while you might come to understand how something was previously permissible, that context wouldn't mean that those actions would have been objectively moral at the time.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            So... like the Old Testament?

          • Andre Boillot

            Sure, much like the OT (but I didn't think this was the place to discuss the OT). Except in my thinking, it's perfectly predictable that human, as evolving primates, are stumbling there way through existence with a sense of morality that's been cobbled together through trial and error. One would expect to look back on this sort of method and find crude elements and many mistakes, and while one would not condone the mistakes of the past, one would understand.

            The OT strikes me as a different beast - The word of God. Why should he be suffering from the same misapprehensions we as mere animals do? Why is it necessary to invoke moral relativism to justify actions we now view as evil, when dealing with he-who-is-good?

          • BenS

            Ah, I see. Thanks for clarifying; sometimes I'm a bit dense. :)

            This is the problem I have with a so-called objective morality. People can, through no fault of their own, end up being immoral without even knowing they were being so.

            And if reward and punishment is meted out based on this objective morality then it makes it somewhat unfair. I'd even go as far as to say it was immoral...

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It's not meted out on a point system or checks and x's on the "objective morality" scorecard. While everyone should live according to objective morality (natural law, for example, and if you're lucky, you get it perfected through Christ and the Church), but that's not how you're judged. You're judged by God, who loves you and wants you to be with Him for eternity.

            So ignorance or a misapprehension of objective good is not itself damning. That's why the Church differentiates between invincible ignorance and other culpable ignorance.

          • BenS

            "You're judged by God, who loves you and wants you to be with Him for eternity."

            Unless I commit one of umpteen sins that all his followers seem somewhat vague about with each faction claiming their own set of sins and permissible activities with no clear way of determining who's right.

            If he loved me and wanted me to be with him for eternity then why can't he have made it absolutely 100% clear what is and isn't permitted and then left me to decide whether I follow the rules or not?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I just said that the rules aren't the standard for salvation. A love of God, an earnest pursuit of truth wherever it leads, loving your neighbor as yourself, if you can honestly say you've done these things. Decide whether you love Him back or not, and the rest falls into place. The "rules" should really be the results of loving God, and the bare minimum at that.

          • BenS

            Daniel, now I'm confused so you may need to bear with me.

            If the rules aren't the standard for salvation then morality isn't objective. Or, if it is, it doesn't matter.

            If I commit an objectively immoral action but think I'm being moral and this in no way is counted against me then the morals aren't objective. They're subjective. I believed I was being moral and was judged accordingly.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Whether or not you think it's right or wrong doesn't affect your rightness or wrongness. A child who steals does wrong. But a child who didn't know they were stealing (no concept of stealing, say, because everything is their's) is still doing wrong, but can't be faulted for it because ignorance.

          • BenS

            So... in what sense does an objective morality even matter then?

            That's kind of like me coming up with a new temperature scale and then not telling anyone about it. Sure, it's *possible* to judge temperatures to the nearest MilliBen but it means absolutely nothing.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I didn't name my temp scale after you....

            Anyway, the point is that objective morality should be the goal, always. If you know slavery is wrong, you shouldn't enslave. Grading based on knowledge, mindset, etc does not remove the role that objective morality plays as a frame of reference and goal for conduct.

          • BenS

            I came up with it, it's my temperature scale! Besides, a millimcgiffin sounds silly....

            Just to clarify, how can objective morality be a frame of reference if you don't know about it?

            To use your example above, if a child doesn't know it's doing wrong and it can't be faulted for it then how can it have a goal to stop doing wrong when it doesn't know it is? What use, at all, is the objective morality?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I laughed aloud at millimcgiffin. My coworkers are looking at me funny.

            We have a framework for objective morality, and sure we've been working outt he kinks for millenia, but we're making progress.

            Few people would say (I think) that objective morality is *completely* unknowable. We've got some pretty good precepts. Some great ones, even. Some really good starting points and boundaries.

            So we teach these to our children so they'll learn them, maybe they'll discover some new ones on their own. The point being, even if objective morality isn't completely known, knowing some of it is great, we can figure out where to go next.

            And still, if there is objective morality, that's a huge paradigm shift for some people philosophically, even if we can only know some.

            I feel like your question is like me asking "If we can't know how life originated, why study biology?"

          • primenumbers

            If for the sake of this particular argument we go with the existence (no matter what the source) of some objective morality, the question now returns to epistemology - by what reliable means do we come to know this objective morality?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            How have we come to know morality to date? Morality is logic extended into human relations (and relations with the world), right? I start with the premise "I am the most important" in a pre-historic setting, and my morals flow from that. Over time it becomes My Family is most important, then My Tribe, then My Country, My Race, My Gender, My Species (obviously this isn't a conscience process, nor am I arguing this is what literally happens). But morality flows from our understanding of ourselves and others. Objective morality is the absolute best way you can interact with your fellow man.

          • primenumbers

            Yes, we come to figure out what morality works and doesn't work via a pragmatic approach. That can indeed work us towards a locally optimum morality, but it can do so while lacking an objective goal (just as evolution can work towards a local optimum without having a goal state in mind).

            I like your definition of objective morality as "the absolute best way you can interact with your fellow man" as this can indeed be determined pragmatically, is mind independent and also doesn't require a God to pre-define the answer - it's rather empirical. It also fits in with how we have seen morality evolve over time as we try to figure out the best way to pragmatically make our societies work. I don't think many theists would see such a morality as objective though, not in the sense that they want to use the word.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            But I think it is (though you didn't it like it when I said it last time). If God made the rules...

            Does it require a God? No. Does it remove God? No, it doesn't have to. There may be no teleology in evolution (or there may be, I don't know/doesn't matter), but I think a teleology in ethics makes perfect sense. But maybe those are just my utopian longings.

            Speaking of Utopia, have you read Thomas More's? I think you'd like it, and it's a great piece on ethics sans-religion and society-building.

          • primenumbers

            "Does it require a God? No. Does it remove God? No, it doesn't have to." - agreed. I don't think moral arguments point to God at all, and the argument from evil just invalidates specific conceptions of God and not the god of deism.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I don't think arguments from evil provide as much trouble for religion as is claimed. Yes, it requires thinking about how a transcendent perfect being who has supreme rationality allows people to interact on this world with the world and each other, which is hard to do. But there are some very good responses to it.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I don't think arguments from evil provide as much trouble for religion as is claimed.

            I think it is more of a problem for religious people than it is for religion. In reading the many stories of religious people thinking their ways out, especially clergy, this single problem stands out above all others. It seems, the more kind and loving the people, the more the problem. I have yet to hear this described as much of a problem by anyone who I would characterize as cold-hearted, or vindictive, or generally uncaring of others.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Perhaps, but many Saintly people, while they have struggled with it, stop whining and set to work doing what they can to alleviate the suffering (I'm not saying we're all sitting around doing nothing).

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            ... stop whining and set to work doing what they can ...

            But do they continue to believe? How would you know?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            The Church does some thorough vetting before they canonize anyone.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Oh, I took "Saintly" in your comment as equivalent to "goodly." I did not realize you meant persons who had been canonized. I understand that the first requirement for canonization is that you be dead. I was talking about living persons who have discarded religion and report that the Problem of Evil caused them to stop believing, even if they stayed, and prayed, and did not tell anyone around.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Oh, I see. I don't know, people drop the faith for all sorts of reasons, and pick it up for quite a lot too. The problem of suffering is tough, I didn't mean to downplay that, I wanted to emphasize that it doesn't "break" theism.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            The problem of suffering is tough, I didn't mean to downplay that, ...

            I was talking about the Problem of Evil. Suffering is connected, but different. I have written about that here.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Sure, for easy access I just lump the two together under the big umbrella of "the Problem of Bad".

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            ... I just lump the two together ...

            I don't think you should do that because one is troubling for the religious while the other has a direct scientific answer. I explain that in the link I gave you.

            There is another entire problem of why a perfectly good deity would cause or allow natural disasters to happen to people. That one is not evil inflicted by others, and is not about why we suffer in general. I still advise keeping that separate, but you might not.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I was being facetious, but I'm reading through your post right now. I've always heard the problem of natural disasters (not caused by God, if science has anything to say) as wrapped up in the problem of suffering. Why the distinction for you?

          • primenumbers

            There are good responses in the sense that the believing theist can convince themselves that the response rationalizes the dissonance of an evil world and loving God. I don't think you'll find that people who do not believing in God have such good things to say about the responses though (as you can probably guess).

            The problem of suffering though, is I think even more troublesome for the theist. We can have that discussion when the appropriate thread appears.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            No of course not, because the arguments given by theists have different premises than atheists have.

            That said, I consider myself reasonably intelligent and rational, and I am satisfied with some of the responses.

          • primenumbers

            Reasonably intelligent and rational people have a much better time of rationalizing things away though :-) In other words, if you want to believe in God, you'll find the rationalizations that work for you. (BTW, trying not to be condescending here) - I guess what I'm saying is that you need to be sure that your opinion of the arguments rationalizing the problem from evil in favour of God existing are not as the result of confirmation bias.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I try to examine everything from a critical eye, and I'm quite good at DAing (even on myself). I don't take that as condescending.

          • primenumbers

            Thanks Daniel. Discussing these things can be tricky when it gets into the realm of our personal opinions on things. In my work I have to take a lot of care to elicit opinions on what I'm working on (it's a subjective field) without biasing the answer. I know I'm not good enough at judging my own work objectively and do tend to go with solutions to problems I've invented or to which solution has had the most work invested into it. In other words, I'm well enough aware of the confirmation biases in my own field, and hence in other fields I'm getting better at giving as strong a criticism as I give to positions that I disagree with to ones that I agree with.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Hey, this is why I come here and talk it out.

          • primenumbers

            Sounds like a plan!

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I think you'd like it, and it's a great piece on ethics sans-religion and society-building.

            Have you read "The Moral Landscape" by Sam Harris? I am not making an endorsement, I would just like to know if you have read it so I can ask you some specific questions.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            No, but I helped to set up a debate he had with WLC at Notre Dame on whether objective good requires a God, and he referenced it a lot.

          • Ignorant Amos

            And even as ignorantly or knowingly participants in the immorality that is now slavery, but was once perceived as moral, shouldn't God have kept us on the straight and narrow...or at least had no input either way as per its influence displayed in the two testaments of the bible. Sorry, but anyway its cut, divine objective morality doesn't stack up.

          • BenS

            "I laughed aloud at millimcgiffin. My coworkers are looking at me funny."

            Wait until you tell them the new temperature of their coffee...

            "Few people would say (I think) that objective morality is *completely* unknowable."

            Well, I would. I don't believe it can exist or, if it could, it would be full of such gradations that it would be indistinguishable from a subjective morality.

            Is it always wrong to eat human flesh?

            Ok, well, what if they were dead?

            And if they'd given express permission?

            And if you didn't you'd die?

            And they had killed themselves to you the opportunity to live?

            It would be mindlessly complex to deal with conflicts.

            Say assisted suicide is objectively immoral.

            Say not alleviating suffering is objectively immoral.

            What to do when asked by someone to help take their life because they're suffering in a most unimaginable way?

            How can these be reconciled? Unless you add caveats to deal with the situation you're breaching one or another of these objectively moral positions.

            "I feel like your question is like me asking "If we can't know how life originated, why study biology?""

            I don't think it is. I think it's more like asking if we can't be sure than an objective morality exists, we can't reliably tell what it would be if it DID exist and it's not used for anything anyway then, really, how is it more useful than a millimcgiffin?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            You reconcile an apparent contradiction in morality through a sort of primacy of principle. What is more important, life or comfort? You've picked two very complex problems, but I said we know parts of objective morality, and you didn't seem to address that. You think we know of nothing that is objectively morally wrong?

          • BenS

            Jupiter's cock! Disqus ate my post. Worst system ever.

            In a nutshell:

            "Few people would say (I think) that objective morality is *completely* unknowable."

            I would. I don't believe it can exist and, if it did, it would have so many gradations it would be indistinguishable from a subjective morality.

            For example:

            1) Say it states that standing idly by and observing suffering is immoral.
            2) Say it states that assisted suicide is immoral.

            And someone who is suffereing severely with no hope of respite asks you to help them die.

            Action or inaction will result in you breaching one of the above - unless you add in sub clauses and addendums to say it's ok in some cases and not in others... in which case the objective moral stances start to become subjective.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I replied to this already!

          • BenS

            Nuts. I can't see it, sorry. I can't even see the first post I made that I'm presuming was actually posted.

            I'll do something clever and technical like... turning the pc off and on again.

          • BenS

            "I feel like your question is like me asking "If we can't know how life originated, why study biology?""

            I think it's more like asking 'If we don't know if an objective morality exists, and if it DOES exist we can't reliably tell what it would look like and it doesn't have any impact or affect on us at all because we're not judged by it then how is it any more use than a millimcgiffin?'.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            You reconcile an apparent contradiction in morality through a sort of primacy of principle. What is more important, life or comfort? You've picked two very complex problems, but I said we know parts of objective morality, and you didn't seem to address that. You think we know of nothing that is objectively morally wrong?

          • BenS

            "You reconcile an apparent contradiction in morality through a sort of primacy of principle. What is more important, life or comfort?"

            Which then means that the statements that form the terms of the objective morality become so complex and numerous they are essentially the same as a subjective morality.

            "Killing a human being is always objectively wrong, except when.... and.... and.... and..."

            Can you give me some examples of things we know to be objectively wrong, please?

            ---

            Edited to tidy typos and formatting.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Wanton murder.

          • BenS

            Using the word wanton kind of makes that a tautology as it means unjustified. I don't think any murder has ever been unjustified, the perpetrator always has his reasons even if it's merely for their own amusement.

            Anyway, putting the above to one side, the definitions of this are still far too vague for this to be any form of objective morality. What constitutes murder? Can you murder a dog? A plant? What if you're eating a chinese starter when you're already full? Wait, that's wonton murder. Never mind.

            What if the person requested to be killed? Is that still wanton murder? What if the justifications for a murder turn out to be false? Does that then become wanton?

            See how difficult it is to even say that 'wanton murder' is objectively wrong? You've not even specified which species it applies to...

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I think murder implies its a human (I'm sorry PETA), though your right, there is also a sense that it just means an unjustified killing.

            I chalk your problems up, though, to a problem of language. When I see something, like murder, I know if it's bad or good. Not in all cases (there are definitely grey areas, areas of undiscovered/unsettled ethics) but in many.

          • BenS

            Sorry, Daniel, but chalking them up to a problem of language is a bit of a cop out. If an objective morality does exist but we're unable to communicate it to each other then it's even less use than the, now famous, millimcgiffin.

            I think I understand that you say we can strive towards understanding an objective morality and finally eliminate these grey ares with a properly codified set of objective morals but I really don't think we can and that's why an objective morality can't exist. The list would be so comprehensive with so many exclusions, caveats and specific exceptions that calling it 'objective' is a misnomer.

            "Killing is ok in some cases, but not others.
            Suffering must be ended in some cases, but not others.
            Sex is ok in some cases, but not others."

            That's pretty subjective.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            But that's why you know it when you see it. You can come up with all the problems you want, but people are never going to say, well the rape was justified in this instance. Or rather, sane people won't.

            I definitely should've gone with rape over murder when you asked before. I'm changing my answer.

          • BenS

            "I definitely should've gone with rape over murder when you asked before. I'm changing my answer."

            You are welcome to do so. :)

            That's the one I thought you were going to pick, to be honest, but even that is fraught with difficulties.

            There are lots of types of rape, for one. Sexual intercourse below the legal age of consent is rape... even if both parties are actually consensual. Two people performing a consensual act that hurts no-one is immoral?

            What if you're in a different jurisdiction? It's 16 in the UK but 14 in the Vatican. Does consensual sexual intercourse in the Vatican become rape to me just because I'm reading about it in the UK?

            Say a freak plague wipes out all the human males but a few hundred, the species is on the brink of extinction and all the guys turn around and say 'nahhh' (the plague, clearly, affected their brains too). Ok to force them or let the species go extinct? What if you tranquilise them and harvest their sperm? Still rape?

            Sure, it's a stupidly hypothetical situation but an objective morality should have an answer.

            Finally, I believe the church states that all sex outside marriage is illicit and lawful consent can only apply inside marriage. I've had lots and lots (and lots) of sex outside marriage - all apparently without lawful consent. Does this objective morality make me a rapist?

            ----

            Edited last sentence to seem less confrontational.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            The fact that there are gradations of an act doesn't mean that we can't make a judgement on each act. Ethics provides principles for dealing with specifics, the world isn't black and white and neither are these cases. Objective Morality would be positive in nature rather than negative. The question isn't "Is this wrong" but "What is right".

            So let's talk about positive morality instead of negative morality, because for every case you present the matter is entirely dependent on the conditions, but that doesn't mean there's not a right answer. It just means there's not a blanket answer, right?

          • BenS

            "The question isn't "Is this wrong" but "What is right"."

            But right for how. In the rather ludicrous example I put forward above, the men have the right not to be violated, the women (representing the sane remainder of the species) the right to procreate - something god himself seems quite keen on. Each would say they're in the right; species survival vs right not to be raped.

            "for every case you present the matter is entirely dependent on the conditions, but that doesn't mean there's not a right answer."

            What about when two people have conflicting but equal desires. Two people in a room running out of air. Both want to live. What's the objectively right answer? That they both die? That one makes the sacrifice? Which one? Are there two objectively right answers? That each is right to not want to die and therefore they both die or that one is right to make the sacrifice so the other can live? Is it objectively right for one to kill the other? What if he just talks the other into killing himself?

            An objective morality is only of use if it allows people to make a decision when they need to act. If it's so complicated and requires people to sit down and think about the specifics of the situation for ages before deciding whether an action was moral after the event then, again, it's worthless.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            That's why I keep saying you know it when you see it. Two people struggling for air? One person says "I'm single, you've got kids, I'm going under, God Bless."

            He has now laid down his life for his fellow man, nothing is more Christ-like than that. But the problems you're bringing up aren't just problems with objective morality, their problems of any structure of morality at all.

          • BenS

            "That's why I keep saying you know it when you see it."

            And this is a terrible way of determining the truth of things. It's gut feeling. It's what people no doubt thought about Eugenics. Well, I can *see* this is better for the human race.

            "One person says "I'm single, you've got kids, I'm going under, God Bless.""

            What if he doesn't want to? What if he doesn't want to die just because he hasn't had kids? What if the other person does have kids but he's a serial rapist?

            I realise these are problems for any moral structure but you seem to be saying that there's an objective 'right' to every situation. If in the above, one has two kids to look after, the other has two disabled parents to look after. Both want to live to look after their dependents. Who is in the right? How can you tell?

            If the answer can't be determined, an objective morality is useless.

            If the answer isn't currently known, an objective morality is currently useless.
            If the answer can't be communicated, an objective morality is useless.
            If the answer means nothing either way because it affects nobody then an objective morality is useless.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Then what moral structure/system do you propose? How does it fill the role better?

          • BenS

            For the purposes of this, it doesn't matter. I make no claims as to what would be the best moral system to implement.

            I'm simply showing how an objective morality would likely be useless even if it does exist (which I'm pretty sure my comments show is unlikely).

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I don't think you can disprove an objective moral code by providing numerous completely hypothetical thought-experiments.

            The code wouldn't have to be recognized by everyone to exist, it would have to serve as a point of reference. The fact that most people agree generally on what's good and evil I think it's a strong indication (not a proof) of something we have in common.

          • BenS

            If I could provide just a single example of a situation that had no 'right' answer then yes, I could. I'm sort of hampered by you saying that an objective moral code may exist but we have no idea what it is (though working on it). So, the best I can say right now is that an objective moral code, even if it does exist, is completely useless.

            That brings us back to what primenumbers asked several hours ago of how we can determine this objective moral code reliably. If we can't, then it's no help to us.

            It would need to exist, be flawless, be reliably known, be possible to communicate and actually be of use in and of itself before it's of any value whatsoever. I don't think any of these conditions have been demonstrated.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I don't say we have no idea, I say some idea that is continually improving and approaching that terminus of awesome morality.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It's been a long day, my responses are getting shorter proportionally, I'm sorry.

          • Andre Boillot

            You're talking to yourself now too, get a hold of yourself man!

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Fading...fast....

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I let myself down.

          • BenS

            Same here. Well, I'm off to bed now to read so you can take a few hours break.

            Thank you for the discussion today, it's been most interesting. :)

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I thoroughly enjoyed it. You've made my list today. I've got binders full of atheists.

            ...I'm going to the bar. Later, all.

          • BenS

            You're right, I mischaracterised your stance there, sorry.

            I suppose what I meant is that you say we have some idea and I just don't believe you. :p

            The two examples you gave above (wanton murder and rape) I showed start to break down when looking at the definitions of the words and where they apply.

            Murder apparently doesn't apply to non-human species though a very strident vegetablearian friend of mine would disagree most profoundly with this. How can we tell who is right (i.e. which moral stance is the objective one)?

            Rape has different meanings depending on what jurisdiction you're in and whether you mean moral rape (consensual) or legal (e.g. ages of consent). Furthermore, can you rape a plant by licking it and what twists and turns has my life taken whereby I would even find myself asking that question?

            I think without a robust method of determining the 'rightness' of these moral stances, it's probably pushing it to say that you have any objective moral codes at all...

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Also, the Church doesn't believe that all sex outside of marriage is rape. It's all fornication, yes, but rape is different.

            People see morality as restrictive, but its proscriptive, or at least, any objective morality would be.

          • BenS

            "Also, the Church doesn't believe that all sex outside of marriage is rape. It's all fornication, yes, but rape is different."

            I was taking my info from a wikipedia page that says the church holds that sex outside marriage lacks lawful consent. To me, unconsensual sex is rape. If you think rape is something different then, again, we're back to the problem of communication. If you're not able to communicate the objective morality and which situations it applies to it is, once more, of neither use nor ornament.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Can you show me the page?

          • BenS

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_consent_in_Europe#Vatican_State

            I will, of course, defer to your greater knowledge if this is wrong. It was only to illustrate my point about the definition of the word 'rape'.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I'm not sure how they put that together. I can't find anywhere in the Code of Canon Law where it says no lawful consent can be given in extra-marital sex.

            This pertains to the sin of sex outside of marriage, not the legal crime or sin of rape, which is kinda what I suspected.

            Wikipedia has conflated the moral and legal code.

          • BenS

            Fair enough. Thanks for clarifying. :)

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It threw me for a second...

          • ZenDruid

            If there is a deity of some sort governing human behavior, they [ambiguous term for gender-neutral singular] would have had the foresight, competence and self-respect to deliver their message directly to the consciousness of newborns, thus removing the need for catechisms, demagogues, carrots and sticks, etc.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I would be carefully in claiming to know the mind of a being who is omniscient and omnipotent, or to know better than that being.

            Whether or not you admit the Being's existence, if there is a Being who is omnipotent and omniscient, you kinda have to defer to its judgement in some areas.

          • ZenDruid

            Only if It specifically and precisely reveals Itself to everyone. The anecdotes of metaphysical and psychological history are not persuasive, especially considering that there are potentially as many different interpretations of a Being as there are believers. That's the problem in a nutshell, there is no common understanding of what this great Being is within the larger religious world. We are still, here and now after thousands of years, trying to define what this Objective Truth might be.

            On the original subject here, people have done incredibly evil things in the name of their Great Being. People can be evil. Nature is not, not even the eye worms or other parasites. They have simply evolved successful survival strategies, and if other creatures suffer from it, well, that's life.

            Human morality is a matter of choosing the best of many options available, in terms of a simple nice/mean dichotomy. Anything more involved than this is window-dressing. Any assumed absolute is Sith-like.

          • AshleyWB

            "I would be carefully in claiming to know the mind of a being who is omniscient and omnipotent"

            I completely agree, which is why all religions should immediately shut down and release the following statement:

            "We just realized that as human beings we can't know the mind of a transcendent being (or if a transcendent being actually has a mind, and so on), so everything we've said over the past few millenia is kind of a bunch of rot. Sorry for the trouble."

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Unless that transcendent being tells you about Himself.

          • AshleyWB

            How do you that it is, and if you do know, how do you know it's being forthright? How do you know that being forthright is even a thing that has meaning for a transcendent being?

          • BenS

            Yes. Or left behind a message on all the computer networks and monuments littered all over the place that reads something like:

            "I am the Eschaton; I am not your God.
            I am descended from you, and exist in your future.
            Thou shalt not violate causality within my historic light cone. Or else."

          • ZenDruid

            I like that.

          • BenS

            Charles Stross. He does a better job of describing godlike entities than most religions, in my view. :)

          • Rationalist1

            I agree that many in the Catholic Church opposed slavery and that they were event instrumental in getting it abolished in some jurisdictions, but the Church hasn't always opposed it.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I accepted your correction the first time, R.

          • Rationalist1

            Very magnanimous of you.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            You know, I really am quite humble too. It's a special gift of mine.

          • Sample1

            I might be rusty, but I believe slavery is condone through the New Testament as well.

            You are not rusty.

            Mike

          • Rationalist1

            Fourth Council of Toledo - 74. Concerning the slaves of the Church, it is allowed to make them priests and deacons in parishes; nevertheless, let right living and honest habits commend them

          • Andre Boillot

            Nothing good has ever come from Ohio.

          • Rationalist1

            June 20, 1866, the Holy Office issued a statement that said:
            "Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons.... It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.

          • Rationalist1

            Third Lateran Council of 1179 imposed slavery on those helping the Saracens. http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/ecum11.htm

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            See, and I knew that too as soon as I typed it. Also, the papal galleys were manned by Muslim slaves. I am corrected, I spoketh with much haste.

          • Sample1

            The Catholic Church has never been ok with slavery. Daniel McGiffin

            Daniel,

            I read your reply to Rationalist1 whereby you corrected yourself. I am curious how long in your "heart" you entertained the claim the Catholic Church has never been ok with slavery?

            Mike

          • Rationalist1

            If your Holy book tells you the proper way to treat slaves, then something is wrong.

          • primenumbers

            Small correction: "If your Holy book tells you the proper way to beat your slaves (until they have many stripes), then something is very wrong."

          • Henry

            Yep, plenty familiar. But this isn't quite the forum for a discussion of OT Mosaic Law ,or the etymology of the Hebrew terms for slavery or the historical and cultural context of the narrative and slavery references.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm sorry, I didn't realize the OT had nothing to do with exploring the "Problem of Evil". I guess we'll just set that aside, and not wonder how convenient this is for you.

          • Henry

            Haaa. Ok - I'll bite. I suppose that your use of "either" is appropriate; you seem to be open to the possibility that the OT doesn't condone or contain an approval of slavery. Rather, you may understand that there are instructions reflective of many religious, cultural and civil conditions, including plenty that we (and God) recognize as immoral (like divorce, polygamy, slavery). The text's inclusion of regulations for specific behaviors common within society should is not an approval of such behavior. The OT certainly did not initiate the condition of slavery, but rather provided for parameters which in light of the age, seem pretty reasonable positive. Further, also understand that the OT notion of slavery has no modern counterpart. The American 18th-19th century practice, for instance, is no parallel. The Hebrew word for ebehd, translated generally, refers to all types of service. Servitude as payment of debt, punishment, or as a way out of poverty were typical.

          • Andre Boillot

            Henry,

            "I suppose that your use of "either" is appropriate"

            My apologies, I should have said:

            "where God both condones and instructs the taking and keeping of slaves"

            Good catch!

            "you seem to be open to the possibility that the OT doesn't condone or contain an approval of slavery"

            I'm very much closed to that possibility, based on the text.

            "The text's inclusion of regulations for specific behaviors common within society should is not an approval of such behavior."

            While the text includes regulations, it also includes divine license.

            "The OT certainly did not initiate the condition of slavery, but rather provided for parameters which in light of the age, seem pretty reasonable positive. Further, also understand that the OT notion of slavery has no modern counterpart. The American 18th-19th century practice, for instance, is no parallel. The Hebrew word for ebehd, translated generally, refers to all types of service. Servitude as payment of debt, punishment, or as a way out of poverty were typical."

            This just isn't accurate, or at best, an incomplete description of what the OT contains re: slavery. The restrictions you're referring to applied only Hebrew slaves, and not to foreign slaves, which were allowed to be kept as chattel slaves, and passed down generation to generation as property to be treated as the master saw fit.

          • Henry

            Ok got it, thanks. Could you cite some texts with narrative of God's approval of chattel slavery?

          • Andre Boillot

            For starters:

            Leviticus 25:44-46

            "The male and female slaves that you possess—these you shall acquire from the nations round about you.
            You may also acquire them from among the resident aliens who reside with you, and from their families who are with you, those whom they bore in your land. These you may possess, and bequeath to your children as their hereditary possession forever. You may treat them as slaves. But none of you shall lord it harshly over any of your fellow Israelites."

            For more, you could look here, or elsewhere - there's no shortage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_slavery

          • Henry

            Andre - here's a hint: Go to Leviticus (maybe 25) and then we'll discuss.

          • Andre Boillot

            This should be fun, Lev 25 is what I cited prior to reading this.

          • Henry

            Ok great. As I initially stated, "this isn't quite the forum for a discussion of OT Mosaic Law ,or the
            etymology of the Hebrew terms for slavery or the historical and cultural
            context of the narrative and slavery references." But I'm glad that you want to understand each aspect. Now, first, I'm going to assume that you are not a biblical fundamentalist, reading and interpreting the OT "literally"; but this understanding seems to be a common bond between some evangelicals and most atheists (and also southern slave holders). I prefer to understand much of the OT as typology and allegory and this text perfectly aligns as such. The Hebrews have been freed from bondage and as such serve God but serve no others; whereas those not so redeemed still are slaves to sin. NT texts are all about this: " for, having been freed from sin and become the servants of God, we must not let sin reign in our mortal bodies (Romans 6). Non-Hebrews enjoyed no such deliverance from physical bondage. Interestingly the Greek word slave can be understood to mean a physical body.

            Likewise the OT provided regulation for polygamy but, of course, no one (except maybe Islam and some Mormons) will posit that polygamy is a divinely constructed institution. Same goes for divorce - although practically all except the Catholic Church and Conservative Jews have caved on this.

            This notwithstanding, the text even read literally (Lev 25), surely doesn't say "I your God command you to enslave foreigners because I love slavery"; rather it regulates a pre-established cultural condition. I'm sure that you agree that slavery existed prior to the writing of the text. The text directs a certain treatment of slaves.

          • Andre Boillot

            Henry,

            "This notwithstanding, the text even read literally (Lev 25),"

            How else would you interpret Lev 25:44-46?

            "surely doesn't say "I your God command you to enslave foreigners because I love slavery"; rather it regulates a pre-established cultural condition"

            You say regulates, I say allows for. Given all that the OT goes into great detail prohibiting, it's a stretch to imply that this was something that God generally frowned on, but grudgingly allowed.

            Again, I don't think you can argue he's just regulating. Take passages like Deut 20:10

            "When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. “If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword. Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you."

            This isn't a case of just grandfathering in slaves that have already been acquired - and then regulating their treatment. There's divine license to go get more.

            "I'm sure that you agree that slavery existed prior to the writing of the text."

            Risky claim, this.

            "The text directs a certain treatment of slaves."

            Yes, it says you have to be nice to Hebrew slaves, and every once in a while you have to let the Hebrews go. The rest are yours to pass down through the generations, and as long as you don't knock out an eye or tooth, you can beat them half to death.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            There are instances of God not wanting something and grudgingly allowing it, like when Israel asked for a king and God was like "What do you want a King for? You've got me!" And they said they wanted a king anyway, so he gave them one. But he warned them.

          • Andre Boillot

            "here are instances of God not wanting something and grudgingly allowing it"

            That may be the case. Is it here?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I'm not stepping into this one, I've got questions about the issue of slavery too, and I'm interested and open to hearing more. I just wanted to point out that there is precedence for a grudging allowance of conforming to neighboring nations practices (Israel wanted a King because everyone else had one).

          • Andre Boillot

            Fair enough. I'll just say that your example of God caving to peer pressure doesn't reflect particularly well when discussing questions of objective morality and the problem of evil :)

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Oh, I think it does! Especially because it dovetails nicely with the need to have objective morality slowly unveiled/discovered. He told them what was right, they didn't like it, so he mitigated what was bad until Christ came and took the kid gloves off.

          • Andre Boillot

            Daniel,

            "Oh, I think it does! Especially because it dovetails nicely with the need to have objective morality slowly unveiled."

            I have to say I find this particular method of attempted to resolve some of the issues in the OT quite lacking. The same sorts of arguments were (and continue to be) made for slowing civil rights movements throughout history. Almost always made, it should be noted, by the majority/oppressor. Now, I know that doesn't necessarily taint the argument when applied to divine revelation, but when taken together with the use of earlier interpretations to maintain the status quo... I dunno, just doesn't sit right with me.

            "He told them what was right, they didn't like it, so he mitigated what was bad until Christ came and took the kid gloves off."

            In which case I'd ask where he told them slavery was wrong? When did Christ repudiate slavery?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I'd argue that Christ repudiated slavery with all of his teachings about love your neighbor, and we were obtuse enough to not apply that to everyone for a while.

            I understand the reluctance with this line of reasoning (the mitigating) and I'm only a little on board myself. OT ethics and God is an area I'm always looking for stuff to read on.

          • Henry

            Ok lets go one by one. You seem to think that slaves first existing at the time of the OT writing. This seems to be false. Slavery appears to pre date any written record, as it's reference is found in history's earliest writings.

            So yes, a cultural condition existed prior to biblical writing and was regulated by such text thereby providing for improved status of slaves.

            Next, the deut text. You probably understand the historical context of a wartime narrative. This was a time of ruthless and violent battles, invasion, occupation, etc. So it comes to kill or capture (sounds familiar, but there were no drones). The text asks for peace then the taking of prisoners. As we look from our educated, arrogantly civilized 21th century prism, we're taken aback by such terms of surrender and peace. But this was a radical alternative to wholesale slaughter of the enemy.

            You do concede that there are all kinds of bad folks and bad practices in the bible that do not have divine approval, right?

            Also (and this seems to be the big stumble for non-believers as well as religious fundamentalists). The OT was written, not only as the inspired word of God , but also as literature of its time (and of all time); as we, Catholics reflect on such scripture, we recognize not merely (and sometimes alternatively to) a literalist perspective but a spiritual exegesis, typology, or sensus
            plenior.

          • Andre Boillot

            Henry,

            "You seem to think that slaves first existing at the time of the OT writing. This seems to be false. Slavery appears to pre date any written record, as it's reference is found in history's earliest writings."

            Here I'm betrayed by my overly dry sarcasm. I'm aware that slavery pre-dates the Bible.

          • Andre Boillot

            "So yes, a cultural condition existed prior to biblical writing and was regulated by such text thereby providing for improved status of slaves."

            It really improved the lives of Hebrew slaves, presumably. Much less so, if at all, the lives of non-Hebrew slaves. All while allowing, and arguably promoting the practice.

            "The text asks for peace then the taking of prisoners. As we look from our educated, arrogantly civilized 21th century prism, we're taken aback by such terms of surrender and peace. But this was a radical alternative to wholesale slaughter of the enemy."

            First, these were the "good" terms, offered to cities that were sufficiently removed from the Israelites, as opposed to (what we would arrogantly call) the genocide of all the neighboring tribes. Second, not just 'prisoners' but slaves who's children would likely also be born as slaves, etc.

            "But this was a radical alternative to wholesale slaughter of the enemy."

            Again, an alternative only offered to 1) those tribes sufficiently removed from the Israelites, and 2) those cities which surrendered immediately.

            "You do concede that there are all kinds of bad folks and bad practices in the bible that do not have divine approval, right?"

            Yes, but here we're discussing those that appear to.

            "Also (and this seems to be the big stumble for non-believers as well as religious fundamentalists). The OT was written, not only as the inspired word of God , but also as literature of its time (and of all time); as we, Catholics reflect on such scripture, we recognize not merely (and sometimes alternatively to) a literalist perspective but a spiritual exegesis, typology, or sensus plenior."

            By all means, explain to me what God meant to say here.

          • Henry

            Part I, I'm not a military historian, so I'm not going to argue battle tactics. But I'll choose capturing as opposed to killing as the moral high road (today as well for drones).

            Part II after dinner.

          • Andre Boillot

            "But I'll choose capturing as opposed to killing as the moral high road"

            I'll choose the following, as opposed to killing, and thus the moral high-road:

            -Rape
            -Torture
            -Maiming
            -Tickling
            -Raising my voice to
            -Not sacking cities to begin with

        • Rationalist1

          I was referring to society, not the Church as such altough many popes owned slaves.

    • Longshanks

      "I was shocked to hear Shook's atheist position "

      Did he say "I don't believe in god(s)andthatmoralityhasalwaysexisted"?

      Else, I think his position, whether or not represented here correctly, might be better attributed to some other system of belief.

      Or you could say something like "Shook, an atheist, held that ______". While disingenuous, this would at least not re-define atheism.

  • stanz2reason

    I can't believe I'm dignifying such a silly argument with a response… but here goes.

    First, were we to blame all the evils on the world on the free will of man, it should only naturally follow that we should reward man for all instances of good things happening. Why thank god for the good things when you place none of the blame for the bad things on him?

    Second, what does free will have to do with the tsunami that killed around a quarter million people in 2004 or the earthquake in haiti that killed around a quarter million people? What about the tornados in Oklahoma? Don't these events lead to just as much death and suffering as someone gunned down in a robbery?

    Third, does god or doesn't he interact with the world? Does he not have the ability to step in an cause a situation to have less suffering as he's alleged to have done in the past? Free will hadn't stopped god in the past, according to you. If he doesn't have either the ability or the inclination he's either impotent or sadistic respectively.

    Fourth, recognizing biological truths regarding pain & suffering does not require an objective moral frame work, nor would it follow that an objective moral framework, if it infact existed, would necessarily result from the anything remotely resembling a christian god, or any god at all. I can say a world where someone dying of cancer is better when they are in less pain rather than in more. I can say a world where that factory collapse in Bangladesh a month or so back that killed 1,100 people would be better if less or none perished. Saying so requires neither god nor an objective morality.

    Fifth, Craigs objective morality argument is poor in that premise 1 is highly questionable (for the reason you noted from another atheist), and premise 2 is incorrect and utterly unconvincing to someone who views all moral frameworks as subjective.

    Sixth, with regards to the rapist consider how tightly survival is related to our ability to reproduce. For humans remaining part of the herd is necessary (or very nearly so) for survival. This grouping, while beneficial, does not come without cost. To function optimally it would follow that some sort of behaviors would be encouraged by the group (protection, cooperation) and other would be discouraged (violence, theft and other unpredictable behavior). It wouldn't do well to join a group for safety sake only to have to then worry about your safety. It might follow that over time, those more prone to acts like rape might in the short run has a temporary reproductive advantage, but that such behavior might have been discouraged by the group to the point of being detrimental in the long run. It's conceivable, though far from shown definitively, that our social complexities evolved in such a way, and that what you might view as 'objective morals' are simply more complex versions of behaviors that along the way had long term reproductive advantages.

    Seventh, Consider how empty anything you said sounds to someone who feels that morality is subjective and that any sense of objectivity is an illusion, the result of certain common aversions to acts such as murder, rape, etc. Of course we can criticize the acts of the nazis, only that when we say 'it is wrong', it should be understood as 'it is my view that it is wrong'. That this might be a tough pill to swallow or that you are unable to differentiate something that is actually objective from something that is effectively objective is irrelevant. Were there objective morals and we had access to that information, there wouldn't really be genuine disagreement as to what a proper course of action would be.

    We might say 'raping' is an absolute moral wrong, yet it is also a tool of war in some parts of the world and a tool of shaming in others, used by those who don't feel the same way as you or I.

    We might say 'torturing' is an absolute moral wrong, yet this seems like a permissible action in a ticking time bomb sort of scenario.

    We might say 'killing innocent people' is an absolute moral wrong, yet certain instances of civilian casualties are often acceptable in military conflicts. Also consider that one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. How do you think the british viewed Americas founders who might have ambushed and killed their troops and even citizens.

    And let me be absolutely clear before I hear from the faithful about somehow being OK with these things. I'm not. I find each as abhorrent as you. I would take actions to prevent and demand justice against those who perpetrated such acts no less than you. The difference is I'm not under any illusions that my moral judgement come from anywhere else other than that confines of my own mind.

    The problem of evil is in no way an issue for atheists, and the notion that it's some how a 'dramatically larger problem for atheists' is utterly ridiculous. You've shown nothing. Your arguments are simply silly. You haven't taken even a moment to imagine how a world where our moral views are as subjective as our views on a better movie vs. a worse one or a better cake vs. a worse one. This is lazy narrow minded nonsense.

    • Rationalist1

      Very good and extensive

      Point 3 would mean having free will and God answering prayers would be mutually exclusive.

      • severalspeciesof

        It also reminds me of the idea that we could choose to do evil, but god could stop its effects, like making a bullet go off on a trajectory that causes the bullet to miss its human target. The choice was still freely made, but the end result was changed...

        • Longshanks

          DA

          But if the effects of a bad choice are zeroed out, how can that choice be made in seriousness?

          I drive differently with my car than a bumper car.

          In what sense, then, is it still a choice?

          • severalspeciesof

            Only if one doesn't know the outcome before the choice is made... It's still a choice...

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          The choice was still freely made, but the end result was changed...

          A really good, and all powerful, deity could let us choose, but cause events in our brains to make us, think again, through participating in the suffering we might otherwise cause. Oh, wait, there is something like that ... Evolution gave us mirror neurons so we could ...

          Never mind.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            By evolution you mean God, right?

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      stanz, you've been warned before so consider this a final one. Calling someone's arguments "silly" in the first line of the comment is unnecessary and adds nothing to your argument. If you're unable to refrain from mockery we'll have to remove your comments.

      • Longshanks

        "Atheists can and generally do implicitly recognize the moral law, and obey it. The problem is that this behavior appears completely irrational." (personal attack)

        " flubbed it pretty badly" (personal attack)

        "The answer to that question is a moral one, and one that (by definition) can't come from mere evolutionary urges." (plain affirming the antecedent, circular reasoning.)

        "Why not act like simply another member of the animal kingdom, a world full of rape and theft and killing." (red herring)

        "if by “evil” you mean nothing more than what you happen to like or dislike, the term is meaningless." (logically contradictory)

        "they can't coherently do both" (personal attack)

        vs.

        "Silly."

        I'll repeat what I said below: delete whatever you want, just enforce the standards fairly, or you'll end up with an echo chamber.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Longshanks, I'm not convinced that the above quotations are logical fallacies. Your interpretation of them as such is a pretty big stretch.

          If you're unhappy with the moderation here, which you've expressed often before, feel free to comment elsewhere. We're doing the best we can.

          • Longshanks

            I can and do comment elsewhere, I choose to stay here for some of the company.

            ----

            Pull that logical fallacy out then, your original article does plenty of ad hominem, and is pretty uncivil.

            If you like bear-bating, that's fine. (I have no objective grounds to condemn you, har)

            I just think it behooves you to realize that the people you're chastising for reacting after you've poked them are the same ones putting your site on the map and giving it a pulse.

            If you're going to keep a log of every time someone complains and bring it up at every turn, you're going to get tired quickly. Maybe offload the burden of general moderation to someone with less at stake?

            Of course you're going to make mistakes here, but we're voting with our "feet" (posts). That "voting" has so far been positive, I imagine that might change depending on how strongly you try to reign in the horse.

            Especially after kicking your spurs in.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "I just think it behooves you to realize that the people you're chastising for reacting after you've poked them are the same ones putting your site on the map and giving it a pulse."

            My goal is not to get "on the map" or give the site a "pulse." I'm more interested in civil, fruitful dialogue than web traffic or attention.

          • Longshanks

            Maybe I chose my words poorly. (http://www.strangenotions.com/dove-soapbox/)

            Whom are you looking to have dialogue with when, after posting a contentious and poorly researched article, sprinkled with personal attacks, rhetorical grand standing, and plain contradictions...you balk at a reply which uses the word "silly?"

            You allow posts which tell atheists to pipe-down about being attacked, because their philosophy implies that if they can't fend off an attacker they don't deserve to live.

            Fruitful. Civil.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Longshanks, I don't think this article is contentious or poorly-researched, nor do I see any personal attacks or contradictions either.

            I certainly didn't see Joe calling anyone's arguments "silly" multiple times or "lazy narrow minded nonsense."

          • Longshanks

            You're either lying to everyone's face right now, or you don't understand what I mean by 'contentious.' I happen to mean, in this case, the definition of the word.

            con·ten·tious
            /kənˈtenCHəs/
            Adjective
            Causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial.
            Involving heated argument.

            That's what I meant. This article is both likely to, and succeeding in, provoking heated debate. I don't find heated debate abhorrent, but it is a pain when the referees are actively targeting one side.

            if by “evil” you mean nothing more than what you happen to like or dislike, the term is meaningless.

            If evil == 'what you happen to like,' then it is not 'meaningless' It's 'meaning' is 'what you happen to like,' which one could've guessed by the conditional of that sentence.

            I know what the author is trying to say, but he's saying it poorly, in a lazy manner, and his literal words are a contradiction.

            The way he writes about Hitchens "flubbing" and "eventually understanding" are comments which would get an atheist post moderated. I just had a similar commend deleted in this thread by Luke. Moreover Hitchens precisely argues for a morality encoded in our genes, which the author denies him, and is fully aware that objective morality does not 'de facto' exist. The way 'Joe' writes about Hitchens' grasp of these topics is an absurdity.

            I just laid out some personal attack the author makes, but as you seem so hurt, so deeply upset by that awful word "silly," let's look at one of "Joe's" opening statements: "against atheists, it's ironically quite devastating."

            Look, at this point I'm finished making my point. Take this down or don't. The few times I've engaged with you before (ala Tolkien), you've dodged, ignored, or deleted.

            "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a "

          • gwen saul

            Actually Brandon, it is contentious and poorly edited. I noted a couple of grammatical errors and the atrocious use of the word "retarded" to refer to human beings.

            And once the concept of "culture" gets dismissed or thrown out, this is exactly what's left behind: some sort of feeble attempt to say human behavior depends on a universal moral law (conveniently Catholic) or descends into madness as we are unable to overcome the 'whims' of our genetic code. Human behavior and cultures are far more nuanced than that.

            And for the record, for centuries, regardless of contraception, women have used their own strategies and mechanisms to protect their sexual, emotional and mental health. Societal and cultural factors regarding women's roles and human sexuality have far more to do with this issue than the author would have us believe.

            Thanks.

      • stanz2reason

        Spare me your threats Brandon. Do you wish to have a meaningful conversation on this site or not? There was nothing uncivil about my post. My categorization of an argument as 'silly' and then a long explanation as to why it is 'silly' is how dialogue typically works. There was not swearing. There were no personal attacks. The entirety of my post was on point directly addressing elements from the article. Threatening me after a reasonable civil posting on a site that advertises itself as a home for reasonable civil dialogue is borderline fradulent and a mockery of the very goals you purport.

        If you don't want your articles criticized, then don't post them.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          stanz, there's a clear line between civil critique and calling someone's arguments "silly" (multiple times) and describing them as "lazy narrow minded nonsense."

          Please cut it out, or comment somewhere else. Nobody is forcing you to comment here.

          • Randy Gritter

            I actually don't mind comments like this. A few cheap shots but many thoughtful points as well. I think we need to give atheists more slack. Catholics, for sure, should not be allowed to call atheist arguments silly unless the argument has been shown to be completely incoherent.

      • Rationalist1

        While calling an argument silly does not directly imply the person is silly, although in my opinion it's probably not the best word it use. Would one get in trouble if one called an argument incoherent? That doesn't mean the person is incoherent. Can theists get equal chatisement should they disparage any atheist statements.

        As to lazy minded nonsense, it's mild for the internet but if the moderators are seeking a high civil tone. then it's perhaps questionable.

        That said stanz2reason, imho, put down some excellent points and should be discussed.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Brandon returned the serve. The ball's in your court now.

          And we really do try to give equal chastisement.

        • stanz2reason

          If the conversation has downshifted to arguing the nuance between 'silly' & 'incoherent' than we're all wasting our time here.

          I think someone who writes an article which in large part addresses a notion of an objective morality, without giving consideration to morality as a subjective phenomena displays a lack of effort (which I deemed 'lazy') a lack of thought (which I deemed 'narrow-minded') and a ultimately a lack of coherence to their argument (which I deemed 'nonsense'). I stand by that sentiment, however if that tone is too harsh, I retract those words and replace them with whatever might lesser offend the subjective tastes of our moderators.

          • Rationalist1

            I thought your points were excellent and your choise of words mild and would suggest you repost them without the "offending" words and have them addressed. On this site it's when in Rome, do what the Romans do. I will be henceforth calling to the moderators attention every unchastised in anyway pejorative to atheism. Although I don't really care.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            It has been observed (by Voltaire, Thomas Paine and others) that ridicule is what you have left when logic and reason are no longer recognized. I don't think we are at that stage, here, yet so I would encourage all to use the higher functions of thought, while they are still usable.

          • Longshanks

            Just my two cents, before I turn in....

            Nevermind the post from Fr. Barron about Hitchens being an exciting and interesting person, though wrong-ish.

            Never mind the quotes of G.K.C from mods about manly, vibrant, passionate disagreement in debate.

            Math is a pretty high order function.

            Let's all sit down together and do some nice math.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            In that case, I quit.

          • stanz2reason

            The suggestion that the problem of evil is more a problem for atheists and believers is a sign that reason & logic have left the building. Still, I don't think my criticisms, while perhaps strongly worded, crossed the line into ridicule or mockery. In addition, my attacks were always directed at the argument and not the person. Finally I freely offered to retract those offending words to be replaced as the offended party sees fit.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            The suggestion that the problem of evil is more a problem for atheists and believers is a sign that reason & logic have left the building.

            Stanz2, I was not criticizing you; I was making a general observation applicable to everyone here. I thought your first comment was very good, and the offense, minor. The "suggestion" you mention is wrong, and you and others have taken it apart (kept reason & logic in the building) to the extent that I am going to have to think hard to find anything left that I may help with.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            Hi Q.
            Completely off topic. Any idea why only your posts print in a different font in my screen? Also... How do you get that nifty bar in your posts when you are quoting from another poster?

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Michael Murray

            Disqus lets you use some HTML commands

            http://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/466253-what-html-tags-are-allowed-within-comments

            although I think the site admin can block them. The bar is the blockquote command.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Harbey, I think there is a bug in the blockquote implementation code for the page, such that the closing tag does not restore the font properly on all browsers. Just a guess on my part. I usually start a comment with a blockquote because that way it still makes sense even when several later comments get stuck in between the comment I wanted to reply to. I did not do that on this comment, so the font change is probably not happening on this one.

            -Q

          • Andrew G.

            I think it helps if you make sure to leave a completely blank line after the closing blockquote tag. (What seems to be happening is that without that, the text after the blockquote is not being included in a paragraph tag, affecting the font choice.)

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I think it helps if you make sure to leave a completely blank line after the closing blockquote tag.

            Thanks, I'll try that.

          • Andrew G.

            That looks much better.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      stanz, responding to your comment point-by-point:

      1. I'm not sure how this question is relevant to the original post. Man *should* be rewarded for freely-chosen good because he could have chosen otherwise. To answer, though, I'd need more clarification--or examples--for what you mean by, "Why [do we] thank god for the good things?"

      2. Please my comments below. You're confusing moral evil with natural disasters. Natural disasters are morally neutral--they cannot be "good" or "evil" in the moral sense. What you're alluding to is the so-called "problem of suffering" or the "problem of pain" which is a different issue, not the "problem of evil" being discussed here.

      3. Yes, God does interact with the world. And yes, he *can* step in whenever He chooses. But that doesn't mean he *must* or risk being considered sadistic. You're not considering the possibility that God has sufficient reasons to allow someone to choose a particular moral evil.

      4. You've fallen into the is/ought confusion Joe tried to clarify in the article. You might personally believe that mitigating pain is the most desirable end in any moral decision, but an atheist cannot say you *ought* to do that. Why should anyone else follow your belief system? If God doesn't exist, why should others try to mitigate pain and reduce the suffering of others? (If nothing else this seems to clash with evolution and "survival of the fittest.") Finally, we Catholics would *agree* with you that reducing pain and suffering is an admirable end in most cases. And nobody has argued atheists can't *know* this fact to be true. What we're claiming is that an atheist has no good ground on which to base that moral assertion.

      5. Joe's article ably addresses both of these assertions.

      6. So given the evolutionary context in which you've placed the issue of rape, let me ask you: is it objectively wrong, for everyone, everyone, to rape a small child? If so, why?

      • stanz2reason

        1) Should god be absolved of blame for the ills of the world, man made or not, he should then not be granted the credit for the good things. Should man made ills of the world be entirely the fault of mans own free will, then all man made good things should be entirely attributed to man. God either gets some of the blame, or none of the credit. I don't care much which you decide as I don't believe god exists so it's really not my problem.

        2) Natural disasters are gods fault any which way you look at it, and the human suffering from them is no less than that caused by man. That you would try and get around the evil problem by blaming it on free will says nothing to gods inaction on matters not related to free will.

        3) If god knows a tsunami is coming, can act to prevent harm and suffering and chooses not to, he is sadistic. I can imagine a world where any such greater lessons that man can be taught and greater benefits can be gotten with less suffering.

        4) I haven't presented an is/aught situation. I've stated a biological truth regarding pain and suffering as a standard of evil that is universal but that doesn't require an objective moral framework. Noting that being in pain & suffering is a worse state that not being in pain and not suffering is not a moral statement (is does not suggest how one aught to act), though it is a statement you can use as a basis for a moral framework.

        5) He addresses them... and then I note further down why he's still wrong.

        6) In my view nothing, including a worldwide child raping can be considered objectively wrong, at least as the idea of it being a violation of a firm divinely mandated rule. It might be something that is universally (or nearly so) offensive that we can view it as 'effectively' objective. It is something I would find abhorent due to a conflict with my own subjective tastes and I would do everything in my power to deter from happening even were I the only person who thought so.

        In the terms of the evolutionary context I provided, I sugges

  • josh

    I. The problem of evil is much stronger than stated here, it's devastating to Catholics. The problem is not just to show that in some abstract sense 'evil' could exist because 'mumble mumble free will'. The problem is to show that the amount of evil in the world is consistent with a perfect, omnipotent loving creator. Natural evil/suffering can't be separated out because, if God is a creator, it is a moral evil on his part. Even putting aside the incoherence of the idea of free will, particularly as it pertains to Catholic ideas of culpability and God's free will and eternal punishment and joy in heaven, etc., etc. Putting all that aside. The Catholic still has the insurmountable task of arguing that an even slightly better world, one less death in the Holocaust for instance, would be on the whole worse, because it somehow limited free will. But at the same time, God's making one person even slightly more capable of doing harm, or one more death from disease or disaster, would now be too evil. They really do have to present a cogent case that this is the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire's prayer comes to mind.

    II. Two problems here. One is that objective morality and God aren't logically connected. The existence of God isn't sufficient to make morality objective and if there is an objective morality it doesn't require God. Euthyphro dilemma takes another victim. Some atheists believe in objective morality, some don't. But either can use the argument from evil. The argument is against conceptions of God that include the catholic one. It grants that If God exists then objective morality must exist. So if there is no objective morality then God doesn't exist, but if there is then one must confront the problem of evil. Even if we do away with the term evil, the Catholic God is supposed to be loving, so the argument stands in the form 'How can a perfect omnipotent loving God create and sustain a world with such unnecessary suffering?'

    • Rationalist1

      Point 1 - It's like arguing in the Panglossian sense that the amount of evil we experience is the best of all possible worlds.

      • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

        Isn't that Leibniz? Or is that a different "best possible worlds"?

        • Rationalist1

          Voltaire's Candide, I believe. Let me check.

          Yes. " Dr. Pangloss, professor of "métaphysico-théologo-cosmolonigologie" (English translation: "metaphysico-theologo-cosmonigology") and self-proclaimed optimist, teaches his pupils that they live in the "best of all possible worlds" and that "all is for the best"."

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangloss

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Ah, I'll have to read it. I take it you're not a fan of Leibniz then, either.

          • Rationalist1

            Never read Leibniz (outside of his contributions to math), but I see he said it first but a fictional character seems to get credit for the expression.

        • Rationalist1

          So do you hold that this is the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire pretty well skewered that one.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Eh, no. Even Plantinga criticizes Leibniz on that one.

            If I keep referencing Notre Dame profs, it's because they're big guys in this field. ND has the top Philosophy of Religion Dept. and I'm pretty sure all they do is theodicize all day.

        • josh

          Pangloss is a parody of Leibniz I believe.

    • Randy Gritter

      We see the world. Sin is everywhere. It makes sense that the consequences of sin would be everywhere. So I don't see your point about unnecessary suffering. We live in a fallen world. The question is how did we get in a fallen world if it is created by God and God is infinitely good? The answer is free will. God let the snake in the garden. He gave Adam and Eve the choice. Even if you don't take those accounts literally you can get the point. Doing that was not inconsistent with His goodness. Once you have opened the door to evil then you just have issues with why does it effect X. But evil effects everything. If it breaks our relationship with God then we can't say a Tsunami is not the result of evil. So the amount of evil and suffering in the world is not a problem for Catholics. If anything, it is smaller than we would expect. Sin is seriously wrong and we commit a lot of it. I think that is the big error in your reasoning. You assume sin is a trifle and our suffering is out of proportion. The truth is that a single sin is an unimaginable disaster for the universe. Yet we commit them at an incredible rate and wonder what is wrong with God.

      • josh

        Sin isn't everywhere. Most people go about their lives in a perfectly decent fashion. They may not be your ideal people but they aren't terrible and they don't deserve the level of suffering that we see in the world. Moreover, most of the harms people commit are inextricably linked to their circumstances in the world: they are hungry, afraid, uncertain, foolish, denied dignity, etc. and those are circumstances beyond their control but not God's. The suffering and 'evil' that we see are not logically entailed by 'sin'. Free will cannot solve your problem. We can say that a Tsunami can't be the result of evil. It isn't required by the existence of evil so a perfect God wouldn't arrange that random calamity.

        I don't wonder what it wrong with God, he doesn't exist. I wonder what is wrong with you that you have allowed loyalty to your religion to so warp your sense of empathy, justice, and logic. The worst father in the world does not drown a disobedient child, yet you believe your perfect loving God would.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          "I don't wonder what it wrong with God, he doesn't exist. I wonder what is wrong with you that you have allowed loyalty to your religion to so warp your sense of empathy, justice, and logic. The worst father in the world does not drown a disobedient child, yet you believe your perfect loving God would."

          Can an atheist give me a good reason this isn't the equivalent of saying "If you're an atheist, you can't complain if you get stabbed"?

          • josh

            Can you flesh out in what sense they could be remotely equivalent? I'm not following you here.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It was a statement someone made on this thread when it was first posted, that (rightfully, I think) drew ire of the atheists for being inflammatory and baiting.

            "I wonder what is wrong with you..." Isn't this what you hate when people say that about atheists?

          • josh

            No. If people think there is something wrong with me that I don't
            believe in God, it is not my problem, although I expect them to respect
            my rights in our mutual society. If they had a decent argument for why I
            rationally should believe in God, I would hope that they would present
            it, since I don't like being wrong. The 'atheists...stabbed' comment
            shows a massive lack of logical followthrough and ignorance of the
            atheist position, plus it reads as vaguely threatening. That's the
            problem with it.

            I'm trying to make the point that I think Randy
            really isn't so vastly different from me in his thinking about ethical
            subjects EXCEPT that his religion requires him to introduce special
            pleading and non-sequitors to preserve itself. (Apologies if this gets double posted.)

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            And there was literally no other way to phrase your sentence other than "What is wrong with you?"

            Civil, fruitful has been the watchword. I didn't delete or edit your posts, but please?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That was my comment. I guess I was either making amazing Einsteinian logical leaps or was being a complete ding dong.

            I will say this for Josh, that he is more right that those who think we live in some sunny ordered world.

            God has inserted us as innocent and ignorant babies into a Shakespearean dramatic sh!t storm of epic proportions. We exist in a crucible. Does God have that right? I kinda think he does, especially since it's just the prelude to real life.

          • Michael Murray

            Does God have that right? I kinda think he does, especially since it's just the prelude to real life.

            This is one of the reasons I think all religions are potentially dangerous. You replace the real world with an imaginary one and decide the imaginary one is the real one. Hence suffering in the real world can be ignored. Christianity did a nice job of trying to address this by having god a suffering human which I am sure is one of reasons it has been so successful.

            My son used to have a T-shirt which said "I think you've mistake me for someone who gives a shit". As an answer to the problem of pain it's hard to argue with .

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Please don't lump all religions together--just as you would not want all atheists lumped together.

            I don't agree that Catholicism is replacing a real world with an imaginary one. This world is REAL. The suffering CAN'T be ignored.

            Let me put it another way. Life is just the world's greatest story, the story of all stories come to life. Unfortunately, a story is only as good as its conflicts.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't mind you lumping atheists together if you want to talk about something they have in common. Like they all don't believe in gods. Likewise religions have various things in common and a belief in some sort of imaginary world (coupled of course to a denial it is imaginary) is common to a lot of religions.

            I like crime stories but I would be perfectly happy if the real world had no murders in.

          • articulett

            In a way all religions are alike in that all believers think that they have the true religion and that they know what some god wants.

            An atheist will not confuse the voices in the head for god-- or angels or saints or Satan or demons or ghosts or fairies or Zeus or any other mystical being.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I assume that everyone is searching for the truth. That means we all have that in common, right?

            The only voice in my head that my Catholic faith tells me to listen to is the voice of my conscience. Don't Catholics and atheists share that, too?

          • articulett

            But peoples' conscience tells them to do different things... Apparently Abraham thought god was telling him to kill his kid-- so did she: http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/03/29/children.slain/

            Conscience or god? There's no method to tell is there?

            People who believe in the supernatural are not searching for the truth-- they think they've found it-- and they guard against discovery that they might be wrong. I don't blame them-- with the threat of hell hanging over them... but it doesn't lead you any closer to the truth than it does a Muslim.

            The believer in the supernatural's method for getting at the truth is clearly flawed-- there is no error correcting mechanism... nothing which takes known human cognitive errors into account. Consequently we have people who really believe that god wants them to kill purported witches or drive airplanes into buildings. And we have no way to prove that god exists much less that he's not directing people to do these things.

            An atheist doesn't confuse the voices in their head with directives from god-- they don't imagine that their eternity is at stake if they don't do some certain thing. Couldn't you be made to do anything if you could be convinced that god wanted you to (and your eternity was at stake). Do you see the problem with such thinking?

          • Susan

            >People who believe in the supernatural are not searching for the truth-- they think they've found it--

            That deserves a highlight.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan, you have exactly stated your own position: "People who reject the supernatural are not searching for the truth--they think they've found it."

            Don't you think you have found THE truth or at least A truth?

          • Susan

            >Don't you think you have found THE truth or at least A truth?

            Honestly, Kevin. No.

            Why do you think that's the case? I appreciate this question as it's an important point in my participation here at Strange Notions.

            Have you ever seen me make ultimate claims based on ill-defined language in the face of things I find confusing?
            I am interested in what's true, if that's what you mean. I think we all should be.

            I have a certain amount of confidence that our best bet is to use methods that reliably stop us from fooling ourselves as much as we are prone to do and that we can make progress from there.

            Is that what you mean?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan, I think you are arguing that you do think you have found at least one certain truth.

            I assume you have good will in searching for the truth. I hope you will extend an assumption of good will to people who believe in the supernatural.

            I agree that we should not accept unsupported assertions. The only basis we have for dialogue is evidence (for inductive truths) and arguments (for deductive truths).

          • Susan

            >I hope you will extend an assumption of good will to people who believe in the supernatural.

            I hope I have demonstrated that I have good will for the theists here. Why wouldn't I? If I've given a different impression, I made a mistake somewhere down the line and I would be happy if you pointed it out

            But for the idea of the "supernatural", not so much. I have asked more than once what it means and nothing coherent has come back.

            Just special pleading.

            I'm admittedly a little slow some times. Maybe you'd like to try again.

          • Susan

            >Susan, I think you are arguing that you do think you have found at least one certain truth.

            If you mean by that that I am working with the most reliable compass humans have developed and that I am trying to develop my skills with it, yes. Show me a better compass and I'll learn to work that if I can.

            >I agree that we should not accept unsupported assertions.

            Good. And as the existence of Yahweh is the prevailing assertion in this site's experiment, the burden is yours

            I expect it to meet the same high standards as any crucial claim, let alone ultimate claims.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think you are projecting on all religious persons what some religious persons and even atheists think and do.

            Here is something you can critique if you care to, the concept of conscience.

            Conscience is one's practical reason sitting in judgment on one's actions. In other world, one judges the rectitude of one's actions based on one's understanding of the moral law.

            One's understanding of the moral law could be wrong, but what else do we have?

            Atheists also do bad things based on their ideologies, like the atheistic Marxists murdering tens of millions of people during the 20th century. How do your judge that and on what basis?

          • Michael Murray

            Paragraphs 2, 3, 4 are all good. How do you get to the last sentence though ? Like you I judge things by my "understanding of moral law". Except I wouldn't call it "moral law" because it sounds too much like it's carved in stone somewhere. For me it's a distillation of various things which we've all posted about before. Seriously the concept of a humanist ethics without a theistic basis is not something new.

            Why would I want to critique the concept of conscience ? There is certainly a part of my brain that plays that role.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I was responding to Susan's somewhat inchoate system of ethics which sees religious persons doing all kinds of evil things but leaves out why atheists do the same or even worse [Alexander Solzhenitsyn, for example, cataloged the many evils of the Czarists and then showed the Marxists doing the same thing but to the nth degree].

            I think I agree about an individual's moral reasoning being more a "distillation" than something set in stone. Most of us do not carry around in our heads a full-fledged ethics.

            Re, humanistic ethics without God, I don't think ethics needs a theistic basis at all. All we need is an adequate understanding of what the true good is for humanity and an adequate motivation to adhere to it.

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,

            >I was responding to Susan's somewhat inchoate system of ethics which sees religious persons doing all kinds of evil things but leaves out why atheists do the same or even worse

            I'm not sure where I said that, Kevin. If I seem to have implied it, I apologize. I don't think that that's the case at all. Even if I did, the evidence would prove me wrong. There are many scoundrels among theists and atheists, as well.

            I do think that appeals to the "supernatural" and claims to any sort of truth based on that is special pleading by prefix and is not in any way useful when examining the complexities of anything, let alone the moral directions we might take.

            I hate to use the "some of my best friends" cliche, but honestly, I know some very, very good theists, many of whom I am related to (and have met some very likeable ones here) .

            I have respectfully extended that same point to them for critique, when appropriate. I've also encountered some very icky atheists.

            Unsupported ultimate claims should be distrusted as a matter of course. Atheism is a rejection of specific unsupported ultimate claims but only on one subject. There are lots of subjects. .

            I could be wrong. I am used to being wrong much of the time. That's how I learn.

            Explain where I've erred.

          • Max Driffill

            I think it is always important to remember that there really are important facts about human life that can be the basis for framing a moral society. No one likes or appreciates it when their autonomy is unnecessarily infringed upon. No one likes being deprived of a fair shake. I could essay more, but I don't need to, anyway can add more. But we know that people will agitate and fight for relief from egregious injuries to autonomy etc, and we know that there are no good arguments for infringing on said, especially if we ourselves value the same kinds of freedoms (which is most of us).

            There is no point in setting the fact that universe is pointless against these facts about human nature. Because the fact that the universe is pointless doesn't affect how we feel about the qualities of life alluded to above. Again, I think this is a fine place, indeed the only place, to begin to have a discussion about morals.

          • severalspeciesof

            "Atheists also do bad things based on their ideologies, like the
            atheistic Marxists murdering tens of millions of people during the 20th
            century."

            But they didn't do those things because they were 'atheistic'... they did them based on other ideologies, since 'atheism' doesn't have an ideology beyond 'no belief in god'...

          • Susan

            >But they didn't do those things because they were 'atheistic'... they did them based on other ideologies, since 'atheism' doesn't have an ideology beyond 'no belief in god'...

            They didn't believe in tens of thousands of gods. How does that one deity make a difference?

            If Yahweh made the difference, there wouldn't be all those horrors commited by Yahweh believers.

            But severalspeciesof's point is the important one. It wasn't because they didn't believe in some sort of deity. There is no connection there.

            It's because they were psychopaths and believed in irrational ideologies that they thought it was perfectly fine to murder, torture, imprison, oppress and starve people.

            See the Old Testament for examples of that personality profile.

          • Sample1

            Calling Marxism an atheistic ideology only makes relative sense within the Judeo-Christian worldview. Would a Jainist call Marxism an atheistic ideology? There's no reason to think so.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            Don't Catholics and atheists share that, too?

            Unlikely. While it's true that the Catholic faith tells you Kevin to listen to the voice that is your conscience, you are required to form your conscience based upon the teachings of the Magisterium. In other words, you may think freely unless the Church says you are thinking in a disordered way. Just think about that.

            Mike

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Then, to be more precise, Catholics and atheists should share the obligation to listen to and to obey the moral law.

            We also should share how we know what that moral law is, namely reason.

            Obviously we don't share belief in a Magisterium, or teaching office, which can interpret the moral law.

          • BenS

            Then, to be more precise, Catholics and atheists should share the obligation to listen to and to obey the moral law.

            We also should share how we know what that moral law is, namely reason.

            What, then, when the moral law we arrive at through reason quite clearly shows that homosexuals should not be denied rights heterosexuals have - in the same way that people of a different skin colour, gender or height should not be discriminated against?

            Which takes precedence then? The reason derived moral law of the teachings of the Catholic church? If the latter then the whole concept of 'sharing an obligation to listen and obey the moral law' is moot as Catholics would ignore it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. There is just a disagreement as to what the moral law says.

            If, as you say, Catholics would ignore your judgment of reason, it is because they think it is not a judgment of reason. And if your judgment of reason were enforced by civil law, Catholics would consider that law (in the words of Thomas Aquinas) "a kind of violence" and resist it.

          • BenS

            If, as you say, Catholics would ignore your judgment of reason, it is because they think it is not a judgment of reason.

            If Catholics insist on a steadfast adherence to their own particular rules then there can be no 'reasoned' approach to providing a moral law that differs to their rules. They would be open to reason only so far as it doesn't contradict the rules they're sticking to. So... utterly pointless really.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you agree that each of us should follow his conscience--that is, his practical reason--come what may?

          • BenS

            No. There are times when you may not want to follow your conscience or occasions where you're forced to act in a way that runs contrary to it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            For example?

            Want and should are not the same thing. Neither are want and must.

          • BenS

            If, for example, you're kidnapped and told by terrorists to read from a sheet saying things you don't believe or they'll behead your children. You are then trapped between either breaking your conscience by lying or breaking your conscience by not doing everything you can to prevent harm to your children.

            I'm not sure where you're going with this but I'm happy to play along for now. I haven't forgotten, though, that you've not responded to my point that no manner of reasoning will move a Catholic to support a moral law that contradicts their own rules and therefore reason is a useless tool for Catholics to apply to morality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Moral dilemmas aside, I think you are trying to say that Catholics who accept the Church's moral teaching on some societally disputed moral question are acting irrationally.

            I reject that judgment.

            I don't know of any moral question that the Magisterium of the Church has made a judgment about that is based purely what the Church claims is divine revelation.

          • BenS

            Moral dilemmas aside...

            Well, you did ask for it...

            I think you are trying to say that Catholics who accept the Church's moral teaching on some societally disputed moral question are acting irrationally.

            What I'm saying is that any moral disputes can never be resolved by applying reason when one is permanently bound by Catholic rules.

            Firstly, I'm not sure which of the Church's teachings are dogma but I pulled this from a list:

            243: From the sacramental contract of marriage emerges the Bond of Marriage, which binds both marriage partners to a lifelong indivisible community of life.

            Which I take to mean that marriage is permanent and cannot be dissolved. Hence, any moral questions about divorce CANNOT be changed by reason as this is dogma and cannot be altered. Thus, in the moral debate around marriage, reason is a useless tool to a Catholic.

            ----

            Note: This assumes I'm representing the Catholic position correctly. I'm unfamiliar with how dogma and such works so I may be corrected.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That's a good example, Ben, and a tough one.

            I think the Catholic moral theologian would say that indissolubility is a natural characteristic of a properly contracted marriage and that a divorce which would allow remarriage would be against the natural law. He'd say the truth of that can be confirmed by reason.

            He would also say that this natural law teaching was confirmed by Divine Revelation when Christ corrected the Law of Moses, which allowed a man to put aside his wife, by restoring marriage to the way it was "at the beginning."

            So you are right in one sense. The question of whether a valid marriage is dissolvable is settled for Catholics who listen to the Magisterium.

            The Catholic apologist can show that the Church's teaching on the natural law is both reasonable but demonstrable, even if many people will never accept that demonstration.

          • BenS

            That's a good example, Ben, and a tough one.

            Thanks, though to be honest I was skimming the list. I imagine there will be better ones, I'm just not up enough on Catholicism to know of them.

            He'd say the truth of that can be confirmed by reason..... The Catholic apologist can show that the Church's teaching on the natural law is both reasonable but demonstrable, even if many people will never accept that demonstration.

            Then it's not a definition of reason I would be prepared to use as it works the wrong way around. That rule was not arrived at by reason but by revelation and then worked backwards from that to provide a 'reasonable' explanation.

            That many people will not accept the demonstration of that reason means that reason is not a useful tool for Catholic morality. If the reasoning is only acceptable to Catholics then it's not proper reasoning; it's more like rationalisation.

          • Michael Murray

            We also should share how we know what that moral law is, namely reason.

            But it's not all reason is it. There is unevidenced assertion about the existence of souls and the entry of said souls into fetuses at the moment of conception.

            Also a lot of unevidenced assertion about certain things being disordered and unnatural like homosexuality.

          • Max Driffill

            I'm not exactly comfortable with terms like "the moral law.' For one because I don't think that term references a real thing in the universe. I do think there are salient objective facts about human lives that set limits on what is and and is not moral. Saying it moral law pretends that it morality is completely defined, and finished, all we need do is obey it. The user of this term seems to imagine that there may be no new facts that can change our moral considerations.

            Morality has not always been the same. The morality depicted in the Bible for instance is so appalling to us in this day and age that believers must forever try to excuse it and sweep it under the rug. The reason for that shifting morality has been an increase in the awareness that human beings not one's self, regardless of sex, or color or creed, want the same kinds of freedoms. We also have come to recognize that non-human animals are also quite capable of suffering.

            Accepting these facts about human and animal suffering forms the basis for any discussion of morality and what our obligations are to one another. But there is a lot room for debate about how to create a moral society, whatever our personal ethical stance might be.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Max, natural law reasoning does reference something real in the universe: human nature. The more adequate our understanding of human nature is, and the more valid our reasoning is, the more "perfect" our understanding of the moral law for human beings is.

            Even in the case of animal suffering, there has to be something in human nature that gives us an obligation to them that they do not have to us.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            I think there is almost a point of agreement here. Almost.

            "Max, natural law reasoning does reference something real in the universe: human nature. The more adequate our understanding of human nature is, and the more valid our reasoning is, the more "perfect" our understanding of the moral law for human beings is."

            I do agree that there are objective facts about human human and non-human animal lives that can form the basis for discussions of morality.

            But that doesn't mean that it provides us with more perfect moral law. That only means at minimum it gives us an place to start. Any discussion of morality must first admit that no law could possibly be perfect, because, among other things, these facts about human nature are some times in conflict, and in crafting our moral obligations to one another we must admit of compromise, and always be open to better ideas. Our ethical stances may go further than our cultural moral code (we can give more money, or time, etc) but our ethics can not be lesser than our agreed upon moral code. These are complicated issues and the one thing that positively hinders giving discussions of morality and ethics is the presence of a party,or parties that thinks they have the most perfect moral law.

            Managing our obligations to one another and our obligations to ourselves is a tricky business. Understanding our shared human nature is certainly one of the keys to understanding what constitutes moral concern and outrage and must be the beginning of finding a balance between these competing needs that respects individual autonomy as well as the fact that our choices affect the lives of others.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks, Max.

          • Sample1

            I don't know what you mean by moral law. Really, I don't. I'm a moral person in my particular culture, but perhaps not seen as so in other cultures.

            Mike

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In this context, by moral law I mean human reason's search into human nature through reflecting on human experience in order to fill out the basic principle "do good and avoid evil."

            Since human nature holds across all human cultures, we are going to keep finding agreement. For example, we find the "silver rule" 'do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself' in many places and in many ages.

            I'd say if we encountered a culture that said, "It's okay to cheat those who are not likely to be able to take revenge on you" we could judge that a deformed culture.

          • Sample1

            Sure. I strongly suspect you're right about reason being fundamental to humanity's quest for a more moral and just society. I've been plugging away at what will likely become one of the definitive works on just this very topic: The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker.

            Pinker gives four main reasons why our species may very well be living in the most peaceful era of its existence. Better government, cosmopolitanism, education and a sense of fair play (empathy, reason). He cites reason as probably the most important long term factor in the decline of violence (particularly seen over the last 400yrs). Violence, in almost every way that it can be measured is globally in decline. Even violence against non-human animal species is in decline considering most human cultures now affords them anti-cruelty protection.

            Here is a short video montage regarding some of the key points.

            From my perspective, these facts and figures researched and presented by Pinker gives me a cautious sense of optimism about the human species. Contrast that with the often held claim by the faithful that this world is going to "hell in a hand basket" and one begins to wonder, who benefits from propagating that message?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks.

            I'm not sure who you mean by "the faithful" because the Catholic Church is very hopeful about the future and the possibility of build a more humane world on earth. One great example of this is Gaudium et Spes from Vatican II.

            On the other hand, the world can go to hell in a handbasket pretty quickly. The last century was one of the most violent of all time beginning with the Armenian holocaust and ending with Rwanda, with incredible bloodshed in between.

          • Sample1

            It's wonderful to hear of your claim that the Catholic Church is hopeful about the future and not pessimistic.

            You're probably wrong about the last century being the most violent of all time. There are at least nine atrocities (that we know of) that when adjusted for population, were more violent than the last century. World War One is not even among those list of nine which include: the slave trade, horse tribe invasions, collapsing empires and annihilation of indigenous peoples.

            And a century, as Pinker is always keen to point out, is one hundred years long. The latter half of the 20th century is characterized by what is now known as the Long Peace (democracies no longer wage wars on other democracies). It's vitally important to the understanding of how one can claim that violence is on the decline by realizing that this does not mean that pockets of violence still occur. But as an overall figure, there is no arguing with the math: the numbers indicate that rates of violence across all measurable metrics is declining.

            Mike

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I accept your math!

          • severalspeciesof

            Really? This life, this storm of epic proportions, is just the prelude to real life?

            Got evidence of the real life then?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The evidence would be all the objective and subjective reasons it is reasonable to believe that what the Gospels teach is true.

          • Michael Murray

            So zilch then.

          • severalspeciesof

            "the objective and subjective reasons" I believe 'reasons' used in this sense are not evidence, but rather the tools to see if the evidence is good...

            I ask again: what is the evidence that this is not the real life, but rather that the real life awaits us... (Clue: using the Bible as evidence is NOT good evidence)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think I could ever prove to you that a life beyond this life exists. All I could hope to do is to show you that it is reasonable to believe that.

            The existence of what Catholics mean by heaven, hell, or purgatory is a claim, obviously. I think it is a claim which is a conclusion which logically can be drawn from many other claim/conclusions. Some of these claim/conclusions are the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, an objective moral law, the Resurrection of Christ, and more. Each one of those claims can be shown to rest on reasonable grounds.

            The evidence that can be marshaled to support each of these claims and how they link up to support the idea of a life after death goes way beyond what can be done in combox comment. In fact, I think this is one reason this website exists.

            The evidence, though, would be like evidence in a legal trial, a preponderance of the evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt. It would not be like proof in a science experiment.

          • severalspeciesof

            "The evidence that can be marshaled to support each of these claims and
            how they link up to support the idea of a life after death goes way
            beyond what can be done in combox comment. In fact, I think this is one
            reason this website exists."

            I think a reasonable case can be made that this websites' very existence has shown that all those claims can be undermined through reason. Each claim you have listed has been supported with more claims, that is, claims of the presuppositionalist kind...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I had to look up presuppositionalism. Catholic apologetics is not presuppositionalistic.

            Any claim can be undermined through reason. That is the nature of the beast.

            I think from the Catholic point of view, the best we can do is to try to establish what we cal the "preambles of faith." No one could expect you to assent to the dogma of the Blessed Trinity if you think the very idea of the existence of God is absurd.

          • severalspeciesof

            Sorry, I meant presuppositional in a generic sense, not as a type of apologetics. Here's a good blog that gets to this idea better than I have done (especially regarding the god concept):

            http://www.theaunicornist.com/2013/04/the-problem-with-presuppositionalism.html

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks. I read it.

            I think there is something to be said for presuppositionalism as long as it is not a closed system. You assume something is true and then you begin to act on that assumption and you get feedback from reality.

            For examaple, as Artigas argues in THE MIND OF THE UNIVERSE, one of the presuppositions of science which it gets from the Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman heritage is that there is order in the universe. Without a belief in order, there would nothing to study.

            What does the progress of science tell us about this presupposition? Science's progress, Artigas argues, actually "retrojustifies, enlarges and refines" this original assumption. For example, we have not only confirmed that there is a natural order, but discovered that this order is
            characterized by self-organization and information. The universe, experience says, is even more ordered than originaly imagined.

          • Susan

            >Can an atheist give me a good reason this isn't the equivalent of saying "If you're an atheist, you can't complain if you get stabbed"?

            The religious view that there is an agent behind all of being who created a planet where suffering and death have been going on for hundreds of millions of years for humans and non-humans just so that a very small group of one species can benefit and to call that agent "good" is to take a very disturbing moral position.

            From an outside view, it's hard not to think that your innate morality has been undermined to accommodate that belief. You asked. I'm not saying that to be insulting. You have to stop and imagine what it's like from someone who doesn't see the good in that idea. The case is yours to make and it hasn't been made.

            Not believing in an unevidenced deity (and not a very nice one from my point of view) is not taking a moral position. It's simply not believing for what I think are very good reasons and I have every right to complain if I get stabbed. There's no connection between atheism and volunteering for a stabbing.

            For the record, I would never tell a catholic that they can't complain if they get stabbed. That would be nasty. They would have every right to complain.

            But if they post a piece on morality and expose their position on the subject, and I find the position itself immoral, it's reasonable to say so.

        • Randy Gritter

          "they don't deserve the level of suffering that we see in the world" That is a key difference. How do you know what level of suffering you or I deserve? Does it not depend not just on what we are but on what we should be? Isn't there an assumption built in here that a typical man with pride and anger and lust and greed is OK. Christianity would say No. We are called to love. Not just any love but the greatest of loves where someone lays down his life for another. If that is what I am meant to be then I am really failing badly. I should not expect God to reward me. I should expect Him to push me to do better. I should be count it as mercy if I am not punished for failing so badly.

          • josh

            I'm not claiming that anyone deserves a specific level of suffering. I'm pointing out that if anyone can deserve suffering the levels we see aren't right. These are your assumptions that are being challenged. I am judging things according to normally accepted standards. I know many greedy, prideful, etc. people. They could be better in my opinion. I wouldn't wish cancer on any of them. Nor rape, murder, starvation, abuse, ... the list is endless.

            If you abandon all normal judgment about proportional responses to crime, or rather in this case, to character flaws, then I think you have essentially abandoned any hope of ethical discussion. If you are called to love then consider the fact that this world isn't compatible with a loving, omnipotent being. That belief is getting in the way of your being a more loving person.

          • Randy Gritter

            How do we decide what we deserve? Don't we just compare it to what other people seem to get? But a good God could be giving everyone better than they deserve. We might all deserve to spend eternity in hell. Then anything we get, even cancer or rape or starvation of our family or whatever, anything is better than we deserve. So their existence does not prove God is not good. It proves God, so far, has not treated everyone equal. Some get 10 times better than they deserve and other get 1000 times better than they deserve. You use the phrase "normal judgment about proportional responses." You are assuming God is normal. Now that seems impossible. An God of infinite goodness having a judgement that fits into our human moral judgements and can be described as normal. I think such a God must have a moral judgement that is mind-blowing. That is what Christianity suggests.

          • josh

            No, we don't just compare to what other people get, that's part of the point: I can look at other people and say they are getting worse than they deserve, just considered by themselves. I am not assuming anything except that words actually mean something and therefore that you actually mean something when you say God is loving,just, perfect, moral, etc., you are assuming that God exists and is good and therefore you ignore all evidence to the contrary. You are attempting to strip words like 'good' and 'deserve' of all meaning when you remove them entirely from the context of their normal usage. They become mere appellations which you affix to 'God' by unargued fiat. You might as well say you have proven that God is smurfy because humans must not understand what 'smurfy' really means.

  • Jim Russell

    I know there are already lots of comments attached here, and maybe the answer is somewhere in the thread, but can I just ask outright:
    1. Do most atheists admit the existence of evil?
    2. If so, how does the atheist define evil?
    3. If not, what term ought to be applied other than "evil"?
    thanks,
    Deacon JR

    • Octavo

      I prefer to describe actions as kind or cruel rather than good or evil. It's more descriptive, and less prone to misunderstanding.

      • Rationalist1

        Same with love. It's effectively a verb, not a noun.

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Ocatvo, how would you define "kind" or "cruel"? How would you determine which description a particular actions deserves?

        • Octavo

          I try to use them as they are commonly used, but detailing them in a way that could be used to build a moral philosophy would take a long time and is more than I can do in a comment box while at work.

          I'll go for some basic definitions.
          Kindness: alleviating suffering.
          Cruelty: Inflicting or promoting suffering.

          Suffering and misery seem to me to be the "atoms" of a useful moral system. If your moral system hurts people, I'm probably going to oppose it. When it helps people, I'll applaud it. In daily life, I get a lot of mileage out of that formulation.

          ~Jesse Webster

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      1. Do most atheists admit the existence of evil?

      Hi Jim,

      It is hard to answer a question about "most atheists" because all we know for sure about most atheists is that they don't believe in deities. I will go out on a limb and claim that most atheists don't believe in anything supernatural, at all, although I do know that there are a small number who do.

      Atheists, who also do not believe in any supernatural extension to reality, don't believe in "evil" as a thing being spread by evil spirits or demons etc. As Octavo mentioned below, we see actions that strike us as cruel and generally equate those with "evil acts" or "acts of evil."

      Hope that helps.

      • Jim Russell

        Thanks to you and Octavo--even among theists, sometimes what actually counts as "evil" is disputed, of course, but I can only imagine that an atheistic ethical system is beset with difficulty since there is no real appeal to "authority" possible?

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          ... but I can only imagine that an atheistic ethical system is beset with difficulty since there is no real appeal to "authority" possible?

          Yes, Jim, that does make it tough. It is a bit like when you grow up and leave home and, perhaps for the first time, realize that you are on your own and have to decide what you are going to do, and why. It is not easy, but if we want a better world to live in, we have to step up and take the responsibility to make it so.

          • Jim Russell

            But isn't part of the difficulty determining who gets to decide what a "better world" really is? for example, if I decide, based entirely on an atheistic personal ethic, that not aborting unborn humans is "better" than abortion, how should a society go about determining which is really "better"?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            But isn't part of the difficulty determining who gets to decide what a "better world" really is?

            Yes, it is. That is why people have, traditionally, always wanted to have a king or other supreme leader to simply make the call for them. We know that really bad things can happen when we argue about it among ourselves. This has also been the historical case when the different religions each hold that they have the answer from "higher authority" but those answers are not the same.

            Those who don't believe in deities see the history of morality as man made, arising from our biology and social history. Somebody made the decisions of what to set as right and wrong. A tribal leader could make things better just by getting enough of the people to go along with a moral code, partially independent of what that code was.

            for example, if I decide, based entirely on an atheistic personal ethic, that not aborting unborn humans is "better" than abortion, how should a society go about determining which is really "better"?

            We are not going to know what is "really" better. To do so would require full knowledge of all possible futures based on all possible decision points. I have written a bit about this under the idea of "Betterism." However, we can't let the prefect be the enemy of the good. We are not going to get it perfect, but together we can use our brains and resources to craft moral systems that are clearly better than others. That is the main theme Sam Harris put in his book.

            Remember that moral systems are not exactly the same as legal systems. There can be things that most of the people think are not moral, but still are not prohibited by law because of personal liberty considerations or other factors. In a free society, you can campaign for people to come to agree with your ideas of morality and behave as such, and you can try to convince enough people to change laws when you think others should be forced to conform behavior.

        • 42Oolon

          Firstly, there is no such thing as atheist morality, no more than the is "morality of people who do not believe in aliens." There are secular or humanist moral frameworks which are, in fact, strengthened by a lack of appeal to authority. These frameworks look at actions and consequences rather than dogma and tradition or a moral intuition alone. I think Catholic morality would be fraught with the conflict of divine command prohibiting things which seem to cause no harm. E.g. Denying women from the priesthood. This I would say is discriminatory and harmful to women who want their voices heard. There is no reason for this prohibition other than the whim of a god, who's objective moral reasons for this are utterly unknown to humans. In my morality there is no reason to deny a certain profession to anyone based on their gender. It makes no sense as part of a divinely inspired tradition instituted by a god-man devoted to human equality. It makes perfect sense as a relic of a sexist tradition established at a time when women were considered less worthy and capable.

          • Jim Russell

            Interesting choice of an example, given that the question of who ought to be a priest of a particular faith is not exactly equivalent to the question of who could or should be permitted to pursue a secular "profession." Priesthood is not a "profession." Plumbing is. If all such religious identities are merely "professions," then perhaps I should, as a Catholic deacon, present myself to my local synagogue and demand the right to be a Rabbi as well. What harm would it cause?
            But of course this is a bit absurd, right?

          • 42Oolon

            It would cause no harm and I am sure the synagogue would not turn you away because you are a man. They might refuse you because as a catholic deacon you are utterly unqualified to be a rabbi. This would be a good reason. My point is that this authority that bans women from priesthood is immoral, but you are bound by it. As I understand it, it makes no difference how qualified, faithful and competent a woman is, she can never be a priest, much less a pope. No women can ever hold and position of real power in your church. i have never heard a good reason for this, rather it is dogma, it is a rule you have for no reason other than authority. There could be some perfect entirely objective basis for both our moral viewpoints on this. But if such a thing exists it is not available to either of us. My advantage is I make no appeal to such hidden truth or authority. My morality is based on what we actually know and our best understanding of interests and outcomes. I would submit yours is too, but you are shackled with antiquated authority and dogma that places you in ridiculous moral positions with respect to women, homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

          • Jim Russell

            Aren't we back to what I asked at the beginning about who gets to "decide" what is "immoral" and what isn't? You've apparently decided that many things Catholics believe are "immoral" and that Catholics are placed in "ridiculous" moral positions. And you are basing these conclusions not upon what the Catholic Church says about itself but about what you personally *conclude* are the reasons the Church teaches what she does. All you are doing is proposing an argument against Catholic belief based upon your *own* authority, an authority which I have no obligation to accept and you have no real basis to offer, other than it is what you believe.
            Meaning that there *is* ultimately an "appeal" to authority in what you assert--but the authority is internal rather than external, it seems.
            And you are welcome to believe what you choose, but doing so doesn't resolve the question of how to build an authoritative external moral framework without reference to good and evil, and thus without reference to God.

          • 42Oolon

            You are using the word "authority" in an way that seems odd to me. When I make a moral decision, I do so based on reason and the facts as I best understand them. I do not consider this to be an appeal to authority. Irrespective of the terminology, what I disagree with is any rules that are unchangable, regardless of what we know and learn. I would suggest that the ban on women is a rule that is a relic from a time when it was believed that women were inherently less worthy than men. Secular institutions have all disposed of such direct discrimination because we now know it is unjustified. This belief that you have that there is some objective standard of morality is unjustified and does not assist you in making moral decisions. Theists must equally apply reason to various factors relevant to make a moral decision. While theists claim their is an "objective" perfect morality, all you have is your intuition of what this might be, you must still interpret this the bible, etc.

          • Jim Russell

            "Secular institutions have all disposed of such direct discrimination because we now know it is unjustified."
            Who is the "we" in this?
            What changed that allowed "us" to "know" that what was once accepted is now "unjustified." Not that I'm arguing for discrimination, but I'm trying to understand the process you seem to allude to.
            And how can we make moral judgments upon past behavior if there are no moral absolutes and it's all changeable? Doesn't that mean that a couple hundred years ago, for example, slavery was "moral" for "those" people, but now for "us", "we" don't consider it "moral" anymore?
            If morality is basically a form of "groupthink", in which the "we" gets to decide what's really right and wrong, then there is no basis for accusing past generations of actually doing what is "wrong" because for *that* group it was considered "right"....right? If not, what am I missing here?

          • 42Oolon

            By "we" I mean generally civil democratic society. What happened was social change movements led by feminists which caused us to examine sexist norms. This, alongside with the secularization of government lessened the grip of religious authority and the furtherance of equality for women.

            We can make objective pronouncements on past abuses by being reasonable. In this case, recognizing that there is no good reason for discriminating against women. Prejudicial stereotypes that women were a weaker sex or hysterical turned out to be objectively wrong. There is a difference between ultimate, absolute morality and reasonable, objective morality. Absolute morality, even if it were to exist, cannot be known to humans, whether divinely sourced or not. In either case, all we can do is use our reason to do the best we can.

            We all get to agree on what is right and wrong, sometimes as individuals, sometimes collectively.

            What does your appeal to authority get you, other than the sense that your moral intuitions are sometimes well-founded? Does your moral intuition tell you that women shouldn't be priests? Do you think that women lack the skills and abilities to do the job? How does it help you decide whether to allow women to be priests? Are you not just trusting an interpretation of scripture and tradition that has been abandoned by the majority of Christian sects?

          • Jim Russell

            "Prejudicial stereotypes that women were a weaker sex or hysterical turned out to be objectively wrong."
            But what definition of "objectivity" is to be used here? The continuum that is time itself doesn't favor an easy definition of "objectivity", does it? Even a hundred years ago, it was viewed as "objectively" correct to have women stay home and not even vote. Where does the line exist between what used to be "objectively right" and what is now "objectively wrong"?
            I guess that's what I'm getting at--you say we all "get to agree on what is right and wrong"--and yet we never do, and indeed the use of "reason" never affords us a complete consensus. "Generally civil democratic society" is the society that once safeguarded both slavery and discrimination against women, and yet that is basically the "authority" you seem to appeal to. Yet I don't see how that authority has a track record that is any better than what you've said of the Catholic Church's moral framework....

          • 42Oolon

            I use the definition of objective that is applied to objective tests in the legal context: what would the reasonable person after considering the evidence accept. Yes, you are right this method does not lead to consensus, but of course neither does some appeal to faith or supernatural authority. The difference is that secular morality can change, it can recognize when it is wrong or inconsistent and can easier lead to a society that promotes well-being.

            I believe I have clearly said that I do not appeal or accept authority for moral decision making.

            You have not responded to my questions of why it is moral to exclude women from the priesthood. I can only conclude that you think they are not capable or deserving, or that the good defensible reason is unknown to you and you just accept it on authority or faith.

            We're getting pretty distant for the subject of this article and I think I'll soon move on.

          • Jim Russell

            Understood--btw, there *are* answers to the women/priesthood question, really great answers in fact, but they too are not on topic and would get us further afield....but the bottom line is that is has to do with how and why God made us and how and why the first man and first woman tried to "un-make" God and how and why God then offered to "re-make" us by sending His Son--that's the brutally insufficient short version! Thanks for the conversation...

          • Susan

            >....but the bottom line is that is has to do with how and why God made us and how and why the first man and first woman tried to "un-make" God

            Is this connected to the fictional story of Adam and Eve?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Hi--it's connected to the Scriptural story of Adam and Eve...
            (and if "Strange Notions" ever deems this subject a good one for atheists and theists [in this case Catholics] to discuss, I'd be verrry glad to contribute!)

          • Susan

            Hi Jim,

            Sorry for interrupting like that. I was just confused when you said "how and why the first man and first woman tried to un-make God' as it's well established that there was no first man and first woman.

            I understand that you don't want to go into detail as you feel that it's off-topic but do you at least have a link to these "really great answers"?

            Thank you.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            "No first man and first woman"?

            Seems problematic from a mathematical point of view.
            Look at it this way--you, Susan, are a woman, right? I'm a man, right? It is mathematically certain that, of *all* the women ever to live on this planet, you, Susan are the (insert number here)-th woman to have ever existed. You represent the zillion-trillionth-something-or-other number in the finite line of women who ever existed, right? And I, likewise, represent a similar position on the number-line of all men who have ever existed.
            So, count backward.
            At some point in our respective number lines, we get to the "first man" and the "first woman", right? I mean, purely from a *mathematical* perspective?

          • Andrew G.

            You, er, probably want to brush up your biology a bit before trying to make that argument.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Andrew, do you disagree that at some point in time there was a *first* member of the species "homo sapiens"? Don't you agree that, at some point in time a hominid possessing all of the characteristics of modern humans emerged on the scene?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Jim, I recommend you search and read material re speciation in breeding populations, and a bit about the Sorites Paradox.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Fair enough--I'm game.

          • Andrew G.

            I absolutely do disagree that there was a "first" member of (virtually*) any species, because speciation simply does not work that way.

            (* - the exception is some rare cases of hybridization via polyploidy, not relevant here.)

          • Max Driffill

            Jim,

            Evolution simply doesn't work that way. Selective pressures operate on tiny variations among contemporaries. For a really wonderful example of how evolution works, you could do worse than reviewing Peter and Rosemary Grant's work on Darwin's Finches. They put out a book, largely aimed at other academics, but one that can be followed by the diligent interested reader. For a more layperson friendly synopsis of the Grant's research as well as lots of other work that elucidates how evolutionary processes operate, "The Beak of the Finch: The Story of Evolution in Our Time" by Jonathan Weiner is an excellent read, and tremendously insightful.

          • articulett

            Creatures have speciated when they no longer can produce viable offspring with each other. For example, horses and zebras are clearly related... and they can produce hybrids-- but the hybrids are sterile. I presume they've completed speciation; they are considered separate species, but are, no doubt, more closely related to each other than they are to us, for example. They are separate species of equine.

            But this didn't happen in a generation. There were no doubt thousands of years where their ancestors could have produced less fertile offspring before they could only produce sterile offspring... and then no offspring. Dogs are considered a subspecies of wolf because they can all produce fertile offspring with wolves... though because these offspring aren't really more fit for any environment, they will eventually speciate completely. But there was no first dog or first zebra or first horse.

            And in the same way-- there was no first human. I suppose you could march backwarad in time and find the last hominid that could produce viable offspring with any human today, and call that the first human-- but that ancestor would change (move forward) through time. Also, there were never just two humans on earth. We descend from a population of primitive hominids whose descendent nclude the Denisovans and Neanderthal (these are considered to be a separate species of hominid due to their mt. DNA-- although some interbred with some of our ancestors.)

            I suppose a god could have picked a random couple and injected souls in them, but there is no evidence that souls exist. For more see here: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/adam-and-eve-the-ultimate-standoff-between-science-and-faith-and-a-contest/

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            An excellent link.

          • Andrew G.

            Also, Coyne's book Why Evolution Is True has a chapter on speciation (which is actually his area of work, in which he co-wrote a standard textbook).

            Of the various popular books on evolution that have appeared of late, Coyne's is notable for being concise, clear and logical - though less of a "fun" read than some of the others.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Yes, I also have his book and recommend it together with "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin. It is a good thing this is not an Evangelical site where we would have to fight that war, just to get started.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            [D]o you disagree that at some point in time there was a *first* member of the species "homo sapiens"?

            Evolutionarily speaking, the idea makes no sense, particularly since populations evolve, not individuals.

            If a lightbulb blinks once a second and begins imperceptibly dim, gradually reaching blinding brightness at the end of a million blinks, could you name the number of the last dim blink and the first bright one?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            David--it may not be possible "name the number", but your question makes clear that you agree that there, in fact, *was* a "last dim blink" and a "first bright one," right?

            As tangential as this may be to this thread, my simple point is that, obviously, if the evolutionary categories of hominids mean anything at all, they must admit the existence of "firsts" among them in time. Once this is admitted, theists can propose that God "ensouls" these first biologically "human" hominids, thus creating the first human "persons."

            [all this from a casual reply about women and priesthood! :-) ]

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            . . . . it may not be possible "name the number", but your question makes clear that you agree that there, in fact, *was* a "last dim blink" and a "first bright one," right?

            First, it was not a great analogy, but no, I don't agree that there was a last dim blink and a first bright one. If there were some objective definition of dim and bright, why would it be impossible to say, "Now the one before was not bright, but this one is!" In the course of human evolution, it does not make sense to say there was a first male or female homo sapiens. That would mean that a non-homo sapiens male and female conceived a homo sapiens. And for the Adam and Eve scenario, it would have to mean that it happened twice and the two met each other, being the only two of the species in existence.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            By the way, let me preemptively rule out the theory that there evolved a whole population of merely animal just-on-the-verge-of-being-homo-sapiens, God chose two to give souls to (Adam and Eve), and that their descendants mated with the merely animal (soulless) just-on-the-verge-of-being-homo-sapiens, producing ensouled homo sapiens as their offspring. That would mean that the children of Adam and Eve married animals (which would be bestiality), and the grandchildren of Adam and Eve were all raised by one soulless animal parent and one parent descended from Adam and Eve with a soul.

            If it is not acknowledged that there must be a profound difference between soulless almost homo sapiens and ensouled homo sapiens, what does having a soul do for a person? I think any Christian would have to maintain that the gulf between a member of just-on-the-verge-of-being-homo-sapiens and a true human would be something on the order of the difference between humans and chimps.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            If it is not acknowledged that there must be a profound difference between soulless almost homo sapiens and ensouled homo sapiens, what does having a soul do for a person?

            Nothing, if there is no such thing. The facts we see in the record of natural history, and what we see today, is perfectly consistent with the "soul" being nothing more than mythical. Seen in that light, the evolution of our mental capabilities is a relatively smooth transition through the line of our ancestors, just as you had a relatively smooth transition in your own mental capabilities from being born with less than most other large primates, to surpassing them all on the way to adulthood.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I don't disagree, but in Christian thought, the soul is what makes a human being a human being. My point is that, with all the human capabilities Christian thought attributes to the soul, the alleged most highly evolved pre-humans without souls (the mothers and fathers of the first "ensouled" humans) would have had to have been something like chimps compared to their "ensouled" children. In Christian though, the idea of intermarriage between the most nearly human animals possible (without souls) and true humans (with souls), would be like humans marrying gorillas.

            In short, Christian thought attributes so much of what you (and I) attribute to the brain that the gap between the most highly evolved pre-human and their immediate offspring— the alleged first humans by reason of having been given souls—would have had to have been huge.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            —would have had to have been huge.

            Do mentally handicapped people have "souls"?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            In Catholic thought they certainly do. I think I can anticipate the "trap" here. If souls do all the work and brains are not really important, how do Catholics and others who attribute human intelligence to the soul explain the fact that a physical condition, say, Down syndrome, can have such a devastating impact on intelligence. Intelligence would seem to be in the soul. Is there a very intelligent soul trapped in the body of every Down syndrome individual?

            I once heard a (Catholic) father of a Down syndrome son musing on such issues, and he said that he supposed if some miracle (or miracle cure) could instantly transform his son into a "normal" individual, he didn't think it would be the person he knows as his son.

            The Christian idea, of course, is that at the end of the world we will all rise from the dead with perfected bodies and all deficiencies corrected. If that were the case, wouldn't people like Down syndrome individuals really just be different people? And what of the profoundly disabled—those who basically don't even register on the IQ scale and never understand language or talk. What in the world would they be like?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            In Catholic thought they certainly do. I think I can anticipate the "trap" here.

            Thanks for going down that line, but no, I was not going to do it that way. I was going to point out that even if there is a "soul," the evidence is that its presence is not what imparts the kind of "profound" gap you indicated that "must" have existed in our ancestral history, when "first" introduced.

            Many people with synesthesia enjoy that capability and would be sad to see the "defect" corrected, for all eternity. All joking aside, the whole concept of the "soul" and that being, somehow, really you, and its going to Heaven or Hell, is completely riddled with logical holes (as is Dualism in general and the Immaterial Mind contradiction in terms). Many of those are exposed by the simple questions children ask, until taught not to ask.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            All joking aside, the whole concept of the "soul" and that being, somehow, really you, and its going to Heaven or Hell, is completely riddled with logical holes . . .

            Even Thomas Aquinas acknowledges that a person's soul is not really the person. A human person, according to "deep" Catholic thinking, is both body and soul. But most Christians think of dying and going to heaven for all eternity. This is not what Christianity teaches. It seems to me there is "popular" Christianity, which conflicts with "theological" Christianity. And then, of course, there are serious critiques of both. I am sure it doesn't bother you, since you are able to dismiss it all, but having been raised Catholic, it bothers me that "popular" Christianity is not reconciled with "theological" Christianity.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I am sure it doesn't bother you, since you are able to dismiss it all, but having been raised Catholic, it bothers me that "popular" Christianity is not reconciled with "theological" Christianity.

            I was also raised Catholic, and educated by Dominicans and Jesuits, and yes, it does bother me. It bothers me that if they did tell the people the full story, they could not keep selling it. That comes through in so many stories from former religious people who started looking at the history of the texts, and the logical problems in the theology, and realized that what they had been taught was not justifiable.

          • articulett

            You can google Clive Wearing to see the person who clued me into the idea that souls can't be real-- 2 documentaries were made about him (you can see them on youtube). This poor man can't make new memories because his hippocampus was destroyed viral encephalitis (from herpes in the eye I think). He is constantly living in the now-- constantly feeling like he just woke up from a coma. His wife leaves the room for a minute and he is overjoyed at her return-- because to him it's a lifetime. He cries when he sees his kids because he missed seeing them grow up-- only he didn't! He keeps writing in his journal that he is "now fully awake for the first time"-- and when it's pointed out that he just wrote it he scratches it out angrily and then he does it again.

            Over and over and over. And you can't tell him what is wrong because he won't remember. It's so tragic to me. If you can't even make a new memory without a working hippocampus, how can you be anything at all with no brain at all? If souls are real-- and can remember who you are, what happened to Clive Wearing's soul? Interestingly though, Clive's wife has become more religious-- I think she feels like his feelings are his soul-- or mayb just having this belief helps her cope. She divorced him because of how hard it was to be around him... and then remarried him-- but he doesn't remember any of it.

            A person IS their brain. There is no separate part making separate decisions that live on after a person dies. We are as physical as all the other animals.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            We are as physical as all the other animals.

            Same thing with the study of the famous Henry G. Molaison.

          • articulett

            Yes-- the famous H.M.

            I like the Clive Wearing story because there have been two documentaries on him-- made almost 20 years apart, I think. And I can connect my own memories of seeing the first video, and how it made me start thinking of souls, and the more recent one-- where I've become a complete naturalist. It played a major role in my becoming a naturalist, but it made his wife more religious.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            A person IS their brain. There is no separate part making separate decisions that live on after a person dies.

            If the brain is hardware and personality is software, then a person is no more his or her brain than my computer right now is a web browser. I don't think science fiction is too far fetched in which a person is somehow scanned and their personality is either stored or transferred to some other medium.

            When Kirk and Spock beam from the Enterprise to the surface of a planet, presumably they are annihilated on the Enterprise and re-created on the surface of the planet. In the time between being annihilated and re-created, they don't exist as anything but pure information—the information needed to re-create them on the planet's surface.

            It does not seem impossible to me that a person's consciousness could be turned into pure information and reconstituted in a different medium than the brain.

            Certainly a person with an impaired brain proves nothing one way or the other about the existence of the soul. The computer is not the program, but if something in the computer is damaged, the program may not execute as intended.

          • Susan

            >It does not seem impossible to me that a person's consciousness could be turned into pure information and reconstituted in a different medium than the brain.

            But wouldn't all that information be taken directly from that person's brain?

            Where's the soul?

            What is the soul? The information?

          • Andrew G.

            You do know that Star Trek is fiction, yes? :-)

            Uploading a brain-state seems theoretically possible (though we're still about four orders of magnitude short of having enough computing power to run one). But what we're talking about there is a simulation of a physical process; there is no current reason to believe that you could successfully abstract out a "personality" that was in any sense interchangeable with an execution environment that isn't a pretty good simulation of the brain it originally ran in. (Brains, unlike computers, are individually unique.)

            The analogy with programs is weak in another respect: we typically write programs to be static, whereas consciousness is a process that continually modifies itself. So it's a mistake to think that there's somehow a "real" static personality or consciousness that would be able to run if it weren't for the defective hardware.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            If the brain is hardware and personality is software, ...

            What evidence would you use to establish the truth of that premise? You do know it is all wetware, right?

            I don't think science fiction is too far fetched in which a person is somehow scanned and their personality is either stored or transferred to some other medium.

            What is "personality" and what is it made of?

            It does not seem impossible to me that a person's consciousness could be turned into pure information and reconstituted in a different medium than the brain.

            Well, that is a long discussion that begins with trying to get solid definitions for the terms. Perhaps we can have a whole thread on the subject.

            Those who speak of "souls" make claims about immaterial beings that somehow influence the firing of neurons in our brains. What we learn from damaged and differently formed brains indicates that function is based on the biology.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Brain as computer and "personality" as software is a deeply flawed analogy. But to say a person is his or her brain strikes me as just wrong. Isolate the brain from the body, or even greatly reduce stimuli from the body to the brain and a person goes insane. Emotions, vital to cognitive processes like making decisions, are largely experienced as bodily sensations, not pure thoughts in the brain.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            One more thought. It would be tempting to say a person is his or her body, but of course a person can lose a leg, or two legs, or two arms and two legs, and still be the same person. But a person can also lose pieces of the brain, or even an entire hemisphere of the brain, and still be the same person. So I would be very wary of saying a person is his or her brain.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            But a person can also lose pieces of the brain, or even an entire hemisphere of the brain, and still be the same person.

            Depends on what parts. There are some small areas where tumors or stroke damage can make someone into a "different person."

          • Max Driffill

            The uniqueness of our personalities is tied into the way our brains are wired. As are our memories etc. In any event if your beaming tech could completely accurately rebuild the brain exactly as it was, then it seems that personality would be unchanged. I think there was a Trek story about this process being fouled.

          • Susan

            >In any event if your beaming tech could completely accurately rebuild the brain exactly as it was, then it seems that personality would be unchanged.

            I'm in over my head here but always interested.

            Even if the beaming tech could completely accurately rebuild the brain exactly as it was, if it didn't continue to change, it wouldn't be behaving like the brain it was copied from, would it? It would amount to nothing more than a snapshot.

            I am not who I was five years ago. Probably not even a day ago, although how could I tell the difference?

            Where's the soul?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I am willing to entertain the idea that the self may be an illusion. Of course, if the self is an illusion, then who exactly is this "I" I am writing about?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Huge subject; vast literature. How do you define "illusion"?

          • Susan

            >Huge subject; vast literature.

            Come on double Q. You're always good for a link or two.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I just did here.

          • Susan

            Sorry Q.
            I must have missed that the first time. :-P

          • Susan

            > if the self is an illusion, then who exactly is this "I" I am writing about

            Good question. As I said, I'm in over my head. But I don't think it is what we've always assumed it is.

            And I think it's fair to say that if we see "I" as a "being", neither word is necessarily so.

            As I said, I'm in over my head. But how would you answer your own question? What exactly is this "I" you are writing about?

          • Max Driffill

            "I'm in over my head here but always interested."

            Trek is tricky, But its always good to remember that while it tries to be internally consistent, its rules are often subject to the whims of writers in and their plot devices. Its like the old saw among Trekkies: "How fast is Warp speed? Answer: As fast as the plot requires."

            "Even if the beaming tech could completely accurately rebuild the brain exactly as it was, if it didn't continue to change, it wouldn't be behaving like the brain it was copied from, would it? It would amount to nothing more than a snapshot."
            I think biological process proceed normally after beaming.

            "I am not who I was five years ago. Probably not even a day ago, although how could I tell the difference?"

            I think we can see how our outlooks, personality, change over time. This is especially true of those who are sharp observers of themselves, and certainly our friends, who are also sharp observers of us probably also notice. Time and circumstance and biology change us over time.

            "Where's the soul?"

            Wait is this a metaphor?

          • Susan

            >Trek is tricky

            I didn't mean Trek was tricky. Of course, it's all about the plot. ;-).

            I meant "I" is tricky. (Is I ever.)

            >I think we can see how our outlooks, personality, change over time.

            I think we mostly can't. Depending on how much time you're talking about. We don't notice most things until they poke us in the I.

            >Wait is this a metaphor?

            "Man, I don't even know any more."

            (Quoted from a Simpsons emo fest episode when Lisa asked , "Wait. Are you being sarcastic?")
            Too many television references. I'll try to lurk for a while.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I meant "I" is tricky. (Is I ever.)

            Try The Mind's I for a good intro. Written by Hofstadter and Dennett. A little old, but good.

          • Michael Murray

            Susan Blackmore is always interesting. Besides her books some short freebie articles

            http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/journalism/ns02.htm

            http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/jcs02.htm

            Other stuff on her website

            http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk

            She's a long time Zen Buddhist

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Kirk was split into two persons—his good self and his evil self. His good self was rather pathetic and wimpy, and the moral of the story was that he needed both aspects of himself to be both good and strong. They got both Kirks into the transporter and beamed them back into one composite. It was a great opportunity for William Shatner to overact in two different roles in the same episode. The idea of teleportation by being scanned, annihilated, and reconstructed is imaginable, but the idea that the process could separate two aspects of a person's personality is not.

          • Max Driffill

            Look David,
            If this is environment is to maintain its friendly attitude, we are going to have be very careful about how we choose to describe the acting of the great William Shatner. ;)

          • Susan

            > have be very careful about how we choose to describe the acting of the great William Shatner. ;)

            Wait a second Max. All David said was:

            >It was a great opportunity for William Shatner to overact in two different roles in the same episode

            I assumed his point was that you can never have too much of that.

          • Max Driffill

            Well,
            Lets just hope that is what he meant....I would hate to have to say, "Computer, Red Alert."

          • BenS

            If the brain is hardware and personality is software, then a person is
            no more his or her brain than my computer right now is a web browser.

            Is that really the case with squishy human brains, though? I don't think the brain is a substrate that just processes thoughts 'impartially'* in the way a computer processor does. Aren't brains are affected by various chemicals and what have you that the body produces, which, in turn, affects cognitive processes?

            It does not seem impossible to me that a person's consciousness could be turned into pure information and reconstituted in a different medium than the brain.

            I agree... but would that person still think the same way (aside from speed in processing) if they were moved to a different processing platform? And if they don't think the same way, are they still the same person?

            Man, I need a cup of tea.

            ----

            * Probably not the right word but my brain's not working well this morning. I trust you can figure out what I mean.

          • Max Driffill

            Jim

            "As tangential as this may be to this thread, my simple point is that, obviously, if the evolutionary categories of hominids mean anything at all, they must admit the existence of "firsts" among them in time. Once this is admitted, theists can propose that God "ensouls" these first biologically "human" hominids, thus creating the first human "persons."

            The evolutionary categories of hominids actually don't admit of such firsts. The the broad categories are a product of the vagaries of fossilization. But species give rise to other species by degrees that would only be perceived by a conscientious observer who also had a long long time to observe. Selective pressures can change, and reverse course (see Peter and Rosemary Grant).

            What follows will be incredibly simplified, but hopefully the details will be helpful to your thinking on this subject and getting pst the idea of evolutionary firsts.

            Speciation can be either sympatric (where the new species develops in the presence of what will be the ancestor species) or it can by allopatric (wherein geographic barriers isolate populations of a species, thereby preventing gene travel between populations and allowing divergence).

            There is a lot of reason to believer speciation tends to be mostly allopatric as the reproductive barriers created by geography are more consistently maintained, and geneflow between ancestral populations, which would act to swamp new "innovation."

            As a hypothetical lets imagine ancestral Homo heidelbergensis first arriving in Northern Africa. A population emigrates north, into Europe, following game or weather or whim, Over the course of generations this group changes, and the change, while gradual, their small population would evolve quickly, as they would be subject to a host of new selective pressures. This kind of selective attrition would continue until, after several generations of sifting of genetic variants, lead to a form that could cope and thrive in environment. This form would be different than its ancestor H. heidelbergensis, may be it is H. neanderthalensis, but H. neanderthalensis didn't arise ever as a first form. It arose gradually and it is only a stable form in a given environment. Each stage would look very like the last, but cumulatively these changes can add up until some kind of quasi-stablity is reached.

            The fossil record often misses these transitions (and when we do catch them it is hard to talk about them because to name something is to make a discreet entity out of it, and species aren't exactly discreet entities). For one because geologically they, transition periods, are very short. Second, they don't take place where find a stable form that has lasted a few eons. When we find say Homo neanderthalensis overlapping in space and time, some closely related species what are probably seeing is emigration.

            Hopefully that helps in thinking about how new species arise. I've deliberately simplified and shorted what is a really deep complex subject, but I don't want to go over board with a subject that may already be off topic.

          • Susan

            It's nice to come back to see a proper discussion of the Adam and Eve myth here.

            Thanks to everyone for explaining the biological evidence so carefully.

            The unfortunate thing is that even if the church has made the story into a metaphor, I've often found that even many of the clergy take it far too literally and seen unaware of the fact that there was no first pair of humans, nothing even close.

            Or perhaps, it's part of their education in seminary but they fail to pass it on to the laity. I don't remember a priest ever explaining that Adam and Eve was a creation myth that could only be understood metaphorically. Quite the opposite in fact. Maybe, I wasn't listening carefully enough.

            Let's say though that every catholic understands that it is a metaphor.

            How do they get from a metaphorical Boy Who Cried Wolf story to literal claims about the origins or the universe, life on our planet, our place in it all and all of the moral authority they claim to base it on?

            Also, without Adam and Eve, where is the fall? Without the fall, why the need for redemption?

          • articulett

            Exactly... if Adam and Eve are a metaphor, then Jesus died for a metaphor... or maybe his death is a metaphor too.

            I think this is why fundamentalists stop the questions before they start.

          • Susan

            >I think this is why fundamentalists stop the questions before they start.

            It's hard to know which is the best choice. You can deny the facts which works for creationists.

            Or you can call it a metaphor in an effort to salvage the claims despite the facts.

            Now, if I'm missing something, that is part of the reason I'm here. I'm interested in the responses from catholics who can explain why a metaphor can be used to support such odd claims about all of reality.

            I must say though that it's been disturbing to hear references to Adam and Eve (more than once here), which seem on the surface, to assume that they were real.

            For instance to explain that it justifies the exclusion of women from the priesthood.

          • Michael Murray

            There are no sharp dividers as you go backwards in time. Dawkins has a thought experiment in one of his books which goes something like this. Imagine walking back along the line of your ancestors. As you pass from anyone its parent there will be no perceptible chance in species. There is no reason to doubt that each parent / child pair is part of a species that could all interbreed and have fertile off-spring. There is no sharp species break.

          • Sample1

            Sorry, Jim. The evidence says otherwise. There never was a first homo sapien as others here are trying to demonstrate to you.

            It's a bit like like the moment of conception fallacy. From a biological perspective, fertilization is a process where human life arises gradually rather than in a moment as if there is a known moment in time when we know whether it happened or not. There isn't.

            Mike

          • ZenDruid

            Restricting myself to the chordates, I am assuming they were essentially hermaphroditic during the Ediacaran (Precambrian) age, and somewhere since then, some viable specimens that were exclusively male or exclusively female passed their genetic errors along, with hermaphroditic help and without significant selection penalty. Thus, we have gender. At this stage, chordates were not more complex than worms. (The primitive chordate later branched into the family of vertebrates, which includes us.) Hermaphroditism is more costly than single gender, so I'm assuming the herms faded away gracefully.

            Restricting myself to genus Homo, I'm speculating that H. sapiens may have been a fortuitous interbreeding between any of H. habilis, H. ergaster, H. neandertalensis and others. A. afarensis is millions of years old, hence there's tens of thousands of generations for branching and possible interbreeding to take place.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Zen, thanks for posting.

          • Michael Murray

            Seems problematic from a mathematical point of view.

            Speaking as a mathematician your mistake is that the set "all women who lived on the planet" is not well-defined.

          • severalspeciesof

            I think you're confusing 'first man' and 'first woman' with 'common ancestor'... and from what I understand, studies have figured out where the common ancestor is and the time lines are different for the earliest female 'common ancestor' and the earliest male 'common ancestor' From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Most_recent_common_ancestor :

            Patrilineal and matrilineal MRCA

            Main articles: Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam

            Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is nearly immune to sexual mixing, unlike the nuclear DNA whose chromosomes are shuffled and recombined in Mendelian inheritance. Mitochondrial DNA, therefore, can be used to trace matrilineal inheritance and to find the Mitochondrial Eve (also known as the African Eve), the most recent common ancestor of all humans via the mitochondrial DNA pathway.

            Similarly Y chromosome
            is present as a single sex chromosome in the male individual and is
            passed on to male descendants without recombination. It can be used to
            trace patrilineal inheritance and to find the Y-chromosomal Adam, the most recent common ancestor of all humans via the Y-DNA pathway.

            Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam have been established by researchers using genealogical DNA tests. Mitochondrial Eve is estimated to have lived about 200,000 years ago. A paper published in March 2013 determined that, with 95% confidence and that provided there are no systematic errors in the study's data, Y-chromosomal Adam lived between 237,000 and 581,000 years ago.[8][9]

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            SSO, didn't you mean "most recent" where you wrote "earliest"?

          • severalspeciesof

            Yes, I'll correct that now... Thanks!!!

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Mitochondrial Eve is estimated to have lived about 200,000 years ago. . . .Y-chromosomal Adam lived between 237,000 and 581,000 years ago

            In addition to the fact that this "Adam" and "Eve" didn't live anywhere near the same time, it should be noted that in Genesis, of the sons of Adam and Eve, Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. Agriculture goes back only about 12,000 to 15,000 years, and the domestication of cattle perhaps 10,000 years. So if the story of Cain and Abel is even vaguely historical, it is far, far removed in time from either Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam.

            Some fundamentalists would date the existence of Adam and Eve to a few thousand years ago. I have never seen anyone who accepts the interpretation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (the story of Adam and Eve is in figurative language, but it nevertheless is about a real event in human history) attempt to calculate the time of "the Fall."

          • Susan

            >(the story of Adam and Eve is in figurative language, but it nevertheless is about a real event in human history)

            Thanks David for narrowing things down to what we really should be discussing. I appreciate your concern for evidence.

            What event was that?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I confess that the brief discussion of Adam and Eve in the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds me of the Mark Twain comment that the works of Shakespeare were not written by Shakespeare but by someone else of the same name. It says, for example,

            390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

            So presumably we can assume that they weren't named Adam and Eve, they may not have lived in a garden, they didn't necessarily eat forbidden fruit, but they were the parents of the human race and they did something at the very outset that damaged the human race. It is really not much less difficult to believe than the garden, the serpent, the fruit, and so on.

          • Susan

            >It is really not much less difficult to believe than the garden, the serpent, the fruit, and so on.

            Thank you David. I appreciate that as long as I've been on this site, you have fully engaged and genuinely made an effort to make it a real "dialogue" between atheists and catholics.

            Things are murky here. This gets to the heart of everything.

            I hope you take that as a compliment, not as a victory dance.

            I don't do victory dances. I'm not qualified.

          • Max Driffill

            "390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language,"
            Clarity would have been vastly more useful. In its place we have what can only be described as one of the more immoral and unjust bits of Christian theology.

            "but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man."
            And could we please pin when this might have been down, and with evidence please. Because again, looking at it with our best tools, this is certainly additional explanatory step that, to say the very least, is not necessary, and to say the very worst is a hypothesis that has been thoroughly falsified.

            " Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents."

            Certainty of faith? How can that be certain? There is absolutely no evidence for any element of this story. We had no first parents. So how can this metaphor, this figurative language help us understand human nature in any way?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            I suggest reading Pius XII's encyclical "Humani Generis" on this point--there are definite boundaries even amid some freedoms associated with this discussion. One such boundary is that we Catholics are permitted to believe that our human bodies may have "evolved" from pre-existing hominid/human forms, but that we *must* believe that souls do not "evolve," rather, God immediately creates each human soul.

            This is one reason why there are creative solutions to be had regarding how to reconcile even polygenism with the necessary beliefs in our first parent-couple and the fall (original sin).

            I see that a new post is up regarding topics such as this, so I'm "migrating" that direction with any additional commentary....

          • Michael Murray

            Plus ME and YA move as the existing population changes as they are the most recent ancestors through the female and male lines for all people currently alive. Change the people currently alive, which happens all the time, and ME and YA can move forward in time.

          • severalspeciesof

            "I have never seen anyone who accepts the interpretation of the Catechism
            of the Catholic Church (the story of Adam and Eve is in figurative
            language, but it nevertheless is about a real event in human history)
            attempt to calculate the time of "the Fall.""

            If it's a real event, why is it figurative? What part is 'figurative' and what part is 'real"? Did god converse one on one or not? Was there a tree of knowledge or was there not? A cunning serpent/snake or not? Did an 'Eve' talk to an 'Adam' into 'sinning' with her or not? Did god suddenly leave 'Adam' and 'Eve' alone after they 'sinned? Did an 'Eve' bear at least two children with the names of Cain and Abel? What exactly is the real event?

          • articulett

            I'd welcome this discussion. I understand what The Boy Who Cried Wolf illustrates, but I don't think there is a good lesson behind the genesis story. Don't talk to snakes? Don't eat from the tree of knowledge? Obey communication from those laiming to be god? God thought incest was a good way to start humanity?

          • Susan

            >I'd welcome this discussion. I understand what The Boy Who Cried Wolf illustrates, but I don't think there is a good lesson behind the genesis story

            There are all kinds of good discussions behind the Genesis story, same as the Boy Who Cried Wolf, Stone Soup, White Buffalo Woman, Animal Farm and all kinds of other metaphors.

            Stories serve us well.

            It's when stories overreach themselves, claim "divine" origin and are used to assert ultimate claims that they go wrong.
            "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is of no more use on an event horizon than the story of Adam and Eve.

            Our stories are generally about us. And the evidence indicates that most things are not really about us at all, just that we are a little bit of most things.

            I'm with you. I'd welcome this discussion.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Is this connected to the fictional story of Adam and Eve?

            I don't think it quite does justice to Chapters 2-3 of Genesis to refer to "the fictional story of Adam and Eve." I would say the same if someone referred to "the fictional story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf." I have a very dim memory of having done something I shouldn't have as a child and being told the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf to teach me a lesson. If I had protested that it was fiction and never really happened, I would have been missing the point of the story. Things like creation myths and origin myths may not be true—certainly no thinking person no matter how devoutly religious should believe the story of Adam and Eve recounts actual events in the life of the father and mother of the human race. But "fictional story" is too dismissive.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I would say the same if someone referred to "the fictional story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

            Except that The Boy Who Cried Wolf could have actually happened in real life. It pulls from experiences we know do happen in real life. A&E is the kind of myth that goes in the category with Athena emerging, fully formed, form the head of Zeus. From evidence we can make a strong case that A&E not only did not happen, but could not have happened. The Boy Who Cried Wolf did not justify chaining all future generation to Original Sin. The psychological damage done over centuries (especially to women) by that single falsehood, is beyond measure.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The Boy Who Cried Wolf did not justify chaining all future generation to Original Sin.

            It is not the fault of the story of Adam and Eve that some Christians took it literally, invented the concept of Original Sin, and turned it into something oppressive. Judaism has never used the story of Adam and Eve to assert anything resembling Original Sin.

            Blaming the authors of the story of Adam and Eve, or the story itself, for the Christian doctrine of Original Sin is like blaming Darwin and his theory of Evolution for Social Darwinism and things like eugenics.

            The story of Adam and Eve is not, in and of itself, a pernicious story. Jews basically interpret it as what happens when you put away dependency and childhood for independence. The story itself is quite fascinating. I never tire of pointing out that the Serpent is telling the truth. It seems to me that God isn't. He tells Adam if he eats from the tree, he will die. The Serpent tells Eve she will not die. Adam and Eve do not die, but the acquire the knowledge of good and bad exactly as the Serpent told them they would, and God confirms this word for word. And God doesn't boot Adam and Eve from the garden because they disobeyed him. He boots them because they now possess (like God) knowledge of good and bad, and he is afraid they will get to the Tree of Life, eat from it, and become immortal.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Thanks David, I was referring to the Christian interpretation as is common on this site. The Jewish interpretation does seem to be more harmless. I will reserve my comments about that for discussion with a Jewish community.

          • 42Oolon

            I would agree that it is insufficient. It certainly seems to suggest that there is something inherently objectionable in all women, not just the first one. Your idea of a god seems to favour men at the least, which makes him sexists in my view.

        • Sample1

          Jim,

          Is the governing document of the US an example of an atheistic ethical system?

          Mike

          • Jim Russell

            I would characterize the US Constitution (assuming this is the document to which you refer) as a document whose "ethos" (I would not think a document can equate in itself to a "system") is founded upon a *theistic* world view rather than an atheistic world view. The framework of governance expressed in the Constitution certainly is intended to accommodate a host of "theistic" views, as I see it.

          • Sample1

            Jim,

            I'm trying to understand what you mean by an atheistic world view. And I'd like you to rethink that the US Constitution does indeed set in place a system of government.

            Let's do a thought experiment: would the US Constitution prohibit a US citizenry that was 100% atheist?

            Now think about this: Would the dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentium) allow for a Catholic membership that was 100% atheist?

            Without an understanding of what you mean by atheistic world view, it's very difficult to have a conversation with you so please give some sort of definition or example that is relevant. In the meantime, I look forward to your reply about the thought experiment.

            Mike

          • Jim Russell

            Hi, Mike--in this context, I'm distinguishing between the "theistic" views held by those who participated in the formation of the US government, views they did not set aside when forming a government that tolerated a plurality of religious views, including atheism as a rejection of all religious views.
            But, yes, the Constitution would seem to permit a 100 percent atheist population.
            And, obviously, the Catholic Church, being founded by a Person believed by Catholcis to be *God*, would not favor atheistic Catholics, as that is contradictory....

          • Sample1

            What would a US Citizenry comprised of 100% atheists governed by a Constitution that currently permits this look like Jim?

            Mike

          • Jim Russell

            I guess I have no idea what it might look like....

          • Sample1

            Jim,

            Is Satan an atheist?

            Mike

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            No.

          • Sample1

            Jim,

            Thanks for replying. My aim here is to point out that it doesn't take much to envision what a theistic ethical/worldview is.

            The Catholic Church has an ethical/theistic worldview. So do the Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Mormons, Orthodox, Anglicans, each Bible church, and certainly Islam does with its Sharia Law. Even Satan, in principle, must have a theistic view rather than an atheist one (however warped from a religious perspective).

            But nobody has been able to provide an atheistic ethic/world view. I have an answer as to why.

            There isn't one. Thank you for the conversation.

            Mike

    • Andrew G.

      The common meaning of the word "evil" in this sense is usually "intentionally and immorally harmful to others" or "more than mildly immoral", and certainly speaking for myself these are both concepts that can be said to exist. Atheists would generally reject any attempt to define "evil" as a supernatural substance as is done in some religions (but that is not relevant to this post). I personally only use terms like "natural evil" when debating religious topics.

      The definition of "evil" thus reduces to "immoral" (plus some approximate metric of how bad an action has to be to qualify).

      A detailed account of morality would be too long to fit in the margins of this post, but I personally subscribe to consequentialism (that the moral weight of an action lies in its results, not the action or the actor), a weak moral universalism limited to humans only (that moral principles can be universal but not absolute, and that I do not claim to extend them to non-humans), and moral realism (that at least some moral statements can be true or false, and that not all of them are false). "Ethical naturalism" is the most closely applicable term.

  • brian cooper

    Nice work, Joe. This line encaspulates every thing very well: "there's no way to get from statements about how the world is to how the world ought to be without imposing a value system."
    You make a good point that humans' "hard-wiring" includes all kinds of contradictory messages and at the same time a capacity for choosing which ones to listen to. But not all humans have the same hard-wiring. Just as some are smarter than others, some have, for example, a greater predisposition to alcoholism than others. Which leads me to pray something like, "God wasn't it hard enough to choose the right thing without giving some people the 'I want another drink NOW' gene?" This might be a problem for atheists, too, but so what? They've got bigger problems. My problem isn't debating with atheists, it's wrestling with God.

  • Sample1

    Fascinating picture for this article: the Joker. The Joker is a sociopath, right? Is the Joker evil? Maybe we can talk about that later.

    One thing I'm surprised to see is a lack of discussion about a guy who lived during the first attempt at a State/Church marriage: the hospice age of the Roman Empire. The man I'm talking about is Augustine.

    We claim to know that Augustine taught about evil. Granted, this was so long ago that a then-Sagittarius is the new Capricorn today because our relationship to those constellations is now known to continually shift. This man of the Catholic Church, Augustine, says that evil is like a disease. A disease, the explanation goes, that has no existence of its own, no essential independent existence. It is rather a condition dependent on the absence of health. Simply return one to health and disease vanishes. In other words, disease doesn't go crawl away into the body of a flea and sulk betwixt the hairs of rats. It becomes nothing (there's that awful word again for anyone following the other discussions about how a universe can spring from nothing). Evil is the old nothing.

    Are there any Augustine biographers around?

    How do you suppose he would respond if I arrived in Dr. Who's Tardis and replied, "but couldn't we say the same thing about goodness? Where does goodness go when it is absent? Does it crawl away somewhere and hide behind the lollipops of little children? Wait, not sure if there were lollipops then. How about, does goodness retreat behind the marble of icons? Does goodness have an essential reality, an independent existence of its own? What would Augustine say about that? Also, what does such an ephemeral position on evil suggest about the essential and independent existence of the fallen angel Lucifer? Does it make sense to call Lucifer evil after reading Augustine?

    Flipping the premises in a formal argument often reveals flaws in their construction. I think Augustine's creative about evil but wrong. Postulating a godly Trinity as one's answer to evil's co-dependency, is simply too convenient, too easy, and too lacking in evidence above all else. People like the Joker can follow can produce the opposite claim without violating the rules of the same formal logic Augustine employs.

    I think it's reasonable to say that understanding evil is dependent on our species' definitions for well being. But there doesn't appear to be a way, yet, to construct an absolute ideal across all cultures considering the subjective nature of human well-being. We might just be close with the Golden Rule. But let me back up. I don't think that an inability to construct an absolute ideal is a necessary failure. My 21st century brain thinks it could be that humans will only be capable of chipping slowly away at evil across eras of shifting social mores rather than nuking a target beyond our current range today. Perhaps someone in the 22nd century will think otherwise.

    Mike

  • Susan

    What ARE objective moral values and how would we know they're objective?
    The article relies on pressing our subjective moral buttons but does nothing to establish the existence of objective moral values.

    It doesn't define them, let alone connect the dots to anything we can point at and identify as "objective".

    Instead it relies on examples of really, really bad things (things that most of us have strong reactions to) and calls them "objective" without justification and contrasts that with the alternative of willy-nilly, anything goes behaviour.

    • Sample1

      Phenomenology (Hurrserl, et al) is a bona fide philosophical discipline that tackles objectivity. It was one of the more difficult undertakings I've ever attempted to learn in my life. I know enough about it to never want to research it again. But, it does address your questions of how one might attempt to experience objectivity.

      Sorry this is so cryptic. I'm afraid it comes with that territory.

      Mike

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        It's worse than that. Objectivity about morals is a level beyond objectivity about facts.

        • Sample1

          I agree with you but unless I've remembered incorrectly, a student beholden to phenomenology would not necessarily agree. Phenomenology (excusing subsequent offshoots within it) holds that facts and morals are both experienced through the senses, not through a supernatural lens.

          That said, perhaps I misunderstand you. Perhaps you aren't lumping morals into a faith-based environment in your reply? I assumed you were since you distinguished them as such in your reply to Susan about objectivity and deities.

          Mike

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Perhaps you aren't lumping morals into a faith-based environment in your reply?

            That is right. The OP was all about what would happen to morals if there were no basis for faith.

      • Susan

        >Sorry this is so cryptic. I'm afraid it comes with that territory.

        Not at all. I fully accept that it comes with that territory.

        The article above seems to have leap-frogged over what is a very difficult territory in order to avoid honestly engaging with the issue, instead creating the illusion that it is a choice between "objective" and "willy-nilly, whatever feels good to me".

        He fails to acknowledge, let alone address the very difficult work that has been going on in the subject of ethics and morality all these years.

        This is apologetics, not philosophy.

        • Sample1

          This is apologetics, not philosophy.

          Thank you for saying that!

          Mike

      • Jim Russell

        Actually, JPII succeeded admirably in establishing a good framework for Thomistic Personalism, and it permeates everything he ever wrote as Holy Father. It truly is no small task, and it will be up to future generations to build on this framework, but it's there.

        • Sample1

          I disagree that a framework is a success, but your point is well taken. And so, I would like to downplay my initial use of the word failure when it comes to offering an non-expert critique about JPII's attempt at synthesizing Thomist thought with phenonmenology.
          Mike

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      What ARE objective moral values and how would we know they're objective?

      Well, that is quite hard. Objective (not dependent on any minds) moral values could exist but be impossible for us to know. That case does not change anything we would do, because we would not have that information to influence our actions. A deity could hypothetically exist, but also not have access to objective moral knowledge, or not act upon it. The idea that whatever a deity communicates has to be "objective" is suspect because it implies the values are contingent upon the deity and its attributes. But, that which is contingent (dependent) on a mind is not objective. This is at the heart of Euthyphro.

      • Susan

        Thank you Q. Quine.

        It would have been nice if the article addressed those problems.

      • primenumbers

        My discussion below was complicated by the fact that Daniel didn't want objective to mean mind independent. In all of these discussions we have to be very careful to get definitions up front so we know what we're on about. Similarly with other discussions here, I've had a theist meaning "exist" and "being" something rather different for their proposed God than for anything else we'd normally apply those words to, amounting in effect to a form of special pleading. It sometimes makes me wonder if all proposed theistic proofs of God rely more on word-play than actual logic? :-)

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          In all of these discussions we have to be very careful to get definitions up front so we know what we're on about.

          Absolutely. We also have to be on the lookout for presupposition and equivocation. Formal logic, refined in the early twentieth century cleans that up, but we rarely go all the way to using those tools. Still, we know we cannot trust inferences made from unevidenced premises, and we always must scrutinize arguments to make sure that words with multiple meanings are nailed down to just one for the length of the argument.

          You can't prevent the "word-play" but you can unpack it and show how much is comprised of assumptions made without evidence. That is when you stop them and ask to be shown the evidence. (Or, at least, that is what I try to do.)

          • primenumbers

            Of course though, as the point I made on my very first comments here on these forums, is that there'd be no need for these arguments if there was reasonable evidence to begin with. Nobody debates the existence of the sun, only the son! :-)

  • Claudio Nogueiras

    este sitio debería tener traducción al español!... this site must have spanish translation!

  • Sage McCarey

    It doesn't seem that the objective morality of christianity stops much immorality. Maybe if the 10 commandments included "Thou shalt not buy and sell other human beings" or "Old men shalt not use boys and girls for their perverse sexuality" or "Husbands shalt not beat their wives" we would have a more moral world.

  • 42Oolon

    Consider the following. A man is born, lives and dies without ever witnessing serious violence or disease. His relatives all die of old age in their sleep. Yet his pet dog dies of an unknown illness when he is ten, his true love cheats on him with his best friend. He is fired by a racist boss and spends a decade homeless. He develops an addiction. He suffers tremendously from these things. But his health is never truly harmed. But then he gets inspired by a priest. He finds God and community and gets his life back on track. During his life he is faced with numerous moral challenges, does he shoplift while homeless? Does he seek violent revenge on his best friend? He chooses not to, following his moral intuition. As it turns out, he would have been raped at the age of seven by an uncle, developed PTSD and committed suicide at 15, but god intervened and gave him the other path. Was his free-will denied? Of course not. Eliminating the billions of desperate evils in this world, from plagues to wars to natural disasters would still leave enormous room for morality and free will. Theists cannot avoid the reality that if a god exists it is okay with these things to occurring. If he is maximally good, we humans have virtually no understanding of what this objective good is. My understanding of good is that if I could prevent a dozen children being shot dead in Newton, I would. God could, and didn't. Either he does not exist or he is not good.

    • Michael Murray

      Great post!

      • Susan

        I second that!

        • Sample1

          ...third!

          Mike

    • 42Oolon

      Would love to hear a theist respond...

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        Would love to hear a theist respond...

        In this case, I think the silence is the response.

        • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

          I'm a theist--I'll respond.
          God doesn't merely "intervene" in creation in the manner expressed above--God actually *sustains* by His Divine Will the continuing in existence of all creation *as* it (from our view in time) unfolds.
          But even so, the created universe of time and space we find ourselves in is the utterly finite prelude to something *infinite*--eternal life with Him.
          There is simply nothing "unjust" about God permitting the finite "absence of good" (e.g., even innocent children killed) that occurs when His creatures choose against His Will while at the same time offering the *infinite* "presence of good" (our union with Him) to the innocent soul who suffered even the worst of finite atrocity.
          The promise of an endless happiness would seem to go a long way to addressing any judgment against God that He is somehow not good or that He doesn't really exist. God exists, and He never short-changes us....

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            God exists, and He never short-changes us....

            Sounds like the "I'll make it up to him later" excuse. Genocide? No problem if you have a deity who is going to make it up to them, later. I suppose there are believers who would take a postmortem promise in payment against current suffering, but it presents a significant challenge being such a leap of faith from the starting point of non-belief.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            I'm curious about something, in reference to the problem of evil and the mention of genocide above: if a father knew ahead of time that his now-three-year-old son would grow up to be a dictator responsible for the genocidal deaths of thousands, should he be obliged to kill the child on the spot?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            ... should he be obliged to kill the child on the spot?

            No, he would not be obliged to do the impossible.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Also, re the "make it up later" idea--keep in mind that the theist understands and accepts the proposition that our very lives *belong* to God, who created us and continues to will our existence. We are therefore not "owed" anything at all by God. We are not "owed" an existence free from suffering and evil. Yet, God neither wills evil or suffering, nor does He "make it up later". Rather, He freely *gives* all of us the opportunity for eternal happiness regardless of what happens to us here and now. Naturally, if all we consider "real" is here and now, and we see innocent life cut short senselessly, we will think it unfair or at least irredeemably tragic. But if our "reality" extends into eternity, we are able to see a God whose total self-gift brings us endless happiness...

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            ... very lives *belong* to God, ...

            I think the leader of North Korea uses that same logic, in a country where all the people "belong" to him, anything that he does to them is, thus, perfectly moral.

            I am glad to begin from a blank position from which you would have to start with some evidence that your deity or deities exist, at all, and then proceed to evidence that you can justifiably assign the attributes you believe exist, then you have to start working up to evidence of the truth of dogma. It's a long road.

            Got evidence?

          • Corylus

            The trouble with that is - that even if the argument above is accepted - there is no way to explain the finite differences in the amount of time that one suffers. Compare the situations of child dying after a brief meningococcal fever whilst another dies due to a medulloblastoma.

            If god does indeed "sustain by his divine will the continuing in existence of all creation" then he must also sustain that time difference.

            Did the child with the brain tumour chose against "His Will" with particular vim?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            The finite differences in time that you refer to basically collapse into one another when measured against eternity....Besides, we're not talking about a duration of *absolute* suffering in which ill children have no other life experience *except* suffering from disease. So, in this sense, too, God's presence is felt among even the temporal consolations that come to those who suffer.

          • Corylus

            The finite differences in time that you refer to basically collapse into one another when measured against eternity.

            Careful now - with such statements one can render general life experience as meaningless.

            Besides, we're not
            talking about a duration of *absolute* suffering in which ill
            children have no other life experience *except* suffering from
            disease.

            Oh Jim, I do wish you were
            correct. However, children can be born with cancer.

            Retinoblastoma,hepatoblastoma
            and Wilm's
            tumours
            have all been diagnosed at birth. What with the Medulloblastomas
            that I mentioned earlier (10 times more likely in children) one could
            ask exactly what children have done to merit such special attention.

          • Susan

            Hello Jim

            >The promise of an endless happiness would seem to go a long way to addressing any judgment against God that He is somehow not good or that He doesn't really exist. God exists, and He never short-changes us....

            But why set such an ornate stage for it? Hundreds of millions of years of suffering by countless beings before anything resembling a human even appeared on this planet?

            Not to mention, all the suffering that is experienced by non-humans even in the present?

            It seems they get all the suffering without the eternal payoff.

            Now, if I believed this deity existed and did all this for my eternal happiness, I couldn't possibly play along with that. I couldn't live with myself, eternally or not. Statistically, non-humans over the earth's history outnumber humans by scads.

            More likely, this deity doesn't exist. The evidence is completely inconsistent with the claims that are made about its "benevolent" plan. .

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan,

            I could never adequately answer your question (and my own) about God and evil, but I've found a site which I think is doing remarkable work.

            Maybe you'd like to check it out. It is called the New Apologetics: http://newapologetics.com/

            I'd begin with "A Line in the sand." http://newapologetics.com/a-line-in-the-sand

  • disqus_wmVfkCBJ5V

    Excellent article! Well thought and well presented.

  • jasmine999

    I've had it with people endlessly trotting out free will in order to answer the problem of evil. Solution is not that easy. Even AQUINAS admitted that the presence of evil was a mystery.

    Here are some problems with "free will":

    HEAVEN.
    1. If there is free will in heaven, yet we can't sin, then God is capable of combining free will and virtue. If he can do so in heaven, why not here?
    2. If there is no free will in heaven, then why free will here? Please don't say God is testing us. He is omniscient. He knows whether we'll pass his test or not; he knew, before he created us.

    DEAD CHILDREN.
    Majority of human beings before modern medicine died before reaching an age where they could exercise their free will, yet they, presumably, enter heaven. If free will is so important to God, then why infant mortality?

    NATURAL EVIL. Consider the death cycle of the universe. Consider cancers, plane crashes. Consider all horrific suffering of animals. All this happens in a universe created by a triple-omni God.

    Re atheists and their moral relativism: Where do Christians find their objective moral standards? Is it the Bible?

    Do remember that the Bible calls for the death penalty on disobedient children and women who were not virgins on their wedding nights. The Bible boasts about the fact that God demanded the murder of every man, woman, and child in too many cities, and got it. God demands the death penalty for nonbelievers.

    If you, as a Christian, do not want to kill nonbelievers, then you are a moral relativist.

    If you, as a Christian, do not want to kill disobedient children, then you are a moral relativist...

    The only difference between Christian moral relativism and atheist moral relativism is that the atheists know this is what they are. Christians jump through various hoops to deny the obvious.

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      Hi jasmine:

      "I've had it with people endlessly trotting out free will in order to answer the problem of evil. Solution is not that easy. Even AQUINAS admitted that the presence of evil was a mystery."

      >> Aquinas also admitted to the existence of free will, so there is no immediately apparent contradiction between the assertions:

      1. Free will exists,

      2. Evil is a mystery.

      "Here are some problems with "free will":

      HEAVEN.
      1. If there is free will in heaven, yet we can't sin, then God is capable of combining free will and virtue. If he can do so in heaven, why not here?"

      >> Because sin cannot exist in heaven, and sin must be atoned for here, with blood.

      "2. If there is no free will in heaven, then why free will here?"

      >> There is free will both here, and in heaven.

      "Please don't say God is testing us. He is omniscient. He knows whether we'll pass his test or not; he knew, before he created us."

      >> This is quite true. But he also made us with actually free will.

      So there is no immediately apparent logical contradiction between the two assertions:

      1. God made us free,

      2. God knows the outcome of our actually free choices, before we make them.

      "DEAD CHILDREN.
      Majority of human beings before modern medicine died before reaching an age where they could exercise their free will, yet they, presumably, enter heaven. If free will is so important to God, then why infant mortality?"

      >> Heaven (the beatific vision, eternal life) is not a capacity which exists naturally in human nature. It must be added to us from outside. It is true that we are born with a privation, the consequence of original sin. We are no more personally culpable for this, than is the child born with a genetic defect personally responsible for this privation.

      But God has supplied a remedy for this, and has, as you note above, already foreseen from all eternity the outcome of all actually free choices by all of his human creatures, from all eternity.

      We might speculate that the condition of a given unregenerated child who died prior to the attainment of reason, will be better in eternity if the child dies before committing a personal sin, than it would have been had the child lived to sin boldly.

      Under such a speculation, the permissive will of God in allowing the death of that child, is merciful.

      "NATURAL EVIL. Consider the death cycle of the universe. Consider cancers, plane crashes. Consider all horrific suffering of animals. All this happens in a universe created by a triple-omni God."

      >> Yes. And......? The point? That this is not heaven? That is certainly non-controversial.

      If your argument is that God ought not have bothered with a creation where the possibility of a Fall, and radical rejection of Him by His creatures, were real, then we must assume that God ought to have created us without free will.

      Which leads directly back to the whole point at issue:

      Is free will a blessing or a curse?

      According to the Church, it is a blessing of such magnitude as to render its good greater than all of the evil that ever has, or ever will, exist.

      "Re atheists and their moral relativism: Where do Christians find their objective moral standards? Is it the Bible?"

      >> The moral law written on each heart binds both atheists and Christians. This is a stupendously powerful truth, vindicated by the numerous atheists here who have affirmed that their personal morality comports with the Golden Rule.

      The Catholic enjoys the very great advantage of the infallible teaching office of the Church, in applying the superior and gratuitous goodness of God's direct revelation to the natural law, so as to allow us to be guided around those stumbling blocks which unaided human reason tends to bump into quite often.

      "Do remember that the Bible calls for the death penalty on disobedient children and women who were not virgins on their wedding nights. The Bible boasts about the fact that God demanded the murder of every man, woman, and child in too many cities, and got it. God demands the death penalty for nonbelievers."

      >> It is true that we are, apparently, a very difficult race to save. In fact our salvation required the purification and preparation of a people from whom Messiah could come in the flesh.

      But Messiah having come, a new covenant has been initiated.

      It is a covenant based on better promises.

      "If you, as a Christian, do not want to kill nonbelievers, then you are a moral relativist."

      >> Actually, this is false on several levels. First, Christians are in a New covenant relationship with God; second, the Old Covenant did not require the extermination of unbelievers. Only the extermination of unbelievers who stood in the path of God's immutable and sovereign Will, that Israel should inherit the land after the promise to Abraham.

      "If you, as a Christian, do not want to kill disobedient children, then you are a moral relativist..."

      >> False. First, Christians are in a New covenant relationship with God; second, the Old Covenant did not require anuyone to desire the killing of disobedient children. It requires the handing over of especially obstinate and grievous offenders against the Commandment to the elders, for judgement.

      "The only difference between Christian moral relativism and atheist moral relativism is that the atheists know this is what they are. Christians jump through various hoops to deny the obvious."

      >> Atheist moral relativism is a consequence of the lack of any possible objective basis for morality, under atheist premises.

      What you incorrectly characterize as Christian moral relativism, is the logical fallacy of denying the existence of the New Covenant, while simultaneously insisting that Christian practice the Old, which is false.

      • jasmine999

        Thank you for an interesting response!

        Re "Aquinas also admitted to the existence of free will, so there is no immediately apparent contradiction between the assertions," my point was that Aquinas did not offer a simple solution to the problem of evil via free will. Free will is overused.

        Re "Because sin cannot exist in heaven, and sin must be atoned for here, with blood," I think you missed my point.

        If there is free will in heaven and earth, yet we can not use that free will to sin in heaven, then God is capable of creating a world where free will and lack of evil can coexist--he is omnipotent.

        As you say, God also knows who will sin, how, why, and when via their free will; he knew all this before creating us. He is omniscient.

        God has already atoned for our sins with blood. He is omnibenevolent.

        ...yet there is immense suffering on earth.

        Such suffering contradicts the triple omni nature of this God, and restating that we have free will does not solve the contradiction.

        Re "Christians are in a New covenant relationship with God; second, the Old Covenant did not require the extermination of unbelievers. Only the extermination of unbelievers who stood in the path of God's immutable and sovereign Will, that Israel should inherit the land after the promise to Abraham."

        The switch from the Old to the New Covenant does not answer charges of moral relativism; it compounds them.

        Compare Deuteronomy 17, 1-5 with Matthew 5, 38-42. That one covenant sees killing sinners as moral behavior, while the other sees turning the other cheek to sinners as moral behavior, is no evidence of objective morality. You could solve the contradiction if you believed that Jesus and the Old Testament God were two separate deities, but this is not what Christians believe.

        Many Christians use historical context to explain Deuteronomy. This is further evidence of moral relativism. Objective morality has nothing to do with historical context; it exists outside of it. If the Bible is, indeed, the place where you find objective morality, you should not need to contextualize the Old Testament, whether you have moved on to the New Testament or not. God, presumably, does not change, nor does his morality.

        You could, of course, state that God caters his morality to the historic circumstances of his people. In that case, God recognizes we are limited, and that we must move toward objective morality, if such a thing exists, in baby steps. That, however, gives you no grounds for attacking anyone for not believing in objective morality. It also gives you no ground for making moral judgments based on ancient books.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          Hi jasmine:

          Thanks to you also.

          "If there is free will in heaven and earth, yet we can not use that free will to sin in heaven, then God is capable of creating a world where free will and lack of evil can coexist--he is omnipotent."

          >> He is certainly capable of creating such a world. It is called the New heavens and the New Earth, and it can be created only with the full, free cooperation of the human persons who persevere in faith, hope and charity unto temporal death.

          Your demand that he create this world apart from the full and free participation of the elect necessarily requires that He create a world without the possibility of sin, which necessarily involves the creation of a world without free will actually existing in human nature.

          This God has declined to do, since it involves a fatal logical contradiction in its premises.

          "God has already atoned for our sins with blood. He is omnibenevolent.

          ...yet there is immense suffering on earth. Such suffering contradicts the triple omni nature of this God, and restating that we have free will does not solve the contradiction."

          >> I do not think any contradiction has been shown to exist.

          The atonement is offered to all, but is not accepted by all. Neither are the promises of eternal life granted to all those who accept the atonement.

          Since free will continues to be involved, God requires the perseverance in Faith Hope and Charity on the part of the justified.

          This includes the possibility of perseverance even in the face of great evil.

          This evil is the consequence of sin, which, while a mystery, is certainly logically consistent with the report of the Fall which we are given in Scripture, and which is dogmatically affirmed by the infallible teaching office of the Church.

          So I see no contradiction at all here.

          "The switch from the Old to the New Covenant does not answer charges of moral relativism; it compounds them.

          Compare Deuteronomy 17, 1-5 with Matthew 5, 38-42. That one covenant sees killing sinners as moral behavior, while the other sees turning the other cheek to sinners as moral behavior, is no evidence of objective morality. You could solve the contradiction if you believed that Jesus and the Old Testament God were two separate deities, but this is not what Christians believe."

          >> I see no logical compulsion to accept your conclusion here. God determines that He will save a fallen humanity, which has sinned against Him.

          His decree of mercy is perfect, and His decree of justice is perfect.

          Therefore, both justice and mercy must be constitutive components of His redemptive plan.

          And so they are.

          God does not change, but the objective circumstances of man's covenant relationship to God certainly change.

          It is we who are sick, and in need of healing, and it is He Who has decreed both the sickness (as consequence of sin) and the remedy (as consequence of the sacrificial atonement of Christ).

          I see no evidence that any logical contradictions have been established by you thus far.

          • jasmine999

            lol we're going to go around in circles, and that's never any fun. You are back to free will, and I am back to it as well, except that I don't believe it answers the problem of evil, given a god who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.

            One example: "The atonement is offered to all, but is not accepted by all. Neither are the promises of eternal life granted to all those who accept the atonement."

            This implies a test: Will I accept Jesus' atonement given worldly suffering (or worldly pleasure) A, B, and C? But God is omniscient, and omniscience and testing are contradictory. Tests, by their very nature, imply the test giver does not know how his students will do; this is why he gives the test. God is omniscient. He knows if I will convert or not, and testing me is unnecessary. Trying to answer the problem of evil via earthly testing directly contradicts God's omniscience.

            Re "God does not change, but the objective circumstances of man's covenant relationship to God certainly change," we are talking about a God who 1. demands that his people punish sinners while 2. demanding that his people turn the other cheek to sinners instead of punishing them.

            The contradiction goes beyond objective circumstances. There are two contradictory moral codes here.

          • jmcg1213

            Jasmine999's reply is "lol we're going to go around in circles, and that's never any fun."
            But of course it was Jasmine999 who started this roller coaster ride by bringing up free will and relating it to heavenly existence.

            What does Jasmine999 or, for that matter, Rick DeLano know of heavenly existence?

            I tend to agree with Mr. DeLano, but that is just an opinion. How could I know?

            How could anyone utilizing a corporeal mind know, let alone comprehend, what God plans for us and what Heaven holds for us?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "What does Jasmine999 or, for that matter, Rick DeLano know of heavenly existence?

            I tend to agree with Mr. DeLano, but that is just an opinion. How could I know?

            How could anyone utilizing a corporeal mind know, let alone comprehend, what God plans for us and what Heaven holds for us?"

            >> The very same way we know that God Is, that He Is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that Christ is One Person with two Wills and Two Natures, that the Three Persons of the Divine Trinity are distinct only by relations of origin......

            In other words, because the oracle of God, the Holy Catholic Church, has told us.

          • jmcg1213

            Rick
            I was more or less agreeing with you over Jasmine 999.
            But if you want a discussion, tell me where the Catholic Church has revealed to you what life after death entails for those fortunate enough to make it through the pearly gates.
            And keep in mind that I am a Roman Catholic.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            jmcg:

            Revelation concerning heaven:

            First, from Scripture:

            Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

            Revelation 22:1-5 "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever."

            Philippians 3:20-21 "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."

            Dogmatic definitions of the Holy Catholic Church:

            Pope Benedict XII

            "We define that the souls of all the saints in heaven have seen and do see the Divine Essence by direct intuition and face to face [visione intuitivâ et etiam faciali], in such wise that nothing created intervenes as an object of vision, but the Divine Essence presents itself to their immediate gaze, unveiled, clearly and openly; moreover, that in this vision they enjoy the Divine Essence, and that, in virtue of this vision and this enjoyment, they are truly blessed and possess eternal life and eternal rest" (Denzinger, Enchiridion, ed. 10, n. 530--old edition, n, 456; cf. nn. 693, 1084, 1458 old, nn. 588, 868).

            There is much more but let us start with these.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            My personal intuition of heaven, is that the merest first hint of the beauty of the choral praise of the heavenly liturgy, will be such as would burst my heart if I heard it in my unresurrected body.

            I conceive of heaven as if the most stupendous moments of transfiguring grace I have ever experienced in the Most Holy Mass, were to be considered scraps which had fallen from the table.

            It is the heavenly worship for which I long.

            To worship Him as He Is, to see Him as He Is, to have Him see me, and to know that I have only just...have not even!- begun to scratch the merest surface of the depths of joy and holiness which will sustain me forever- not in Faith, for there will be no more Faith, nor in Hope, for all Hope is then fulfilled, but in Charity, forever.

          • jmcg1213

            That is not a discussion Rick,
            we call that preaching.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Good luck, then, in securing an interlocutor with a non-corporeal mind, which discussion will doubtless be more to your liking.

          • jmcg1213

            Rick

            Everything I just read comes from the point of view of a corporeal mind, and I have no problem with it's truth from that standpoint. But my initial comment was with a corporeal mind thinking it can understand, to any great degree, what Heaven holds for us, or what God's plan is.
            I can read the Bible, I don't need quotes.
            If you know something about life after death, heaven or hell, that the rest of us don't, tell me, I'd love to hear it.

            But please do not lecture or preach.
            Let's start here, how would or could you know that free will exists, or is even relevant, in a place such as heaven?

  • Sample1

    This is such a new site with a relatively small amount of comment data

    (understandably so), that it's time to lay down an objection right now that will, should this site grow, will be returned to again and again and again. let's take a look at this statement from the article:

    Logically, this argument misunderstands what's meant by God's omnipotence.Omnipotence means that God cannot possibly be more powerful than He currently is. His power is perfect. But within these traditional confines, we still acknowledge that God cannot do the logically impossible. He cannot, for
    example, will what is contrary to His Will. Why? Because that's a meaningless self-contradiction.

    Where has it been established that a realm for the dead exists to experience God?

    I grow weary of theists abusing the tool of reason. In other words, this is akin to the square peg, round hole attempt. It doesn't fit. This mentality, forcing square pegs in round holes, is responsible for great pain in our culture. Theists are not taken seriously when they try to apply logic in a place that has no evidence of existing. It's called cheating. Please stop.

    While there are no Science Police, if there were, I should think that Big Faith would have a restraining order issued to stay away from reason on the grounds of committing cognitive violence.

    Mike

  • jmcg1213

    Bravo Joe Heschmeyer.

    • Michael Murray

      Hey jmcg1213 this place is meant to be a dialogue not a football match. Instead of cheering why not stay and talk.

      • Susan

        Woohoo Michael! Bravo!

        Give me an M! Give me an I! Give me a C! Give me a...

        Ok. Never mind. You made the point.

        Good point, though.

      • jmcg1213

        I haven't gone anywhere Michael.
        What do you want to talk about?

        • Michael Murray

          Hi jmcg1213. That was days ago -- 5 to be precise. I had noticed subsequently you had stayed around to chat. I should have come back and corrected my post. Welcome to the site.

  • Roger Hane

    A good article, but there are some points in Joe's lines of reasoning that I have to stop and disagree with.

    "Free will is inherently good." Look at the world that has resulted from free will. And look at the number of people who freely choose to disregard the Christian God's rules, thus consigning themselves to Hell. A God who knows the future would know how badly the world would turn out, and the huge proportion who will end up in Hell because of free will. This would indicate to me that free will allowed by God is NOT good.

    "If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist." I agree with the atheist's answer that "They could be hardwired into our genes as an evolutionary survival mechanism." The reason we thwart our natural sex drive and don't rape can be attributed to the punishment our herd members will inflict on us, not because of fear of God. Over many millennia, or even many millions of years, herds have thrashed out rules as to who can cause whom to get pregnant. Biology, game theory and the push for genetic domination have forged reproduction rules that give optimal results for the herd's survival. When atheists use birth control, this doesn't mean they don't ever intend to reproduce. They just time their reproduction in a strategic way, to try to make sure things will go as advantageously as possible in the raising of their offspring. They judge having as many children as possible to be an ineffective way to reproduce.

    "If this [changing moral standards] is true, we cannot criticize the Nazis for killing millions of Jews." Can we criticize them for making a genetic domination gambit? Or can we just criticize them (and any group that attempts genocide) for failing at it? Maybe the other herds of the world saw that this could bring about a world wide racial battle royal that would be too damaging for all races, so other races and herds got together and crushed the Nazis to send the message to the world that this is one game that could not be allowed to be played. A world-wide herd rule, for the benefit of all.

    I can agree with Joe's argument that the very existence of evil would make us question who dictates what is evil and what is good. It would seem to require an external arbiter, like God. But instead of concluding that God exists as an external arbiter because good and evil exists, let us go back to the very beginning of the argument and question whether evil really does exist. I will confront this point and say that evil doesn't exist. It's just an artificial mental construct we use when the battle for survival is going against us. "To complain of the problem of evil, you must first acknowledge evil." Yes, I'll agree. I think Joe is assuming evil, but I won't make that acknowledgement. I will deny the premise of its existence. I won't label problems, strife and cruelty as evil, but merely as elements of the survival game. And with that premise denied, the rest of that argument for God's existence falls apart.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    Yeah... this article's thesis is ridiculous. There's no other accurate way to put it.

    First, regarding the content, any mildly-well-researched examination of the issue would reveal there are scores of consistent ways to think about morality, and most of them do not depend on God. For God's sake, even Catholic morality is based on (a distorted, inconsistent interpretation of) natural law, meaning that it requires at most an indirect reliance on God-as-Creator. The best theory of morality I've seen to date is desirism, which derives the existence of real, objective morality, all the fundamental content we expect of a moral system, shows why scenarios that break our moral intuitions occur, and even makes testable predictions like the best format for apologies.

    Second, regarding the choice of content, it's nonsensical for Catholics to be advertizing their moral system these days. Catholic teaching on morality is obviously, frighteningly broken in some areas, such as its opposition to social and legal equality of different classes, its carefully ignored historical economic teachings, its castigation of peacefully flourishing LGBT people, its repudiation of reliable birth control, its lack of interest in ecological devastation and other existential risks, its lack of critique of authoritarianism and lack of moral guidance about peaceful revolution, etc. Implementing Catholic moral teaching would be catastrophic for the world and most of the people in it.

  • Kelly Courtney

    The perfection of Creation includes all that is positive and all that is negative, all that is holy and all that is evil. We choose where we stand.

  • Isaac

    Objective evil doesn't exist, and all your arguments are appeals to emotion.

    "We can see that objective morals do, in fact, exist. We don't need to be
    told that raping, torturing, and killing innocent people are more than
    just unpleasant or counter-cultural. They're wrong—universally and
    completely wrong. Even if we were never taught these things growing up,
    we know these things by nature."

    This isn't an argument. You essentially say somethings are evil because I say they're universally evil.

    I'll agree that rape, and torture aren't very compatible with a functioning, interactive human society (although every country in the world has rape, torture and murder), and that's why they are made illegal - but there is nothing more "evil" about one homo sapien raping another, than say one duck raping another. You'd probably agree that the actions of an animal have no morality, so why would the actions of homo sapiens, another animal, be moral or immoral?

    It's interesting, too, that you say killing innocent people is evil but killing "non-innocent people" is what? Acceptable? What if two people disagree over who's innocent? It's almost as if everybody has different opinions of what is right and wrong, and so what's evil to one man can be good for another.

    "If this is true, we cannot criticize the Nazis for killing millions of
    Jews, any more than we can criticize the Yankees for beating the Tigers."

    "Nazi Germany, for example, still had laws against murder, and theft, and rape."

    Yes, Nazi Germany did have laws against those. Because a human society doesn't work that well when everybody is raping and murdering each other. But surely you'd agree those laws meant little to the people actually in power who were murdering, torturing and raping gypsies, Jews, political dissidents, etc.

    So obviously they didn't think murder and torture were always wrong. So what were you saying about everyone knowing what was good and evil?

    The whole thing is absurd.

    The world doesn't make any sense if there are objective morals.

  • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

    This comments box are like extensions of r/atheism?

    no way...

  • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

    But, this is what I don't get from Atheists. If, as some one here argued, a parent leaves his children playing outside and at the same time some hyenas are entering to where the children are playing, and God exists and he can stops evil to happening those children. Why will be God **evil** for not doing so?

    again...

    Why will be God evil for not doing so?

    As I see it, in order to use the argument from the Atheist Experience that say you are "more moral" than God you scared away the hyenas before it attacked and killed the children. You must hold first that there are bounding universal moral laws that applies to everybody, otherwise you will be doing absurds judging based on what you like and dislikes. So, again, if there is no such thing as objective moral laws: Why will be God **evil** for not stopping the hyenas harming the children?

    • BenS

      The lack of objective moral laws doesn't mean there are no subjective moral viewpoints. I would consider it a poor moral choice for a being that had the power to intervene to prevent harm but chose not to. That being may not share the same morality I do and consider his inaction perfectly acceptable.

      This is precisely the point and is perfectly understandable with a view of subjective morality. I would consider that god evil, it may not consider itself evil. There's no problem there.

      ---

      Protip: Don't use phrases like 'Atheist Experience'. It kind of shows you don't understand what atheism is or you do and you're deliberately trying to misrepresent it.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        That being may not share the same morality I do

        That's right on point. The Christian teachings on morality hang together nicely if one but assumes that what is evil for humans to do may not be evil for God to do.

        However, Christians rarely go there. Instead they go to astoundingly tortuous lengths to explain why divine actions or inactions which appear to us mere mortals as "evil" are in fact "good".

  • http://swt.encyclomundi.org/ shackra sislock

    @bvogt1:disqus I feel that this topic needs to be discussed deeper, in some sort of "

    So You Think You Understand the Problem of Evil?" Because this stuff of using the nervous system as an standard to judge what is right and what is wrong or who is evil and who is good seems quite annoying if not hedonistic to me :|

  • TristanVick

    Many secular philosophers have posited a natural objective morality. Sam Harris' book "The Moral Landscape" was about this very thing. Strangely, people are shocked to learn that such a consideration was also posited by Thomas Hobbes, and that it also makes up a large part of Buddhist philosophy, which can be applied secular.

    Simply stating that "objective morality can only come from God" is not a proof. It's merely adding conviction to an assumption.

    Until it is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that "objective morality can only come from God" and, what's more, that it cannot arise equally apart from God (since the claim must be at least falsifiable, then I am afraid the Problem of Evil is still a logically valid one.

    • Jon Fermin

      I am more familiar with Harris and Hobbes than I am with Buddha so i will limit myself to talking about those two. The problem with the above proposition is that it is a misnomer to call Sam Harris or Hobbes' position objective. both are subject to the infinite regression problem of morality. What makes Hobbes's theory of self interest objectively moral? there are actions which are morally superior to self interest so it fails the test of universality it is required to meet. As for Harris, how is the preservation of the well being of conscious creatures inherently moral or for that matter significantly different than a version of Hobbesian self interest writ large, and subject to the same problems?

      this of course does not also begin to touch other fallacies in the moral landscape such as Harris' argument against free will. for one thing, if a being is incapable of willing a moral act as a moral agent, how can it be said to possess any moral system at all, let alone an objective morality?

      At best Sam Harris's "moral axioms" are arbitrary and not really axioms at all. For example, let us turn to a dilemma often employed to challenge the theistic claim to objective morality, the Euthyphro dilemma, or more properly the Euthyphro trilemma as it is a false dilemma when considering the theistic answer to the question. Modified for Harrisian moral axioms the question we get is this: "Is what is morally good commanded by the preservation of the well being of conscious creatures because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is demanded by the preservation of the well being of conscious creatures?"

      in the first horn. the good precedes the Harrisian axiom and thus it is not as axiomatic as once thought, or by the second horn which begs the question of "why" which leads into an infinite regression.

      even if we were to take the third option, it lacks the criteria for objective morality for God that would make God fit the third option, namely that goodness is an essential aspect of this subject's existence" Additionally, it lacks the ability to apply itself in a transcendent way which gives it the ability to be universal at any point in a potential chain of regression or is in itself able to act as it's own moral agent. In these ways the idea of God having these qualities is a much more comprehensive and robust origin for the ground of objective morality than either harris's or Hobbes's ideas as both of these are subject to the infinite regression problem.

      This then leads us to Hume's guillotine which cuts both ways, if we cannot derive ought from is in a universe without God, there is no basis for objective morality, in a universe in which God exists, given the transcendent nature and ability and condition of being to act as his own moral agent, He is the only one that possibly could form the basis of an objective morality.

      • TristanVick

        I wonder, you use words like universal axioms and objective morals, but my question is why must these be necessary conditions? What is the assumption predicated on if not a bias, and couldn't we derive common subjective patterns of experience, thereby testing what does and doesn't work, thereby via methodology purse out of a moral landscape a standard which can be universally applied even abscent a true absolutes? If this doesn't satisfy our definitions, why not? Could we perhaps be demanding a qaulification of a moral standard which doesn't exist in reality?

        Something to consider.

        • Jon Fermin

          I use objective morality partly because this is what Sam Harris proposed when he wrote The Moral Landscape. also you began your post citing him for his objective moral position. the problem is what you are asking for now is not truly an objective morality per se, but a relativism (one would presume posited on the basis of a consequentialist social contract most likely). relativistic morality says less about what is right and more about the power of those who can enforce a moral paradigm. and in a relativistic system one also would forfeit the ability to declare anything morally wrong, and in a consequentialist environment the closest one could get is pointing out one option is more efficient than the other. Your proposition fails the infinite regress problem, which means the moral system itself is arbitrary.

          here's an example

          say for example we say X is wrong and we believe it is because of rule Y which the community accepts.

          why rule Y? it is because of a theory (Z) we accept.

          why that theory? because of theory A. this chain continues to infinite length with nothing holding this moral measure in place except the wills of those involved, rendering right and wrong meaningless, only power remains.

          How moral absolutes in God is different is it resolves the infinite regression problem. As I had said before in order to resolve infinite regression, we need a good which is itself good to terminate the regression and one which is transcendant so as to be applicable to any point in this potential chain. it must also be a person (here used in the philosophical/theological sense), as this good in being good must be able to act as a moral agent and hence not an abstract concept like the number 42, which cannot make a moral act. by being able to accomplish all these things, said moral agent terminates the problem of infinite regress and allows morality to exist in a meaningful way.

          without resolving the regression, morality is an illusion, and at best a useful lie, but a lie nonetheless.

  • Stew

    Catholics really need to stop trying to "do" logic. Logic does not support your arguments as you seem to be proving time and again on this site.

    Stick to "faith". If you say, "because God wills it" or "God moves in mysterious ways", or such, you can avoid any kind of real debate. As soon as you introduce logic, you fall on your collective arse, because none of your beliefs can be explained logically.

    For example, the article states: "we still acknowledge that God cannot do the logically impossible". No you do not. Every dogma of the Church - transubstantiation, immaculate conception, resurrection, etc. relies on God doing the logically impossible.

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      Please demonstrate the logical impossibility or transubstantiation.

      Please demonstrate the logical impossibility of the immaculate conception.

      Please demonstrate the logical impossibility of the Resurrection.

      Thanks.

      • Stew

        Happy so to do, Rick. Could you just remind me of the logical justification you use for these miracles?

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          "Happy so to do, Rick."

          >> Great. Appreciate it.

          Eager to assess your demonstration.

          • Stew

            ...and the logical justification is....?

  • tz1

    Old, but it depends on the meaning of "objective". If there were no God, would 2+2=4? Note Bertrand Russell took 150 pages to prove 1+1=2. Good and evil might be categories (corresponding to happiness) not unlike there are real, negative, rational, transcendental, and complex numbers.

    If I demand you prove there or aren't an infinite number of primes differing by 2 before I would say Mathematics is objective truth?

    Both numbers and morality are abstractions. I'm Catholic, but put morality and the rest of natural law including physics together - we are discovering truth by observations and drawing inferences.

    But that can only go so far. I think Intelligent Design is scientifically true, but tells us nothing more about the designer. Morality similarly exists. But it exists with less than that. Mathematics is foundational - we don't say it was created, or designed, or even evolved from something else. There may be an argument that Morality is special, that it required an omniscient, omnipotent, or omni-something to have created it, but I've heard no actual reasons.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Why do you think ID is true? It appears to be entirely an argument from analogy - where the analogy has not been demonstrated to be valid.

  • Larry Berry

    So if I see a woman about to be raped and rather than stop it, just watch and let it happen, then I can say "Hey he has free will" and that will mean I am all good like god then right?

    Also the idea that evil exists because you have free will, but god will punish you for eternity if you do contrary to god's will contradicts free will, especially the people who only don't do evil to avoid god's punishment. That would mean that god is like a cop (or a law) that doesn't stop the crime, even though they can, but will punish them for it (for eternity even). So god will let the rape happen, because the rapist has free will, but will punish the rapist for eternity later, because the rapist has free will to do whatever they want, so he won't stop it, but since you can do whatever you want will punish you later???

    That's equal to a cop that comes across the rape and says "I won't stop you, because you have the right to do whatever you want, but sometime in the future I will punish you after the damage is already done".