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Why Does God Allow Sin and Suffering?

evilexists2The most perplexing problem in apologetics is the problem of evil: Why would an all-good, all-powerful God allow evil to exist?

There is a real mystery here, and we can only give partial answers.

Here are some of mine . . .

 

Two Kinds of Evil

We need to recognize that there is more than one kind of evil.

When we use the word "evil," we often mean moral evil (sin), but historically it was frequently used for other things, such as suffering.

These two forms of evil are linked: It is a sin to cause needless suffering, for example.

This brings us to an important question . . .

 

Could God Stop These Evils?

Yes. God is omnipotent. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

Without his action, the universe would never have come into existence, and without his continued action, it would cease to exist or go "to nothing" (Latin, ad nihilum--where we get "annihilate").

God could have prevented all sin and suffering by not creating the universe.

And he could end all sin and suffering simply by allowing the universe to cease to exist.

You might call this "the Annihilation Solution."

So what doesn't he?

 

The Problem in a Nutshell

The Christian understanding of God is that he is not only all-powerful but all-good as well, which is what gives the problem of evil its puzzling nature.

At first glance, it would seem that an all-good God who has the power to end all sin and suffering would do so.

Since he doesn't, that has led skeptics to argue that God either doesn't exist--or that he isn't all-good or all-powerful.

Are these the only alternatives?

 

A False Start


One possibility, which I will dismiss quickly, is the suggestion that God might not be all-knowing. Some have thought that, while he's good enough and powerful enough to prevent evil, he isn't all-knowing and so doesn't have the knowledge needed to bring his power to bear on the problem.

For simplicity's sake, I'm going to fold that into God's omnipotence. If he's all-powerful, that would include the power to know what he needs to use his power effectively. So we don't need to be detained by that option.

 

Another Possibility

There are, though, other possibilities--ways to show that an all-good, all-powerful God might still allow sin and suffering to exist.

For example, consider the way of ending them that we mentioned above: God could annihilate the universe. That would end sin and suffering instantly.

"But wait!" someone might cry. "I like the universe! It's where I keep all my stuff!"

And it's true that annihilating the universe would have costs as well as benefits.

On the plus side, it would mean getting rid of sin and suffering.

On the minus side, it would mean getting rid of every good thing in the universe as well.

Many people might look at that and say, "If that's the only alternative, it's reasonable for an all-good, all-powerful God to allow the universe to continue to exist, despite the evil it contains."

But is it the only alternative?

 

A Perfect World?

If God is omnipotent, would he be able to arrange it so that the universe was perfect--that it never had sin or suffering in it?

If so, then annihilating the universe wouldn't be the only way to avoid these evils. God could have stopped them by never allowing them to come into being.

The devil would still be a happy angel. Mankind would still be living in the garden. Everything would be great!

So why didn't God just do that?

 

What's Love Got to Do with It?

Many have suggested that the reason has to do with free will.

While the concept of free will can be understood in different ways, one common understanding of it involves the capacity to make a free decision between good and evil.

Since people do choose between good and evil, and seem to do so freely, one can argue that God apparently values this kind of freedom.

It's commonly thought that the reason he does so is that, if he didn't let people freely choose between good and evil then they would just be puppets--programmed robots.

For us to love God--or each other--under such a situation would seem hollow, it's been suggested.

It would be like receiving love from one of The Stepford Wives or The Stepford Children.

For love to be worthwhile, it has to be freely chosen.

 

The Choice

On this proposal, God values free will--and the quality of the choices that flow from it (e.g., real love)--and thus tolerates the bad choices that can also result from it (i.e., sin and the suffering it causes).

He couldn't wipe out the latter without wiping out the former as well.

He thus tolerates evil for the sake of allowing good to be freely chosen.

What are we to make of this argument?

 

An Important Insight

We've already seen that many people would think it rational for God to allow the universe to continue to exist if the only way to get rid of sin and suffering were to annihilate all of creation.

If so, it is reasonable for an all-good, all-powerful being to tolerate evil for the sake of greater good, at least if there were no other way to remove it.

It's also plausible that God could not prevent sin and the suffering that comes from it if he is going to allow free will of the kind we're discussing.

And it's plausible that this kind of free will is valuable, that the goods which it enables (e.g., love) would be robbed of something very important--perhaps their whole essence--if they were not freely chosen.

Many people have thus thought that we have a plausible account of why an all-good, all-powerful God would tolerate sin and suffering.

And I agree. I think we've uncovered an important insight.

Yet it doesn't completely remove the mystery that surrounds the problem of evil. There is still more to say.

But that will have to wait for future posts. (This will be the beginning of a series :-)

In the meantime . . .

 

What Now?

If you like the information I've presented here, you should join my Secret Information Club.

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I send out information on a variety of fascinating topics connected with the Catholic faith.

In fact, the very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is information about what Pope Benedict said about the book of Revelation.

He had a lot of interesting things to say!

If you’d like to find out what they are, just sign up at www.SecretInfoClub.com or use this handy sign-up form:

Just email me at jimmy@secretinfoclub.com if you have any difficulty.

In the meantime, what do you think?

Jimmy Akin

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Jimmy Akin is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a member on the Catholic Answers Speakers Bureau, a weekly guest on the global radio program, Catholic Answers LIVE, and a contributing editor for Catholic Answers Magazine. He's the author of numerous publications, including the books The Fathers Know Best (Catholic Answers, 2010); The Salvation Controversy (Catholic Answers, 2001); and Mass Confusion: The Do's & Don'ts of Catholic Worship (Catholic Answers, 1999). Many of Jimmy's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Jimmy's writing at JimmyAkin.com.

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  • Ben Posin

    This article seems to be intended to address not only the suffering caused by human choices, but suffering in general (see the section headed "Two Kinds of Evils". But the solution proposed for the problem of evil (that it is a necessary sacrifice to allow "free will" to exist) seems to only have possible relevance to one kind of evil. I don't think anyone has tried to argue that mankind's free will was diminished when, for example, the polio vaccine was invented, despite the fact that this greatly reduced suffering. I'm at a loss to see how mankind would have had less freewill had God simply not permitted polio to exist in the first place. Free will does not excuse God's failure to alleviate all of the "natural evil"" in the world. Of course, this is only a problem if one tries to claim there is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God--because the state of the world does not support such a thing.

    When it comes to permitting suffering as a result of moral choices, free will seems more relevant, but this article's answer seems a bit facile, and not to really consider whether a vague concept of "free will" actually could justify human suffering in the world as we see it. It grates on my sense of justice that I should be allowed to cause other people suffering just so I may have the opportunity to experience or demonstrate a truer form of love. I find it particularly grating when so many people in so many places in history (and now) have found themselves so cruelly suffering at the hands of others more powerful than themselves, with little in the manner of choice in the course of their own lives. And I wonder what the author thinks about human efforts to alleviate suffering, when we pass laws against murder, rape, assault, torture, and put into place a justice system to enforce these laws. We are surely trying to constrain human freedom of action, but are we limiting "real" love et al.? If not, it seems very unreasonable to me to assert without more evidence or explanation that God could not similarly (or more effectively!) constrain human action while leaving real love intact.

    Aren't we actually supposed to believe that God is trying to do this very thing? That like a human authority, he has given rules, and promised punishment and rewards? I don't see what that is if not an attempt to influence and control human behavior. The main difference (and problem) is that, unlike the police and the courts, God hasn't bothered to give us sufficient evidence to know that he, his rules, or his punishments actually exist. That would be an easy first step for God to alleviate human suffering: demonstrate that he actually exists, so humanity as a whole actually believes there is an omniscient, omnipotent figure around ensuring consequences for their actions. Whether God exists is a question of fact, and being properly informed of the facts does not diminish free will; it allows one to make more intelligent choices.

    • Raphael

      The main difference (and problem) is that, unlike the police and the courts, God hasn't bothered to give us sufficient evidence to know that he, his rules, or his punishments actually exist. That would be an easy first step for God to alleviate human suffering: demonstrate that he actually exists, so humanity as a whole actually believes there is an omniscient, omnipotent figure around ensuring consequences for their actions.

      What kind of evidence are you looking for?

      • Ben Posin

        What've you got?

        • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

          What would qualify as evidence for you? What are you looking for? What would count?

          Or do you not even know what evidence for God would look like to begin with?

          • Ben Posin

            Seriously? Here are some random examples off the top of my head, not meant to be exclusive by any means

            God could appear before all people on earth at once and introduce himself and explain what he's about, in each person's language, and in a way that checked out as consistent when we talked to each other afterwards.

            Better yet, he could take that time to announce he's going to get rid of all diseases and cancer in exactly 24 hours, and then proceed to do that. Or announce he is going to heal all amputees at noon the next day, and do that.

            Or he could announce that he was going to reverse the direction that the earth orbits the sun, and then do that.

            Or resurrect everyone's dead relatives.

            He could vanish the world's supply of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

            He could stop people's aging.

            I mean, is there really any limit to the way that an omniscient and omnipotent being could make me aware that he exists? If superman was real, do you think he'd have that much trouble proving it to people? God's got lot more cards to play than superman.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Seriously? Here are some random examples off the top of my head, not meant to be exclusive by any means

            Before we go on - so we're not dealing with 'scientific evidence' here, or logical arguments, or anything like that. Your definition of evidence that would convince you God exists amounts to 'Some guy would say he's God and perform some really amazing tricks, that in principle could have been done by some very powerful alien or the like. But I'd find these things so amazing I'd go ahead and call this guy God.'?

            This is what your evidence is? A wholly subjective, 'This is what would convince me personally' thing?

          • Ben Posin

            My evidence?

            I don't think there is any evidence for God. I don't think God exists. I think all the supposedly logical arguments put forth to prove his existence that I have seen are fallacious or silly, and I'm skeptical of supposedly logical or philosophical arguments meant to demonstrate something factual about reality that don't have any empirical grounding. I often find theists definitions of what God is confusing or incoherent. I'm an atheist.

            But some theists are telling me there's a being that's omnipotent and omniscient. And I'm saying that there are things that such a being could do that would provide evidence that he exists. The things I listed are not proof, but random examples of what would be evidence that such a being exists. They would make me more apt to believe God exists than I am now--they are the sorts of things I might expect to see in a world with an omnipotent, omniscient being, but would be less likely to expect otherwise. Though this might depend on what particular definition of God we're talking about--it's really up to you or other theists to do the work of defining your terms before you ask me what it would take for me to believe God exists.

            And anyway, in what crazy world do you live that you don't think the disappearance of all diseases and the healing of amputees wouldn't be considered "scientific evidence" of something?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            My evidence?

            Yes, in this case the evidence you request. I'm pointing out exactly what it is: it's a non-scientific jumble of 'things I, in a wholly subjective way, say would make me believe in God's existence because they're the right kind of God of the Gaps experiences'.

            I think all the supposedly logical arguments put forth to prove his existence that I have seen are fallacious or silly

            Why should we care what you think about these things, as opposed what you can demonstrate about them?

            The things I listed are not proof, but random examples of what would be evidence that such a being exists.

            Sure. "Evidence" in the sense of "you, personally, say you would believe in God if these gaps were seen by you". There's no science here.

            And anyway, in what crazy world do you live in that you don't think the disappearance of all diseases and the healing of amputees wouldn't be considered "scientific evidence" of something?

            Scientific evidence of what? Where would the 'science' come in that establishes God did these things? Because we this nice, scientific "theory of God" right now, and thus we have scientific predictions about what we should be looking for?

            What these would be, Ben, are gaps. 'This thing happened, I can't explain it. I'm gonna say God!' And you know what? That is *fine*. Really! Rely on your God of the Gaps standards.

            But when other people - in addition to all their other arguments, evidence, logical claims, basic beliefs, and more - point out some God of the Gaps which they say counts as evidence for their belief, you don't get to say 'Ah ah! God of the Gaps! Not allowed!' or 'That's not really evidence because I can imagine some natural explanations for it.' Be consistent, that's all I ask.

            The problem is, being consistent is going to lead to places you don't like. I hope that doesn't discourage you from consistency all the same.

          • Ben Posin

            This is kind of interesting, and kind of confusing. We seem to have gotten ourselves nicely twisted around. Perhaps I should let myself be persuaded by your argument, and declare that there is no way anyone could provide evidence that God exists!

            There are different conversations we could have to try to work our way through confusion. One would be about what evidence means. When I talk about evidence for something being true (or real), I'm asking myself what would the world look like if that thing is true, and what would it look like if it's false? So to me evidence for the existence of God would invoIve showing me ways in which the world looks like what we would expect it to if God exists, and not how we would expect it to if there was no God. Many so called logical or philosophical arguments for God attempt to do this very thing, and suggest that the world DOES look the way we'd expect with a God (for example, it is "intelligble"). The problem they fall into is they tend to lack a valid justification for their claim that we would expect the world to look differently than it does (in regards to intelligibility, or whatever the particular argument is focusing on) if God did not exist. I think this idea is somewhat relevant to the atheist claim that theists often resort to a God of the gaps, as they are forced to retreat from positions where it is shown that the world is in fact just as we would expect it to be without a God.

            The second conversation we should have to cut through our (well, my, anyway) confusion is that you should tell me how you're defining God. When I think about your "God of the gaps" criticism leveled at me, I think it may be more or less appropriate depending on how you're defining God, and whether it's my job to ferret out whether an entity with certain characteristics counts as an "actual" or the "real" God. I was trying to think of ways that an omniscient and omnipotent being could reveal its existence, but I'm happy to admit that displays of apparent omniscience and omnipotence wouldn't conclusively prove to me that this being was "the sum of all being," or something with moral authority over me. Though I guess he might be able to prove he could be the creator of the universe by creating other universes? Hmmm.

            I really have to admit I'm puzzled by your vehemence. A huge number of Christians believe that Jesus was God precisely because they give weight to accounts of miracles, like the resurrection. They are implicitly doing what I am doing, making a judgment that the Resurrection is more likely to occur in a world where Jesus is God than where he is not. Now, I can criticize both the weight they give to the accounts, and how they are weighting the probabilities, but the basic principle is the same. I'd be grateful if you could explain what your thesis and thinking is behind your harangue, and what evidence YOU think could show God's existence. My suspicion is that you are leading towards the idea that there can never be sufficient evidence for an atheist, and so we need to learn to exercise faith. If so, I have some objections, but I don't want to sidetrack us further if that's not where you're going.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Perhaps I should let myself be persuaded by your argument, and declare that there is no way anyone could provide evidence that God exists!

            You'd be there alongside PZ Myers and Michael Shermer, so what's all that new about this?

            Further, my argument is not that there's no evidence for God's existence, or that all evidence for God's existence is ultimately about gaps. There are logical arguments, philosophical arguments, inferential arguments and more. But I've pointed out that all of your self-supplied claims of what would count as 'evidence' are just instances of God of the gaps reasoning.

            And as I said, if you want to accept such reasoning, that is *fine*. Really! But A) don't tell me it's scientific, and B) when other people engage in God of the gaps reasoning, recognize it as valid. Indeed, your conclusion here may ultimately be little more that, while you are not convinced God exists, others are, and their view is reasonable even if you think it's wrong.

            Why not go that route?

            The problem they fall into is they tend to lack a valid justification for their claim that we would expect the world to look differently than it does (in regards to intelligibility, or whatever the particular argument is focusing on) if God did not exist. I think this idea is somewhat relevant to the atheist claim that theists often resort to a God of the gaps, as they are forced to retreat from positions where it is shown that the world is in fact just as we would expect it to be without a God.

            You're confused. 'Logical or philosophical arguments' do not 'lack a valid justification for their claim that we would expect the world to look differently than it does'. How does Kalam claim the world would look different? How do the Five Ways? How do others? Even for inferential arguments like the Paleyan argument from design, the argument isn't that the world would look different - it's that, given what we know, we make inference X which, while in principle wrong, is still the best bet given our knowledge.

            So no, theists aren't 'resorting to the God of the gaps'. In fact, the only person to throw out gap arguments so far in this conversation is yourself. So you clearly regard them as valid. Right?

            When I think about your "God of the gaps" criticism leveled at me, I think it may be more or less appropriate depending on how you're defining God, and whether it's my job to ferret out whether an entity with certain characteristics counts as an "actual" or the "real" God.

            Okay. So 'God of the gaps' is valid reasoning, eh?

            I really have to admit I'm puzzled by your vehemence. A huge number of Christians believe that Jesus was God precisely because they give weight to accounts of miracles, like the resurrection.

            First: 'Huge number'? Where are you pulling this statistic?

            Second: Let's also note the difference between 'I believe X is God, aka that being I already believe in' and 'I believe God exists, because of X'. It's a different class of reasoning than what you're engaged in.

            Third: My only 'vehemence' here is in pointing out that your 'evidence' is a variety of God of the Gaps reasoning, and I've called you to be consistent about that. If GotG reasoning is valid, then it's valid - and you've just lost a point upon which to criticize Christians for their belief in God, if they accept GotG reasoning. And as I keep saying, that is *fine*. I'm not even saying you should, on these considerations, cease being an atheist. Just recognize what you've done.

            I'd be grateful if you could explain what your thesis and thinking is behind your harangue, and what evidence YOU think could show God's existence. My suspicion is that you are leading towards the idea that there can never be sufficient evidence for an atheist, and so we need to learn to exercise faith.

            I think God/god(s)' existence is reasonably inferred from a wide, wide variety of evidence, from philosophical and logical arguments, to observations, to inferential reasoning and more. And who said word one about 'faith'? I think you and I would probably have vastly different understandings of that word.

            I'm not even trying to talk you out of your atheism here. I'm pointing out something about your arguments that goes against a very common atheist statement (despite various atheists employing exactly these kinds of arguments.) If anything I'm trying to get you to accept that belief in God/god(s), even if you personally do not believe, can be quite reasonable.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            My evidence?

            Yes, in this case the evidence you request. I'm pointing out exactly what it is: it's a non-scientific jumble of 'things I, in a wholly subjective way, say would make me believe in God's existence because they're the right kind of God of the Gaps experiences'.

            I think all the supposedly logical arguments put forth to prove his existence that I have seen are fallacious or silly

            Why should we care what you think about these things, as opposed what you can demonstrate about them?

            The things I listed are not proof, but random examples of what would be evidence that such a being exists.

            Sure. "Evidence" in the sense of "you, personally, say you would believe in God if these gaps were seen by you". There's no science here.

            And anyway, in what crazy world do you live in that you don't think the disappearance of all diseases and the healing of amputees wouldn't be considered "scientific evidence" of something?

            Scientific evidence of what? Where would the 'science' come in that establishes God did these things, or that God even exists? Because we this nice, scientific "theory of God" right now, and thus we have scientific predictions about what we should be looking for?

            What these would be, Ben, are gaps. 'This thing happened, I can't explain it. I'm gonna say God!' And you know what? That is *fine*. Really! Rely on your God of the Gaps standards.

            But when other people - in addition to all their other arguments, evidence, logical claims, basic beliefs, and more - point out some God of the Gaps which they say counts as evidence for their belief, you don't get to say 'Ah ah! God of the Gaps! Not allowed!' or 'That's not really evidence because I can imagine some natural explanations for it.' Be consistent, that's all I ask.

            The problem is, being consistent is going to lead to places you don't like. I hope that doesn't discourage you from consistency all the same.

          • Raphael

            What is the scientific explanation for the existence of suffering and evil in the world?

          • Ben Posin

            I'm no sure I understand the question. We have suffering and "evil" because we haven't yet found ways to ameliorate all the unpleasant aspects of the universe, including human nature. Though we have made some progress (see, for example, modern medicine).

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            We have suffering and "evil" because we haven't yet found ways to ameliorate all the unpleasant aspects of the universe, including human nature.

            Throwing "evil" into quotes just illustrates the problem. Science doesn't even recognize evil - it is outside of its purview.

            And "suffering" is hardly inside of it either, save for the most mechanical of explanations, which are largely irrelevant.

          • Raphael

            Since atheists do not believe God exists, blaming Him for the existence of evil is spurious. What, then, is responsible for the creation of evil?

          • Ben Posin

            I'm still a little confused by the question. The "problem of evil" is only actually a problem if you assume that there is supposed to be an omnibenevolent God out there that has the power to remove the suffering in the world. Without that assumption, evil/suffering/bad things are just a natural part of the world. The world, taken as we found it, is an inhospitable place, full of dangerous weather, earthquakes, diseases, etc., which cause suffering and pain. Humans, given the way their minds have evolved and given the situations they are thrust into, also have certain tendencies and characteristics that can result in them causing suffering for each other. What exactly is the mystery, what needs explaining? Let's just work on making things a bit better, through advances like modern medicine, with good government to limit people harming each other, etc.

          • Raphael

            Thank you for your responses, Ben. I am just trying to see evil from the atheist's perspective.

          • Paul Boillot

            I have a hypothesis: "there are no supernatural entities."

            Any one of the scenarios Ben mentioned would falsify that hypothesis.

            Therefore the hypothesis would be wrong.

            Therefore supernatural entities would be known to exist.

            There is nothing more scientific than admitting that even 1 counter-argument sinks your theory, and Ben generously provided 6 for you.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I have a hypothesis: "there are no supernatural entities."

            Any one of the scenarios Ben mentioned would falsify that hypothesis.

            No, it actually wouldn't, unless 'falsify' now means 'I express personality incredulity at the gap before me, and subjectively it seems to me that God could be responsible for this'. In which case, Paul, guess what? We have - even before the many other arguments and evidence for God's existence - an absolute abundance of evidence for God's existence, because it turns out God of the Gaps reasoning is valid after all. Let the creationists know.

            Notice that Ben, to his credit, is not disputing that what he provided are instances of God of the Gaps reasoning. That part is uncontroversial.

            There is nothing more scientific than admitting that even 1 counter-argument sinks your theory,

            No, Paul, because 'arguments' are not science, and claims are not 'scientific theories'. The philosophy department is not filled to the gills with "scientists". They are people making claims, many of whom are open to counter-arguments. Science, it ain't. Please do not abuse science in the course of trying to defend your religious beliefs.

            There is no falsification at work here other than "I, subjectively, would be willing to say God could fill this gap I see". And once more: if you want to play that game, that's great. But now all those guys with 'God of the gaps' reasoning can't be discounted merely because of the form of their reasoning. It turns out, that's quite fine, you both just have different views on the matter - and if you believe your conclusion is reasonable, so is theirs.

            Come to think of it, that may be a superior position for you to take.

          • Ben Posin

            Uh...I do sort of dispute your God of the gaps characaterization, or at least the way you are equivocating the examples I have proposed as possible evidence that a God exists with the purported evidence theists tend to point to. And I still think your definition of God matters for this conversation, so I'm still waiting on that. Anyway, I'm thinking it over, and will get back to you on this God of the gaps thing.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Uh...I do sort of dispute your God of the gaps characaterization, or at least the way you are equivocating the examples I have proposed as possible evidence that a God exists with the purported evidence theists tend to point to.

            There has been no equivocation. I have pointed out that 'X fantastic thing happens, I sure can't explain it, therefore God' is God of the gaps reasoning. I haven't seen a disputation of this yet. You may not like the conclusions I'm drawing from your reasoning, but I think you'd have to admit you haven't disputed what I've pointed out on that front regarding your own examples.

            And I still think your definition of God matters for this conversation, so I'm still waiting on that.

            Why does it matter, when you're the one who was talking about God and evidence? It seems more valid to say that your definition of God is what really matters here. What's more, as an atheist, you have to deal with a wide variety of 'gods'. From Zeus to Christ, yeah?

            But I absolutely don't concede that any theist position I have yet encountered is as reasonable as atheism.

            I didn't say you did. But you should certainly consider that as possible. Notice that this doesn't mean you become a theist, or that atheism is itself absolutely unreasonable - possible, but it doesn't follow from the realization. You'd simply recognize that various people could hold such and such beliefs, and they are reasonable to hold. People can, after all, disagree with each other and still find each others' views as reasonable.

          • Paul Boillot

            "'X fantastic thing happens, I sure can't explain it, therefore God' is God of the gaps reasoning. I haven't seen a disputation of this yet."

            His examples don't rely on *one* person's inability to explain *one* subjective phenomena, or even a group of people.

            They are phenomena which would be accessible to every human on the planet.

            There would be no way for "various people" to hold "such and such beliefs" about every dead person reanimating.

            At the point in time when every weapon dis-apparates from the face of our planet after a global prophecy, Occam's razor no longer tells us to dismiss the supernatural claim.

          • Ben Posin

            Also, I can't disagree strongly enough with your attitude towards what science is and isn't. The heart of science is testing your hypotheses with empirical observations. The fact that my criteria are placed somewhat "subjectively" is to a large degree because people are so bad at telling me what this God thing is I'm supposed to be testing, so I have to work with some gut measurements.

          • Paul Boillot

            Okay, let me see if I'm reading your correctly.

            Hypothesis: "No supernatural entities exist."
            Event: "Everyone meets, at 11:11am GMT on Tuesday next a glowing golden grasshopper claiming to be the incarnation of Apollo. That grasshopper tells them they will never age or die from that point onwards. It winks out of existence at 11:12, and lo no one ever ages again."

            That wouldn't falsify the hypothesis?

            What, we would have to all decide that the grasshopper was lying? That it was really just a poorly understood natural process?

            No, I think you're wrong. I think that running into such an inexplicable phenomenon which claimed supernatural provenance for itself and demonstrated clear ability to alter known physics would necessitate the scientific admittance of other-than-natural forces.

            Of course, we could then describe 'natural phenomena' as all those affecting reality, both arising from understood physical systems and not. In which case deities would march back into their rightful places in the hierarchies of understanding, and people could authoritatively claim again that 'theology' 'angelology' etc were sciences.

            The reason we don't give credence to God-of-the-gaps arguments is that a) so many of them have fallen to scientific inquiry in the past and b) we have no reason to believe that any of the phenomena now considered as 'proof' of the supernatural won't follow suit.

            It's not that the supernatural isn't an option, it's that there's a pile of dead supernatural explanations of phenomena which yielded to reason.

            "There is no falsification at work here other than "I, subjectively, would be willing to say God could fill this gap I see.""

            How would reason tackle the grasshopper event? What would be the natural mechanism for such a world-wide apparition which such measurable, predicted causal effects?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            What, we would have to all decide that the grasshopper was lying? That it was really just a poorly understood natural process?

            No, I think you're wrong. I think that running into such an inexplicable phenomenon which claimed supernatural provenance for itself and demonstrated clear ability to alter known physics would necessitate the scientific admittance of other-than-natural forces.

            What 'scientific admittance' is even in play here? On your own story, the scientist has *nothing* scientific except ignorance on his side. Zero, nada, nyet.

            He's faced with a phenomena he cannot explain, and which do not fit with his current models. In other words, he has a gap - just like I've been saying. And, also like I've been saying, your response is 'Well this is one heckuva gap there! I'm going with God on this one.'

            Fantastic. Go ahead, do that. But what you are doing is encountering a hypothetical gap, and assigning it to God or a supernatural cause. That's it, period. There's nothing 'scientific' about it, anymore than a pre-scientific people encountering something amazing and declaring it to be God's work is 'scientific'.

            The reason we don't give credence to God-of-the-gaps arguments is that a) so many of them have fallen to scientific inquiry in the past and b) we have no reason to believe that any of the phenomena now considered as 'proof' of the supernatural won't follow suit.

            Where are these incidents of A, and in what way does it even apply? Plenty of *scientific* arguments have fallen historically. We've thrown out commitments of fundamental physics multiple times, and that's just in one field. Incidents of A are not nearly as common as people like to believe, or they turn out to be claims that science both hasn't and can't 'falsify' anyway.

            And B) 'no reason to believe' based on what? A gap is a gap is a gap. It's a lack of knowledge. And if you say 'Well I expect any given gap we encounter to be filled by future knowledge', keep in mind you can say that with *any* gap of this kind. Promissory notes about future science and discoveries, you know not what, are potentially unlimited in scope. So if it works for one gap, it works for all of them. And if it's reasonable to accept that evidence in spite of the logical possibility of the gap being closed, then 'there's a possibility science will close that gap in the future' won't suffice to rule out the other GotG reasoning either.

            How would reason tackle the grasshopper event? What would be the natural mechanism for such a world-wide apparition which such measurable, predicted causal effects?

            Before I answer, let's see what particular game you're playing. Are you saying I cannot give you any 'natural' mechanisms, period? That it's not logically possible for an explanation other than 'Welp, Apollo exists' to work as an explanation here?

            Or are you telling me that okay, a wide variety of non-Apollo explanations exist - but you personally would find them, in your completely made-up hypothetical scenario, to be unlikely? And if so, based on what?

            Also, Crude, just as a side-note, I don't take your view. I think you're wrong about the relationship between arguments and science and about the sharp line of distinction between science and philosophy.

            I never said there was a sharp line of distinction, period, end of story. I am entirely willing to cede that there may be areas of fuzziness. Note: *areas* of fuzziness. No one mistakes what went on with the Higgs Boson as the work of philosophy, and only someone mentally challenged could possibly mistake a philosophical book about mathematical platonism with 'science'.

            It's the limit cases where distinguishing the two are difficult. Not distinguishing the two, full stop.

            And if you want to keep playing the game, Crude, where you analogize the supernatural-and-debunked claims of the past to the claims Ben and I are positing, you're doing logic wrong.

            So far, it seems like I'm the one "doing logic" right. Your responses haven't shown your claims to be anything BUT God of the Gaps reasoning. Your problem is you think that 'feeling really strongly that God would do X, where X is this strange act that our current science is unable to explain' means 'scientific argument!'. Surprise: it doesn't. God of the Gaps reasoning is what it is, even if you find the gap really impressive, even if a biologist is engaged in it.

            And as I keep saying: go ahead. Reason that way. I won't even complain. I just want you to be consistent, and recognize that these 'God of the Gaps' arguments you decry are, at the end of the day, exactly what you want, precisely what you would take to count as evidence for God. You're not quibbling over the reasoning - merely over the particular gaps. And you're not 'doing science' - you're giving a wholly subjective, even intuitional view. And if subjective, intuitional views are valid for you to rely on, they're valid for other people to rely on.

            On the flipside, if you reject 'God of the gaps' reasoning, then be consistent there too.

          • Paul Boillot

            "God of the gaps" is a phrase used to describe the use of supernatural agency to explain a phenomenon otherwise inexplicable at the time...which later turn out to be explicable.

            You want a list of phenomena which were previously explained by supernatural causes:
            lightning
            rainbows
            earthquakes
            fossils
            the motion of the sun
            the motion of the planets
            the motion (or its lack) of the stars
            the presence of biological complexity
            cancer
            tuberculosis
            polio
            etc
            .....

            The grasshopper event is not like any of those things, none of those things involve world-wide interaction with apparently impossible agency.

            As a matter of scientific inquiry, there is no known mechanism for the cessation of aging (did everyone's telomeres stop getting short?) or death (cancers removed? what if you were flat-lining when the grasshopper came to you?).

            We're not talking about 'a heck of a gap' or something-which-seems-designed-by-a-mind-so-there-must-be-one, or I-can't-imagine-what-caused-the-big-bang-so-creator. We're talking about encountering an intellect or force which is at odds with everything we know about physics, biology, and time.

            You might, though you haven't, argue that once we have proof of this entity, then it becomes a part of our reality, of 'nature,' and thus can't be called supernatural, but then by that argument nothing could ever, in any world, be so called.

            We're talking about an entity which can instantiate itself at least planet-wide and communicate with everyone simultaneously and end death. If that doesn't qualify as "supernatural" then nothing does.

            If the God-of-the-gaps people ever find me that kind of proof, I'll be on board, no matter how loudly you shout that I'm the one being illogical.

          • Ben Posin

            You have saved me a long post, and I am grateful.

          • Geena Safire

            Plus fire as combustion, knocking out phlogiston.
            Plus electromagnetism, knocking out the luminiferus ether.
            Plus lots of biology, knocking out 'vitalism.'
            Plus psychology, knocking out 'demons.'

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Plus fire as combustion, knocking out phlogiston.

            And phlogistons were supernatural how?

            Plus electromagnetism, knocking out the luminiferus ether.

            And the luminferous ether was supernatural how?

            Plus lots of biology, knocking out 'vitalism.'

            Vitalism, the belief that living and non-living things different fundamentally and therefore had to be comprised of distinct components? Again - this is supernatural how?

            Plus psychology, knocking out 'demons.'

            Oh boy, not psychology - that soft science discipline that is second only to sociology in terms of reliability. Don't even get me started on the hard problem of consciousness, the problem of intentionality, and all of the other relevant questions.

            What you just did here, with the possible exception of 'demons' - which I could dispute, but will grant for the heck of it - is name several scientific theories that ended up debunked, and slapped 'supernatural' on them without warrant. You may as well tell me that steady state theory and Lysenkoism was supernatural too.

          • Geena Safire

            My bad. I thought I had checked where I was jumping in, and I hadn't. You are right. Supernatural theories, coming up.

            Fire was the gift of the Greek god Prometheus, for which he was punished. The African Bushmen tell of Kaang, lord of life, who told the people never to build a fire else evil would befall them. But the fear of darkness at night drove the humans to commit the sin of fire.

            The Hebrew God said 'Let there be light' on the first day, and spoke into being the greater light, lesser light and stars on the fourth day. Or Surya, the Hindu sun god, rides the sky in a horse-drawn chariot.

            In Norse mythology, Audhumla, the cow from whose teats ran four rivers of milk, The cow licked salty ice blocks thus freeing the first human, Buri, from the ice, over three days. In Tibet, humans were the birthed progeny of an extraterrestrial ogre and and an earthling monkey.

            hard problem of consciousness

            It's tedious. But it's not that hard.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Fire was the gift of the Greek god Prometheus, for which he was punished. The African Bushmen tell of Kaang, lord of life, who told the people never to build a fire else evil would befall them. But the fear of darkness at night drove the humans to commit the sin of fire.

            Let's see.

            Prometheus: no explanation. Fire just existed already, but he acted as mailman for it.

            Kaang: No explanation. People just 'built fire'.

            The Hebrew God said 'Let there be light' on the first day, and spoke into being the greater light, lesser light and stars on the fourth day. Or Surya, the Hindu sun god, rides the sky in a horse-drawn chariot.

            Hebrew God, no explanation, just an attribution of responsibility. Surya, we have an explanation of what the sun is that turned out to be false. What makes it supernatural as opposed to merely bizarre?

            In Tibet, humans were the birthed progeny of an extraterrestrial ogre and and an earthling monkey.

            What's supernatural about this? You seem to be confusing "freaking weird" with "supernatural".

            It's tedious. But it's not that hard.

            Then the complete lack of progress on that front is all the more mysterious. Yes, yes, I know - Dennett and company deny there's a problem of consciousness. Largely by denying consciousness to begin with. Eliminativist routes are all yours to walk if you so choose. Allow me to quote Galen Strawson on that front:

            ‘They are prepared to deny the existence of experience.’ At this we should stop and wonder. I think we should feel very sober, and a little afraid, at the power of human credulity, the capacity of human minds to be gripped by theory, by faith. For this particular denial is the strangest thing that has ever happened in the whole history of human thought, not just the whole history of philosophy. It falls, unfortunately, to philosophy, not religion, to reveal the deepest woo-woo of the human mind. I find this grievous, but, next to this denial, every known religious belief is only a little less sensible than the belief that grass is green.

          • Geena Safire

            Hebrew God, no explanation, just an attribution of responsibility.

            I couldn't have said it better myself.

            I don't think eliminativists deny the existence of experience. They're saying that how we view or interpret our experience and our thoughts is, well, quaint, and how our brains actually process experience is very different.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I couldn't have said it better myself.

            Why thank you. But it rather runs against your point on this front. Science hasn't dented /that/ claim in the slightest. It seems utterly impossible to do so.

            Now, science can dent the claim that lightning is being hurled by some guy living on a mountain. On the other hand, that doesn't seem particularly 'non-natural' to me. In fact I think natural/supernatural talk leads nowhere interesting anymore. Maybe it did once upon a time, before definitions of 'natural' had to be changed repeatedly.

            I don't think eliminativists deny the existence of experience.

            What do you think 'eliminativists' means? "Not eliminating"?

          • Geena Safire

            I'm with Patricia Churchland on the first definition, not the "other version(s)."

            Eliminative materialism (also called eliminativism) is a materialist position in the philosophy of mind. Its primary claim is that people's common-sense understanding of the mind (or folk psychology) is false and that certain classes of mental states that most people believe in do not exist. Some eliminativists argue that no coherent neural basis will be found for many everyday psychological concepts such as belief or desire, since they are poorly defined. Rather, they argue that psychological concepts of behaviour and experience should be judged by how well they reduce to the biological level. Other versions entail the non-existence of conscious mental states such as pain and visual perceptions.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I'm with Patricia Churchland on the first definition, not the "other version(s)."

            Eliminativism is eliminating something, or 'eliminativism' it ain't. Though it's funny - 'you're with'? What does that mean? Apparently, you don't believe what she says. ;)

          • Geena Safire

            Apparently, you don't believe what she says.

            What leads you to comment that I don't believe what Patricia Churchland says?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            What leads you to comment that I don't believe what Patricia Churchland says?

            Are you aware of what the Churchlands think of 'beliefs and propositional attitudes'?

          • Geena Safire

            What leads you to comment that I don't believe what Patricia Churchland says?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Geena, think about it. Take the Churchlands' views about propositional content. Notice what a 'belief' is.

          • Geena Safire

            What leads you to comment that I don't believe what Patricia Churchland says?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            You want a list of phenomena which were previously explained by supernatural causes:lightning
            rainbows
            earthquakes
            fossils
            the motion of the sun
            the motion of the planets
            the motion (or its lack) of the stars
            the presence of biological complexity
            cancer
            tuberculosis
            polio
            etc

            You just gave me a list of assertions. What were these 'supernatural explanations'? Let's take a few from your list and extrapolate them.

            Lightning? The 'supernatural explanation for lightning' wasn't even an explanation of lightning. It was 'Zeus hits people with that when they're jerks'. There's no explanation of lightning in there -anywhere-. At best there was a correlation that didn't work out.

            Now, there IS a sense in which lightning is said to be caused by a deity - in the sense that an omnipotent, omniscient God foresees, and possibly pre-ordains, such natural events. The problem is this kind of claim is precisely a kind which science can't prove or disprove. There's no test for it.

            On the flipside, for just about every example you gave, there have historically been 'natural', even 'scientific' explanations for those things which turned out to be complete bunk. So I guess we ditch scientific and natural explanations too?

            The history of science hasn't worked out nearly the way you've told yourself it has.

            As a matter of scientific inquiry, there is no known mechanism for the cessation of aging (did everyone's telomeres stop getting short?) or death (cancers removed? what if you were flat-lining when the grasshopper came to you?).

            There's 'no known mechanism' for a variety of things, from consciousness to the origin of life to origin of physical laws to otherwise. Granted, if something like that happened we'd have to re-evaluate our claims about the natural world. But again, so what? We've done that *repeatedly*. To quantum world is damn weird compared to the classical world that preceded it. Did that turn out to be a case of 'oops, turns out the supernatural exists after all'?

            No. We simply said 'Ah, so that's what nature is', changed all the definitions, and moved on.

            We're not talking about 'a heck of a gap' or something-which-seems-designed-by-a-mind-so-there-must-be-one, or I-can't-imagine-what-caused-the-big-bang-so-creator. We're talking about encountering an intellect or force which is at odds with everything we know about physics, biology, and time.

            They are the same thing. It's just another gap. Hence, 'at odds with what we know about physics, biology and time'. Oops, it turns out our knowledge of nature was incomplete, even radically incomplete. Surely *that* has never happened before! Wait, no, it happened repeatedly.

            And it is still a gap. You have no 'science of the supernatural' that is suddenly vindicated by any of these things, period. You have a slew of unknowns that don't fit with your current models, /and that is it/. It's a gap. You keep acting as if you dramatize it more, it will suddenly NOT be a gap - but that is precisely what it is.

            We're talking about an entity which can instantiate itself at least planet-wide and communicate with everyone simultaneously and end death. If that doesn't qualify as "supernatural" then nothing does.

            Because you're defining 'supernatural' wholly as 'this thing that operates in a gap'. Heck, I can even give you a counterexample: let's say we create a simulated universe. We can do everything you're talking about to the inhabitants of said universe. Did we just prove the supernatural exists? Please, walk down that road.

            If the God-of-the-gaps people ever find me that kind of proof, I'll be on board, no matter how loudly you shout that I'm the one being illogical.

            Where did I say you were being illogical? Heck, where did I say that you should NOT believe in God given that? I have pointed out:

            1) Like it or not, the only thing you have going for you in your own examples, and the examples cited, is a gap. There is no science. There is no theory. There's, 'Wow, I have NO IDEA how that happened. That's crazy! I say it's God.' Period.

            2) It's quite fine to embrace that reasoning if you want. I certainly won't say much. But that means that gaps reasoning is quite acceptable after all. 'Are you amazed enough? Do you find the gap big enough? Then go with it.'

            What your tripping point seems to be here is that, if you recognize you're using gaps logic, then suddenly a lot of your favorite arguments melt away against religious belief. I say, accept that. You can still be an atheist. But now you're recognizing one of the problems with your reasoning about evidence'.

          • MichaelNewsham

            Lightning? The 'supernatural explanation for lightning' wasn't even an
            explanation of lightning. It was 'Zeus hits people with that when
            they're jerks'. There's no explanation of lightning in there -anywhere-.

            And don't forget Yahweh either:

            "The LORD thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice.
            And he sent out arrows, and scattered them; lightning, and discomfited them." 2Sam 22:14-15 and many similar- these Iron Age High Gods were much of a muchness

            Earthquakes: "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth."

            2Sam 22: 8

            rainbows:
            12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
            Gen.% 9:12-14

            And of course these are explanations- God sent earthquakes,lightning and floods because he was angry; and he put rainbows in the skies to show he wouldn't flood the Earth again.

            All these and the rest are supernatural explanations from your scriptures, and all are on the same level as stories about Zeus.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            And don't forget Yahweh either:

            Not forgotten, just not much of a concern regarding the point. Those are claims of God being behind particular and specific natural acts. Not only are they not general claims ('All earthquakes are signs of God's anger!'), but once again - they aren't explanations, and aren't refuted by a scientific explanation. They are broadly compatible with such.

            All these and the rest are supernatural explanations from your scriptures, and all are on the same level as stories about Zeus.

            Nah, not really. However, the posited gap reasoning is on the same general level as gap reasoning broadly, including about Zeus.

            And remember: there's nothing wrong with reasoning to God from the gaps. At least, that's the line here so far.

          • Geena Safire

            Hi Michael. I think you meant to use 'blockquote' not 'block'.

          • Paul Boillot

            Crude,

            Also, Crude, just as a side-note, I don't take your view. I think you're wrong about the relationship between arguments and science and about the sharp line of distinction between science and philosophy.

            And if you want to keep playing the game, Crude, where you analogize the supernatural-and-debunked claims of the past to the claims Ben and I are positing, you're doing logic wrong.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            And by the way - to everyone who's defending this God of the Gaps reasoning, let's take a little point of comparison here.

            PZ Myers, Michael Shermer - these are two people (and they are just examples) who have said that, for any given event they experience, they would not conclude 'God' from it. If they started experiencing the sort of things being described in this thread, they would chalk it up to 'powerful space aliens' or 'it's unknown, but I'm not going to conclude God' or even 'Well, apparently I have brain damage now'.

            I take it you all regard such conclusions as totally flawed, yes? Their atheism and their standards are out and out wrong on this front?

          • Ben Posin

            Well....to circle back...it might depend on how you're defining God, and how PZ Myers and Michael Shermer are defining God. You've refused to give us a definition. So when you get down to it, how are we supposed to tell you sort of evidence would be persuasive, or sufficient, or if any evidence could be? This conversation may make more sense if you recall that I started out by giving examples of how, specifically, an omniscient and omnipotent being might demonstrate he exists--because that's how Mr. Akin described God (if you recall, this thread once was about whether free will could justify an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent allowing us to suffer as we do).

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Well....to circle back...it might depend on how you're defining God, and how PZ Myers and Michael Shermer are defining God. You've refused to give us a definition.

            Ben, you keep on acting like I'm the one who has to give a definition when you or others say 'There is no evidence for God.' I'm pretty sure that once you're making a claim, the responsibility to give a definition is you.

            If you want Myers' definitions, go check out the interactions between himself and Coyne on this subject. I can track down Shermer's responses if you like too.

            This conversation may make more sense if you recall that I started out by giving examples of how, specifically, an omniscient and omnipotent being might demonstrate he exists--because that's how Mr. Akin described God

            And you gave gaps. What's more, 'omniscient' and 'omnipotent' aren't exactly open to demonstration. Any particular demonstration is wholly compatible with a being having considerable (but limited) knowledge and power.

          • Ben Posin

            You're absolutely backwards about the burden of defining God, to a degree that it makes me wonder if you're trolling. How can I say if there is evidence or not for "God" before someone tells me what they mean when they say "God"? Similarly, how can I talk about what might constitute evidence for "God" before it's defined? That's one of the reasons my prior examples may have been so dissatisfying to you: we hadn't established what it was I was supposed to be thinking of possible evidence of.

            I also think that if we're going to talk further you should drop the term "god of the gaps," because that has a specific meaning different than what you're saying. You seem very keen on the idea that no possible evidence could be sufficient to prove that God (still undefined ) exists, which really to me seems a criticism that if I, from any evidence, believed in (undefined term) God, I would be making use of faith, i.e. ascribing greater weight to a belief than the evidence supports. That may be reasonable point, but has nothing to do with "God of the gaps." But I really don't think this conversation can go much further if you can't or won't give me a definition of what God it is I'm supposed to be imagining potential evidence for. I will concede, to echo Andre, that even were there "gaps" between the evidence and the claim, I would find theist claims a lot more reasonable than I do now if there evidence consisted of undisputed events of the kind that I have described (though, for the last time, it would make a difference what sort of God they claim this evidence supports).

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            You're absolutely backwards about the burden of defining God, to a degree that it makes me wonder if you're trolling. How can I say if there is evidence or not for "God" before someone tells me what they mean when they say "God"?

            Ben, here is you earlier: "The main difference (and problem) is that, unlike the police and the courts, God hasn't bothered to give us sufficient evidence to know that he, his rules, or his punishments actually exist."

            You're the one who said that God 'hasn't bothered to give us sufficient evidence to know that he, his rules, or his punishments actually exist'. You made the claim: you have a burden. Don't tell me there's no evidence for God's existence and THEN say the burden is on me to define God. If God is undefined for you, then you have no way to say whether or not evidence exists.

            You can't play this one both ways.

            You seem very keen on the idea that no possible evidence could be sufficient to prove that God (still undefined ) exists, which really to me seems a criticism that if I, from any evidence, believed in (undefined term) God, I would be making use of faith, i.e. ascribing greater weight to a belief than the evidence supports.

            Man, that is a tangled sentence. Seriously, try to write clearer. This isn't a snobby thing - I sometimes write in tangles like that too. But try to go back and fix 'em when you can.

            Anyway, you keep wanting to use this 'f' word. Faith. I haven't said it at all. I think one can have evidence for God's existence. 'Prove' to the point of 'Not even logically possible you are wrong'? Buddy, I can't prove the external world exists to that degree of certainty.

            But I really don't think this conversation can go much further if you can't or won't give me a definition of what God it is I'm supposed to be imagining potential evidence for.

            Then you have a dilemma: you have to withdraw your claim that there is no evidence for God if you have no definition of God in mind when saying it. You would simply be saying nothing. Babble.

            But if you insist that there's no evidence for God, then you need to give me a definition. Take your pick. You made the first move here - I simply walked in to comment.

            I will concede, to echo Andre, that even were there "gaps" between the evidence and the claim, I would find theist claims a lot more reasonable than I do now if their evidence consisted of undisputed events of the kind that I have described (though, for the last time, it would make a difference what sort of God they claim this evidence supports).

            See, here's the thing: you tell me you'd find them a lot more reasonable. But so what? Who's trying to convert you here? Or, better yet - who is using your view as the fundamental standard for a rational conclusion? The point is that your own desired 'evidence' was A) Entirely non-scientific, B) God of the Gaps, and C) Completely subjective. And if you believe it's reasonable to believe in God on standards that combine A, B and C, that's fine. But realize what standards you're using, so if someone else points at such and such and it turns out to be a 'God of the gaps' argument, remember: that's what you want too. At most, you simply want some different gaps.

            This cuts through a whole lot of very, very common atheist claims about the reasonableness of believing in God. Apparently - even putting aside all the logical arguments, the metaphysical arguments, the other evidences, etc - God of the gaps reasoning is acceptable. Science isn't needed - heck, philosophy is hardly needed. You just need a display of a gap that matches up to your subjective intuitions.

          • Susan

            This cuts through a whole lot of very, very common atheist claims about the reasonableness of believing in God.

            This illuminates how problematic the question, "What evidence would you accept for 'God'?" actually is.

            What is a god, to begin with? And "God" with a big, fat capital "G" makes so many claims that it's impossible to respond with a reasonable standard of evidence without definition. You didn't provide any. You are asking what evidence might support a claim. What claim are you making?

            The trouble is that Ben accepted a burden that wasn't his to begin with. I agree that's problematic. He should have asked what you meant right at the start. He didn't. But he is now.

            Now, we need to start at the beginning. You asked what evidence Ben would accept for "God". You didn't explain what sort of claim(s) "God" implies when you use the word. So, it wasn't an honest question.

            Without a coherent definition, you can't ask for evidence.

            I agree that it could just be a hyperdimensional space alien playing tricks on humans. Why call that "God"?

            But we could at least deal with evidence for a claim that there is something with agency making contact with humans that has more knowledge and ability to travel and communicate better than we have.

            What do you mean by evidence for "God"?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            The trouble is that Ben accepted a burden that wasn't his to begin with. I agree that's problematic. He should have asked what you meant right at the start. He didn't. But he is now.

            No, Susan - this will not fly.

            First off, he couldn't have asked what 'I' meant, because I wasn't even in this conversation.

            Second, he accepted a burden that was, in fact, his. He made a claim, a statement, about the state of evidence for God's existence: he said there was no sufficient evidence.

            Now, if he wants to backtrack, he can. But there's a price for that: it turns out he has no idea whether or not there's sufficient evidence for God at all, because he has not defined what 'God' means. But if he tells us that there's not sufficient evidence for God, then he can't turn around and demand everyone *else* define God's existence when he's called on it. Take your pick: claim there's no evidence/insufficient evidence for God, or plead ignorance about what 'God' even is. You cannot swing both.

            What's more, Ben even was more than happy to provide the hypothetical evidence that would have him accepting God's existence. Lo and behold, it was all a bunch of gaps. And I said even then, FINE - I won't dispute he could reasonably believe in God given such and such evidence. But to do so is to admit that God of the gaps reasoning is valid.

            Now, we need to start at the beginning. You asked what evidence Ben would accept for "God". You didn't explain what sort of claim(s) "God" implies when you use the word. So, it wasn't an honest question.

            I take your suggest that my question was dishonest, and throw it right back at you: you are dishonestly trying to obfuscate this issue. Worse, you're doing a rotten job of it. Ben was the one who opened up saying there was insufficient evidence for God's existence - to do that, he had to have an idea of God in mind. Then, he was asked what evidence would convince him, and he supplied it. I pointed out the flaws. Then he started demanding that I define God, and I pointed out that this had nothing to do with *my* definition of God, and everything to do with his.

            No dishonesty at any point, at least on my end.

            The problem here seems to be that people want to be inconsistent.

            They want to make claims about God's existence, but they don't want to ever have a burden of proof - which naturally comes when a claim is made.

            They want to talk about the state of evidence for God's existence (specifically, that the evidence does not exist or is insufficient), but they do not want to have to define what they mean by God.

            They want to discount 'God of the gaps' reasoning, but they don't want to be criticized for demanding a gap as evidence that would convince them (or better yet, posit gaps as evidence.)

            And maybe, just maybe, they want to be known as 'reason-loving' 'science-loving' people, while at the same time being allowed to get away with inconsistent reasoning and an abuse of science.

            But we could at least deal with evidence for a claim that there is something with agency making contact with humans that has more knowledge and ability to travel and communicate better than we have.

            I am not interested in discussing the existence of Captain Picard with you, Susan.

            My points stand. And you know what? They're pretty important points. They are not meant to make you give up your atheism. But perhaps some people will reduce their stridency, realize their inconsistencies, and learn from this as a result.

            And Happy Thanksgiving to whoever's celebrating it.

          • Susan

            Ben's statement about the lack of evidence began with this:

            The main difference (and problem) is that, unlike the police and the courts, God hasn't bothered to give us sufficient evidence to know that he, his rules, or his punishments actually exist. That would be an easy first step for God to alleviate human suffering: demonstrate that he actually exists, so humanity as a whole actually believes there is an omniscient, omnipotent figure around ensuring consequences for their actions.

            You eventually piped in:

            What would qualify as evidence for you? What are you looking for? What would count?

            Ben gave some examples that he would accept. I agree that they don't indicate the existence of a god necessarily, whatever a "god" is. Just a new phenomenon that requires explanation. But what Ben seemed to be saying was that there was no evidence for the specific claims about a being as described in the article. And when pressed, he suggested some thngs that might count as evidence in support of the idea, I wouldn't accept that as being evidence for a "god".

            Ben has brought things back to where they should be. What claim are you making? What evidence would be reasonably accepted as support for this claim?

            it turns out he has no idea whether or not there's sufficient evidence for God at all, because he has not defined what 'God' means.

            As far as I can tell, neither do you because you've shown no indication that you know what "God" means either. What does it mean? You've made your point but it's meaningless unless you really want to probe the idea.

            You asked what evidence would suffice. For what?

            I won't dispute he could reasonably believe in God given such and such evidence. But to do so is to admit that God of the gaps reasoning is valid.

            It isn't. Do you disagree?

            They are not meant to make you give up your atheism.

            There's nothing to give up. Now, you truly ARE shifting the burden.

            But perhaps some people will reduce their stridency

            Meaningless editorial chatter.

            realize their inconsistencies,

            Or more accurately, not ever caught up in discussing "God" but only specific claims.

            and learn from this as a result.

            Yes. Learn to be claim- specific when asked what they would accept as a reasonable standard of evidence.

            Which requires a definition. Do you have one?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Ben gave some examples that he would accept. I agree that they don't indicate the existence of a god necessarily, whatever a "god" is. Just a new phenomenon that requires explanation. But what Ben seemed to be saying was that there was no evidence for the specific claims about a being as described in the article.

            What Ben seemed to be saying is that there was not sufficient evidence for God's existence. It's not as if I kept him from providing a definition of the God he was speaking about - I asked him several times for exactly that. He balked and made it sound as if *I* needed to provide a definition in order to... what? Question his claims?

            Further, *his* evidence was exactly what I said it was: God of the gaps. Even you seem to acknowledge this.

            Ben has brought things back to where they should be. What claim are you making? What evidence would be reasonably accepted as support for this claim?

            No, they shouldn't be there, because - and this is apparently the tough one that's confusing people here - I am not making any claims. Ben was, and others were.

            Now, if you wish to not make claims, that's fine. That will involve a retraction: "Oops, I can't say whether or not there's sufficient evidence for God's existence after all. Nor can I say there is." But it seems like you want to play this game where you get to make claims, but you don't have to support them, or define anything, or defend what you're saying.

            Unfortunately for you, this is not how this works. If you make a claim, you're the one who needs to defend it, and define your terms when asked.

            As far as I can tell, neither do you because you've shown no indication that you know what "God" means either. What does it mean? You've made your point but it's meaningless unless you really want to probe the idea.

            You asked what evidence would suffice. For what?

            Once again: it's funny that Ben had absolutely no trouble identifying what I was asking, given that Ben was the one who originally claimed there was not sufficient evidence for God's existence. So my question would be obvious: 'Evidence for the God Ben says that there is not sufficient evidence for.'

            Ben is making claims. I am not. Quit trying to shift the burden of proof illicitly. Hint: a licit way to deny a proof burden is to make no claims. But that will involve, you know... making no claims. Including atheistic claims.

            It isn't. Do you disagree?

            Please support your claim.

            There's nothing to give up. Now, you truly ARE shifting the burden.

            No, I'm pointing out who in fact has a burden. The only claims I've made here have been in reaction to Ben's and others - Ben said there is not sufficient evidence for God's existence. I asked Ben what evidence would suffice. He gave a list. I pointed out this were God of the gaps evidence - that was a claim, but it is radically easy to support. I've further claimed that if he accepts God of the Gaps evidence as valid, then he can't rightly attack people for accepting God of the Gaps evidence. Another claim - again, easy to support. It's mere consistency.

            What you seem to want is to go back in time and change things so I roll in here saying 'God exists, it's totally obvious!' and YOU get to play skeptic. And if I said that, I would have a burden - and I'd endeavor to meet it.

            But, I haven't. BEN and others made a claim about God's existence. The burden's on their shoulders on that front. Don't like it? Don't make claims.

            Meaningless editorial chatter.

            No, it's incisive commentary about what's going on here.

            Or more accurately, not ever caught up in discussing "God" but only specific claims.

            If the lesson learned here by any wannabe atheist is 'Wow, I should never, ever make claims about God's existence or non-existence unless I know what I'm doing and can aptly deal with the burden I'm taking on', that will be a delight. That alone would suffice to destroy the Cult of Gnu intellectually overnight. Then the more mature atheists and theists could have a real conversation.

            Yes. Learn to be claim- specific when asked what they would accept as a reasonable standard of evidence.

            Which requires a definition. Do you have one?

            Should I take this to mean, since you've apparently taken it upon yourself to speak for Ben, that the claim of inadequate evidence for God's existence is now withdrawn?

            Remember: you can't make that claim unless you're bringing a definition of your own out. But you seem petrified of doing THAT.

            Sorry, Susan. I know you want to play a game of hot potato with that burden of proof - but it is yours, and yours alone, until you stop making claims.

          • Susan

            Hi Crude,

            Should I take this to mean, since you've apparently taken it upon yourself to speak for Ben

            If I've done that or even given the impression that I've done that, I apologize to you and to Ben. Ben is quite eloquent, very intelligent and can take care of himself. I notice you've ignored the rest of his post, which is full of points that deserve a response but have not been met with one..

            The very first and main point in MY comment was:

            This illuminates how problematic the question, "What evidence would you accept for 'God'?" actually is.

            I think it's a meaningless question and impossible to answer unless the definitions are there in the first place. Like anything. Unless the claim is clearly defined, it's unreasonable to ask what evidence would rise to a reasonable working standard.

            What evidence could there possibly be for am "omnibenevolent" being, for instance? On the other hand, there COULD be evidence that prayer gets results. (Evidence is that it doesn't, as far as I know.) That wouldn't get you a being, let alone a deity. But it can be tested.

            (Not speaking for Ben here... just observing...) It seemed to be that Ben was saying that something extraordinary that displayed agency would certainly get his attention. It would be a far cry better than what theists actually offer.

            I think he fell into the trap of shadowboxing with the word "God". But I do agree with him that there is not sufficient evidence for the "God" mentioned in the article as though its existence was a fact. That happens a lot here without justification. A false premise can lead to any conclusion.

            I agree with you that to say that would convince him of "God" is subjective and gappy. But that brings me back to my original point, which I will repeat:

            This illuminates how problematic the question "What evidence would you accept for 'God' " actually is.

            to do so is to admit that God of the gaps reasoning is valid.

            It isn't. Do you disagree?

            Please support your claim.

            Its validity is a claim I don't accept. Demonstrate that it's valid.

            "Perhaps some people will reduce their stridency." IS meaningless editorial chatter.

            Should I take this to mean, since you've apparently taken it upon yourself to speak for Ben, that the claim of inadequate evidence for God's existence is now withdrawn?

            Not by me, it's not. I don't speak for Ben. I jumped into a discussion you guys were having and did my best to acknowledge the points. That's fairly standard.

            Remember: you can't make that claim unless you're bringing a definition of your own out. But you seem petrified of doing THAT.

            I am nearly paralyzed with fear. Come on, Crude. It's not a claim. What do you mean by "God"? To what specific claims are you referring? What's your evidence?

            "God" means so many things depending on who's talking that I don't know what YOU might mean. So far, I've not seen a sufficient amount of evidence for any deity claims.

            Ben was trying to address the "God" claims in the article. Got evidence for THOSE claims?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I notice you've ignored the rest of his post, which is full of points that deserve a response but have not been met with one..

            I focused on one particular claim that I thought was absolutely problematic. Surprise! It was. And that single point alone has spawned days of conversation and probably dozens of replies at this point. You can see, in retrospect, why I'm focusing on a key claim on his part.

            It seemed to be that Ben was saying that something extraordinary that displayed agency would certainly get his attention. It would be a far cry better than what theists actually offer.

            What Ben said was that big, crazy gaps would convince him God exists. Not 'seems' - this is what happened. "Something happened, it was amazing, I have no idea how to explain it. Therefore, God."

            That's not 'a far cry better than what theists actually offer'. That is exactly what the lowest theists on the argument rung tend to offer, and which they are typically derided for. Gaps aren't exactly difficult to find, you know - much less gaps for which people tend to infer intelligence. Now, I think the more informed theists typically offer up vastly better arguments than these gaps - but the key here is that Ben did offer up gaps. This isn't really in dispute. At best people are upset that I keep pointing it out and noting the contradiction, at least insofar as 'usually God of the Gaps arguments are rejected'. But that's not much of a response.

            This illuminates how problematic the question "What evidence would you accept for 'God' " actually is.

            No, it illuminates how problematic any claims about 'God' are - including claims about 'lack of sufficient evidence'. You're acting as if my question was unfair, but the real 'illuminating' point here was when someone claimed a lack of sufficient evidence for God, and who in your own words offered up an evidence standard that was 'subjective and gappy'.

            And if such a standard of evidence is valid, well hey - so much for the claims of 'lack of sufficient evidence'.

            Its validity is a claim I don't accept. Demonstrate that it's valid.

            Susan, you said 'it's invalid'. That, my friend, is a claim. Support it.

            Why are you engaging in this weird intellectual dishonesty where you're trying to find the magical combination of words that let you make claims yet not have a burden? The only way you can drop a burden here is if you stay mum. 'I don't accept the validity. And I don't reject it. No opinion.' But don't tell me 'it's invalid' and then act like the burden is on ME to prove otherwise. You said it's invalid - show me it's invalid.

            But you don't want to. What a waste of time.

            I am nearly paralyzed with fear.

            Intellectually, you are. Every time you make a claim and I point it out, you withdraw or try to reword it so you're not actually making a claim even though you are. It won't work. Yes, that's some obvious fear.

            Come on, Crude. It's not a claim. What do you mean by "God"? To what specific claims are you referring? What's your evidence?

            What evidence? For what claim? I haven't claimed God exists. I haven't claimed the evidence shows God exists. I've responded to claims A) about God's supposed 'lack of sufficient evidence' for His existence, and B) evaluated claims of what evidence would suffice to show God's existence.

            You, meanwhile?

            But I do agree with him that there is not sufficient evidence for the "God" mentioned in the article as though its existence was a fact.

            So - 'there's not sufficient evidence for God'. Wonderful! A claim. Now just go about telling me what sufficient evidence would even look like. What is this thing? How would you know it does or doesn't exist?

            Or are you going to back off from this claim too?

            "God" means so many things depending on who's talking that I don't know what YOU might mean. So far, I've not seen a sufficient amount of evidence for any deity claims.

            I haven't made any deity claims, so your criticism doesn't do much here. You're the one making them, as was Ben. But every time you're asked to support your claims, you head for the hills.

            Is this the mighty reason Cult of Gnu atheists go on and on about? This is the intellectual fortitude theists are supposed to fear? Scrambling desperately away from any burden of proof, only making claims insofar as no one asks you to do the intellectually proper thing and support said claims?

            Ben was trying to address the "God" claims in the article. Got evidence for THOSE claims?

            Why are you asking me? I didn't write the article. Are you saying there is no evidence, or not sufficient evidence? If so - congratulations, you are making a claim. Support it. At which point I'll ask you what evidence would suffice. Maybe you'll say no evidence is possible on this front. Maybe you'll give more gaps. Maybe you'll find another reply.

            But - and this is key - if you are petrified of making claims, if you want to avoid a burden at all costs... then, Susan, there is only one route open to you: make no claims, period. And hey, you're welcome to that. But you cannot both make a claim and yet ditch the burden.

            Take a good, long look at what you're doing here, Susan. You keep trying to find the magical word combination that will let you make a claim but have no burden. It doesn't exist - but why do you want it to begin with? Is this really intellectually proper? Do you think maybe your atheism may be screwing with you mentally at this point?

          • Susan

            What Ben said was that big, crazy gaps would convince him God exists.

            Ben's caveat:

            some theists are telling me there's a being that's omnipotent and omniscient. And I'm saying that there are things that such a being could do that would provide evidence that he exists. The things I listed are not proof, but random examples of what would be evidence that such a being exists.

            Ben's examples:

            could appear before all people on earth at once and introduce himself and explain what he's about, in each person's language, and in a way that checked out as consistent when we talked to each other afterwards

            This would demonstrate agency, intelligence and extraordinary ability.

            he could take that time to announce he's going to get rid of all diseases and cancer in exactly 24 hours, and then proceed to do that. Or announce he is going to heal all amputees at noon the next day, and do that

            This would be evidence of agency, benevolence and also extraordinary ability.

            Or he could announce that he was going to reverse the direction that the earth orbits the sun, and then do that.

            Or resurrect everyone's dead relatives.

            He could vanish the world's supply of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

            He could stop people's aging

            More examples of agency, knowledge and power beyond ours and (except for the earth's orbit example) benevolence..

            So, we would have evidence in support of an agent who possesses these attributes. Quite a thing to behold but no reason to think it goes very far toward demonstrating that the Abrahamic deity exists. Am omnipotent agent COULD do those things but those things wouldn't require omnipotence. It could just be able to do those things and there could be innumerable things it couldn't do.

            There is no reason to stuff "God" in there. Particularly when "God" can mean any combination of things.

            Now just go about telling me what sufficient evidence would even look like.What is this thing?

            This "thing" is the "God" described in the article.

            he is not only all-powerful but all-good as well

            I'd be happy to stop using the term "God" as it isn't helpful. The writer describes an existent, omnipotent, omnibenevolent agent. I have never seen sufficient evidence for that nor can I imagine that there could be sufficient evidence. It's a claim without evidence. The author provided none and neither has anyone here, including you.

            How would you know it it did or didn't exist?

            There is no reason to accept its existence without evidence. How would you know if it did or didn't exist? How could anyone? I can make up a lot of things and you couldn't technically "know" that they did or didn't exist. But I wouldn't expect you to accept their existence without evidence.

          • Susan

            Susan, you said 'it's invalid'. That, my friend, is a claim. Support it

            Please don't call me "your friend". It's disingenuous and unnecessary. If you want to have a discussion, it's unhelpful.

            I'm assuming that you don't mean "valid" in the technical sense of a deductive argument as you haven't presented one. I interpreted "valid" in an informal sense. I took it to mean can it be a legitimate approach to arriving at more and more accurate answers

            When we have a gap, placing an incoherent entity for which there is no explanation in that gap without evidence and thinking we've got an answer will not help us understand the gap.

            If you can show me how this would work, I will happily admit that I was wrong and will be grateful that you changed my mind.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Please don't call me "your friend". It's disingenuous and unnecessary. If you want to have a discussion, it's unhelpful.

            I'm not sure this can be called a 'discussion' at this point, and it's not clear you want any help besides.

            When we have a gap, placing an incoherent entity for which there is no explanation in that gap without evidence and thinking we've got an answer will not help us understand the gap.

            Wonderful. At this point you're going to have to argue that Ben's definition of God is incoherent (he was the one talking about the evidence and giving what he'd call evidence, after all), and also that it A) has no explanation, and B) an explanation is required in the relevant sense.

            Not to mention C) what's involved with 'helping us understand the gap'.

            If you can show me how this would work, I will happily admit that I was wrong and will be grateful that you changed my mind.

            I doubt you would. But I'm more interested in getting you to support your claims on this front. Maybe you'll yet meet that burden of yours.

            And just to be clear - what Ben gave as evidence he would take to establish God's existence (and others agreed it would establish God's existence), you say would not do so. Indeed, it's not evidence for God's existence.

            Correct?

          • Susan

            At this point you're going to have to argue that Ben's definition...

            I told you what Ben's hypothetical scenarios would provide evidence for. What did I miss?

            what Ben gave as evidence he would take to establish God's existence (and others agreed it would establish God's existence), you say would not do so.

            Same as above. You would have to tell me what you mean by "God". I still have no idea what Ben or the others or YOU mean.

            The "God" of the article, the omnipotent, omnibenevolent agent... no. Ben's hypothetical scenarios would not be sufficient evidence. They would be evidence of something extraordinary that we would have to investigate and would certainly suggest the possibility of an agent whose abilities and knowledge surpass ours by a tremendous amount.

            I doubt you would.

            Try me.

            I'm more interested in getting you to support your claims on this front. Maybe you'll yet meet that burden of yours.

            My familiarity with God-of-the-gaps arguments is that they use the argument from ignorance. They assign an unjustified explanation to the gaps we encounter in our knowledge.

            There might be a version that doesn't do this. As I said, I could be wrong.

            You could provide an example that might change my mind.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I told you what Ben's hypothetical scenarios would provide evidence for. What did I miss?

            You just said that what Ben was talking about was an 'incoherent concept'. So I await to see why it's incoherent.

            Same as above. You would have to tell me what you mean by "God". I still have no idea what Ben or the others or YOU mean.

            I haven't made claims, so my definition is irrelevant. Ben has, and I've been asking him for his definition. So I'm glad to have you alongside me asking for it.

            The "God" of the article, the omnipotent, omnibenevolent agent... no. Ben's hypothetical scenarios would not be sufficient evidence.

            Alright. That puts you against two atheists in this thread who seemingly insisted very strongly at first that it would be sufficient evidence. An interesting turn of events!

            Try me.

            Are you imploring me to engage in an act of faith?

            My familiarity with God-of-the-gaps arguments is that they use the argument from ignorance. They assign an unjustified explanation to the gaps we encounter in our knowledge.

            What makes the explanation unjustified?

            This is fun. :)

          • Susan

            I haven't made claims, so my definition is irrelevant.

            Of course it isn't. You asked a question with the word "God" in it. I can't answer that question unless you tell me what you mean. This is basic.

            Your final question:

            And just to be clear - what Ben gave as evidence he would take to establish God's existence (and others agreed it would establish God's existence), you say would not do so. Indeed, it's not evidence for God's existence

            Now, you are asking me to respond to Ben's and others' and YOUR definition. Your last phrase puts you in the fray, I already responded to the standards of evidence for the definitions that were supplied here by Ben and others. If you want me to respond to your "God", tell me what your claim is or I won't know what I'm responding to.

            That puts you against two atheists in this thread who seemingly insisted very strongly at first that it would be sufficient evidence. An interesting turn of events!

            Maybe you find it interesting. It's not a turn of events. It's pretty run-of-the-mill. It's about epistemology.

            Are you imploring me to engage in an act of faith?

            No. Just to join the dscussion.

            Now, I think the more informed theists typically offer up vastly better arguments than these gaps

            What arguments are those?

            >blockquote>What makes the explanation unjustified?

            It's unjustified until it's jusified. Again... epistemology.

            Saying, "There is no evidence." is not a claim. It's part of an agreement. Demonstrate that your claims are real. It's pretty standard.

            This is fun. :)

            For you in a trollish sort of way, I guess. You have ignored the discussion in order to fixate on this sort of "Gotcha atheists!" concept. "Claiming there is no evidence is a CLAIM! Accepting evidence that doesn't justify the claims means it's OK to do that according to ATHEISTS!"

            You're missing the point. The claim began with the article. Where's the evidence?

          • severalspeciesof

            Ben, I have one better than all this. For myself, heaven would the the definitive proof of god's existence.

  • Methodological Naturalist

    The most perplexing problem in apologetics is the problem of evil

    I didn't know it was the most perplexing problem in Catholic apologetics so thank you for that. Understanding the reasons for the existence of suffering and injustice is not the most perplexing problem for science-based academic disciplines.

    A primatologist would point to our evolutionary ancestors and their behavior for showing an understanding of reciprocity as being fundamental to understanding modern notions of justice. Likewise any organism with a brain that comprehends empathy can understand what suffering is.

    This problem of evil seems to be for theologians. How big is the problem of evil? The biggest problem of all? As I read this article, and the justifications used to explain the existence of evil, it doesn't seem like it could merit the award of most perplexing problem. Also, the teaser final line seems to indicate even more answers to this problem are forthcoming.

    This will always be a theological problem from my point of view because without fixing the problem of why one needs faith to remotely understand God, this article in effect is putting the cart before the horse. Though perhaps not intended, I find it disrespectful to essentially force a non-believing audience to enter a faith construction in order to discuss it, without asking for plausible alternatives.

    I really don't understand the grounds for the publication of this article on Strange Notions.

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

      "No, it seems like the most perplexing problem isn't really a problem if I'm allowed my two cents."

      Great! We Christians agree. The problem of evil poses no logical challenge to the existence of God.

      Out of curiosity, what you say, as a non-believer, is the biggest problem facing Christians?

      • Danny Getchell

        I agree that the problem of evil poses no logical challenge to the existence of God. It does of course pose a serious challenge to the traditional Christian concept of God's nature.

        And since I accept the former but not the latter, I sleep (generally) untroubled by the existence of evil.

      • John Bell

        "Out of curiosity, what you say, as a non-believer, is the biggest problem facing Christians?"

        The complete lack of evidence for any of your three gods.

        • Vasco Gama

          I would say that "the complete lack of evidence for your three gods", is no problem at all for Christians, for starters there is no such thing as three gods, but one God, second we realize the evidence for God in existence, we just can't prove that to someone who doesn't believe in God (as the our relationship with God is a loving relationship), very much in the same way as I can't provide evidence to you (or you to me) that I love my children or that they love me (or that your mother loved or loves you or that you loved and love her or not, in this case I choose to take you word for that, no proof is required).

          • Ben Posin

            Mr. Gama,
            I'm willing to bet you think could prove to us that your children exist, though. But I'm even willing to bet we could find evidence of your love for your children, by taking a look at your past statements and actions. The reason people are willing to take others at their word when they say they love their children is that there is SO MUCH evidence in the world of parents loving their children that it's an entirely believable claim.

            For this reason I petition to the atheist/theist argument review board that human love for family be officially ruled as a bad example of something people believe without evidence, and be stricken as a permissible example of same.

          • Vasco Gama

            Ben,

            In my view the best approximation one can have of the relationship a believer has to God is in fact a loving relationship, although it is not exactly similar of one’s relationship with our relatives. If in Strange Notions we (atheists and theists) discuss our relationship with God, we have to be able to explain it to you the best we can, even if you don’t like the example (I would consider another explanation if I had one).

          • Ben Posin

            Mr. Gama,
            Whether it's a good approximation or comparison will depend on what point of similarity you are trying to show. You very clearly held up love as something that people experience and recognize without evidence, and thus similar to a belief or recognition of God. But as discussed, this is a bad comparision, as we do have evidence of our love for and from our families. To quote Tim Minchin, "love without evidence is stalking."
            On a broader point, understand that you're not going to get very far with atheists trying to show as comparable a "relationship" with God and one with other people who are actually, demonstrably in our lives (i.e., when we talk to them on the subway, the other people in the car don't think we're crazy). The two strike atheists as fundamentally different.

          • Vasco Gama

            I don't want to go very far with atheists, I was just to explain the relationship between believers and God to someone that is not a theist (that is why I used that example, if you fail to see what I am describing I just have to be sorry of not being able to do so).

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            Ben said
            [---
            I petition to the atheist/theist argument review board that human love for family be officially ruled as a bad example of something people believe without evidence
            ---]
            No amount of evidence can verify that a person loves you because the motivation is not accessible to you. Such a question does not fit well with empirical methods unless you completely reduce the meaning of love to that of utility.

          • Ben Posin

            Irenaeus:

            You're being a sillypants. Sure, I guess I can never know 100% what a person's motivation is--and everyone around me could be actors like in the Truman show.--and physics could be a lie because we'rein the matrix--and so on. No amount of evidence ever quite adds up to proof. But that's not what we're talking about. The question is whether there is evidence for people's love for one another, or if we're all taking it on faith, and the mind numbingly obvious answer is yes, of course there's evidence. In uncountable ways, the world looks like what we would expect it to if parents tended to love their children, and so forth--and does not look like what we'd expect if they did not. I have a LOT of evidence that my wife loves me--truer love hath no person than to stick with me through my snoring. And by the way, people can talk! When trying to divine someone's mental states, what they have to say about their mental states counts as evidence.

            Again, "love without evidence is stalking." It's a pretty worrying idea to me that you really don't think it's possible to gather evidence about someone else's feelings towards you. Fortunately, I don't believe you think that in the slightest, and instead think you are caught up on some idea of absolutely "verify[ing]" love, as if the inability for perfect certainty is the same thing as taking something on faith, you silly billy.

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            Hi Ben,
            [---
            I have a LOT of evidence that my wife loves me
            ---]
            That's wonderful, but what happened to the other 50% of marriages who also had loads of the same kind of evidence after publicly professing love? Or the near 100% of failed relationships before the eventual marriage which posit similar evidence? Sorry, but your evidence is not trustworthy, and it would not prove love anyway. Love is not proper to the empirical domain.

          • Ben Posin

            Irenaeus (if that is your real name), you seem strangely out of touch with the world. As many a divorced parent has explained to their kids, even though people have real feelings for each other, things don't always work out. If my wife and I stop getting along and eventually divorce, the evidence will still strongly suggest that we loved each other prior to the divorce, and may suggest we love each other after the divorce. Sometimes love isn't enough.

            Repeating that love "is not proper to the empirical domain" doesn't actually make it true. Why on earth isn't it? In courts of law we parse the evidence concerning someone's intentions and motivations all the time. And in our daily lives we are called on to interpret clues as to how people feel about us. Maybe it would be helpful if you told me what you think love is?

            And again: I'm not claiming you can "prove" love, just that people typically have evidence supporting their beliefs concerning people's loves (or are deluded stalkers), and that this is not comparable to a belief in God.

          • vito

            I admire your patience trying to respond to that silliness ... But it is a waste of time. In the end, they'll tell you you can't prove you have too legs instead of three.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            This is hardly productive on a Catholic/atheist dialogue site. I'm sorry if you can't get everyone to agree with you, but then I'd have to ask, why are you here, if not to respond to the "silliness"?

          • Geena Safire

            we realize the evidence for God in existence

            In counter-apologetics, we call this "the argument from trees." This is any variation along the lines of "But just look at the trees (or life or joy or the universe itself)! How can you not see the hand of God in that?"

            I can't provide evidence to you (or you to me) that I love my childrean or that they love me

            If any of your children were sociopaths and neurologically unable to love, you would clearly and absolutely know the difference, and would know beyond a doubt that the other ones loved you.

          • Vasco Gama

            Geena,

            I really don’t want you to see what your eyes are unable to see (and I am really not interested in what counter-apologetics have to say about that. Besides it is quite irrelevant).

            When I said “we realize the evidence for God in existence”, I was acknowledging a fact (for those who believe), I was not claiming that someone else should acknowledge that (you can see it more as an information, rather that something I want you to hold as true). That was not apologetics, but just to illustrate the way we see things. I don’t want to convert you (God can do that, not me).

            The example of my children was rhetorical (I could have said my mother, father, brother, sister, …). Talking about sociopaths makes no sense (maybe you should moderate your enthusiasm).

          • Geena Safire

            "Realize" means "become fully aware of (something) as a fact; understand clearly." If you know that your belief in God is an act of faith and not of it being a fact, then it follows that anything you believe as a result of that act of faith is also an act of faith and not a fact. You have faith that existence provides evidence for God because you have faith in God. If it proved God's existence as a fact, everyone would be convinced.

            If you had ever known sociopaths, as I have, you would be absolutely clear that their obvious inability to love is relevant to a discussion about whether one can know that somebody loves them. Sociopathy is manifestly not rhetorical. Further, if you use analogies, I'm free to engage them, whether or not you meant them "rhetorically."

          • Vasco Gama

            For me to believe that God exists requires less faith than your disbelieve in God (in the sense that you require a proof to believe in God, that would be an absurd on its own for my conception of God).

          • Geena Safire

            For me to believe that God exists requires less faith than your disbelieve in God (in the sense that you require a proof to believe in God, that would be an absurd on its own for my conception of God).

            So are you saying, Vasco, that it takes more faith for me not to believe in God than for you to believe in him, and, in any case, the God I don't have enough faith to believe in isn't the right God for me not to believe in anyway?

          • Vasco Gama

            Yes, you got it right it is required more faith not to believe than to believe in God (and that the God you considering, the one that would require a clear and indisputable evidence, is absurd, as it would not be the one that could sustain a loving relationship, that one that we can freely accept or reject).

          • Geena Safire

            With all respect, Vasco, if you have to twist yourself into verbal contortions like this one to tell another person they are wrong and you are right, you might want to reexamine your argument.

          • Vasco Gama

            I am not twisting anything, I was simply addressing the issue of the “complete lack of evidence” claimed above (as often is by atheists), In spite of recognizing that this is something somehow puzzling (then naturally so often repeated by atheists), it is in fact rational and deeply rooted from the Catholic conception of God (and not really a mean of escaping argument, or anything else of the kind), and in fact no one is more frustrated than the believers in being unable to providing that clear and undisputable evidence that is required to us (the point being that this required proof cannot be given, even if one feels that one must request it). And that is my point, this proof that is requested from me, I can’t give you, please don’t ask for something that I don’t have to give, please accept that (what you asking is irrational, as it would be inconsistent with my conception of God), I am not asking you to believe in God (I am just asking you not to question my rationality, or the rationality of the Catholic faith, on the basis of the absence of that undisputable evidence, I am just describing my concept that I think is rational, then if my conception is not rational maybe you could point what is not rational, and not something else, as most of the time you refer to God, it is just not what the Catholics mean by God).

            I am not arguing about the existence of God, I am just talking about the Catholic conception of God. The case is that if we talk about religion, if we don’t come across to a minimal level of understanding of what is God, the dialogue is very difficult.

            My point in the above comment is that a God that would be possible to impose on us, just like some other fact we can recognize (as knowing our mother) it would be inconsistent with a relationship established and maintained based on mutual love.

          • David Nickol

            Yes, you got it right it is required more faith not to believe than to believe in God . . .

            This is close to being the opposite of Catholic teaching. According to the Catechism

            153 . . . .Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. "Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'"

            For Catholics, faith is deciding if the evidence in favor of the existence of God is more compelling than the evidence against it. If that is what faith is, for Catholics, then it would make no sense to say faith is a supernatural gift. If would mean people had to put effort into disbelieving instead of getting supernatural help to believe.

          • Vasco Gama

            At a very basic level our free will permits us to deny God, and faith (in spite of being a grace from God) doesn't go against our will.

          • David Nickol

            You are causing confusion in your use of faith to mean more than one thing. Faith as a "technical term" in Catholicism is a supernatural gift from God that enables people to believe. You said, "[I]t is required more faith not to believe than to believe in God . . ." If faith is a supernatural gift from God enabling belief, it makes no sens to say it requires more faith to disbelieve than to believe, unless there is also a supernatural gift to disbelieve.

            It does not require any faith not to believe in God. Your meaning appears to be that the weight of evidence is so heavily in favor of the existence of God that one must willfully disregard it. But that is not faith. Not believing in God is not "faith in no God." It is not faith in any meaningful sense of the word. You seem to be implying atheism is some kind of faith—faith in the nonexistence of God. But it seems to me quite wrongheaded to maintain that.

          • Vasco Gama

            If we are talking about faith in God, and absence of faith in God, both are believes one that God exists and the other that God doesn't exist (both believes are suported by something, they are not arbitrary assumptions).

          • David Nickol

            Belief and faith are two different things. Remember, the Catholic Church teaches that faith is a supernatural gift that enables one to believe.

          • Vasco Gama

            Sure, anyway if you don't have the will to believe, you will have no faith (although faith is a grace, it will not contradict our will).

          • David Nickol

            What does it mean to have the "will to believe"? Suppose I come home a day early from a business trip and find my wife in bed with another man. I have always believed she was faithful. Can I exert my "will to believe" that she still is faithful? It seems to me that believing is not an act of the will. I don't believe in alien abduction. I don't believe in astrology. Can I somehow summon the "will to believe" in something I don't believe in, and by force of will, believe in it?

          • Vasco Gama

            No one argues that one should believe in irrationalities. Someone that finds her wife with another man in bed recognizes that she is not faithful (any other though on that matter would be irrational). If someone would find reasonable to believe that he did not saw what he saw that would be irrational, and the fact that that person would like to think (or had the will to believe) that he didn’t saw what he saw would be irrational (in doing so). That said I would like to add that no one (that I can think) is expecting that you should believe in something that you consider absurd and that doesn’t make sense to you. However you must recognize that what doesn’t make sense to you (and seems irrational) can make sense to someone else (and be quite rational) and what you find rational may be considered irrational to someone else.

            If someone talks about the “will to believe” in God, this would only make sense if that was rational and the fact that someone considers this irrational for whatever reason, prevents this person from having the will to believe”, then it is nonsense, and it is an impossibility).

          • David Nickol

            Are you saying that rational people believe in God, and that those who don't believe in God are either irrational or have some motive for denying what they really know deep down? That would, it seems to me, to put people into three categories:

            1. Believers
            2. People who are too muddleheaded to believe
            3. People who believe deep down, but have some reason for being in denial (e.g., if they acknowledge to themselves that there is a God, they will have to give up their sinful ways, and they just can't bring themselves to do so)

          • Vasco Gama

            I am not saying anything remotely related with that.

            I was previously an atheist and I was not irrational (I was just wrong). Neither atheists or theists are for that particular reason rational or irrational. And I am not asking or expecting (or suggesting) that you must share my believe.

            In the matter of believing in God, or disbelieving, we can’t both be right, some are right and the others wrong. If we were considering a God, whose presence (or absence) would be indisputable, then there could be the case of saying that some were rational and others irrational. But that is not the case for the Catholic conception of God (even if you fail to understand that conception).

            So, in order to address your comment, I repeat, no, I am not saying (or suggesting) that anyone is irrational (based on this particular believe).

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I believe that in Catholic theology the "will to believe" would more properly be described as responding/accepting God's grace in order to believe. Not having the will to believe is to reject God's gift of grace, which is faith, as you said.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            That is a misrepresentation of Catholic teaching. Notice that your quoted portion doesn't deal with 'believing in God'. That is not 'faith' for Catholicism.

            36 "Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason."11 Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God's revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created "in the image of God".12

          • David Nickol

            Notice that your quoted portion doesn't deal with 'believing in God'.

            I think you make a good point. According to Catholic teaching, believing there is a God is not faith, it is knowledge. Faith is something you have after you believe (or know) there is a God. The existence of God is something you can know in somewhat the same way you can know that when you have a right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. You can know it because someone tells you it's true, or you can verify it for yourself by reading and understanding a mathematical proof.

            What I am trying to get at is "the will to believe." The concept makes little sense to me. I don't think people decide what to believe and what not to believe. People can, of course, be "willfully blind" (although I think it is a misnomer, since I don't think being willfully blind is an act of will). But I don't think that concept applies here. Otherwise the theists can accuse the atheists of knowing in their heart of hearts that there is a God, but having some motive for denying it, and the atheists can accuse the theists of knowing deep down that there is no God, but having some motive for claiming to believe.

            I do not believe that "God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason." It strikes me as highly ironic to make a dogma of the proposition that God can be known by reason. If God can be known by reason, present an air-tight proof, relying on reason, for the existence of God. Don't make it a dogma that people "have to" believe.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Vasco, are you saying we can only freely accept or reject a loving relationship with something as long as we don't have clear and indisputable evidence that it exists?

            Seems to me that it's the other way around.

          • Vasco Gama

            If we knew God, in the same way as we know a empirical fact, such as gravity, that doesn't depend on our will, in no way we could establish a loving relationship with God (it would be forced on us).

          • Sqrat

            Conversely, if God knew that you existed in the same way that he knew an empirical fact, that would not depend on his will, and in no way could he have a loving relationship with you (it would be forced on him)? God can only love you as long as he doesn't know that you exist?

          • Vasco Gama

            God is not a being like you and me. Please try to maintain some rationality in the dialogue or restrain your self from commenting.

          • Sqrat

            God is not a being like you or me, or God is not a being at all?

          • Andre Boillot

            My knowledge of my fiance doesn't seem to prevent me from establishing a loving relationship with her - in fact, one might argue that such knowledge is a necessary prerequisite.

            Also, I'm not sure how your claim meshes with all the examples we have of God being clearly known and still disobeyed (angels, A&E, prophets). So, perhaps you should show some restraint before accusing others of irrationality.

          • Vasco Gama

            Andre,

            My example of our relationship with ones we love was just to exemplify the relationship between humans and God. It was just an example, you don’t have to take it literally (nor to accept that God exists), I am sure you can understand what I am saying without pretending to be idiotic.

            I am not accusing anyone of irrationality, better said, I claiming that the thought that believers must be irrational is in itself irrational.

            I would say that, for someone that is a reader of Strange Notions, where it is said over and over, that no indisputable proof for the existence of God can be given (the cases presented for God mostly prove the rationality of our faith, and aren’t really “indisputable proofs”, as you might easily conclude), and that the Catholic conception of God is a God that maintains with humans a loving relationship, granting us free will, that it clearly establishes that one is free to find reasonable that God exists, or that there is no God (as atheists do) or that some human is god, or that god is nature, or that god just created the world, or that forces of nature are divine), throughout the human existence there were a large variety of conceptions of God (and still are) that people hold as reasonable, in spite of your (or mine) presumed better judgment (and you are free to think that any conception distinct froms your is idiotic, but if that is the case, please keep that thought to yourself). It is the nature of a loving God that makes this possible, one accepting it or not, or holding any other hypothesis one sees reasonable (as it is coherent with the way we experience the world).

            In my view it is no lack of rationality to say that there is no God. But there is irrationality in claiming that the others (say Catholics) must have an irrational conception of God (we aren’t able to satisfy that desire, as it is irrational, and delusional, then of course we you have the right to have delusional desires, such that the Catholics or the Catholic Church are irrational, however allow us to disagree with them).

          • Andre Boillot

            Vasco,

            "I am sure you can understand what I am saying without pretending to be idiotic."

            Fella, trust me when I tell you that my idiocy is rarely feigned. That being said, you're wrong.

            Vasco:

            If we knew God, in the same way as we know a empirical fact, such as gravity, that doesn't depend on our will, in no way we could establish a loving relationship with God (it would be forced on us).

            Me:

            My knowledge of my fiance doesn't seem to prevent me from establishing a loving relationship with her - in fact, one might argue that such knowledge is a necessary prerequisite.

            Vasco:

            My example of our relationship with ones we love was just to exemplify the relationship between humans and God. It was just an example, you don’t have to take it literally

            Maybe your understanding of English lacks nuance. I understand that your example comparing knowledge of God to knowledge of gravity was not literal. However, this doesn't change what you are suggesting: that real knowledge of God would mean that "in no way we could establish a loving relationship with God (it would be forced on us)."

            I don't think it's pretending to be idiotic to suggest that we have more than one example to be found in the Christian tradition where individuals have had real knowledge of God. Perhaps you would like to argue that these folks were prevented from forming a loving relationship with him. By all means, argue away.

            I am not accusing anyone of irrationality

            This thread alone is littered with such accusations, hell the rest of your sentence is exactly that: "better said, I claiming that the thought that believers must be irrational is in itself irrational." I don't have a problem with accusing people of irrationality, but at least own it (and preferably show evidence).

          • Vasco Gama

            Andre,

            Sorry, you are right I overreacted, and I was rude (which occurs more often than it should, I am not as nice as it would be expected).

            I will try to explain better what I meant, I am not expecting you to consider that God exists, just try to understand what I am saying about our (from the believers) relationship with God.

            The example I gave was only meant to illustrate the loving relationship between humans and God (as in the trust that is required in order to maintain a loving relationship with someone we love). Of course when we speak about God, we have to realize that our love for God (and our relationship to God) is totally distinct than loving for someone else, God is the creator of all that exists and is all powerful (as in the Catholic conception), and this relationship can’t be paralleled with any other. In this relationship one is very small part, and what is required from us is our will to love God (and in the Catholic conception, our nature is fulfilled in this loving relationship with God). In involving God this relationship is quite unbalanced, as we are nothing comparing to God, however we are loved by God, even if we feel that we don’t deserve it. And it is the imparity of this relationship that requires that humans have to will and desire this relationship, and it can be imposed on us (which would be the case if recognize it as something else, such as the existence of the laws of nature, it is really a knowledge that has to be desired, not a burden), as we (that are believed to be created in the image of God as Catholics understand it) possess the ability to love, are rational and have the capability to choose freely.

            I can’t say that God doesn’t reveal Himself (in fact He does, and the believers can bear witness of that), as He actually did it on various occasions in the past. I can’t try to explain every one of the revelations, but, in general I can say that they were responses to people that had already a strong faith in God (that needed those extraordinary actions for some reason).

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Wouldn't the response to your second point be that, if you could live in this world and a world without a God, you would clearly and absolutely know the difference, and would know beyond a doubt that this world was clearly Divinely designed?

            But the problem is, we still don't know what it would like, because it isn't like that.

          • Geena Safire

            Hi Daniel! I hadn't met you as a mod before. Welcome. (I mean that as a welcome wrt my frame of reference. You may have been around for a long time, but you're now to me.)

            ...if you could live in this world and a world without a God...

            First, that's begging the question, Daniel. The more neutral way to word it, when speaking with an atheist, would be: "...if you could live in a world with God or a world without God..."

            Second, we both agree that this world we live in exists, with all the joy and the suffering. You are the one who is adding something to the story. The burden of proof is on you to support the claim that some transcendent, supernatural being exists which is all goodness, power, and all the other good bits of existence, and everything bad in this world is the fault of humans. (Plus he hates gays and contraception and so forth, but that's an argument for another day; I'm just reminding you that even if you were to convince me of its existence, as described, that's still about 2864 steps from making the RCC case.)

            What I see is a world that seems just like the kind of a world that would exist without a deity, and most especially without a deity as described by Christians -- triple omni and goodness and love and so forth, plus invisible, supernatural, hidden. That is, this isn't the kind of world that kind of God would make, were it to exist, IMHO.

            It's not on me to define or describe the kind of world that would exist if the kind of deity you propose existed. You are on the side trying to convince me that this deity does exist, with those qualities, and that this is the kind of world that would be a consequence of its creation.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Ah of course, that is my mistake wrt begging the question, but the way you corrected it gets to the point I was going for.

            What standards would you set for proof? What would a Christian (or God himself) need to show or demonstrate for you to believe?

          • Geena Safire

            It would have to be God himself, presenting himself unambiguously, undeniably, likely with physical/sensate/detectable representation (rather than a 'feeling' or 'vision' or 'dream'), to the entire world's population all at the same time.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Isn't that just God-of-the-Gaps, though?

      • Ben Posin

        Respectfully, the problem of evil really, really does propose a real challenge to the existence of a God that is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, enough that countless apologists have felt the need to try to take a swing at it, and enough that the Pope himself seems to have acknowledged that the Catholic church doesn't have a good answer for at least the natural evil we see in the world.

      • Methodological Naturalist

        Hi Brandon,

        Peace might be a problem for Christians. Where there is peace there is freedom. Where there is freedom, there is opportunity. Where there is opportunity, there is a marketplace. Where there is a marketplace there is competition. And where there is competition there are winners and losers.

        Thank you for that question, it really made me think on my way for coffee.

    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

      Understanding the reasons for the existence of suffering and injustice is not the most perplexing problem for science-based academic disciplines.

      Considering "suffering" is a first-person subjective concept which science is woefully underequipped to investigate while remaining a science, and "justice" is an entirely non-scietnific concept, it's easy to see why these are not perplexing problems for "science-based disciplines". It's like mentioning that the properties of the Higgs Boson is not much of a problem for biologists - it has next to nothing to do with their field.

      And the problem of evil is resolved in theology. It's a 'perplexing problem', not a particularly outstanding one.

    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

      Understanding the reasons for the existence of suffering and injustice is not the most perplexing problem for science-based academic disciplines.

      Of course they're not, since 'suffering' - insofar as it's a first-person experience - is quite difficult to meaningfully rope within science's purview, and "justice" is an entirely non-scientific question.

      It's a little like how the Higgs Boson's properties are not a pressing problem for biologists. It's not because they have a solution, but because those fields have really little to do with said question - in that case, despite it even being a scientific question.

      • Methodological Naturalist

        Hi Crude,

        You are trying to demonstrate your support for NOMA (non-overlapping-magisteria). I'm not a fan of NOMA and here are some reasons why.

        Using different academic pursuits within science to make an analogy to NOMA is not presenting either NOMA or science accurately. Physics and biology use the same methodology to understand phenomena.

        So I just have to ask, how do you distinguish the so-called disparate purviews between science and faith as you see them? How do you draw that line? Do you seriously think NOMA can answer that question?

        • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

          You are trying to demonstrate your support for NOMA (non-overlapping-magisteria). I'm not a fan of NOMA and here are some reasons why.

          Not really.

          Using different academic pursuits within science to make an analogy to NOMA is not presenting either NOMA or science accurately. Physics and biology, the two you brought up, use the same methodology to understand phenomena: 1. Make observation; 2. Ask questions; 3. Develop hypothesis; 4. Conduct experiment; 5. Accept or reject hypothesis.

          So? That's irrelevant to my comparison. Demonstrably, the issues with the Higgs Boson hardly register as a concern for biology. That they share a method of inquiry doesn't change that whatsoever.

          NOMA says there is dividing line between science and religion. One problem with NOMA is that it is does not offer a mechanism whereby one may distinguish between science and religion.

          I didn't cite 'NOMA'. You did. If anything, I cited a difference between philosophy/metaphysics and science - not exactly NOMA. And there are plenty of ways distinguish between the two. Can you do so perfectly? Probably not - there are limit cases. But the existence of limit cases doesn't mean it's particularly difficult to tell when you've left the physics department and walked into the philosophy department.

          Conclusions about suffering and injustice can be surmised through measured analyses using the tool of methodological naturalism.

          No, it actually can't, except in the most trivial way: "If we allow in philosophical and metaphysical assumptions about what is good and evil, what is just and injustice, then we can make decisions and judgments about these things!" in essence. Except you can do that with wholly non-naturalist views of justice and morality too, so really - what does it matter?

          If anything, your worries about the inability to find nice, crisp dividing lines should worry you considerably about naturalism, whether methodological or otherwise: "The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy."

          • Methodological Naturalist

            Not really.

            You may not acknowledge it, but you are.

            So? That's irrelevant to my comparison.

            You may not acknowledge it, but your comparison is wrong.

            Can you do so perfectly?

            Not my problem, that's a foot-shooting consequence of NOMA.

            No, it actually can't, except in the most trivial way

            So-called trivial is all I need.

            Except you can do that with wholly non-naturalist views of justice and morality too, so really - what does it matter?

            I would need a more descriptive model for what you are talking about before I could reply.

            "The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy."

            Your link says nothing I don't already know but posting only one sentence from suggests to me that a mutual understanding of one's points may only be my endeavor in this conversation.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            You may not acknowledge it, but you are.

            You may emotionally need me to be doing so, but you have yet to demonstrate or even really argue for as much. I haven't offered up 'NOMA' whatsoever - I have certainly argued about the distinction between philosophy/metaphysics and science.

            Your comparison is wrong.

            No, it's completely accurate. Unless you'd like to say that the particular properties of the Higgs Boson is an outstanding problem in the field of biology. How much time do they spend fretting over this problem? "Not much" it seems like, since it's largely irrelevant to their field.

            So-called trivial is all I need.

            You should really go ahead and read my explanation of how it makes it 'trivial', because in the process it also makes it 'trivial' to say that everything from muslim claims about morality to otherwise are, as a matter of fact, 'scientific'. If you want to weaken the definition of 'science' so much that you can stamp your personal philosophical views 'scientific', feel free - then everyone else can do the same.

            I would need a more descriptive model for what you are talking about before I could reply.

            You actually don't. All you need is the acknowledgment that your discussions of morality and justice are 'scientific' only insofar as you accept, before the science even begins, that X and Y is or isn't just or moral. At which point, fine - but it doesn't particularly matter if you do so on "naturalist" terms or otherwise. Accept that sodomy is immoral if you like, and - lo and behold - science can now tell you that it's immoral to allow such and such actions.

            I don't understand why you feel the need to say this. Should it mean something to me or to our discussion?

            First off, that wasn't "me" saying it. That was a direct quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

            Second, when you talk about "methodological naturalism", pointing out that "naturalism" has next to no real contemporary meaning rather throws a wrench into explanations. You may have explanations, or even a method. But "methodological naturalism"? That's supremely questionable to say the least.

          • Methodological Naturalist

            Hi Crude,

            I may be misunderstanding your reply to my original post. That is a possibility. I will take time to review your points and if I have any further needs for clarification I will get back to you.

            At this point, thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts.

  • MichaelNewsham

    "It's also plausible that God could not prevent sin and the suffering
    that comes from it if he is going to allow free will of the kind we're
    discussing."

    If God is omniscient he sees all possible worlds.

    Therefore either
    A) There is no possible world where humans do not Fall.

    B) This world is better then a world where humans did not Fall. God created this world with all the suffering in it even though He could have created a world where humans freely chose not to revolt against Him,and there would thus be no suffering.

    Choice A is that found in C.S. Lewis' 'Perelandra' where the hero Ransom convinces the Queen, Tinidrit, ("Eve") not to violate the command of Maledil (God) by setting foot on the Fixed Land - everywhere else is floating. In the end, everyone,including the descendants of the King and Queen ("Adam" and "Eve") live happily ever after -literally.

    • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

      (Assuming hypothetically that the Christian God were real...)
      A) There are certainly imaginable worlds where humans did not Fall. That's a prima facie case is that are such possible worlds and that A should be rejected pending evidence in favor.

      B) How might this one have worked out?

  • vito

    Always liked this dialogue from Seinfeld:
    "George:
    God would never let me be successful; he'd kill me first. He'd never let me be
    happy.

    Therapist: I thought you didn't believe in God?

    George: I do for the bad things"

  • Danny Getchell

    Jimmy, there's an option you have missed.

    That being the "Panglossian" view that everything that happens is in accord with God's will, and God being omnibenevolent, everything that happens is good, but good from God's POV in a way we can't (or can't yet) understand.

    This view strains our interpretation of the real world a bit, but at least it has the virtue of being internally consistent.

    • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

      That's a valid logical point. However, if the Christian God's "goodness" is so at odds with human notions of goodness and perfectly consonant with the human notions of apathy, then Christians are using the wrong word to describe their God.

  • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

    I think Pope Francis' words to Cardinal Tagle and a gathering of Filipinos in Rome the other day are worth repeating here:

    “Why do these things happen? It can't... It can't be explained. There are so many things we can't understand. In these moments of suffering, don't shy away from asking 'Why?' just like children. You will attract the eyes of Our Father on your people. You will attract the tenderness of our Heavenly Father on you...In these moments of suffering, maybe this is the most useful prayer. To ask why in prayer.”

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      And then wait for an answer, and wonder, maybe God's asking the same questions.

      • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

        I think God definitely asks "why" when we, having received freedom as a free gift, freely spit in his face by abusing ourselves, each other, and creation. Maybe the only satisfactory answer to that "why" could come from his Son: "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          The children don't understand their father, and the father doesn't understand his children. It sounds like a typical family with teenagers. :)

          • Geena Safire

            Except that most human fathers don't lock their kids in the basement and torture them forever if they don't love him.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That's not at all the Catholic understanding of hell.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai
          • Geena Safire

            From that Catholic Encyclopedia page:

            If we abstract from the eternity of its punishment. the existence of hell can be demonstrated even by the light of mere reason. In His sanctity and justice as well as in His wisdom, God must avenge the violation of the moral order in such wise as to preserve, at least in general, some proportion between the gravity of sin and the severity of punishment. But it is evident from experience that God does not always do this on earth; therefore He will inflict punishment after death. Moreover, if all men were fully convinced that the sinner need fear no kind of punishment after death, moral and social order would be seriously menaced. This, however, Divine wisdom cannot permit.

            Translation: (a) Hell must exist, because it just wouldn't be
            fair if those bastards got off scot-free. (b) Plus, nothing could dissuade anyone from evil without the threat of hell.

            The few men who, despite the morally universal conviction of the human race, deny the existence of hell, are mostly atheists and Epicureans. But if the view of such men in the fundamental question of our being could be the true one, apostasy would be the way to light, truth, and wisdom.

            Translation: Therefore, if we're wrong about hell, then the
            atheists are right about the non-existence of God.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            to preserve, at least in general, some proportion between the gravity of sin and the severity of punishment.

            Thanks for pointing that out Geena. One problem many of us have with Hell is that is the severity of an eternal punishment will always be infinitely out proportion (literally!) with a moment of sin, or even a large but limited number of years of sin.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. The key term is "self-exclusion." This is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful
            love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.” (1861, 393, 633)

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            That seems to exactly what BrianKillian said above, just in pleasanter language.

          • David Nickol

            That's not at all the Catholic understanding of hell.

            It seems to me there is a Catholic "revisionist" position on hell which is not completely in line with the traditional position. The "revisionist" position is that God doesn't send people to hell—they choose it themselves. But the traditional position is that hell not simply a choice which those who choose it must accept the consequences of their choice. Hell is a matter of punishment.

            “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.* Depart from me, you evildoers.’

            There is a list of dogmas of the Catholic Church which I do not take as seriously as some, but it says the following:

            The souls of those who die in the condition of personal grievous sin enter Hell. (De fide. )
            The punishment of Hell lasts for all eternity. (De fide.)
            The punishment of the damned is proportioned to each one's guilt. (Sent. communis.)

            Punishment . . . is proportioned clearly implies punishment. There is a question in my mind whether a punishment that lasts for all eternity is "proportioned." Would we say that a man who is merely boiled in water for all eternity is suffering less than a man who is in a cauldron of molten lead? It seems to that any significant punishment that goes on for all eternity is in some sense infinite.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To understand this doctrine [Purgatory] and practice [indulgences] of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence.

            Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin.

            On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin.

            These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.

            A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.84 (1861, 1031) (CCC 1472).

          • Danny Getchell

            There is a lot of "Catholic revisionism" on this site.

            I grew up in a heavily Catholic neighborhood on Chicago's far south side. 1960's. Polish and Czech. Probably 70% of my friends were Catholic and went either to the parish school or left public school every (Wednesday I think) afternoon for "religious instruction".

            I played baseball and hockey with them, flew kites and built model planes with them, and later dated a few of their sisters.

            And I do not think I am exaggerating one bit when I tell you that the conception of God they learned was that of the Big, Tough Hall Monitor in the Sky. Ready to let you into heaven if and only if you followed all the rituals: communion, confession, the rosary. Ready to send you to the eternal barbecue pit if you missed out or messed up, even a little.

            So either the Church was wrong then, or the apologists on SN are wrong now. Can't both be right.

          • Andre Boillot

            Danny,

            Though a bit younger, I understand where you're coming from. To be fair though, there's a difference between what the Church *officially* teaches, and how those teachings are (mis)represented by families, priests, parishes, communities, etc.

            This isn't to say that I don't find many aspects of apologetics to be revisionist (or seemingly trying to have it both ways), I'm just playing devil's advocate here...

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            That's a great point Andre. You sometimes hear people complain about the discrepancy between the tough, punitive "old Church" (often from people who grew up in a tough Irish/Polish/Italian neighborhood decades ago) and the schmaltzy, apologetic "new Church" which "doesn't understand" or "revises" the way "it used to be."

            But how it used to be is no indication of a standard; pre-Vatican II doesn't mean "more Catholic." The 2,000 years old teachings and Magisterium are the gold standard, not a people or place or political party 50 years ago. How each age approaches those teachings and applies (or misapplies) them is more reflective of cultural memory and metamorphosis than "authentic" Catholicism.

          • Andre Boillot

            Matthew,

            I think it's a valid complaint, but not one that necessarily has bearing on the core claims of the Church (or in this case, that Danny's either/or suggestion wasn't all-encompassing). They definitely need to own their history, the failures of the Church to combat practices that didn't reflect the core, and many apologists need to be more conscientious of how people might have developed the view of the Church that they have.

          • David Nickol

            How each age approaches those teachings and applies (or misapplies) them is often more reflective on cultural memory and metamorphosis than "authentic" Catholicism.

            This would imply that it is somehow possible to extract a set of "eternal truths" officially taught by the "magisterium" that constituted an "objective" account of what the Church teaches. That seems to me problematic.

          • David Nickol

            Let me add that there is a tendency to think the body of dogma and doctrine, and the rites and rituals of Catholicism were fixed during the time of the apostles. But in reality, much of what is considered basic Catholicism today took more than a thousand years to develop. It too well over a thousand years for the Church to take control of marriage and formally declare marriage a sacrament, for example. Fir the first several hundred years of Christianity, marriage was either civil or private, with in Church involvement (and no universal prohibitian against divorce.) A great deal of what Catholics believe today about the sacraments was unheard of until the work of the Scholastics (the most famous and influential of whom was Aquinas).

          • BrianKillian

            It's more like the Father's ungrateful, anti-social, unloving, and hateful children lock themselves in the basement where they can shake their fists and gnash their teeth alone in the dark.

          • Geena Safire

            That's just silly. First, if the children were all those things, they'd lock the father down there. Second, if the father made the basement such that his children could lock themselves in forever, he's still a bad father.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Matthew, Do you think we sent ourselves the typhoon?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Hey Kevin - No, my second comment was a new thought about human evil (as opposed to natural evil) - I didn't mean at all to imply some kind of divine retribution in the typhoon.

            Speaking of natural evil, I like this interview with David Bentley Hart on the question: where was God in the tsunami? http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3301

          • Geena Safire

            Actually, according to Catholic theology, we caused our suffering from the typhoon.

            See my post here (to this article)

            regarding both moral and physical evil. Catholic theology that states that physical evil (including disease, injury, birth defect, and suffering from natural disasters) is specifically held to be a consequence of human moral evil.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Could you cite your source so we can go from there?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your wrote:

            Catholic theology holds that physical evil is the consequence of moral evil which is the consequence of human misuse of free will.

            So earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, drought, hurricanes and other 'natural disasters' that lead to human suffering, as well as all disease, birth defects, and injury, not forgetting poverty, lack of opportunity and other sociological suffering, are a consequence of free will. Oh yeah, plus death.

            Catholic theology also holds that absent original sin, human beings would have been protected from all the bad things you listed. That would have been a preternatural gift.

            I don't know whether natural suffering (that which comes by being a vulnerable and dependent creature) is simply a necessary condition of the world (Aquinas' view) or the result of harm done by angels and men--"created free will" (New Apologetics' view).

            Certainly some of the evils you mention are the result of human free will.

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Hey Geena - It's a fascinating question, one that I think Catholics should ask more often. What is the relationship between "the fall" of man and natural evil - between human sin and animal pain, disease, natural disasters, etc.? (Woody Allen describes nature as a "giant restaurant" - before National Geographic, maybe this was easier to avoid thinking about.)

            The traditional answer going back to Augustine is that yes, in a cosmic sense, the fall of man is bound with the pain and destruction we see all over the world, not only in human life, but in animals too. (Aquinas modified Augustine's view by describing corruption and death as inherent in the material order, not as a consequence of sin.)

            A difficult concept, for sure. One film that I think captures the idea beautifully is "The Tree of Life," which is largely a meditation on the problem of evil. At the beginning of a long creation sequence, we hear a lament called "Lacrimosa" (mournful") about human sin and death, drawing an almost mystical connection between the two realities: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EEIeH7ymwA

            But from what I understand, Catholic thinking is - as it is on many subjects - open and diverse on this issue. Another interesting proposition is: maybe creation fell with an earlier fall of the angels, meaning natural evil is not a consequence of the fall of man? Mark Shea contemplates that possibility here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2011/12/the-mystery-of-animal-suffering.html

            So even the cosmic case is not as clear-cut as you portrayed. The crucial point is that we're not at all bound to pull a Pat Robertson and read divine retribution into misfortune. It's extremely presumptuous, even megalomaniacal, to suggest that this or that event is punishment for this or that sin. The clearest proof comes in the book of Job, where God seems to allow a faithful and good servant to suffer the profoundest miseries.

          • Geena Safire

            First, Matthew, allow to me express my appreciation for your lyrical writing, even in comments. Your profound respect and gentleness always come through.

            Second, here's what the Catholic Church says:

            385 God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from?

            418 As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence").

            So while I agree with you that the RCC notes that a person's suffering is not due to any specific act by that person, However, it still says explicitly that all human suffering is due to human original sin, human moral evil, and the God character gets off scot-free as all goodness and not-willing-suffering, etc. And I'm not impressed with the "That's a mystery" or "God's ways are beyond us" or "Were you there at creation?" arguments.

            I don't care what his reasons are, if he exists. Human suffering, if he created us as we are -- or in such a way that this suffering could happen -- is on him. 'Free will' is a dodge. And Aquinas' version doesn't absolve him either. Either he doesn't exist or he's horrible.

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Thanks Geena. It's all a bad case of reaction formation unfortunately - I can barely form a coherent sentence in real time!

            I wrote an article here at SN ("A Cinematic Tour of the Problem of Evil") that really says all I can or should say on the subject. I think the arguments are good and worth thinking about, but no argument is a holistic sign from an all-loving Father. So I sympathize greatly with you (and with Ivan Karamazov of "The Brothers Karamazov") in that regard. But there is that Word of solace in the form of a Cross - that, to me, is the "balm in Gilead," and my final answer: "Only a suffering God can help us."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I read this, Matthew, but I don't think he says anything:

            [T]here surely is no contradiction between God’s omnipotent goodness and the reality of evil. It may seem somewhat trite to invoke the freedom of creation as part of the works and ends of divine love, or to argue that the highest good of the creature -- divinizing union with God in love -- requires a realm of "secondary causality" in which the rational wills of God’s creatures are at liberty; nonetheless, whether the traditional explanations of how sin and death have been set loose in the world satisfy one or not, they certainly render the claim that an omnipotent and good God would never allow unjust suffering simply vacuous. By what criterion could one render such a judgment? For Christians, one must look to the cross of Christ to take the measure of God’s love, and of its worth in comparison to the sufferings of a fallen world. And one must look to the risen Christ to grasp the glory for which we are intended, and take one’s understanding of the majesty and tragedy of creation’s freedom from that.

            I think he's saying he doesn't know.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    The next problems to tackle with the free will insight are natural evil and how efficacious free will is supposed to be.

    Many natural evils are not clearly connected to moral evils, and there's no convincing reason to think that they should be. Tornadoes and cancer existed well before Adam, and even if they didn't, there's no reason to think Adam's sin caused natural evil anymore than clocks striking noon cause people to leave work and eat.
    It seems as though God could have made the world with free will and no tornadoes.

    Moral evils are already mitigated by our limited ability to exercise our free will. We don't have an efficacious free will. If I want to stop a man's heart by looking at him, or wanted to blow up the world merely by thinking it, I couldn't do it. I can will anything I want, but I can't act our everything I will. It seems as though God could have allowed people the free will to shoot each other, but would just have it happen that each time someone tried, the gun would misfire. Guns sometimes do. That doesn't negate free will, no matter how often it happens. People thrown out of buildings would be slowed by the wind. The molecules in gas chambers would spontaneously dissociate and reform into perfumes. This wouldn't get rid of all suffering. People could still think terrible thoughts about each other, and maybe still say terrible things to each other. But they couldn't physically hurt each other, or at least not nearly this often.

    The next parts of the series will hopefully address at least aspects of these two lingering problems.

    • Geena Safire

      In addition to the issues you raise, Paul, is why nine million children each year die of preventable causes before the age of five, before they reach the 'age of reason' and are even able to sin, that is, exercise their free will.

      I might not mind so much if I can suffer because of my choices from my free will (although I would still say I didn't sign any contract accepting the conditions).

      But I cannot understand why others must suffer because of my choices. Or why we should all suffer because of the disobedience (but not sin, because they didn't yet know of good & evil) of two people in the neighborhood of 250,000 years ago.

  • David Nickol

    Is there sin and suffering in heaven? Will there be sin and suffering after the Resurrection of the Dead? If not, does that mean a person loses his or free will at the moment of death? If Satan and people who allegedly go to hell cannot repent, do they have free will? If people in heaven, or after the Resurrection of the Dead, cannot suffer and sin, it seems to me they no longer have free will?

    It seems rather an embarrassment to Christianity that the "best" creatures God made (Adam and Eve with their "preternatural" gifts, and Satan) sinned against God. They did not have darkened intellects and impaired wills.

    It's commonly thought that the reason he does so is that, if he didn't
    let people freely choose between good and evil then they would just be
    puppets--programmed robots.

    This is very questionable, but assuming for the sake of argument that it is true, if God wants to be loved, why does he hide himself? There seems to be a widely held belief that God shows just enough of himself for believers to believe in him, but not so much that nonbelievers find his existence apparent. Why would God "hold back"? There seems to be an implication that there is no free will involved in an obviously right choice. If God were to show himself in all his goodness and glory, and if the experience for human beings inevitably caused them to love him, why would that be some kind of coercion? And if "to know, know, know Him, is to love, love, love Him," why did Satan rebel and Adam and Eve sin?

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

      "It seems rather an embarrassment to Christianity that the "best" creatures God made (Adam and Eve with their "preternatural" gifts, and Satan) sinned against God. They did not have darkened intellects and impaired wills."

      I don't see how this is an embarrassment, unless you have some hidden presuppositions I'm not aware of. Why would this be embarrassing?

      (Perhaps you're assuming these creatures would be perfect, but that would be to assume they were divine. This is not the Christian claim.)

      • David Nickol

        I don't see how this is an embarrassment, unless you have some hidden presuppositions I'm not aware of. Why would this be embarrassing?

        First, I preface my answer by saying that I have grave doubts about the truth of the fall of Satan and the story of Adam and Eve, or even what it tells us even "figuratively."

        It seems to me that according to Christianity, God's plans always go awry. He allegedly creates two human beings, in some "preternatural" state, with whom he deals face to face, and they disobey him. (Then, strangely, instead of trying to improve them in some way that makes it less likely for them to sin again, he allegedly darkens their intellects and weakens their wills so that they will be more likely to sin.) Then what happens?

        When the LORD saw how great the wickedness of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but evil, the LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved. So the LORD said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them.

        Two problems there. First, how can God regret something he has done? I think the "God of philosophers" can't have regrets, but then how do we account for this passage in the Bible?

        Jumping over thousands of years of history of infidelity on the part of God's chosen people, we arrive at the story of Jesus, allegedly the Jewish Messiah, and the Jews do not believe in him. ("He came unto his own, and his own received him not.") So the Gentiles are recruited as followers of Jesus, and by some counts, there are now 38,000 different Christian denominations.

        And how do we explain the fall of Satan? The angels, created out of nothing presumably with all their traits and knowledge granted to them, would seem to be pure expressions of God's creative power. If God's goodness is so overwhelming that it would be coercion for him to show himself to humans, apparently that coercion did not work on angels. If Satan (in Milton's words) thought, "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven," where did he get that idea? If free will is to have any meaning at all, it can't mean the making of random or irrational choices. A choice made by free will mus be an expression of who and what the chooser is. And Satan would have been exactly who and what God made him. If he had excessive pride, it must have been because God made him that way.

        Free will, it seems to me, cannot make sense unless choices freely made are motivated. What could have motivated Satan to rebel against God if Satan's choice was not motivated by who and what Satan was? And Satan was exactly who and what God made him to be. It seems to me if an angel can rebel, it is not because of free will. It is because the angel must have been a flawed creation.

        There are various stories in which a rich man or a prince or some such exalted person pretends to be a humble or poor man so that a woman whom he wants to pursue will love him for himself alone. That makes intuitive sense. But suppose a very kind and generous person were to hide his kindness and generosity so someone would fall in love with him for himself and not his good qualities. That makes no sense. Being a rich man or a prince can be set aside as nonessential to a person's lovableness, but kindness and generosity cannot.

    • vito

      Good point. Eve knew God, Adam knew God, and they still disobeyed. Satan knows God, still disobeys. You can know God, the essence of free will still remains.
      Actually, I know quite a few people who do not doubt the existence of (the Christian) God, yet act in direct contradiction to his commands. They give all kinds of excuses, such as I cannot resist the temptation; God is kind, he will forgive me; it's impractical, it does not apply here (business is business) etc. They seem to be convinced in God's existence and know his will, but they place their own interests above anyway or simply delay obeying God.

    • hillclimber

      Ask a simpler question: why would God have hidden you from me, and me from you? You can only know me through some text on your screen. Even if we met face to face, you would only know me through symbolic hints. The symbolic hint of my body and the symbolic hint of my voice might be enough to convince you that I exist, that there is a real "I" that is being manifested through those hints, but you would never really be compelled in any way to acknowledge that I exist. However, there is a great goodness in the fact that we are hidden to each other: it makes the movement of coming to know each other an adventure that unfolds in time.

  • hillclimber

    I understand and agree with the free-will angle, but I don't know that it's necessary to even get that far in our analysis. Certainly all of the animal kingdom was suffering long before humans developed free will. I think it could be said that all of creation, down to every last rock, has suffered from the Big Bang onwards. To me it is simpler: God is love, and God needed something to make love to. You can't make love to yourself (well, you can ... but I it's ultimately not all that satisfying ...). Love can only occur as a movement away from separation, and that movement presupposes separation. The Big Bang was that separation, and that separation was evil. All of the rest of time is Creation leaping back into the loving embrace of Her Lover.

    • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

      Is god only love? If so, why call it God? We already have a word for love.

      • hillclimber

        I do think the word "God" is often more of a hindrance than a help, and perhaps that is why in the Bible we see this hesitancy to speak the name of YHWH. Having said that, here are the two reasons why I think the word "God" is helpful:

        - As a matter of linguistic convenience. It is true that God is only love, but we strive to convey all of the different flavors and connotations of that love, but saying things like "God is love, and truth, and beauty". It is easier to say "God" than it is to say "Love/Truth/Beauty".

        - As a means of tapping into the richness of humanity's historical reflections on "Love/Truth/Beauty". If we see that the reality we are referring to is the same reality that has been referred to since antiquity as "God", it gives us an opening to understanding their poetry and their reflections on their history, among other things.

        • Geena Safire

          "Love/Truth/Beauty" doesn't tell his chosen people to commit genocide.

          "Love/Truth/Beauty" doesn't create something that can turn evil.

          "Love/Truth/Beauty" doesn't send its beloved children to hell for eternity.

          "Love/Truth/Beauty" didn't create the pleasure of sex with the intention of having it so extremely limited as per Catholic theology.

          "Love/Truth/Beauty" didn't... (I could go on.)

          • hillclimber

            Geena, There is so much to talk about there. I don't mean to dodge those questions, and I'm happy to slowly drip out a conversation on any one of those topics over time, but for now I would just say this: Maybe the way that you are reading and interpreting those teachings and those stories is different than how Catholics interpret them. Let's continue with this patient dialogue and I think you will come to see over time that the "Love/Truth/Beauty" that we are referring to is indeed a "Love/Truth/Beauty" that you yourself recognize, and that our ways of talking about it may even enrich your understanding of what "Love/Truth/Beauty" is.

          • Geena Safire

            Maybe the way that you are reading and interpreting those teachings and those stories is different than how Catholics interpret them.

            Why is it that every Catholic, when faced with a troubling passage from their Bible always falls back on that I am wrongly "reading and interpreting those teachings and those stories."

            But how do you know how to correctly read and interpret them, I ask.

            And the reply is, invariably, some variation on "They should be interpreted in way such that God is all loving and goodness and so forth."

            So naturally I ask, "How do you know that God is all loving and goodness and so forth?"

            And they inevitably reply, "Because the Bible tells us so."

            So I again refer to the difficult passages that is in the Bible and say, "These passages don't give that impression."

            And they predictably reply either (a) "You are wrongly reading and interpreting those teachings and those stories," starting the endless loop again or (b) "That is a mystery beyond our understanding."

            If it's (a) circular, I note the circular reasoning, and they say, "See, it all fits together perfectly!" And I reply that the loop answers nothing, but they can't see it.

            If it's (b) mystery, I note that this is actually not an answer.

          • hillclimber

            If I could answer that by analogy, here is my process for interpreting your message: I am not just assessing your individual sentences and determining my level of agreement with each sentence in isolation. I am working my way through to the end of your message, trying to understand the totality of that message, and then going back to revise my understanding of what you meant in particular sentences. So, this is not circular, and it's not asking for any special treatment that is not expected in all communication.

        • Sqrat

          Is "Love/Truth/Beauty" the new Trinity?

          • hillclimber

            Actually I wanted to go back and add …

            "Love/Truth/Beauty/Being/Justice/Goodness ... "

        • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

          You can understand that for atheists like me equating god and love seems to be an odd move. I certainly believe in love, but I think people generally mean more than that when they describe themselves as theists.

          Does "love" have a mind? Did it create the universe? Such things are incomparable with what I attribute to love.

          • hillclimber

            I very much understand where you are coming from Brian. This "God is love" stuff seemed very strange to me too, for a long, long time.

            Unfortunately the word "love" has been even more corrupted than the word "God". I like the definition of love that you can catch on a lot of the Fr. Barron videos: "love is willing the good of the other, as other." I might rephrase it as, "love is self-givingness" (if we want to parse it finer, this is a specific type of love that we call "agape", but let's leave that aside for now). And yes, I would say that self-giving is indeed what created the universe, and I would say that self-givingness sustains the universe in every moment. "Self-giving" and "being" are the same reality that grounds the universe. That grounding of the universe is also rational, so God has a mind in that sense.

            If you are with me up to that point, I could try to explain why I also believe that God has agency, but that is a more involved series of reflections, so let me leave off here for now.

          • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

            What you appear to be describing are, again, concepts. By this I mean abstractions. These are not things that exist and can have agency. But we've had that conversation.

          • hillclimber

            When you say that the concepts/abstractions of truth and love and beauty are not real, are you saying that they exist only in the human mind? If so, I guess that is indeed where we part ways. I see these things as transcending human experience, as being even more real than human experience.

          • hillclimber

            Here's another way of making the connection, maybe, to the type of people-centric love that you are used to thinking about. When you express your love to someone, through words or deeds, the Catholic read on that is that it isn't just as a nice thing you did that brought some happiness to you and to the other person. It is certainly that, but we would also see your act of love as a sacrament of the creation of the universe. By that I mean, your act of love is both a metaphor for the creation of the universe and also it is itself the means by which the universe continues to be created. You are not just doing a nice thing, you are participating in the very grounding of all Creation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why is creation and mind incompatible with love, Brian?

    • Geena Safire

      but it's ultimately not all that satisfying

      Then you're doing it wrong.

      • hillclimber

        This makes me smile. Nice one Geena.

  • Sqrat

    For example, consider the way of ending them that we mentioned above: God could annihilate the universe. That would end sin and suffering
    instantly.

    Strangest straw man argument ever. It would not be necessary for God to annihilate the universe to get rid of suffering. It would only be necessary for it to annihilate the particular causes of suffering. Who, in their right mind, would suggest that, if you have a pain in your shoulder, a possible treatment is to stand next to a thermonuclear weapon and detonate it. It IS true that that would put an end to the pain in your shoulder, but....

  • Sqrat

    It's also plausible that God could not prevent sin and the suffering
    that comes from it if he is going to allow free will of the kind we're
    discussing.

    All too often, the suffering of Person A occurs because of an act of free will on the part of Person B. What this argument is saying is that the free will of Person B (the victimizer) is more important to God than the right of Person A (the victim) not to have needless suffering inflicted on him or her by someone else.

    As a matter of fact, we do NOT organize our societies as if we ought to allow victimizers, in the name of "free will", to inflict suffering on potential victims. Instead, we constrain the ability of potential victimizers to be victimizers, to whatever reasonable extent that we can. Are we wrong to do so?

    Mr. Akin's line of argument implies that God allowed 9/11 because the free will of the terrorists was more important to him than the suffering of the people in the Twin Towers. This leads us scratching our heads in puzzlement. If we had known about the attack in advance, should we have allowed it to proceed so as not to have interfered with the terrorists' free will? Because, as Mr. Akin would have it, that's exactly what God did.

  • adnnews1

    God does not allow sin and suffering in the world. Man does

    • Andre Boillot

      Can you show how Mr. Akin is wrong in claiming that God does not allow sin & suffering?

  • Steven Dillon

    If free-will is the ability to choose between good and evil, then God does not have free-will.

    "St. Augustine and others urged most admirably against the Pelagians that, if the possibility of deflection from good belonged to the essence or perfection of liberty, then God, Jesus Christ, and the angels and saints, who have not this power, would have no liberty at all, or would have less liberty than man has in his state of pilgrimage and imperfection." - Leo XIII, Libertas Praestantissimum.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      > If free-will is the ability to choose between good and evil, then God does not have free-will.

      Why do you say that free will is *only* the ability to choose between good and evil?

      • Steven Dillon

        I didn't say that's all free-will is. But, if that is a part of its essence, then God cannot have it. I think that's a huge problem for the Christian/Theist because so many of their beliefs presuppose the free-will of God.

        The only alternative is to say that free-will does not require the ability to choose between good and evil. But, with this concession goes the free-will response to the problem of evil.

        • David Nickol

          But, if that is a part of its essence, then God cannot have it.

          Interesting point. Can God be said to have free will? If he cannot chose evil, is he not free?

          The argument about free will seems to be that if choices are so self-evident that a person would only make certain choices, that person is not free. So if God by his very nature cannot choose evil, either he does not have free will, or he has free will, and free will can be consistent with always choosing good. So God could have made creatures with free will that always chose good.

          • Steven Dillon

            Exactly, I think most responses to the problem of evil can be reduced to these sorts of dilemmas for the theist.

          • Geena Safire

            In addition, the philosophy claims that, logically, nothing can have features/qualities that were not present in what created them.

            Then how could we have free will if God doesn't?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God is free.

            Knowingly choosing evil is absurd and not an exercise of freedom. And no one does that. The choice is always to choose the good or happiness.

            Even a person committing suicide does that.

          • Geena Safire

            Your "reply" has nothing to do with what I wrote.

            * God cannot do evil.

            * God created humans.

            * Humans can do evil.

            * Nothing can come from something that doesn't already possess that quality.

            These don't add up.

            What you are saying is that no one actually commits moral evil because their choice is actually for the good or happiness. First, wrong per Catholic theology. Second, non sequitur.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not at all, Geena. Evil is not something. It is nothing. It is a privation of a good that ought to be there. When we choose evil we either choose a false good or choose a bad means to achieve either a real or only apparent good.

            However, I don't know why you are wasting time on moral evil. The real problem is physical evil.

          • Geena Safire

            Oh, that's quite clever, Kevin. Let's redefine evil as an absence so that we can get around the logical claim that 'nothing can have a quality not present in its cause' doesn't apply to evil!

            That's semantics, Kevin. Mere semantics.

            Tell these children: "God actually sent you all the food you need, and you should have it, but it is merely absent because some quantity of teenagers had sex before marriage. It's not God's fault. He is goodness itself."

            Tell this child: "God actually designed you with arms and legs, and they ought to be there, but they are absent because some number of office workers chose to embezzle funds from their employers. It's not God's fault. He is all mercy."

            Tell this grieving orphan: "God actually didn't intend for your parents to drown. He actually intended for humans to live forever. Your parents died because too many school children lied to their parents. It's not God's fault. He is all love!"

            That takes care of the "problem of evil." It's not God's fault. All human suffering is because of human sin.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Calling evil a privation of a due good is not something clever I came up with. It is a very old explanation and I think it is correct. I know you agree, in fact, because food, limbs, and life are all due goods for human beings.

            The rest of your post is very clever rhetoric. Attribute something to Catholicism it does not claim and then post heart-breaking photos of children suffering.

          • Geena Safire

            That may not be what you want to be what the Catholic Church says. But I can't see it as anything but exactly what the Catholic Church says. Please tell me exactly, from the following, where I am mistaken.

            From the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on evil:

            Evil is threefold, viz., "malum naturæ" (metaphysical evil), "culpæ" (moral), and "paenæ" (physical, the retributive consequence of "malum culpæ") (I, Q. xlviii, a. 5, 6; Q. lxiii, a. 9; De Malo, I, 4). [Emphasis added]

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic Encyclopedia you cite is from 1914 and doesn't take into account anything that has been developed in the last hundred years.

            Generally today, when we say physical evil we mean both metaphysical evil (the imperfections inherent in any created order) and what this article calls "paenæ (physical, the retributive consequence of "malum culpæ")."

            The retributive consequence of culpable evil refers to the punishment that sin calls for. It does not refer to anything an innocent child suffers.

          • Geena Safire

            Kevin wrote: "It does not refer to anything an innocent child suffers."

            385 God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from?

            418 As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence").

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know why you have posted these two points.

          • Geena Safire

            I quoted 385 and 418 from the Catholic Catechism.

            You wrote: "I don't know why you have posted these two points."

            They state that all human suffering is due to human sin, which is kinda the topic of this subthread.

            They respond to your claim that "However, I don't know why you are wasting time on moral evil. The real problem is physical evil."

            How do they respond? Because they reiterate that all human physical suffering is as a result of the moral evil of self or others.

            They also refute what you said: "It does not refer to anything an innocent child suffers."

            Yes, it does. All human suffering. All of it. The innocent children are humans, right?

            Plus, even the encyclopedia version says all physical suffering is due to moral evil, which is what people do. So that clearly means that the suffering of the innocent child is due to the sins of other humans.

            Please don't respond with huge blocks of text that create a Gordian knot to try to get around the main point. For example, your following comment with a lengthy quote talks about "punishment," which has nothing to do with this discussion.

            Innocent children. Lifelong horrible terrible agony and suffering, then death. This is because of the sins of other humans, your church says. That is the topic of this subthread.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "The retributive consequence of culpable evil refers to the punishment that sin calls for. It does not refer to anything an innocent child suffers."

            The reason I wrote "It does not refer to innocent suffering" is that someone who is innocent cannot deserve any punishment. Someone who sins--commits real moral evil--does deserve to suffer the consequences of that sin. In fact, he begins to suffer it immediately by being that kind of person. I think Socrates was the first person to record that insight.

            Innocent suffering comes from the consequences of "the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures" which human beings would have been immune from if the Fall had not occurred. I don't think that withdrawing a preternatural gift that is not a part of human nature is an injustice.

            Innocent suffering does also come from the evils that persons commit. For example, if any child dies of hunger today, it is usually because of human evil.

          • Geena Safire

            Your comment seems awkward and incoherent. I repeat, this subthread is not talking about punishment. Not. Not.

            This subthread is talking about innocent children greatly suffering and dying.

            Innocent suffering does also come from the evils that persons commit. For example, if any child dies of hunger today, it is usually because of human evil.

            The Catholic Church says that their suffering is always as a consequence (though not necessarily directly) of human evil. These twenty-five thousand children that die every day from preventable causes -- they suffer unbearable agony and then they die.

            Why? Because some other people, in another place and in another time, did bad things. Because they were designed able to to bad things. Because that was how God made it.

            I don't think that withdrawing a preternatural gift that is not a part of human nature is an injustice.

            I think creating us, bound to fall, and then punishing us -- and especially innocent children -- for our ancestors having fallen is an absolute injustice.

          • hillclimber

            I assume that even as a nonbeliever, you would agree with this part of your straw man explanation:

            "Why [do so many children suffer and die]? Because some other people, in another place and in another time, did bad things."

            Apart from any theological interpretation, it seems to be true at the level of sociology that those people are dying because of our lack of concern, which might further be attributed to our internal social dysfunction.

            That sociological fact (if I may presume that you accept that as fact) needs to be accounted for by both theists and atheists. We have given you the theological poetry that we use to approach this supremely uncomfortable fact. What is the atheist way of coming to terms with this reality? It seems like it is just, "bummer, life sucks", but maybe I am missing something.

          • Geena Safire

            "We have given you the theological poetry that we use to approach this supremely uncomfortable fact"

            I really like the poetry of this phrase, hillclimber!

            My record of donations and volunteer activities is my way of coming to terms with this reality.

            My process goes:

            People are suffering. > Suffering is bad, which I know because of empathy. > I should help. > I help.

            The Christian process seems to go:

            People are suffering. > God is all good and so is not the cause of suffering. > All human suffering is due to human sin (not necessarily my sins causing my suffering). > God is appalled by suffering, but because of the way he made the universe and what humans did, his transcendental hands are tied, but he does the most he can. > It is a mystery why God allows suffering. > Jesus said to feed the hungry and so forth. > I obey God. > I help.

            I guess you could consider this theological poetry, but it just seems unnecessarily convoluted to me.

            It seems like it is just, "bummer, life sucks"

            Essentially, yes. Life is hard. Life isn't fair. That is not ideal, but that's the way it is Sometimes suffering just happens, and sometimes suffering is due to human behavior. Why would I need an ultimate explanation for human suffering or to find any meaning behind it? I enjoy explanations, if available, but I'm not going to make stuff up in order to try to make sense of something that just doesn't make sense.

            I just accept that this is the way the world is, and I do what I can to make it better. Life didn't make me any promises. It gave me a ticket that said, "Admit One." I happened to get a golden ticket, so I feel more responsibility to help those who didn't.

            But the Christian way isn't any better IMHO. There's still no understanding of why it exists, but y'all feel really extra guilty because God says the world's suffering is all your* fault.

            (* "your" meaning "humans" not "Christians.")

          • hillclimber

            I agree with you up to a point. You and I can both reasonably hope that when directly confronted with such a dire situation, we would offer all of the food and clothing and shelter and human tenderness that we could muster. So in a sense this does come down to just your poetry versus my poetry. You find Christian symbolism convoluted, which I can sympathize with (give it time, I promise ...). For my part, I do see a certain honesty in your "bummer, life sucks" approach, but for my taste it is wholly inadequate. Something infinitely more tender and reverential is called for in response to the heartbreaking suffering that you are talking about.

            Fortunately for both of us, we don't really need to tell the poor and starving anything about God. They tell us about God, not the other way around. Our blinders of largesse and presumed independence have been removed from their eyes. They see clearly that they are surrounded by a sea of dependency and contingency, and they have no choice but to let go and float in that sea. For this reason, they (often, not always) see clearly the God that we can only see dimly. For that reason, I do support your very practical view of what we should try to do for them.

          • Geena Safire

            (give it time, I promise ...)

            Who says I haven't?

            Something infinitely more tender and reverential is called for...

            There are a lot of things I think are 'called for' in this world. But I don't cotton to saying I believe something because I want it to be true. It gets....convoluted.

          • hillclimber

            "I don't cotton to saying I believe something because I want it to be true."

            Nor should you. I don't want that, and God does not want that. I want you to see that it IS true, but I have less and less optimism about the power of my own words to get you to that point. That's fine. I hope you don't mind my saying this, but I can see by your words that God is watching over you. You will be fine. I think I just need to get back to living my faith through my work and my family, because words just aren't cutting it for me. Please wish me luck as I attempt (most likely in vain) to leave this SN world behind.

            Out of respect, I won't say "God bless", but rather "Be blessed"!

          • Geena Safire

            I'll miss you, hillclimber, (assuming you are successful, and I wish you the best of luck). I understand how RL gets in the way of an online lifestyle. :-)

            Be well.

          • hillclimber

            Geena, let me admit one more thing to you. I have haunting memories that affect my views on this.

            After college, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger for a couple years. As you probably know, it is a very poor country. I think I was a pretty conscientious volunteer and I think I did my job pretty well, but when I look back, I was embarrassingly shallow in my response to the suffering that was all around me. Like many Peace Corps volunteers, I was very quickly hardened to the beggar kids who were constantly asking me for money. I rationalized that I was already doing some good, and I shrugged them off as I made my way to the local bar for a few beers. What the hell was I doing? They were hungry. They were very, very hungry. What was I doing going off to buy beer? I look back now and I wonder how my moral formation allowed me to get to that point. Better poetry would have saved me, I think.

          • Geena Safire

            I also have had experience living very close to deep poverty. It is so hard to know what is the right way to care for so many, when one person can only do so much.

            Poetry is tears on paper that never dry.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Try this in addition:

            Does God not cause suffering and death as a punishment for sin?

            Answer:
            Sin seeks the fulfillment of desire in a distorted way which (along with the good attained) brings an admixture of lack and pain. God’s will is to give the human person maximal joy, and sin is forbidden only because it something which causes deprivation of a due good and precludes the reception of the fullness of God’s self-gift. If, by the very nature of things, sin did not bring about suffering, then sin would not be problematic with regard to man’s relationship to God. In such a situation (if it were possible), those actions which are presently considered sinful would be among the good and beneficial things that a person may freely choose. In God’s generosity, if it were possible for someone to be truly happier apart from God through a life of sin, then God would directly will that departure.

            Quotes:
            “These two punishments [eternal and temporal (i.e. all forms of punishment)] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472)

            “The wrath of God is a way of saying that I have been living in a way that is contrary to the love that is God. Anyone who begins to live and grow away from God, who lives away from what is good, is turning his life toward wrath. Whoever falls away from love is moving into negativity. So that is not something that some dictator with a lust for power inflicts on you, but is simply a way of expressing the inner logic of a certain action. If I move outside the area of what is compatible with the ideal model by which I am created, if I move beyond the love that sustains me, well then, I just fall into the void, into darkness. I am then no longer in the realm of love, so to speak, but in a realm that can be seen as the realm of wrath.

            When God inflicts punishment, this is not punishment
            in the sense that God has, as it were, drawn up a system of fines and penalties and is wanting to pin one on you. ‘The punishment of God’ is in fact an expression for having missed the right road and then experiencing the consequences that follow from taking the wrong track and wandering away from the right way of living.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World)

            “Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters that strike the innocent and the guilty alike are never punishments from God. To say otherwise would be to offend both God and humanity.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Good Friday Homily,
            2011)

            http://newapologetics.com/catholic-apologetics-qa

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Steve, I think it is a false problem.

          We are not free not to choose the good or happiness. Within limits, we are free to choose means to happiness.

          God is not free to not choose the good simply because that would be absurd. God chose to create for our good, a gratuitous act.

          • Steven Dillon

            I don't think you've stated the problem accurately Kevin.

            The problem is that some (such as Mr. Akin) say God is justified in allowing evil and suffering because in so doing, he preserves free-will, which essentially involves the ability to choose between good and evil.

            But, this can't be correct: if free-will really did involve the ability to choose between good and evil, then God wouldn't have free-will.

            So, aside from whether we are free to choose the good, the notion of free-will that Akin n' company use to response to the problem of evil is unsound. The upshot is that they need a new response.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If I have stated the problem accurately, then Akin does need a new response to the problem of moral evil.

            For human beings, we always seek the good, although we may choose apparent goods which are actually evils, or we may choose an evil means to a good end.

            Aquinas' insight is that the choice to do evil arises from the choice not to use right reason to determine what the right action would be.

            With God, freedom is definitely not the ability to choose good over evil.

          • Steven Dillon

            Yeah, I think we're in agreement Kevin. This isn't to say that no free-will response whatsoever works against the problem of evil, just this particular one made by Akin.

  • Geena Safire

    Jimmy Akin writes: "When we use the word 'evil,' we often mean moral evil (sin), but historically it was frequently used for other things, such as suffering." [emphasis added]

    Mr. Akin might want to read the Catholic Encyclopedia (imprimatur), according to which there are three kinds of evil. Is there a new theology under which the Catholic Church has changed its definition but not changed the exhaustive Catholic Encyclopedia?

    The following is from the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on 'evil.'

    Evil, in a large sense, may be described as the sum of the opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universe, to the desires and needs of individuals; whence arises, among humans beings at least, the sufferings in which life abounds. Thus evil, from the point of view of human welfare, is what ought not to exist.

    ... ...

    With regard to the nature of evil, it should be observed that evil is of three kinds — physical, moral, and metaphysical.

    Physical evil includes all that causes harm to man, whether by bodily injury, by thwarting his natural desires, or by preventing the full development of his powers, either in the order of nature directly, or through the various social conditions under which mankind naturally exists.

    Physical evils directly due to nature are sickness, accident, death, etc. Poverty, oppression, and some forms of disease are instances of evil arising from imperfect social organization. Mental suffering, such as anxiety, disappointment, and remorse, and the limitation of intelligence which prevents humans beings from attaining to the full comprehension of their environment, are congenital forms of evil each vary in character and degree according to natural disposition and social circumstances.

    By moral evil are understood the deviation of human volition from the prescriptions of the moral order and the action which results from that deviation.

    ... ...

    Metaphysical evil is the limitation by one another of various component parts of the natural world.

    Through this mutual limitation natural objects are for the most part prevented from attaining to their full or ideal perfection, whether by the constant pressure of physical condition, or by sudden catastrophes. Thus, animal and vegetable organisms are variously influenced by climate and other natural causes; predatory animals depend for their existence on the destruction of life; nature is subject to storms and convulsions, and its order depends on a system of perpetual decay and renewal due to the interaction of its constituent parts. If animals suffering is excluded, no pain of any kind is caused by the inevitable limitations of nature; and they can only be called evil by analogy, and in a sense quite different from that in which the term is applied to human experience.

    • Geena Safire

      In addition, the Catholic Encyclopedia says this regarding the source of evil:

      Christian philosophy has, like the Hebrew, uniformly attributed moral and physical evil to the action of created free will. Man has himself brought about the evil from which he suffers by transgressing the law of God, on obedience to which his happiness depended. [emphasis added]

      Evil is threefold, viz., "malum naturæ" (metaphysical evil), "culpæ" (moral), and "paenæ" (physical, the retributive consequence of "malum culpæ") (I, Q. xlviii, a. 5, 6; Q. lxiii, a. 9; De Malo, I, 4). [Emphasis added]

      That is, Catholic theology holds that physical evil is the consequence of moral evil which is the consequence of human misuse of free will.

      So earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, drought, hurricanes and other 'natural disasters' that lead to human suffering, as well as all disease, birth defects, and injury, not forgetting poverty, lack of opportunity and other sociological suffering, are a consequence of free will. Oh yeah, plus death.

  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    The sort of article seems almost designed to turn people into atheists:

    God could have created a world in which off his creations lived in eternal bliss. But that universe wouldn't have given Him the kind of love He found worthwhile. So instead He created one where many of His creations would suffer eternal torment, so He could get His preferred brand of love from them.

    This God seems like a monster. Where did I go wrong in my paraphrase?

    • David Nickol

      This God seems like a monster. Where did I go wrong in my paraphrase?

      This seems to me a plausible interpretation of article above. It does not seem to be so much that God wants people to love him freely. He seems to want them to make a "leap of faith" to love him based on insufficient (or barely sufficient) information.

      If I am asked to choose between life in prison at hard labor and winning $205 million in MegaMillions tomorrow, if I choose MegaMillions, is that not a free choice? Are "no brainers" not free choices? If God presented us with a series of "no brainers," would be be puppets? It does not seem so to me.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        David, that gives rise to another question: Why did God rule out the possibility of redemption after death?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You mean the possibility of *repentance* after death?

          If you are imagining somebody the moment after death saying to themselves, "God really exists and he's really good. Crap, I wish I hadn't done x," and God crying "Gocha!" I don't believe it works that way at all.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Then how does it work?

          • Geena Safire

            That sounds to me exactly how it happens. I die. I am before God. I realize God is real. I was not properly repentant of my sins, including at least one mortal sin. I get sent to hell. Punto y seguido.

          • David Nickol

            With the exception of God saying "Gocha!" that is how it appears to work:

            1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul--a destiny which can be different for some and for others.

            1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, -- or immediate and everlasting damnation.

            It seems to me a very good question why "death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ." Is it the Catholic teaching that free will ends at the moment of death? A person can repent moments before death. If a person has free will, and if a person finds out something he or she didn't know before death (that God exists and is all good), why shouldn't that person be able to freely repent after death?

            (Of course, I don't think it is necessarily the teaching of the Catholic Church that a person who dies an atheist goes to hell, although those who maintain the strict interpretation of "outside the Church there is no salvation" would apparently believe atheists cannot be saved.")

            In any case, does free will end at death? And if so, why?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have heard it explained this way.

            Right now, we are ignorant and weak and often choose means and ends to attain our good which are wrong. We can make mistakes now.

            But what happens when we see it all with total clarity? What if we see God face to face and reject him? That rejection is the self-imposed exile from God, now outside time, so forever.

          • David Nickol

            Are you implying that before each person's final judgment, he or she gets to see God face to face and make a choice? I don't know how that can be reconciled with what I quoted from the Catechism.

            I also don't see how it is possible for a human being ever to be outside time. I do not think it is a teaching of the Church that the dead are outside of time, or that after the resurrection of the dead, there will be no time. Remember, the ultimate fate (according to Christianity) of those who are saved will be to exist again as physical beings—body and soul. We are material beings, and material beings can't exist outside of time.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The precise term would be before each person "particular judgment." What I am claiming is that God is just, which means he is fair, which means he does not put anything over on us or blame us for what we don't know.

            As far as what exactly our experience of eternity will be, I don't now.

          • Danny Getchell

            Well cited David.....thanks for sparing me the research :-)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      My own agreement with this article is limited, and I think its limits can be turned against God.

      However, in my view, Rob, there is so much wrong in your paraphrase it is hard to know where to begin. ;)

      Here is a better place than I can provide: http://newapologetics.com/

      There is only one "brand" of love, which is freely willing and doing the best for the other. Do you have a better flavor?

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        That just raises a new problem. It sounds like God does not love us, because punishing us for all eternity for a mistake made over a limited time period can in no way be regard as doing the best for us.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          True mistakes cannot put us in hell.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Just like No True Scotsman would say such a thing?

            What's a mistake (or sin) vs a true mistake?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you sincerely think God does not exist and he does, you have made a mistake. God does not hold this against you.

            A sin is doing something that is morally wrong. The culpability is determined by how grave the matter is, whether you knew it was wrong, and how freely you did it.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Kevin, I would ask you to do more than direct me to an unspecified location in a great big website.

        And the question is not whether *I* can come up with a better flavor, because I'm not the omnipotent, omniscient one in charge.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think you know already what real love is.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Perhaps not, because I would never condemn anyone to eternal torment without any possibility of escape or a second chance even after a million billion trillion quadrillion quintillion years.

          • David Nickol

            Me neither. I am trying to think of the most evil people in the history of the world who have cause the most suffering, and I can't imagine subjecting any of them to eternal torment. "A million billion trillion quadrillion quintillion years" is infinitesimally small compared to eternity. My idea of just punishment is making the offending person undergo in some way the suffering he or she caused. So, say, someone responsible for the Holocaust might have serially experience the horrific experience of six million deaths plus the suffering of the survivors. But that would not take eternity. How can a finite human being ever merit infinite punishment?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is no Catholic doctrine that says we have to think any human being is in hell and we can hope that all are saved.

            But what if someone does not want to be around God and people who are united to him?

          • Andre Boillot

            So, you'd have us assume that there's a chance that God will allow a mulligan if we, upon death are confronted with his certain existence, realize we've made a terrible mistake, and then repented. Fair enough, why don't we here more talk of this sort, eh? It would seem an idea much more in keeping with redemption, lost lambs, and all that. Why stop there? Perhaps it is still possible to be confused in the afterlife. Shouldn't those who may have been cast into hell be given a chance to change their minds and make amends?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know but consider this:

            Has any living person rejected God absolutely?

            Answer: In refusing to trust God, no living person has yet
            truly turned from God as such, but only from something lower than God that has been mistakenly put in his place.

            Through mortal sin, a person can choose a path such that it can truly be said that they have chosen something incompatible with love, and that if the sin is not eventually repented, then hell is the only possible outcome.

            However, even in this state, none have yet truly rejected God, but only a mistaken image of him or the suffering that God’s call to love apparently requires of them. There has not yet been a seeing of the truth in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of receiving new information.

            Consequently, in some measure, there is a part of every person that has never chosen evil and continues to seek God innocently.

          • Geena Safire

            There is no Catholic doctrine that says we have to think any human being is in hell and we can hope that all are saved.

            That's just a standard Christian dodge.

            "Hell really exists. And it is horrible suffering forever. And bad people are really going there. So you'd better be good! But.........."

            ...We can have hope that all are saved. And maybe no one is in hell because God is all loving...

            ....But Hell really exists, anyway. So watch out!"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is not a dodge.

          • Geena Safire

            Dodge: "a clever or dishonest trick done in order to avoid something"

            Atheist: The concept of hell is horrible and out of keeping with the nature of the God you describe.

            Christian: Oh, but maybe no one is hell. We can have hope.

            Atheist: So God won't really send anyone to hell.

            Christian: Yes, the Bible clearly says that he will.

            Atheist: But the concept of hell is horrible...

      • Andre Boillot

        "There is only one "brand" of love, which is freely willing and doing the best for the other."

        I'm not sure what one could take away from such an unspecific comment as this.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It is an attempt to restate the best definition of love. It is a gift to give another person what is really best for him. It is to give a loaf of bread to a hungry person instead of a stone.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ok, you had me confused, as I was fairly certain that the Christian tradition recognizes a few different "brands" of love. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Loves

            In any case, I'm not sure there's that much wrong with Rob's paraphrase.

            [1] God could have created a world in which off his creations lived in eternal bliss. [2] But that universe wouldn't have given Him the kind of love He found worthwhile. [3] So instead He created one where many of His creations would suffer eternal torment, so He could get His preferred brand of love from them.

            [1] Do you deny that God could have created such a world? [2] Is this not in keeping with the teachings on free-will? [3] I can see you taking issue with this aspect. I doubt you'll find any Christian teaching that will support the notion that God creation is structured in order that we will suffer hell. On the other hand, I think I understand what Rob my be trying to say: that the threat of hell calls into question how "freely willing" our love for God could ever hope to be.

            If one were to remove that threat, and replace it with the notion that one just reverts to a state of non-existence - such as what we conceive of pre-birth/conception/whatever - I think you could have a much better argument in terms of "freely willing" one's love for God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think I agree with [1]; in fact, that could describe our world. God's creatures could have lived in this world happily if other conditions had obtained from the outset.

            [2] I think in any possible world, God would have wanted rational creatures to practice the same kind of love: mutual gift of self in which everyone gets from everyone what they need and gives everyone what they need. This is another way of saying, "Will the true good of the other."

            [3] In reality, the threat of hell doesn't seem to deter many people. However, in the act of contrition we say we are sorry for our sins "because we dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell" (that is imperfect but adequate contrition), "but most of all because they offend thee my God who art all good and deserving of all my love" (perfect contrition).

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            [1] When many of the natural "evils" in this world (eg. earthquakes) are incidental (eg. cooling crust atop a lake of magma), I'm not sure how you can claim that we were ever destined for lives without suffering. Perhaps the Fall took away our resistance to high-temps?

            [2] What is paradise, if not something akin to what you describe? What would starting off in paradise take away from love?

            [3] I understand those are the words you are made to recite, and I'm sure that many Catholics strive for the latter, but can you ever truly say your love is given freely when you have knowledge and fear of the former? If I ask my fiance to love me for me, and not because I will harm her if she doesn't, and she says she loves me - really loves me - for me...what are the odds?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            [1] The evils might be prevented from happening or we would be preserved from harm if they did. Those are not hard to imagine. Catholic doctrine has held this from the beginning.

            [2] Exactly. That's how it did begin. But if we are to be given maximal importance and maximal influence, then our actions have to have real consequences. If I am suppose to build a Ferris Wheel and I leave out half the rivets on purpose, then is God supposed to step in and prevent that evil if I'm really given maximal influence? Can I only have good influence and not evil?

            [3] I think abuse or threat is the wrong analogy. Don't you fear doing something to offend the ones you love because they might turn away from you? That turning away is a natural consequence of the offense. So, I want to act so my wife will love me for me and not hate me for me.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            [1] I'm amused to see you double-down on the notion that we were fire-resistant prior to the fall. If nothing else, you're consistent.

            [2] "If I am suppose to build a Ferris Wheel and I leave out half the rivets on purpose..." - Oddly enough, this is exactly how I view God: created paradise, but left open the possibility to screw up. Why? You've seemingly conceded that being in paradise doesn't preclude love.

            [3] The problem with your analogy is that I must choose your God. I'm not free to choose another (or none). My fiance is free to love me or not, and I her. Should either of us not choose to love the other, we are not condemned to never love again.

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    But all of the suggested purposes underlying all these alternatives could still be accomplished easily if God were to limit the suffering and catastrophe we see on Earth, without our knowledge. For example the gunman who murdered all those children in Sandyhook last year has a heart attack in the night before the killing and dies. The typhoon that just wiped out so much in the Phillipines doesn't happen. Childhood leukaemia just never occurs, and so on.

    No one's free will to chose to love God would be infringed if God were to do this and countless other things which he is easily capable and willing. Since he does not, it is more than plausible, but more likely than not that no such entity exists.

    • ziad

      I cannot answer the part regarding natural disaster and diseases (I will leave that to other users)

      However, I could argue that killing the gunman without us knowing would infringe on that man's free will. After all, he couldn't make the choice of shooting the children or not. Also, what would his family and friends would conclude about evil and suffering in this case, since they do not know what he was going to do? Should they come to the conclusion that God doesn't exist because the gunman died from a heart attack when he never did anything?

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        No, he could make the choice but be stricken down just as he begins to act upon it, when he's up there in the clock tower beginning to pull the trigger.

        In fact, if he had a heart attack at that moment, many people would take it as evidence that God does exist.

        • ziad

          The issue with that is, many people will think then that everyone that dies in that manner must have been a very sinful person. This is evident in old Judaism (not sure about their belief now), but in biblical times every time something bad happened to someone they thought that the person was sinful.
          In addition, some people would just think that it was a coincidence, given that some people die of heart attack for no reason at all.
          BTW I am not arguing in this manner to suggest that this is good or bad way for God to act. I am just showing that it will still not be sufficient to believe in God and it would make people think wrongfully.

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        Whenever someone dies they lose the ability to pursue their plans. I see no violation of free will. How is this any different? This man lived his life, he made his choices. God can judge him based on these choices. Besides there are numerous options open to God. The gun jams, a police officer happens to catch wind of his plan and so on. Or god could have flicked his head off the instant before he pulled the trigger. Yes, this would have been a physical reminder that he exists, but he used to show up and help all time. Ask the first born Egyptian children.

  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    I've never been able to reconcile human free will with the Christian conception of God.

    Simply put, if God created humanity and each individual, crafted our psychology, built the world we live in, is the all-knowing creator of everything we ever encounter,
    and made every one of His creative choices knowing exactly how it would play
    out, then yes we can say that God does control us, that we have no free will, that
    we are His pawns.

    Often atheists just say, "There is no reason to believe in God," but the logical impossibility of free will in the Christian metaphysic creates a contradiction, and that contradiction provides a reason for disbelieving the system.

    Obviously I'm not the first to point this out. Can anyone direct me to the Church's replies?

  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    Based on the comments, can I suggest an article specifically on the Catholic conception of Hell:

    What is it?
    Why does it exist?
    Who goes there?
    Why do they go there?
    Why is it eternal, which seems out of proportion to any possible human sin?
    Why did God set up a universe in which redemption is impossible after death?

    Just a suggestion.

    • Octavo

      Additionally, why does the 1914 Catholic encyclopedia so different from modern catholic teaching on the subject?

      ~Jesse Webster

  • Geena Safire

    For simplicity's sake, I'm going to fold that into God's omnipotence. If
    he's all-powerful, that would include the power to know what he needs
    to use his power effectively. So we don't need to be detained by that
    option.

    This is an equivocation fallacy. You use the word 'power' in two separate meanings in one argument. The first meaning is 'the ability to do work.' The second meaning is the more Nietzschean 'one of the abilities or faculties one has.'

    This is like making this fallacious argument:

    * All feathers are light.
    * What is light cannot be dark.
    * Dark feathers cannot exist.

    Omnipotent refers to the breadth of God's purported ability to do things. Omniscient refers to God's alleged knowledge of all things. Otherwise, you are just arguing that omniscience and omnipotence are the same thing.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    It seems strange God couldn't have done better. Assuming we fit into his plans at all and that he has unlimited power. A simple resolution to this problem is found if God is not omnipotent. Maybe this is the best he can do. It's much better than I can do.

    • Geena Safire

      My proposed solution, from another SN article, would be that, given gazillion planets, God could have put each human on her own planet, populated with simulacrums of humans who could act entirely human and show all the external signs of suffering but not actually suffer nor be truly conscious. That way, the actual human could live an entire life and either do good or do evil at each instance, but never actually harm other humans.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Geena, how do you He hasn't?

        • Geena Safire

          Rob, I think you accidentally a word.

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        Maybe God already has. ;)

        • Geena Safire

          True! But who needs planets? We could just each be a brain in a vat. Or non-material supernatural brains, like God's brain. Or mind, whatever.

  • Geena Safire

    [M]any people would think it rational for God to allow the universe to continue to exist if the only way to get rid of sin and suffering were to annihilate all of creation. If so, it is reasonable for an all-good, all-powerful being to tolerate evil for the sake of greater good, at least if there were no other way to remove it.

    I don't think it is either reasonable nor rational. Given the suffering I have seen, and the suffering we can all see, I can't see how anyone could see that agony and torment of many for their entire life is acceptable because some other people can experience love.

    Would you look into the faces of each of the nine million children who die each year due to preventable causes and tell each of them, "Don't worry! Your suffering and imminent is actually a good thing because other people get to be happy. Because God loves you."? That is atrocious logic.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It is atrocious logic. It is ill-logic.

      Try this:

      How does God save us through the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ?

      Answer: God, in his justice, has only willed the complete happiness of humanity, and the original sin has caused the horror of fallen immortality for all of mankind. God has not created man for hell, and does not will that anyone be lost. For mankind to be restored to correspondence with God’s justice, the deprivation and disorder in the life of man must somehow be harmonized with God’s perfect intention of highest charity for humanity. However, this reconciliation seems impossible because God would have to incorporate human suffering (which is, by definition, the deprivation of a due good) into his perfect will, which necessarily only seeks the highest good of persons. God cannot directly will suffering on another person because he is perfectly good and no person was created by God for the sake of pain, but only for happiness. However, if suffering and dying man is to be reconciled with God’s justice, then God must, somehow, directly ordain human suffering and death in a way that is in accord with his perfect will (that is, with absolute, uncompromising charity).

      In order for God to perfectly will suffering in any sense, necessarily, he must either will it on another or on himself. For the reasons stated previously, God cannot directly will a destiny of suffering on another. Additionally, the divine nature, in itself, is not capable of being damaged or diminished in any way, and therefore cannot be subjected to suffering like that of the nature of fallen man. However, if God were to assume a human nature, then he could perfectly will to experience human suffering as an act of sacrificial love. God, without ceasing to be God, would take to himself a human body, mind and soul, and come into the fallen world to live as a man. Through the incarnation, God freely and perfectly wills to receive to himself the disorder and deprivation that have become the experience of all mankind. It would not be that God inflicts harm on himself, for this would be directly destructive and therefore an evil that is contrary to his goodness. Rather, God, in an act of love for the sake of solidarity with the fallen human race, perfectly accepts the injustices that come to him through the mere fact of being himself (namely, by loving without compromise) in the fallen world. In this act of love, God maintains his absolute opposition to human suffering while simultaneously embracing it totally in his own divine person. Through the incarnation, the suffering of one man, Jesus, is consistent with the perfect will of God.

      In the original order of creation, God had ordained that man would receive perfect happiness, but the advent of suffering and death have cancelled this original destiny. In Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising from the dead, God ordains a new, higher dignity and destiny for human nature that is not threatened by suffering and death. As true God and true man, Jesus is both the definer and model of the meaning of human life. In the new destiny that God ordains for man, it is not that God has compromised his perfect justice by accommodating the diminishment caused by suffering and death. Rather, God (in uniting human nature to himself) has raised man to a destiny that is infinitely higher than what would have been possible apart from the incarnation. This does not mean that the suffering and death of persons now become goods; they remain evils, but they are evils that no longer have the power to separate a person from God. Through the incarnation, God the Son is in perfect union with both God the Father and with the woundedness of humanity. If God, through human nature, has suffered, died, and has been raised from the dead, then suffering and death are no longer obstacles to the fullness of union with God. Apart from the incarnation, man would have enjoyed a happiness that was fitting to human nature. According to the new destiny of the human person in Christ, God brings man into the divine life of the Trinity, and bestows a joy which is, by nature, proper to God alone.

      [The means by which Christ's suffering, death and resurrection reverses all diminishment caused by sin will be explored in detail over further questions and answers on this page].

      Quotes: “…There is justice. There is an ‘undoing’ of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)

      “Thou didst send him from Heaven into the Virgin’s womb; he was conceived and was incarnate, and was shown to be thy Son, born of the
      Holy Spirit and the Virgin; Who, fulfilling thy will and preparing for thee a holy people, stretched out his hands in suffering, that he might free from suffering them that believed on thee.” (Early Eucharistic Canon, c. 245 A.D.)

      “One can say that with the Passion of Christ all human suffering has found itself in a new situation. And it is as though Job has foreseen this when he said: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives …’, and as though he had directed towards it his own suffering, which without the Redemption could not have revealed to him the fullness of its meaning.” (John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris)

      “Because he is the Son, he sees with total clarity the whole foul flood of evil, all the power of lies and pride, all the wiles and cruelty of the evil that masks itself as life yet constantly serves to destroy, debase, and crush life. Because he is the Son, he experiences deeply all the horror, filth, and baseness that he must drink from the “chalice” prepared for him: the vast power of sin and death. All this he must take into himself, so that it can be disarmed and defeated in him.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

      “Only a God who loves us to the extent of taking upon himself our wounds and our pain, especially innocent suffering, is worthy of faith.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi message, Easter 2007)

      “In Jesus’ Passion, all the filth of the world touches the infinitely pure one, the soul of Jesus Christ and, hence, the Son of God himself. While it is usually the case that anything unclean touching something clean renders it unclean, here it is the other way around: when the world, with all the injustice and cruelty that make it unclean, comes into contact with the infinitely pure one – then he, the pure one, is the stronger. Through this contact, the filth of the world is truly absorbed, wiped out, and transformed in the pain of infinite love…If we reflect more deeply on this insight, we find the answer to an objection that is often raised against the idea of atonement. Again and again people say: It must be a cruel God who demands infinite atonement. Is this not a notion unworthy of God? Must we not give up the idea of atonement in order to maintain the purity of our image of God?… It becomes evident that the real forgiveness accomplished on the Cross functions in exactly the opposite direction. The reality of evil and injustice that disfigures the world and at the same time distorts the image of God – this reality exists, through our sin. It cannot simply be ignored; it must be addressed. But here it is not the case of a cruel God demanding the infinite. It is exactly the opposite: God himself becomes the locus of reconciliation, and in the person of his Son takes the suffering upon himself. God himself grants his infinite purity to the world. God himself ‘drinks the cup’ of every horror to the dregs and thereby restores justice through the greatness of his love, which, through suffering, transforms the darkness.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

      http://newapologetics.com/catholic-apologetics-qa

      • Geena Safire

        Oh, that makes so much more sense. I just have to add a few words at the end of my question:

        Would you look into the faces of each of the nine million children who die each year due to preventable causes and tell each of them, "Don't worry! Your suffering and imminent is actually a good thing because other people get to be happy. Because God loves you and Jesus suffered very badly for three hours"? That is atrocious logic.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Sorry, that Q&A was not the best for your question.

          How about this?

          Does God cause or approve of the suffering of the innocent?

          Answer: God neither causes nor approves of the suffering of the innocent. Further, the suffering in the world is not an indication that God has abandoned the world, but is a manifestation of God’s fidelity to sinners in continuing to love them with an infinite love. This in no way entails that God approves of the sufferings that happen as the result of sin, for suffering (the deprivation of a due good) is the very reason why sin is offensive to him. This condition of the world in which the innocent pay for the dignity of the guilty is not so much permitted by God as it is endured in agony. The suffering in the world is infinitely more offensive to God than it is to the atheist who rejects God because of the problem of evil. For the sake of sinners, this offense is endured by God with unfailing love so that sins may be forgiven.

          [In one sense, God does “permit” evil (in that he does not prevent it), and he always draws a greater good out of it, but this "permission" must never be understood as failure to oppose evil with the perfection of chaste omnipotence, or as the divine approval of suffering and death as a means to a higher end. God's relationship to evil is necessarily one of infinite offense and opposition, and he makes no compromise. ]

          Quote: “God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering… We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 385)

          • Geena Safire

            Please know, Kevin, that I am seriously reading the quotes that you provide and I am sincerely responding to them. The fact that I respond briefly is because the point seems so crystal clear.

            So now I have to add a few more words to my question:

            Would you look into the faces of each of the nine million children who die each year due to preventable causes and tell each of them, "Don't worry! Your suffering and imminent death is actually a good thing because other people get to be happy. Because God loves you and Jesus suffered very badly for three hours and God feels even worse about your suffering than you do and really doesn't approve of it"? That is still atrocious logic.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are right so far. It is still atrocious logic.

            What if God is perfectly opposed to every sin and every form of suffering and is doing everything in his power to make things right?

          • Geena Safire

            I would say (if he exists) that if he allows the suffering of children like the above, then he's not any kind of being I would want to worship. Better that he should have made no world than this world.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God would not expect you to worship him unless he were worthy of that worship. So you are right to reject the conception of the God you hold.

          • Geena Safire

            From what it looks like to me, it's the conception of God you hold. What am I missing?

            Would you look into the faces of each of the nine million children who die each year due to preventable causes and tell each of them, "Don't worry! Your suffering and imminent death is actually a good thing because other people get to be happy. Because God loves you and Jesus suffered very badly for three hours and God feels even worse about your suffering than you do and he is perfectly opposed to all sin and suffering and is doing everything he can to fix it"? That is still atrocious logic.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm saying that your conception of "what God ought to be if he exists" is correct.

          • Geena Safire

            I appreciate your intention, Kevin. Really, I do.

            But it seems to me that I'm saying, "This God of yours, if he exists, given the suffering in the world, is a monster."

            And you reply, "Well, yes, except for the monster part."

            Given the suffering in the world, the conceptual God that "ought to exist" could not exist. The two are mutually incompatible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'll try to show that your conception of God is compatible with the worst suffering in this life.

            If this attempt is successful, it will show that God is "all good and worthy of all my love" (sorry about the pious language) and it will not pretend that suffering of the innocent is excusable in any way.

            (1) Would you agree that if God exists and is worthy of anything from us he ought to be omni-benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient?

            Yet at the same time would you also agree with this condition:

            We once saw a window screen with a sticker reading as follows:

            “Warning: Screen will not prevent child from falling out of window.”

            If one changes the word “screen” to “God”, then all
            thinking people who believe in God have a really keen problem. It seems that a pane of glass counts in protecting a child from tragedy, but omnipotence and infinite love do not.

            All the writings of Christian philosophers piled in a great heap before us do little to take the edge off the meditation introduced by this little sticker. There is no applicable knowledge on the part of the child, no informed consent, the horrendous fact that it’s a real child, an apparent infinity of opportunities for God (all-powerful and all-knowing) to intervene, and yet there is no intervention.

            Any attempt at explanation which says tragedy of this sort is for a ‘greater good’ is absolutely out of touch with reality.

          • Geena Safire

            I would say that it's more compatible with the nonexistence of any deity. The deity is unnecessary and the story remains the same.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You mean if God does not exist there is no need to explain the suffering of the innocent? Then the world is just unjust.

            So is your zeal *not* against the unjust world but about the claim that there is a just God?

          • Geena Safire

            You mean if God does not exist there is no need to explain the suffering of the innocent?

            No! I'm saying that if God, as you describe him, does exist, then there is no explanation of the suffering of the innocent. Any God I could believe in wouldn't have done it that way.

            The universe, on the other hand, just follows its rules, and we're along for the ride, so it's not surprising that human life is so difficult and tenuous. Certainly moral evil, by omission or commission, ancient and current, is involved in the causes of suffering, but much of it is because of how the just Earth is and how our bodies evolved. There is no explanation.

            But adding in a proposed deity -- that made the world which could become this, that could do something but doesn't, and that apparently has some super-secret good thing after agonizing lifetimes and some ultimate "meaning" and "purpose" for terror, madness and devastation -- only makes it *worse*.

            Plus your way ends up blaming humans for all human suffering, including disease, death, and earthquakes -- and for having lost a more wonderful previous world. Also *worse*.

            So is your zeal *not* against the unjust world but about the claim that there is a just God?

            No! I don't waste *any* energy getting angry at the Earth for having typhoons or at our bodies for having cancer.

            I put my *zeal* into doing things to help. I help rebuild stronger, safer houses for the displaced with Habitat, for example. I help feed the hungry near home. I donate, I educate, I translate, I listen.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You wrote: "if God, as you describe him, does exist, then there is no explanation of the suffering of the innocent. Any God I could believe in wouldn't have done it that way."

            How do you know that there is "no explanation"? How can you be certain you have already heard every explanation?

          • Geena Safire

            I've heard plenty of explanations. None of them are satisfactory to justify the immensity of human suffering.

            But sure, go ahead. Hit me with your best shot.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've caused innocent suffering. We all have. Even an innocent baby's crying causes innocent suffering in her parents. But it is even worse when innocent suffering is caused by stupidity, selfishness, and malice.

            I think two questions need to be answered. First, is the potential for innocent suffering *necessary* if persons are really going to be treated like persons?

            Second, if the answer to the first question is yes, is there a way for an absolute vindication of all that has been harmed by sin, suffering and death?

          • Geena Safire

            I'm not talking about how things are, Kevin. In this world, innocent suffering is inevitable. Some suffering is necessary or useful, like homework, and much is not.

            The main point is that it is ridiculous to think of a deity as getting credit for only the good bits of the universe and blaming humans and our nature (as it made us) for all of our suffering.

            The second point is that a purported loving, all-good deity wouldn't create this universe with this much unnecessary suffering; it would realize it were better not. There is no possible vindication for the suffering I have witnessed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How do you know that there is "no possible vindication"? How can you be certain you have already heard every explanation?

          • Geena Safire

            It doesn't matter. Subjecting someone to agony is called torture. If someone had gotten fully-informed consent in advance from each subject, and the subjects had full memory of their advance consent to the agony to which they would be subjected and its purpose, that might approach vindication. Otherwise, there is no possible vindication. Torture is evil.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes, torture is evil. God does not torture anyone. God is perfectly opposed to evil.

          • Geena Safire

            And yet, despite the deity's omnipotence, there it is. It doesn't seem quite opposed enough.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My reply which Disqus seems to be trying to hide, is here:

            http://www.strangenotions.com/why-does-god-allow-sin-and-suffering/#comment-1142036881

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is no best shot. It's a long road. And I'm not going to "hit you" because I don't consider it a battle.

            This is going to assume that God, as Catholics understand him, exists.

            It is going to try to show that this conception is reasonable despite innocent suffering. The reality of innocent suffering will not disprove the Catholic conception of God.

            A place to begin is the reason for creation.

            God creates for the good of created persons, which includes angels and human beings. God's motive is love. God needs nothing from creation, which is why we say creation is gratuitous. God’s will is that created persons receive the fullness of his generosity, that they not be deprived of any good that is fitting to the created nature that he has given to them.

            This one, true God, of his own goodness and ‘almighty power,’ not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel ‘and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and corporeal.' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 293)

            If you have any questions about that, I'll try to answer them. Otherwise, I'll go on.

          • Geena Safire

            My reply which Disqus seems to be trying to hide,...

            Yeah, weird, huh?

            Hit me with your best shot.

            It was meant metaphorically, along the lines of, 'Please, if you would be so kind, I would very much enjoy e-hearing your assertion of the highest caliber.'

            Kevin: With all respect -- and I've reread it several times -- all I can read in all in your words is, "We Catholics have figured that God is only responsible for the good bits, and bears no responsibility for any of the bad bits. Because he's God, that's why. He's just (and only) totally awesome!"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's only the first lego. But I will dig the hole even deeper and make the claim even more impossible.

            The second lego: What is the justice of God?

            God wills only the highest good of persons. God cannot will something second best. God cannot approve of some situation that deprives a person of a due good. God's justice is his uncompromising fidelity to the highest possible degree of charity (willing the true good of the other). God does not directly will or in any way approve of something that involves deprivation or disorder for any
            reason.

          • Geena Safire

            Best justice. Best fidelity. Check. Next?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Maximal importance for created persons comes next, I think. Real and irrevocable power given to angels and human beings.

            In creation, God has given of himself in a maximally radical way. His love is one of total self-gift for the sake of created persons. In offering himself totally to creatures, God has given power to those creatures made in his image to be co-creators. That is, real power in shaping the world is given to men and angels.

            That which can only be done by God (such as creation of the universe out of nothing, or the governance of the entirety of reality via omniscient providence) cannot be given over to creatures, but all other finite powers and roles of importance that can possibly be entrusted to created beings have been given to men and angels for the sake of imbuing maximal importance to each creature made in the image of God.

            . . .

            According to God’s generosity, if something can possibly be done or mediated by a finite power, God creates a finite creature to do it rather than doing the thing directly.

            [Some supporting quotes:]

            > “We can never give too great prominence to the Scholastic principle that God never does through Himself what may be achieved through created causality… For any result which does not require actually infinite power, God will sooner create a new spiritual being capable of producing that result than produce it Himself.” (Abbot Anscar Vonier, The Human Soul)

            > “God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of
            power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1884)

            > “For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 306)

          • Geena Safire

            Humans are co-creators. This is apparently a big (generous) thing for God to have done. Makes humans important. Check. Next?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think the next thing, before getting into evil, is the concept of original justice. Original sin gets talked about a lot without taking into consideration the situation which came before it.

            In the original order of creation, all would have worked harmoniously in man’s experience, for all human actions would have been consistent with God’s justice. While remaining obedient to God, man would possess freedom to choose from among various goods, but because of the providential harmony that would have characterized the created order, any legitimate choice would be consistent with the choices and desires of all other human persons. Everything and everyone would have been in a unified providential relationship for the sake of
            the good of all. Each would always have what is proper, and the human experience would be one of happiness and wholeness. In the order of original justice, through perfect correspondence with the will of the creator, human beings would have been immune to all suffering and death.

            [From the Catechism:]

            > “The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony
            with himself and with the creation around him, in a state that would be surpassed only by the glory of the new creation in Christ.

            "The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”. This grace of original holiness was ‘to share in . . . divine life’.

            "By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die. The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first
            couple and all creation, comprised the state called ‘original
            justice’”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 374-376)

            I think this does describe the situation that should obtain if God exists and he is really good. Even though this is not our condition, I don't think anyone would find the condition of original justice surprising or unnatural, except that it would seem too good to be true.

          • Geena Safire

            In the original order of creation, heaven is other people. (With apologies to Sartre.) Check.

            The brains of men (presumably including women) (just Adam (and Eve) at this point) were altered as part of ensoulment such that they still possessed the freedom to choose except no choices or desires would even come to mind that were inconsistent with the choices and desires of all other human persons. Check.

            But the ability to desire to disobey God must exist and be able to be chosen, and God must have willingly allowed this. Right?

            But the Catholic Church also accepts evolution (except for the soul, and maybe consciousness and reason). Right?

            -------------

            In order to square with the actual evolutionary earth from which Adam and Eve emerged: Adam (and presumably Eve) were apparently conceived (and ensouled) in a “state of holiness and justice” and were immortal and free of disease and grew up in complete harmony with all their fellow hominins and non-human animals who weren't (and weren't) in their natural state and weren't and weren't and didn't. Right?

            Or perhaps, after their birth, God transported them to the Garden of Eden, with no deadly storms or drought, where they were raised, completely vegan (only from plants that produced food that could be eaten without killing the plant, like fruit trees), perhaps by angels, and grew up with a set of immortal and completely non-carnivorous animals, and immortal, non-harmful-to-animals plants, fungi, archaea, bacteria, and viruses. Right?

            If Adam and Eve had not sinned, all the other life on earth outside the Garden would die off. Or at least all the hominins would go extinct, and all other species would, in subsequent generations, also be transformed to be immortal and vegan and non-violent. (Some, like sharks, crocodiles, eagles, snakes would have to be changed drastically, or prey-like, high-protein plant forms would need to be added everywhere.) Right?

            Plus global climate change so no deadly weather ever and so most everywhere was not deadly, or all brains and nervous systems would be changed so that entering inhospitable deserts or snowy heights would be inconceivable. Similar changes to the brains of freshwater and saltwater animals. Right?

            Plus no big earthquakes, volcanoes, wildfires or asteroids. And all life forms that depend on floods or wildfires or on habitats in which vegetarianism is incompatible would also die out. Right?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            GS
            In the original order of creation, heaven is other people.

            KA
            Not heaven but paradise. Original justice for human beings is to be in friendship with God, themselves, other persons, and the natural world.

            GS
            The brains of man . . . were altered as part of ensoulment.

            KA
            Ensoulment made them human animals.

            GS
            No choices or desires would even come to mind that were inconsistent with the choices and desires of all other human persons.

            KA
            Yes. They would only choose both means and ends that were good. [Our condition now is often to choose bad ends
            and/or bad means to good ends.]

            GS
            But the ability to desire to disobey God must exist and be able to be chosen, and God must have willingly allowed this.

            KA
            I would not put it as a “desire to disobey God” but rather the desire to chose a real or apparent good apart from God. Jacques Maritain in “St. Thomas and the Problem of Evil” explains that in every human impulse to act, the intellect ought to consult right reason, but there is always the potential to simply act without consulting reason or to ignore reason. This is because no human being possesses in himself the rule of right conduct.

            St. Thomas uses the humble example of a carpenter cutting. He says if the carpenter’s hand had the rule of straightness, he would always cut straight. But he doesn’t, so he needs a literal ruler. So, whenever we have a desire, we can’t automatically know the right thing to do. We have to consult reality if we know whether we should obey that desire. We can fail to do by omission or we can refuse to do so.

            So, in that context, the capacity to disobey God by not consulting reason literally doesn't "exist." It is a lacuna in a human person's nature by nature of being a creature.

            Even in our current condition, no living person has rejected God absolutely.

            In refusing to trust God, no living person has
            yet truly turned from God as such, but only from something lower than God that has been mistakenly put in his place. Through mortal sin, a person can choose a path such that it can truly be said that they have chosen something incompatible with love, and that if the sin is not eventually repented, then hell is the only possible outcome. However, even in this state, none have yet truly rejected God, but only a mistaken image of him or the suffering that God’s call to love apparently requires of them. There has not yet been a seeing of the truth in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of receiving new information. Consequently, in some measure, there is a part of every person that has never chosen evil and continues to seek God innocently.

            GS
            But the Catholic Church also accepts evolution (except for the soul, and maybe consciousness and reason). Right?

            KA
            Right. But higher animals have a certain level of consciousness and even a kind of reason, too.

            (More responses in the next comment. I've got to rake leaves.)

          • Geena Safire

            Cool! I look forward to more. I will try to restrain myself from replying in the interim. I have some onions to chop and potatoes to peel myself. And celery. And... I had better go now.

            Enjoy the leaves, to the extent possible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Another "lego" is accounting for the suffering and death that preceded the appearance of man in the world.

            In the world we see both tremendous beauty and artistry combined with a horrendous cruelty and disregard for life. The order of the animal kingdom follows the pattern of the strong victimizing the helpless, and (even though it involves non-personal creatures) it is difficult to reconcile this with the intentions of a good God.

            This is what Thomas Aquinas called metaphysical evil, which we discussed earlier. I think he did not see a problem in that finite creatures are imperfect, that they can lose their good, and that basically everything eats or is eaten by everything else.

            In the following quote, the term "divine chastity" needs to be explained. It refers to the principle that when God gives power, importance, authority, and work to created persons, he really gives it.

            In accord with the delegation of power given in divine chastity, authority concerning the unfolding of the material order was given to the angels. With power over the material world, the fall of the rebel angels would necessarily register in the material order in serious ways.

            God’s will is to create life, but the will of the rebel angels is to countermand this at every opportunity. Hence, there is an interplay between life (which is facilitated in obedience to God by the good angels) and death (through the work of the evil one and his allies).

            Ultimately this discord (through the mechanism of survival of the fittest life forms) was directed providentially (through the guidance of God under the co-operation of the good angels) towards the creation of more advanced life, and ultimately the body of man emerged despite the best efforts of the evil angels to destroy life absolutely through mishap and omission.

            Possibly, as the union of matter and spirit, it was man’s role to redeem the material world from the effects of the angelic fall. Though the material order was good in itself, it seems that man (through the use of preternatural gifts) was originally commissioned to subdue and reorder the world in a way that would cause it to reflect the glory of God more perfectly.

            > “Notice also that the world is out of joint before man arrived in it. Somewhere in God’s universe there is a
            crack, a fissure. Something has gone wrong, and it has gone wrong because someone did not use freedom rightly. Someone used freedom in the sense of ‘the right to do whatever you please’. Look back over the evolution of the universe. See all of the prehistoric animals that have
            come into being and passed away. Everywhere in the unfolding of the cosmos there have been biological sprouts that came to dead ends. Everywhere, there are blind alleys.

            But you ask, “Why should the sin of the angels affect the universe?” Well, one reason might be that lower
            creation was put under the supervision of some of the angels. And when they rebelled against God, the effects of it in some way registered in the material universe. Nature became dislocated. Look at a complicated machine: Disturb one of the big wheels, break a cog, and you will also disturb all of the little wheels. Throw a rock into a pond, it will affect, in some way, through ripples, even the most distant shore. It could be, therefore, the fall of the angels accounted for maybe the chaos that was on the earth as described in the Book of Genesis.

            There is every indication that something went wrong before man was made.” (Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Original Sin and Angels)

          • Geena Safire

            Umm, you've lost me here.

            418As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence").

            ...accounting for the suffering and death that preceded the appearance of man in the world...

            How could Adam and Eve be in paradise, where they disobey, if the bad angels had already messed things up?

            Further, the Bible is pretty explicit about suffering and death coming into the world through Adam and Eve, as is the catechism.

            Also, since Adam and Eve did not (prior to eating) have knowledge of good and evil, which is required in order to sin, how could they have sinned? It would have been like a three-year-old today disobeying -- before a certain age now, one cannot sin.

            Plus, are you serious? Humans are going to be like agents from S.H.I.E.L.D. and join forces with Thor and the good angels to fight (metaphorically or symbolically or physically or cosmically or...) Loki and the bad angels? Now somebody's just making stuff up.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            KA
            You quoted CCC 418. I certainly affirm that.

            This describes the *effects* of Adam and Eve’s Original Sin (an actual sin or morally evil act) on their progeny, which is what we call original sin (a condition): the loss of original holiness (friendship with God) and original justice (friendship with ourselves, with others, and with creation), loss of integrity (the rule of reason over passion), and immunity from suffering and death.

            GS
            How could Adam and Eve be in paradise if the bad angels had already messed things up?

            KA
            The same way you could be in paradise if you were in a beautiful place where everything was new and delightful to you, with good food to eat, with a husband who loved you and you loved, and where nothing could hurt you and there was nothing to be suspicious about. A place where you really were in communion rather than having that veil separating you from everyone and everything else.

            GS
            The Bible is pretty explicit about suffering and death coming into the world through Adam and Eve, as is the catechism.

            KA
            Yes, *human suffering and death*. In regard to the suffering and death of sentient animals consider what Paul wrote:

            “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not
            worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:18-23)

            I think the following, which I quoted above, is a reasonable
            interpretation of what St. Paul was saying:

            “Possibly, as the union of matter and spirit, it was man’s
            role to redeem the material world from the effects of the angelic fall. Though the material order was good in itself, it seems that man (through the use of preternatural gifts) was originally commissioned to subdue and reorder the world in a way that would cause it to reflect the glory of God more perfectly.”

            GS
            Also, since Adam and Eve did not (prior to eating) have knowledge of good and evil, which is required in order to sin, how could they have sinned? It would have been like a three-year-old today disobeying -- before a certain age now, one cannot sin.

            KA
            To sin you have to know something would be wrong if you did it. From the Genesis story, there is no reason to think Adam and Eve did not know that God was good, trustworthy, and in authority over them.

            If they really were as naïve and innocent as three-year-olds, it would be absurd for anyone to think they could have sinned.

            According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “tree
            of the knowledge of good and evil” symbolically evokes the
            insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.”(CCC 396)

            GS
            Humans are going to be like agents from S.H.I.E.L.D. and join forces with Thor and the good angels to fight (metaphorically or symbolically or physically or cosmically or...) Loki and the bad angels?

            KA
            The quote above speculated that part of the mission of
            human beings would be to “redeem the material world from the effects of the angelic fall.” That would be pretty cool if we could pull it off, and to some extent we are doing this, by humanizing the earth.

            As far as actually battling “gods,” Paul wrote, “For we are
            not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,

            I have to ask... Why do you believe ANY of this is true?

            I hope you understand that I mean this respectfully and that I'd like you to give me an answer. Don't punt me off to a web site or to an encyclical. I've spent a lot of time following those links and they haven't led anywhere so far.

            Why do YOU believe it's true?

            Thanks.

            Susan

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan, I believe the Catholic faith is true because I find it to be reasonable and desirable. Desirable first, because otherwise I probably wouldn't have been attracted to it, and then reasonable second. My experience in being a Catholic has only made its reasonableness and desirability increase.

            At the risk of going on too long, I want things like the following to come true:

            The desert and the parched land will exult;
            the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
            They will bloom with abundant flowers,
            and rejoice with joyful song.
            The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
            the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
            they will see the glory of the LORD,
            the splendor of our God.

            Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
            make firm the knees that are weak,
            say to those whose hearts are frightened:
            Be strong, fear not!
            Here is your God, he comes with vindication;
            with divine recompense he comes to save you.

            Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
            the ears of the deaf be cleared;
            then will the lame leap like a stag,
            then the tongue of the mute will sing.

            Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
            and enter Zion singing,
            crowned with everlasting joy;
            they will meet with joy and gladness,
            sorrow and mourning will flee.

            Is 35:1-6a, 10

            I much prefer that vision to this kind (as beautifully as it is put):

            Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
            In a field I looked into going past,
            And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
            But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

            The woods around it have it - it is theirs.
            All animals are smothered in their lairs.
            I am too absent-spirited to count;
            The loneliness includes me unawares.

            And lonely as it is, that loneliness
            Will be more lonely ere it will be less -
            A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
            WIth no expression, nothing to express.

            They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
            Between stars - on stars where no human race is.
            I have it in me so much nearer home
            To scare myself with my own desert places.

            Robert Frost's "Desert Places"

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,

            I'm confused.

            Desiring something has nothing to do with whether or not it's true.

            So, why do you believe it's true?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I said desirable and reasonable.

            Putting aside the act of faith as a gift of grace and just looking at my part, I *believe* it is true because I *think* it is true. I have found it to be a completely coherent vision of reality. It can encompass the goodness, truth, and beauty found everywhere else. It constantly generates great things: hospitals, orphanages, universities, science, Western music, sacred art and architecture, and so on. It makes people better. It is also self-renewing. All this due to the most attractive person in human history, Jesus Christ.

            As far as all the ugly things that could be brought up, that is explained by the wheat and the tares (Matt 13):

            24 Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' 28 He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants * said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29 But he said, 'No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

          • Susan

            I said desirable and reasonable.

            In that order. And you posted a contrast of poems that explained why you desired it, with no attempt to explain why you find it reasonable.

            I *believe* it is true because I *think* it is true.

            Then, you should show your work. So far, it seems like you "think" it's true because you "believe" it's true. That might not be the case at all but from your comments, it appears that way.

            I have found it to be a completely coherent vision of reality.

            How so? What do you mean when you say reality?

            < It can encompass the goodness, truth, and beauty found everywhere else.

            What is "goodness"? What is "truth"? What is "beauty"? I'm serious. What do you mean that each one of them is found everywhere else? What do you mean by everywhere?

            It constantly generates great things: hospitals, orphanages, universities, science, Western music, sacred art and architecture...

            Constantly?

            Sorry, Kevin. Hostpitals, orphanages, universities, science, music, art and architecture don't require Yahweh. That should be obvious. They are not evidence of Yahweh's existence.

            It makes people better.

            How so? What do you mean by better? Even if it were true, it doesn't get you Yahweh.

            It is also self-renewing.

            Whatever this means, you'd have to explain how it gets you Yahweh.

            All this due to the most attractive person in human history, Jesus Christ.

            What do you mean? And how does that get you Yahweh?

            As far as all the ugly things that could be brought up, that is explained by the wheat and the tares (Matt 13)

            How does this parable explain all the ugly things that could be brought up? There are a LOT of ugly things that can be brought up.

            I asked you why you believe it's TRUE.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I believe that what the Catholic Church says about reality is true.

            Part of what the Catholic Church says about reality pertains to God. So I believe what the Catholic Church says about God because I trust what the Catholic Church says in total.

            I trust what the Catholic Church says in total because of "converging and convincing" arguments of many kinds that allow me to conclude that what the Church proposes is reasonable. The number and kinds of reasonable arguments are sufficient to allow me to make an act of faith in the whole vision of reality which the Church proposes for my belief.

            So one argument for why I believe what the Church says is true is that living the Catholic faith makes people better. This is my own personal experience, it is what I have observed in people around me, and it is a conclusion I can draw from studying history.

            In my personal experience, I have found the Church's vision of how I should treat other people is better than the one that naturally developed in me. By trying to conform how I actually treat other people to the Church's vision, I think I have become a better persons because my way of treating other people is better. I like it when other people treat me in this way as well. I see countless other people having been formed in this way in history and I think they are the best people.

            Part of the strength of this argument is that there is nothing mysterious about this vision of how we should treat one another. Any atheist or agnostic or a person in any religion could easily agree with it. It is basically to be good to others even if it costs you something.

          • Susan

            I believe that what the Catholic Church says about reality is true.

            Specifically, which claims? And why? Please don't talk about what makes you feel good. We're talking about truth claims here.

            Part of what the Catholic Church says about reality pertains to God.

            Pertains to Yahweh. I'm not saying that to be intentionally offensive. You are speaking of one specific deity among tens of thousands in the history of human belief in supernatural agency. I will not call Yahweh "God" as that concedes something that Yahweh hasn't earned.

            No one here has established that gods are real, let alone that Yahweh is the only "god" in the running. We are here to "reason together" and I have always tried to be respectful of the humans engaged in the dialogue but I don't think it's "reasonable" to ask that I treat your ideas as though they are sacred. It works against reason.

            So I believe what the Catholic Church says about God because I trust what the Catholic Church says in total.

            Why?

            I trust what the Catholic Church says in total because of "converging and convincing" arguments of many kinds that allow me to conclude that what the Church proposes is reasonable.

            What do you mean by reasonable? Does this reason lead to a better approximation of what is true? How does it do that? Step by step? What is its best argument for its ultimate moral and empirical claims? What proposals do you accept and on what grounds?

            The number and kinds of reasonable arguments are sufficient to allow me to make an act of faith in the whole vision of reality which the Church proposes for my belief.

            What do you mean? What number? What kinds? What do you mean by faith?

            In my personal experience, I have found the Church's vision of how I should treat other people is better than the one that naturally developed in me.

            Not in me. If it's made you better, I'm glad. But that doesn't mean it's true. So, why do you believe their ultimate claims are true?

            Part of the strength of this argument is that there is nothing mysterious about this vision of how we should treat one another.

            It is basically to be good to others even if it costs you something.

            Oh, you mean the Golden Rule.

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

            This is a principle that was not invented by your church nor has it been perfected by it. It was around long before your church or even the stories of Jesus. It has mammalian roots.

            It has nothing to do with your choice of deity, or any deity at all creating reality.

            I'm asking what your evidence is that an agent is responsible for reality, let alone one possesed with conflicting omni-properties, let alone your particular deity.

            That's what I meant by, "Why do you believe any of this is true?"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > Specifically, which claims?

            All of them. For example, all the claims in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

            > And why?

            The CCC is almost 700 pages long. If you want to know why I accept each claim, you'll have to wait for a 2100 page book from me.

            If you want to seriously engage with the question of how can the existence of God be known by reason and then how can you get from that limited notion of God to the God of Christian revelation, read Robert Spitzer's book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of contemporary physics and philosophy. It takes him 300 pages.

          • Susan

            The CCC is almost 700 pages long. If you want to know why I accept each claim, you'll have to wait for a 2100 page book from me.

            Try starting with an explanation of your belief that Yahweh exists. How did you reason your way to that?

            read Robert Spitzer's book New Proofs for the Existence of God:

            Kevin, you've sent me to Spitzer at least twice already and I've explained exactly why the explanations you linked me to were not good ones. Did you follow up on the friendly link I gave you on the subject of universes and beginnings? Spitzer might make people FEEL like they are using reason as well as faith but that's not the same as USING reason. The discussion abruptly ended a while back when I asked you to look at cosmology from the world of physics, not cherry picked from apologists.

            Please stop linking me to Spitzer unless you can show me something he says that is not just recycled apologetics making mincemeat out of physics. .

            I am not being snarky here. Spitzer is insulting.

            Please explain in your own words how reason leads to the existence of Yahweh.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is how it looks from my perspective. You ask for evidence and I give a source which you quickly dismiss it as inane, irrational, recycled God in the gaps. But you are cool with me spending hours following your "friendly" links.

            If Spitzer is insulting, I don't know how I can add anything along the line of the existence of God through reason that would mean anything to you.

          • Susan

            Here is how it looks from my perspective. You ask for evidence which you quickly dismiss it as inane, irrational recycled God in the gaps.

            Then, you haven't been paying attention. This is at least the third time you have punted me off to Spitzer when I've asked you to explain your reasoning. On at least two occasions previously, I have painstakingly explained to you that Spitzer is using recycled apologetics, which cherry picks from some cosmological models, ignoring the others and that he uses where all models break down to equivocate about "beginnings" and "universes" and that he makes an absurd philosophical leap from that (and not in any original way) to claim metaphysical nothingness beyond the boundaries in order to revert to "ex nihil nihilo fit" which indicates either an ignorance of the subject or dishonesty.

            Either way, it is not evidence for your choice of deity. Not evidence for any choice of deity. There is no reason to stick an immaterial mind in the shadows beyond the reach of our flashlights. No legitmate philosophical reason to do so.

            So, no. I did not "quickly dismiss" anything. I addressed it and you ignored that fact and sent me back to Spitzer. At this point, it's reasonable to say that you have no evidence.

            But you are cool with me spending hours following your "friendly" links.

            You gave me an argument based on physics that you accept because you have learned your cosmology from apologists. I said that if you are really interested in the subject, you should learn what people in the field are really discussing. The links were VERY friendly. I sent you to closertotruth.com with links to "Did the universe have a beginning?"

            It begins with two theists, one of whom is not up on the subject and one of who is an astrophysicist who didn't seem to buy the sort of argument Spitzer is selling. The rest were just experts in the subject. All laid out in interview form that gives the layperson a sense of what's actually being discussed. This is important if you care about evidence.

            Do you remember when I asked you why a benevolent agent would create a planet where for hundreds of millions of years sentient beings suffered with no hope of redemption JUST so a few of our kind could live in bliss for eternity and you sent me to read an encyclical which did not address that at all but was full of presuppositional assertions with no evidence for any of it?

            I responded and you didn't believe I read an entire encyclical. I read it AGAIN to make sure I hadn't missed anything. You still didn't believe me. I read it a third time and found nothing that answered my question, just a pope blathering on about human "suffering".

            Finally, you admitted that you didn't have an answer. I'm not sure YOU even read the encyclical because it was completely irrelevant to the very simple question that I asked. You came back some months later with an explanation that demons were responsible.

            So, PLEASE don't feed me cosmology and when asked to learn something about the subject, complain about having to spend "hours" familiarizing yourself with some of the real conversation on the subject.

            What exactly do you mean by "reason" anyway?

            If Spitzer is insulting, I don't know how I can add anything along the line of the existence of God through reason that would mean anything to you.

            If Spitzer's all you got... then here is how it looks from my perspective. You would rather link to someone who sounds like they've reasoned on a very complicated subject in order to shore up what you desire to be true than actually reason for yourself.

            I'm not saying that this is the case. But I have no reason so far to think that it's anything but. I asked for evidence and reason and you gave me Spitzer.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are right about the website being friendly. I listened to the first half of the first one and will continue.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is what I wrote yesterday in a meeting when I was supposed to be listening to the speaker:

            The universe exists. This seems to me to be a miracle because I cannot see why it could or should exist. It makes more sense to me that it came from an intelligent being I cannot account for (Kevin's conception of God) than a blind and stupid matrix I cannot account for.

            I cannot see how intelligence can arise from utter stupidity but I can see how intelligence inside the universe (I'll include all intelligence) can arise from an intelligence outside it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't understand why you think Spitzer's cosmological argument (it is one of I think five in total) is so contemptible. It takes into account the BVG theorem which argues that every expanding universe has a beginning.

            I didn't see anything in the first two videos you directed me to that introduced any science that Spitzer does not take into account in his book.

          • Susan

            I don't understand why you think Spitzer's cosmological argument (it is one of I think five in total) is so contemptible.

            I didn't say it was contemptible. I said it was either ignorant (in the literal sense of the word), dishonest, or a combination of both. I also said it wasn't new.

            It takes into account the BVG theorem which argues that every expanding universe has a beginning.

            And in the same argument, he (without showing his work) claimed that Occam's Razor should eliminate the multi-verse...In the same argument! Occam's razor does not eliminate inevitable consequences. It eliminates needless and unjustified addtions to an explanation. How do you escape a multiverse in a BGV model?

            I didn't see anything in the first two videos you directed me to that introduced any science that Spitzer does not take into account in his book.

            If you are following the link I gave you, you have watched one theist who sidesteps the evidence, one astrophysicist who doesn't take Spitzers's argument seriously and you haven't even begun to listen to the meat and potatoes part. If you are interested in the subject, you should watch it for its own sake.

            Define "beginning" and "universe" and "immaterial" and "mind".

            Forget that.

            Define "beginning" and show me one theory in the field that even suggests, let alone asserts metaphysical "nothingness". Spitzer wandered straight off the path here, as apolgists are wont to do. Metaphyiscal nothingness? We're nowhere near it.

            So, you can't say it is so. (Neither can Spitzer.) and insist that your choice of deity lurks there, without explanation or evidence.

            Got evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Define "beginning" and show me one theory in the field
            that even suggests, let alone asserts metaphysical "nothingness".

            No scientific theory can assert "metaphysical nothingness" because the concept is outside physical science. A philosopher can assert metaphysical nothingness, which is what Spitzer does. The nothing which scientists talk about is not nothing. For example, when physicists talk about subatomic particles popping into existence out of nothing and then getting annihilated, all this is happening in an already existing environment pregnant with possibilities.

            One of the astrophysicists (I think it was) in the videos, when asked how there could be the laws of physics before any universes appeared, just shrugged his shoulders.

            Also, I've asked this before but no one has answered. What does "Got evidence" mean? It seems to me it means "have you measured something measurable?" It seems to me to be a way of dismissing anything which does not come under the physical sciences.

          • Susan

            No scientific theory can assert "metaphysical nothingness" because the concept is outside physical science.

            Yet, Spitzer offers "evidence" from cosmology as a "proof" of your choice of deity. You offered this argument up as evidence. So, he gets to have his evidence and be "beyond" it too and so do you, by proxy. Please understand that I'm not trying to be snarky but from where I stand, it smells like snake oil to me. We're supposed to be reasoning together.

            A philosopher can assert metaphysical nothingness, which is what Spitzer does.

            Without justification, with misrepresentation and with equivocation. I am not an expert in philosophy but those are junior level errors. I'm not sure what you mean by metaphysical but if you mean it's a free pass that gets to circumvent physics, then I'm not sure we have the same understanding of the word. You're aware of the equivocation fallacy, aren't you?

            The nothing which scientists talk about is not nothing.

            Exactly. Spitzer pretends it is without justification.

            For example, when physicists talk about subatomic particles popping into existence out of nothing and then getting annihilated, all this is happening in an already existing environment pregnant with possibilities.

            Yep. And Spitzer points to the work of these physicists and asserts "literal" nothingness without justification and using only equivocation.

            One of the astrophysicists (I think it was) in the videos, when asked how there could be the laws of physics before any universes appeared, just shrugged his shoulders.

            I'm trying to remember. I think it might be Vilenkin. You would know that if you learned your physics from somewhere other than apologists. Your comment about subatomic particles, while true, is cherry-picked by apologists in cosmological arguments. They say the evidence points to "literal" nothingness but when confronted with the full challenges of physics, they say that their argument is beyond physics. Without justification. He shrugged his shoulders because he knows enough to know that he doesn't know. Nobody knows. So certainly, neither you nor I knows. But that doesn't mean you get to make stuff up. That doesn't mean you get to misrepresent the questions and the data.

            Also, I've asked this before but no one has answered. What does "Got evidence" mean?

            It means please demonstrate your claim(s). Be specific. Define each one specifically. Demonstrate that it connects to reality. Demonstrate that your epistemology can pass the "Why People Believe Weird Things" test": http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_shermer_on_believing_strange_things.html

            Or the Dragon In My Garage test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJRy3Kl_z5E&hd=1 Claims require evidence. You can't make ultimate claims (Adam and Eve, sin, demons, angels, heaven, etc.) without supporting your initial claim ("A deity exists and it's Kevin's choice of deity".)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Try starting with an explanation of your belief that Yahweh exists. How did you reason your way to that?

            Change the word to God out of respect for Jews and Christians and I'll answer.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I don't know, Kevin. God and Yahweh are two separate terms, and hearing how someone has reasoned their way to "God" doesn't necessarily explain how they reasoned their way to "Yahweh."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rob, Everyone who comments here understands that by God we mean the being revealed in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Out of reverence for the proper name of God, Jews and Christians don't use the "tetragramaton" directly, but substitute a word (translated into English) like LORD.

            Susan, however, insists on using a term Jews and Christians would ask her not to. It is akin to a white person in America insisting on calling black or African-American persons "negroes" or "colored." I think it is a way of injecting a little disrespect into every argument.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            My apologies, Kevin, I misunderstood.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No need, Rob. I think you are right to point out that a bridge has to be built between what can be said about God purely by reason and what Jews and Christians claim that their respective religions say about God.

          • severalspeciesof

            Hi Kevin... I'm slowly reacquainting myself with SN, and I know this was posted nearly 2 weeks ago, so no worries if you care not to answer, as I understand this is probably old ground for you. But here goes... I have to nit-pick with this statement of yours:

            To sin you have to know something would be wrong if you did it. From the
            Genesis story, there is no reason to think Adam and Eve did not know
            that God was good, trustworthy, and in authority over them.

            In order to truly understand good there has to be knowledge of bad. From where did this Adam and Eve get knowledge of bad?

            In order to understand 'trustworthy', one needs to understand 'untrustworthy'. From where did this Adam and Eve get knowledge of 'untrustworthy'?

            The same goes for 'in authority over them'

            In this regard (my 3 points above) there is every reason (and it is very reasonable) to think that this Adam and Eve had NO definitive knowledge of good, trustworthiness and authority. It is not noted at all that god even tried to explain any of these concepts to Adam and Eve BEFORE they ate from the tree of knowledge. Indeed, why would a tree of knowledge even be necessary in a place called 'Paradise'?

            Glen

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Glen, Welcome back! I'm happy to try to respond.

            I think the way to read Genesis is as a kind of true myth which teaches religious truths.

            I don't see why it is necessary to experience evil in order to have an adequate grasp of good, or distrust to be able to trust, or autonomy to accept authority.

            In the story, since Adam and Eve knew they were created by God and he was providing for them everything they could want or need, I think with their pristine intellects they could grasp that it would be wrong to disobey God.

            A good child being raised by good parents grasps that his parents are good, trustworthy, and ought to be obeyed. I think this provides an insight to Adam and Eve before their fall.

            I could also try to explain how an unfallen human being could make such a foolish and tragic choice, if you want to hear it.

          • severalspeciesof

            Thanks for your response...

            In the story, since Adam and Eve knew they were created by God and he was providing for them everything they could want or need...

            This is where I think your argument (and others with the same type of reasoning) fails (It just exchanges the words that I address in my argument with the qualifiers, 'want' and 'need').

            How could Adam and Eve truly understand that they had everything they could want or need since the lack of want or need hadn't happened yet? Remember that you can understand lack of want and need only because you have experienced it. It only takes one time for a bad experience to occur for it to have a definition to you, without that experience it is only a concept that truly cannot be grasped. In order to explain and truly understand the experience of good to Adam and Eve, an experience of bad must have existed.

            Another way to try to see where I'm coming from is to try and define good without a reference to bad, either implicitly or explicitly... or try to explain the experience of pain to a person who cannot experience pain because of the lack of pain receptors (and people with that condition actually exist).

            I could also try to explain how an unfallen human being could make such a foolish and tragic choice, if you want to hear it.

            Feel free to do so. Isn't that the purpose of this site? ;-)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I will concede that Adam and Eve didn't not grasp the consequences of their disobedience. Also, that they did not know the experience of sin. In order for that to have been the case, they would have to have known the experience of sin before they actually sinned!

            I think it would take a better philosopher than me to explain it, but evil is to be understood as a privation or negation of the good, whereas good is not understood as the privation or negation of evil.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is my reading of Jacques Maritain's reading of Thomas Aquinas.

            It begins with a humble observation. "If the rule of straightness were in the carpenter's hand, he would always cut straight." But it is not, and so he needs a literal ruler or straightedge to cut straight.

            Whether it is a practical matter like cutting wood or a moral matter, the rule of right action is not found in the person himself but in right reason. A human being always has to look at that standard outside of himself to know the right thing to do.

            So, whenever we have an impulse to act for some real or apparent good, there is that little lacuna between the desire and the decision. We should, but do not have to, consult that rule of right reason. We can either not think to think, or refuse to think, and just act without reason.

            So, Adam could have the rule of right reason available to him--in his case, to obey God. But he did not obey that rule. I would guess that it was a willful decision not to consult right reason, which would have told him to think about what he was doing, to talk to Eve about it, to talk to the Serpent about it, or especially to wait and talk to God about it.

          • severalspeciesof

            It begins with a humble observation. "If the rule of straightness were in the carpenter's hand, he would always cut straight."

            (Until I can get a handle of what exactly this means, I cannot even speak to the rest of your thought, but I'll try). It's not a humble observation, at least to me. What is this 'rule of straightness'? If what I think it means is correct, 'the rule of straightness' doesn't need to be in his/her hand, only in his/her head, thereby allowing the carpenter to notice that he/she isn't cutting straight, and therefor need a straightedge. Besides I've witnessed many carpenters cut straight without the use of a straight edge.

            A human being always has to look at that standard outside of himself to know the right thing to do.

            I will agree if by the 'standard outside of himself' you mean that person looks to his/her surroundings. In other words to humanity itself. Adam and Eve only had each other to look outside to in this regard.

            So, whenever we have an impulse to act for some real or apparent good,
            there is that little lacuna between the desire and the decision. We
            should, but do not have to, consult that rule of right reason.

            In general, I can agree with this, but your next sentence: "We can either not think to think, or refuse to think, and just act without reason." is a bit off. I'm not sure we can ever 'refuse to think'. It may seem that way sometimes. My mornings feel like that ;-)

            I need to put off replying to your last paragraph as I'm being called away, but will briefly say this: That's a lot of assertion going on in there it seems...

            Glen

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry, but yesterday I was suffering from brain fatigue, including when I wrote this.

            I think Aquinas was saying that every person except God has to look at a standard he or she is not the author of to guide his or her action. That standard is "right reason," meaning seeing how thing really are.

            When I was a kid I was always doing things that got me into trouble. My father would demand to know why I did that. I'd say, "I don't know." I actually didn't. I had the impulse, like throw the rock, and then did. And the window broke. I didn't think before I acted. That is the involuntary lacuna.

            If you are old enough to remember the song that Debbie Boone sang called "You Light Up My Life," the most famous line is "It can't be wrong if it feels so right." That is an example of someone refusing to think. That's the voluntary lacuna.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you would like to continue this dialogue on God and innocent suffering, I'm open to it.

          • Geena Safire

            I would like to continue also. But I've been a bit busy and have not had the time to give this adequate thought.

            Susan's posts above echo some of my sentiments. I'm not interested in believing something just because it is reasonable. I'm especially disinterested in believing something just because it is desirable. I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible. Just because a fictional universe is completely coherent from the inside does not mean it actually exists.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Then the three of us are in 100% agreement on this principle.

            But the very best thing would have the highest level of rationality, the highest level of desirability, and be actually real.

          • Geena Safire

            Rationality has nothing to do with truth, necessarily. Take quantum mechanics, for example. And desirability, in particular, has nothing to do with truth. Neither of those increases the likelihood of something being true. Objective, independent evidence is the essential and primary standard for determining truth. So although the other two are of interest, evidence of truth is essential before belief.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think we are still in agreement.

            By rationality, I meant our reason's ability to seek and find truth. We don't determine truth with our emotions (not "I feel it is true") or passions (not "I desire it to to be true") or will (not "I say it is true").

            Maybe you can clarify this term "evidence" a bit, because it is not clear to me what the demand for "evidence" that I hear a lot from atheists and agnostics entails. The reason I ask such a seemingly stupid question is that some truths are self-evident like the principle of non-contradiction. I don't think there is any empirical evidence for it: You just see it. it is self-evident.

          • Susan

            We don't determine truth with our emotions (not "I feel it is true") or passions (not "I desire it to to be true") or will (not "I say it is true").

            How do you determine truth?

            Maybe you can clarify this term "evidence" a bit, because it is not clear to me what the demand for "evidence" that I hear a lot from atheists and agnostics entails.

            You are part of an organization that makes various ultimate claims about reality. So, the burden is on you to demonstrate that your claims are connected to reality. That requires evidence. Claim by claim, it requires evidence.

            some truths are self-evident

            Yahweh has not been established as a "truth". He is not self-evident.

            Hence the request for evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So we are not talking at cross purposes, I asked for an explanation of what you'll admit as "evidence."

            So, are you saying by evidence you mean "showing that a claim about reality is connected to reality"?

            By self-evident I mean something like the principle of non-contradiction.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In the interest of dialogue, you should know that Jews and Catholics do not refer to God as Yahweh out of respect for the proper name of God. In dialogue here the word God is sufficient. Referring to God as either "Yahweh" or "a god" is offensive.

          • hillclimber

            Geena, you state that rationality has nothing to do with truth, *necessarily*. I agree with this. I am faithful to my belief that reason leads me to truth, but there is nothing logically necessary about this belief. You then go on to state that independent evidence is needed to establish truth. But don't you need your rationality to interpret the data? The data themselves tell you nothing, until you apply your rationality to them (in my view - maybe you disagree). Moreover, if we are talking about scientific replication, don't you need to trust your intuition about what constitutes a valid "replicate"? As the saying goes, "you can't step in the same river twice", i.e. there are no true replicates. You make some judgement about what is sufficiently similar, and you have to be faithful to your belief in your judgement or else you can't begin to talk about replication.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I thought there will be a lot to say about the second half of your comment, but I was surprised.

            I would say the universe was never what it ought to have been from the very beginning for reasons we have not yet come to.

            This means that life on earth was never what it ought to have been for the same reasons we have not yet gone into.

            The Catholic understanding is that the first chapters of Genesis are myths which teach important truths about God,
            man, and their relationship. Reconciling a literalistic reading of these myths with the theory of evolution would require trying to "reason" like a Creationist (which is something I have no interest in doing.)

          • Geena Safire

            ..would require trying to "reason" like a Creationist (which is something I have no interest in doing...

            Neither would I. However...

            ...the Catholic Church is ADAMant about there being a single real Adam and a single real Eve at some point in evolutionary time. Two real hominins, two individuals and not a group.

            These two were ensouled directly by God, presumably at the moment of conception. The church holds that all humans descend from this pair.

            So then Adam and Eve must have lived in a paradise so that they were able to sin despite having lived in paradise. So they could not have been around their fellow animal-souled hominins, nor regular lions or chimpanzees and their teeth.

            I was just trying to figure out how to reconcile what the Catholic Church teaches must be true with what the Catholic Church allows to be believed wrt evolution and with the Catholic Church's interpretation of Genesis.

            I would say the universe was never what it ought to have been from the very beginning for reasons we have not yet come to.

            Are you saying that God didn't created the universe the way he wanted it? Or that he couldn't?

            Are you saying that humans, who are responsible for all human suffering, are also responsible for everything that went wrong since the moment of creation 13.7 billion years ago?

          • Octavo

            If he's doing everything in his power to stop human (and animal) suffering, he's not even close to omnipotent. An omnipotent being would send angels to at least stop suffering the suffering that isn't the result of free will. Example: kid trips and falls on something sharp - angel of healing is dispatched to repair the injury. For an omnipotent being, this kind of thing is trifling.

            ~Jesse Webster

  • Lucy Yoni

    Occam's Razor is the simplest and most valuable tool for the philosopher and for everyone else as well.

    Why does it seem like there is no God?

    Because there is no God.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    If free will plus freely chosen good is a great enough good to make up for freely chosen evil, then Catholics should believe that in heaven there will still be free will, freely chosen good, and freely chosen evil. But Catholics say there is no evil in heaven. So there must not be any of that kind of free will in heaven. So it seems that Catholics who use the "free will" theodicy are either:

    1) saying there is no free will at all in heaven, and that everything there is just automata that look like people.

    2) saying there's another kind of free will in heaven that is compatible with there being no evil, and that God decided not to use that kind here on earth.

    3) being willfully inconsistent.

    • Randy Gritter

      But we do freely choose to be in heaven. It is like being married. We can freely choose to give ourselves in marriage. Forced marriage is just wrong. Yet once we are married we are not free to pretend we are not married. We bind ourselves. That is what love does. It chooses not just for now but forever. Yet if the choice is not free then it is not love. Then it is rape.

      • Brad

        What love is it that says you better choose heaven before you die because if not you don't get a second chance? Besides that, I think the point of free will existing in heaven is very interesting. If it does then it eliminates the argument the author makes about God valuing our choice to love him. It seems to me heaven is an example of an existence created by God that allows free will but also is devoid of evil. Why could this not have been the case for earth?

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

        So you're of the opinion that people in heaven have become automata lacking free will?

  • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

    [---
    You might call this "the Annihilation Solution."
    So why doesn't he[God]?
    ---]
    God already did annihilate evil for the sake of mankind in the story of Noah. And we have His promise prohibiting such judgment again by the same method.

    • Geena Safire

      God already did annihilate evil for the sake of mankind

      Putting aside the fact that such a flood didn't actually happen...

      In the flood story, God annihilated all of humanity except eight people and except one to seven pairs of every animal and all the plants. But even though Noah & family were (apparently) righteous, God didn't actually annihilate evil, since humans were back to evil and building the tower of Babel pretty soon thereafter.

      Also, God said he wouldn't flood the world again. He didn't say anything about asteroids or fire or any one of a number of possibilities.

      Plus, the whole point of the part in the article regarding annihilation was that, apparently, the only way God could have eliminated suffering was by not creating us in the first place. And to that I say, "Amen!" He should have left well enough alone.

      "Please notice the double standard that people like Dr. Craig use to exonerate God from all this evil. We’re told that God is loving and kind and just and intrinsically good.

      But when someone like myself points out the rather obvious and compelling evidence that God is cruel and unjust, because he visits suffering on innocent people of a scope and scale that would embarrass the most ambitious psychopath, we are told that God is mysterious. Who can understand God’s will?

      Yet this merely human understanding of God's will is precisely what believers use to establish his goodness in the first place. If something good happens to a Christian—he feels some bliss while praying, or he sees some positive change his life—we're told that God is good. But when children by the tens of thousands are torn from their parents’ arms and drowned, we are told God is mysterious." Sam Harris, from debate with William Lane Craig at University of Notre Dame

      • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

        Hi Geena!
        [---
        God didn't actually annihilate evil,
        ---]
        I was speaking of moral evil which was annihilated since Noah's family was righteous, but eventually even they fell into immorality. The other kinds of evil remained unabated, physical/metaphysical evil.

        [---
        He didn't say anything about asteroids or fire or any one of a number of possibilities.
        ---]
        That is true, and that is why i qualified my statement to the fact that his promise was according to a "method" of judgment.

        • Geena Safire

          ...annihilated for a short time...

          Call me old fashioned, but I'm more in favor of the traditional meaning of 'annihilate'. It's more like God put a temporary dent in the amount of moral evil on earth.

          ...that is why i qualified my statement...

          I actually did see that. But I wanted to emphasize the point. it's kind of like a wife batterer who promises never to hit her with his belt again. He may keep that promise, but were I her, it wouldn't reduce my anxiety on whit.

          Irenaeus: In case you might be interested in using the quotation format with the grey bar along the side, put this before the quote: <blockquote>   and put this after the quote: </blockquote>. But please don't feel any obligation! Your way is cool.

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            [---
            It's kind of like a wife batterer who promises never to hit her with his belt again.
            ---]

            To me, it is more like a general who defeats pol pot and sentences the whole regime to the death penalty. And the general tells the freed prisoners that they will never again have to witness the terrible power of his justice in their land.

          • Geena Safire

            Your analogy would be more apt if the 'liberating' general, in defeating Pol Pot and his regime, had also killed every Cambodian except the prisoners and, for good measure, all Laotians, Vietnamese, Burmese, Malaysians, Philipinos and Chinese.

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

    God allows suffering for the same reason God allows evil: because the alternative is God as eugenicist. No allowing the impure creatures who suffer or who have experienced suffering, no salvation for the less than pure and perfect. Instead, all that exists is utter perfection from the start. No improvement - only perfection.

    No one really wants a world without evil and without suffering. At least, no one wants a world that never had any.

    • FrHeythrop

      bbbbb

    • Jakeithus

      I really like this comment. I would go so far as saying that no mature, fully developed rational person is anti-suffering, in and of itself. What we as humans are against is suffering for no apparent reason.

      I think our perspective can limit the understanding we have of the purpose or end result that may be achieved by our suffering. Of course, this doesn't mean that someone who is suffering under horrific circumstances should simply be told to "get over it" because it has a good purpose in the end, as I think perseverance through suffering requires an incredible gift of grace and faith.

      • Ben Posin

        I think it's fair to say that we oppose unnecessary suffering--for example, painful surgery that can improve someone's life seems justified. But believers in an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being really have to tie themselves into knots and make up some pretty wild theories to explain why the suffering we see in this world is justified. I don't blame a civil war surgeon for not using much in the way of anaesthetic when removing a soldier's limb. I would be pretty upset at a modern hospital that elected to treat him similarly, particularly if improvements in medicine could prevent the loss of the limb in the first place. Given the state of the world, even limiting ourselves to medical conditions, how upset should I be with a purported triple-omni being?

        • David Nickol

          It is interesting to note that the Vatican (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) document Declaration on Euthanasia suggests it is a good thing to voluntarily forgo painkillers and intentionally suffer while dying:

          According to Christian teaching, however, suffering, especially suffering during the last moments of life, has a special place in God's saving plan; it is in fact a sharing in Christ's passion and a union with the redeeming sacrifice which He offered in obedience to the Father's will. Therefore, one must not be surprised if some Christians prefer to moderate their use of painkillers, in order to accept voluntarily at least a part of their sufferings and thus associate themselves in a conscious way with the sufferings of Christ crucified (cf. Mt. 27:34).

          Fortunately, it goes on to say this is not necessarily expected and should not be imposed:

          Nevertheless it would be imprudent to impose a heroic way of acting as a general rule. On the contrary, human and Christian prudence suggest for the majority of sick people the use of medicines capable of alleviating or suppressing pain, even though these may cause as a secondary effect semi-consciousness and reduced lucidity. As for those who are not in a state to express themselves, one can reasonably presume that they wish to take these painkillers, and have them administered according to the doctor's advice.

          In my own far-from-saintly opinion, deliberately taking on pain purely for the sake of suffering "religiously" is something I find quite strange, although I certainly understand why people with a short time to live might opt to suffer more pain for the sake of being lucid than suffer less pain and not be able to talk to loved ones and the like.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In Colossians, Paul says, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and
            in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the
            sake of his body, that is, the church" (1:24).

            When united with Christ's Passion, every human suffering becomes redemptive, so offering one's final sufferings up voluntarily for one's sake and the sake of others is how the world is redeemed. The suffering person is helping everything be made right.

            Of course this is insanity to one who does not believe in life after death.

        • Jakeithus

          Well, I'm not going to try and say how upset you should be at a triple-omni being. How each person responds to suffering, their own or others, is a very personal aspect.

          Personally, I'm not one to try and provide justification for all of the suffering we see. I'm certainly in no position to try and provide reasoning behind all instances of suffering, so I don't think believers should be twisting themselves into knots over it. However, just because there is no immediately apparent reason behind it, does not automatically mean there isn't one.

          Rather than always trying to tie themselves into knots, believers should love those who are suffering, to the point of often being willing to suffer with them, while sharing the hope we have that all things will be made right in the end.

    • Geena Safire

      I do.

  • Rationalist1

    "Thy Will be done, On Earth as it is in Heaven". Apparently God is not able to fulfill his part of the prayer.

  • Stew

    Applying Occham's Razor to this perplexing problem, the simple and obvious answer is that the Abrahamic God doesn't exist! - This completely and satisfactorily solves all the arguments above, which only arise from the false premise of this god's existence.
    QED.

  • Justin White

    I know Mr. Akin says he'll address more later, but this seems to me the "easy" kind of evil to "debunk". It's natural evil that gives believers the most pause, and I think C.S. Lewis gave the best response in "The Problem of Pain", in his chess example (or is it checkers?). There has to be structure to the natural order for our decisions within it to have meaning, he says, because if all evil was removed, such as the pain I receive from being hit in the head by a 2x4, then we'd never know if, say, our house was going to stand after using 2x4s to build it, since the nature of a piece of wood could change at any given second, based solely on the subjective pain it may or may not cause to another individual. Does this explain away cancer and such evils? Maybe not all that satisfactorily, at least as I've stated it here, but hopefully you'll go read Lewis' account and see that, I believe, he does solve for cancer and what-not.

  • Steven Carr

    'It's commonly thought that the reason he does so is that, if he didn't let people freely choose between good and evil then they would just be puppets--programmed robots.'

    Do Christians have free will about going to the toilet or not?

    Presumably they do, unless they suffer from incontinence.

    So this imaginary god could easily arrange us to choose to accept him of our own free will at a time of our choosing, just like this imaginary god has arranged things so that we can choose to go to the toilet of our own free will at a time of our choosing.not his choosing.

    Are people puppets because they have to urinate and defecate?

    No.

    So why would people be puppets if they had to choose to accept god?

    Because parroting 'people would be puppets' is the party line of Christians and they have no choice except to parrot the answers they are told by their books will work.

    Even though they don't.....