Friday, July 08, 2011

Theodicy Is an End to Theology

I suggest you invent a way to put a square peg in a round hole.

Before the advent of Darwin's evolutionary theory, and the scientific and cultural revolution it inspired, theology was the height of intellectual activity. To be a theologian was to be a noble philosopher, an intimate to God's word and mind, a communicator of the divine nature. More than anything, the theologian reconciled God to humanity.

Today, however, apologists and their followers must perform all sorts of intellectual and emotional gyrations to maintain the integrity of the good-God concept. If you want an all-powerful, all-good god to worship, then you're going to have to squint your eyes just so and contort your body in just the right way. Theologians have almost replaced lexicographers as the harmless drudges of our age, as fewer people take theologians or God very seriously. Unfortunately, the Abrahamic religions maintain a core of government-minded practitioners who would have us all change our infidel ways under threat of sword. Were it not for those who take theology and God too seriously, the theologians could do their work in peace and the rest of the world would move ahead unperturbed.

The real difference between the theologians and the zealots is that the former group are more conflicted in their woo. They see that in the real world, the divinities and the holy books don't live up to the hype. They need to fit a square God into a round reality. Hence, theology. But theology cannot be complete unless and until it formulates a real theodicy, an explanation for the existence of evil if God is all-loving and all-powerful. J.F. Mackie expressed the problem this way:
In its simplest form the problem is this: God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists. There seems to be some contradiction between these three propositions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false. But at the same time all three are essential parts of most theological positions: the theologian, it seems, at once must adhere and cannot consistently adhere to all three.
Uncommon Descent's resident apologist Barry Arrington sheepishly tries to lead the hope-and-faith crowd down the correct path for understanding why God makes (or allows) terrible things happen to earnest believers, casual adherents, and unbelievers alike. God is no moral monster, says Arrington. Neither is the divinity unaware of what will befall any individual.

What is the correct path, the true approach, according to Arrington?
Evil never accomplishes some great cosmic purpose. God hates it, and in no sense does he intend it so that he can use it to accomplish his purposes. God did not intend for Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. He did not intend for Potipher’s wife falsely to accuse him of rape. He hated the evil visited upon Joseph. It is true that God worked in Joseph’s life to help him overcome the circumstances into which he had been thrust by the evil acts of others. But most emphatically God did not “desire” those evil acts (or, far worse, specifically cause them to happen) to accomplish a greater good. He accomplished the good in spite of those acts, not because of them.
Of course! God only does the good stuff! People only do the bad stuff, and God only does the good stuff. Unfortunately, in 1955 Mackie disposed of Arrignton's proposed solution:
I should ask this: if God has made men such that in their free choices they sometimes prefer what is good and sometimes what is evil, why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good? If there is no logical impossibility in a man's freely choosing the good on one, or on several, occasions, there cannot be a logical impossibility in his freely choosing the good on every occasion. God was not, then, faced with a choice between making innocent automata and making beings who, in acting freely, would sometimes go wrong: there was open to him the obviously better possibility of making beings who would act freely but always go right. Clearly, his failure to avail himself of this possibility is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and wholly good.
Mackie continues:
If it is replied that this objection is absurd, that the making of some wrong choices is logically necessary for freedom, it would seem that 'freedom' must here mean complete randomness or indeterminacy, including randomness with regard to the alternatives good and evil, in other words that men's choices and consequent actions can be "free " only if they are not determined by their characters. Only on this assumption can God escape the responsibility for men's actions; for if he made them as they are, but did not determine their wrong choices, this can only be because the wrong choices are not determined by men as they are. But then if freedom is randomness, how can it be a characteristic of will? And, still more, how can it be the most important good? What value or merit would there be in free choices if these were random actions which were not determined by the nature of the agent?

I conclude that to make this solution plausible two different senses of 'freedom' must be confused, one sense which will justify the view that freedom is a third order good, more valuable than other goods would be without it, and another sense, sheer randomness, to prevent us from ascribing to God a decision to make men such that they sometimes go wrong when he might have made them such that they would always freely go right.
Arrington's theodicy falls, then, as a matter of logic. The square peg does not fit into the round hole.

Yet the most troubling aspect of the whole discussion is the argument that underlies and justifies the practice of theodicy itself. Here, Arrington spouts poetic pleasantries about the kind of idea he wants to worship:
God is powerful enough to combine apparent contradictions in his person. He is three, yet he is only one. He is both immanent and transcendent. He is sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent; yet despite the evil that exists in the universe he created, he is also omni-benevolent. It never ceases to amaze me that skeptics are surprised when they are unable to fit God into neat human categories. But if we could understand God completely, would we not be gods ourselves? I know I am no god, so I am unsurprised to find that I cannot comprehend God in his fullness or understand fully how such contradictions can be combined in him. Nevertheless, I am quite certain they are.
Arrington characterizes skeptics as incorrectly as possible. We are not at all surprised that God doesn't fit into categories of evidence, logic, and reason--this is the point we're making!

Arrington's picture of the deity is sweet. It sounds ducky: God is virile and complex, accessible and sublime. He actually is the best of the best. But what real evidence is Arrington's picture based on? Writings of other theologians? Holy writ?

How can the rest of the world know that his picture of the supreme being corresponds to the truth? How can anyone know that Arrington's picture of the creator god is better than that of other apologists and theologians?

We can't know. Ultimately, Arrington is making stuff up based on his personal view of the world. Square peg God doesn't have to fit into round hole reality because square peg God only has to fit into the square hole in Arrington's imagination.

19 comments:

  1. Billy Smoke3:07 PM

    Thanks for the post here as I think it opens things up for good debate.

    1. I am sure you're aware of Plantinga's free will defense, but the thrust of your post seems to disregard it. Wondering what you think of it. Though not at all a theodicy (for a theodicy isn't what you;re really after), Plantiga offers a logically plausible defense of the idea that God can be, at the same time, all three things Mackie puts forth.

    2. I'm always happy discussing the problem of evil and suffering with atheists because it is easily as much a problem for them as it is for the theist. For, if you do away with God, then you must also do away those categories of evil and suffering. In other words--and I have been meaning to ask you this--how do you regard what societies and theologians have deemed good and evil, just and unjust? Is there any such thing if there is no God?

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  2. I'm not very familiar with AP's free will defense. Not enough to comment on without a review, at any rate.

    My take on AP is that he always gives something that's well-reasoned and plausible--but that's where it stops.

    I don't agree at all that if we reject the actual existence of gods then we must also eliminate the categories of evil and suffering. You'll have to explain your reasoning to me.

    I regard what others deem as good and evil as opinions. And not necessarily helpful opinions, either.

    An example. In my state, a pretty girl who just graduated high school was apparently murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Like her, he seemed to have a promising future ahead of him.

    Do we really need to debate whether the boy's alleged actions were good or evil? Do we need to evaluate how evil they were?

    No. The whole situation is awful and wasteful. Maybe it's indicative of a larger problem that has not been noticed before.

    All of the reasons to shudder about the affair are not satisfied by the question of good/evil.

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  3. Billy Smoke4:20 PM

    “I'm not very familiar with AP's free will defense. Not enough to comment on without a review, at any rate.”

    His book/defense, many would argue, changed the way most philosopher’s think about this subject. Few see the problem you’ve raised as a logical problem any longer. Though Plantinga’s book on the subject is must read, you can get a basic overview from him here:

    http://youtu.be/dEc4nLzdlc0 & http://youtu.be/NIsPnaTRv_E

    “My take on AP is that he always gives something that's well-reasoned and plausible--but that's where it stops.”

    All that you need, based on your assertion in this post, is a plausible solution to the supposed illogicality of the existence of both God and evil. And Plantinga, it seems, has done just that.

    “I don't agree at all that if we reject the actual existence of gods then we must also eliminate the categories of evil and suffering. You'll have to explain your reasoning to me.”

    Ok. Dostoyevsky once wrote:

    “Destroy a man’s belief in immortality and not only will his ability to love wither away within him but, along with it, the force that impels him to continue his existence on earth. Moreover, nothing would be immoral then, everything would be permitted, even cannibalism.”

    And so his point is relatively plain: that outside of an already existing higher moral order, one is only subject to the order and laws of nature, and you well know what that means. In the case of the young girl killed by her ex-boyfriend, how can we say at all that this was evil, wrong, or unjust? This would seem to be the perfect outworking of the strong subduing the weak, as abhorrent as that sounds. Ethicist Kai Nielsen seems to understand this, no matter how uneasy it makes her:

    “We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral post of view, or that all really rational persons should not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me…. Pure practical reason, even with good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.”

    You know what Sartre thought.

    “Do we really need to debate whether the boy's alleged actions were good or evil? Do we need to evaluate how evil they were?”

    You assume a lot. How can you say that his actions were evil? At points in history, and in numerous cultures even today, it is perfectly acceptable for men to kill their mates. What gives you the ability to say that this boy’s actions were “awful” or “wasteful”? What do you base this on? As C.S. Lewis once asked himself, where have you gotten your idea of just and unjust?

    Thanks, as always, for letting me participate with you on your blog.

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  4. Larry Tanner,

    Nifty. And I agree.

    Go one more step. I think Mackie has the better of it. But, then fails:

    “ ...'freedom' must here mean complete randomness or indeterminacy, including randomness with regard to the alternatives good and evil, in other words that men's choices and consequent actions can be ‘free’ only if they are not determined by their characters ...”

    First, all kinds of things suffer indeterminacy with or without randomness. Second, this is a typical screed in response to religious screed which in ignorance butchers the dozens of lexical definitions of randomness into one carcass of convenient caricature. There is no single, uniform plane of definition for randomness. Third, the caricature steps on itself – because in such a random system there are no errors. Since everything is error. In other words, in such a random system all variables are independent variables. There is no such thing as a single, fixed, homogenized thing as – “characters” – in the first place. Not to determine. Nor to be determined by – choices. All the holes are non-holes. Because everything is an independent variable. Cause and effect still apply in random systems, like how dust motes or gas molecules jostling around and colliding randomly still effect each other, but cause and effect do not change the independent nature of the variables.

    This slip does not prove the other side.

    Just that Mackie is special pleading.

    I don't have a pony in this race.

    Theodicy – if it can be done – is just like randomness. Randomness (like theodicy) has no pure homogenized singular definition. Mathematicians have not “certified” a definition of randomness. In the sciences, randomness is variegated in definition, but the definitions all depend – depend – on the baseline against which randomness is defined. Theodicy too is dependent on the ecological baseline (real or imagined ideal in a context) against which the supposed errors in the system-statement “God” are defined.

    I think this is why so much hard data about religious conviction reveals incongruity, inconsistency, incoherence, and contradiction in the – long and crazy – gaps between verbal definitions of doctrine and how so much GIGO applies in daily religious practice.


    Cheers,


    Jim

    ... for an egg-head sidebar, not quite up to good literary snuff ... http://randomarrow.blogspot.com/
    ... series on Professional Theologians, if such exist .... I have no clue it will come out ...

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  5. The end of theology is indeed nigh, but only because it is not a valid human intellectual endeavor. Theology only exists because nothing has been revealed.........until now.

    The first wholly new interpretation for 2000 years of the Gospel and moral teachings of Christ is on the web. Redefining all primary elements including Faith, the Word, Law, Baptism, the Trinity and especially the Resurrection, this new interpretation questions the validity and origins of all Christian tradition; it overturns all natural law ethics and theory. At stake is the credibility of several thousand years of religious history and moral teaching. What history, science and religion have agreed was not possible, has happened.


    The basis for the first ever viable religious conception capable of leading reason, by faith, to observable consequences which can be tested and judged is a fact. This new teaching delivers the first ever religious claim of insight into the human condition, that meets the Enlightenment criteria of testable, verifiable, direct cause and effect, evidence based truth embodied in action. For the first time in history, however unexpected, the world must measure for itself, the reality of a new claim to revealed truth, a moral tenet not of human intellectual origin, offering access by faith, to absolute proof, an objective basis for moral principle and a fully rationally, justifiable belief!

    As in the beginning, this is 'religion' revealed without any of the conventional trappings of tradition. An individual, virtue-ethical conception, independent of all cultural perception in a single moral command, and the single Law finds it's expression of obedience within a new covenant of marriage. It requires no institutional framework or hierarchy, no churches or priest craft, no scholastic theological rational, dogma or doctrine and ‘worship’ requires only conviction, faith and the necessary measure of self discipline to accomplish a new, single moral imperative and the integrity and fidelity to the new reality.

    The tragedy for humanity will be if religion, theology, skepticism and atheism have all so discredited the very idea of God and revealed truth to re-imagine, discover and experience just how great this potential is?

    Published [at the moment] only on the web, a typeset manuscript of this new teaching is available as a free [1.4meg] PDF download from a variety of sites including:

    [www]dot [energon] dot [org] dot [uk]

    ReplyDelete
  6. Larry --

    “ ... Before the advent of Darwin's evolutionary theory, and the scientific and cultural revolution it inspired, theology was the height of intellectual activity. To be a theologian was to be a noble philosopher, an intimate to God's word and mind, a communicator of the divine nature. More than anything, the theologian reconciled God to humanity ...”

    C’mon, lit-critter!

    Where’s your Voltaire?

    I’m embroiled now in exactly this controversy. The Association of Theological Schools (ATS - seminary accrediting agency) starting publishing bulletins in the late 70's about the decline in quality of seminary applicants.

    Many seminary applicants cannot — cannot — get into any other professional school.

    One astute math-social-stat-freakazoid on my blog predicted (quite rightly) that the ATS data predicts a downward catastrophic spiral into hell –- for the quality, quality, quality -- of both seminary candidates and seminary graduates – which quality in turn affects the quality of people in the churches – which quality in turn affects the quality of newer and newer Darwinian populations of seminary candidates sent to seminaries.

    I love my-Darwin, but ....

    Candid Camera Candide!

    Voltaire, 1694–1778.

    Darwin,1809-1882.


    Cheers,


    Jim

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  7. Jim,

    No disrespect meant to Voltaire (although I once described him as a "rat-bastard"), but I think my point stands as a general description.

    Certainly, I don't mean to suggest that post-Origins intellectual trends began sui generis with Darwin. They had been well under way before then. Heck, one could suggest that theology has reached its height with the scholastics of the 12th and 13th centuries and had begun a slow decline with the advent of Humanism.

    I think my most important point concerns the social role of theology. Darwin brings out a final box of nails in the coffin of theology--that is, theology as a necessary public practice. Wellhausen will bring out another box.

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  8. Billy Smoke,

    Plantinga, though always interesting, bases his defense on a curtailing of God's omnipotence. In the video, at least, he talks a lot about what God cannot do. Y

    However plausible one might think Plantinga's reasoning is, he candidly offers his solution as potential. That is, he acknowledges (to his credit) that he offers a proposition not a (re)solution. Thus, God remains a square peg.

    Now, Dostoyevsky is one of my favorite novelists, a brilliant developer of the novel of ideas. However, that argument about what happens if you destroy a man's belief in immortality is poppycock.

    Next, as I said before, terms such as evil are for posturing. They help only the person who wants to designate an other as evil. Without gods, people can and will call murders and catastrophes "bad," just as before. Before we ask how people without gods can bandy about terms like "evil," perhaps we should acknowledge that they do and try to explain that. In this light, I think it's clear that most anyone--godless or god-fearing--can label another's behavior as anti-social, or destructive, or mean-spirited, or unfair, or whatever.

    Finally, I've argued various shades of morality several times. So far as I can tell, claiming religion doesn't exempt one from having an opinion-based sense of morality.

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  9. “... theology as a necessary public practice ... (emphasis added)”

    Very well. Cheers, Jim

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  10. Billy Smoke10:11 AM

    Larry-

    Thanks for the response.

    On Plantinga, and God as a square peg, I think you misunderstand, or at least do not acknowledge, the point of his defense. Of course he's only postulating a defense--he doesn't actually know what is accurate of God and reality (nor do you). But what he's done is given at least a plausible solution to the problem of a good and all-powerful God in a world full of evil and suffering. In other words, just by the fact that there is a plausible solution means that it is plausible that God is not actually a square peg. Which undermines your supposition that there is no way to reconcile the existence of God and evil.

    With regards to Dostoyevsky, I meant it only as a jumping off point and considered it generally, not individually. In other words, sure, individuals who are atheists, such as yourself, won't necessarily be prone to murdering their girlfriends. However, and this goes to the broader problem of atheism and morality, what if there were no God at all? And what I mean is, what if there were no creator God who, by his nature, had determined what was just and unjust? Can there be such a thing as morality? Could some actions be considered inherently immoral/unjust?

    You say, "So far as I can tell, claiming religion doesn't exempt one from having an opinion-based sense of morality." This is where it seems that, logically and practically, you get into trouble very quickly. How does a society, for example, determine for itself what is moral? You say that it is plain that the guy who killed his girlfriend acted unjustly. That makes sense according to the laws we have established. But what if those laws and opinions changed, say in 30 years? Would you think that killing girlfriends is moral, based on the opinion of your society? Or is killing girlfriends inherently wrong? Or take something that was considered just for a time and is now considered obtusely immoral (in the West): slavery. What makes you think now that slavery is unjust?

    Just to be clear, I realize that all people, no matter their persuasion or background, will call some things just or unjust (leaving the term "evil" aside for the time being). The question you haven't answered adequately is how they're able to distinguish just actions from unjust ones.

    Plantinga also takes this issue on:

    "Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness [if there was no God and we just evolved]? I don't see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live....A [secular] way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort...and thus no way to say there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness (...and not just and illusion of some sort), then you have a powerful argument...[for the reality of God]."

    You mentioned that you've defended opinion-based morality elsewhere. I'd be happy to read those posts if you can't point me to them.

    Thanks again.

    -Billy

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  11. Anonymous2:56 PM

    " God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists. There seems to be some contradiction between these three propositions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false."

    You are late by sixteen centuries, that problem was already solved by St. Augustine.

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  12. Billy Smoke,

    God remains a square peg for two reasons. One, God and reality don't match up regardless of theodicy or defense. Indeed, the reason people need theodicy and defenses of God is because he's a square peg. Plantinga can come up with an eminently plausible theodicy or defense, but that fact he needs to come up with them at all is an indication that the concept of the all-powerful, all-loving God is intrinsically conflicted. Two, Plantinga doesn't resolve the problem identified by Mackie. All Plantinga does is tell us what God couldn't possibly do. That is, Plantinga's God is less than fully omnipotent. Please explain how I have this wrong and how Plantinga's God is omnipotent. Heck, you can even have your own space on this blog to make the case if you like.

    By the way, I have not said "that there is no way to reconcile the existence of God and evil." I've suggested it has not been done well. I still feel the weight of evidence goes in the favor of my position.

    Now, you ask: "what if there were no God at all" There isn't.

    You then ask "Can there be such a thing as morality?" Yes, there can be.

    You then ask "Could some actions be considered inherently immoral/unjust?" I doubt it, and I doubt that "inherent morality" matters.

    You later ask, in another context: "what if those laws and opinions changed, say in 30 years?" Billy, laws ans opinion HAVE changed. Even the laws of the Torah have changed over time. They have been applied and discarding according to culture and knowledge--this is HISTORICALLY what has happened. Don't tell me that Biblical laws are timeless and unchanging and inherently good because history tells a different story.

    You then assert: "The question you haven't answered adequately is how they're able to distinguish just actions from unjust ones." I didn't realize this question was on the table, but the answer, in a word, is ideology. Ideology is the lens through which people distinguish just and unjust. and yes, ideology is ever-evolving and can be different from population to population. I fail to see why this is a problem.

    Plantinga's statement on "horrifying wickedness" is distasteful and an awfully bad expression of a "powerful argument" for God. First of all, how does anyone determine what behavior constitutes "horrifying wickedness" when you and Planting admit that you don't "actually know what is accurate of God and reality"? Second, why do you keep trying to sell me on the idea that we need there to be "really any such thing" as [insert moral category here]? You keep trying to force this assertion of really-real, but from what you've offered so far, the assertion is toothless logically and evidentially.

    You can get to other posts of mine that deal with morality by scrolling down to the "Textiest Text" section and clicking on the "Morality" tag.

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  13. Anonymous,

    Sorry. Mackie's full article ("Evil and Omnipotence") tackles the Augustinian strand of theodicy. Mackie, and Antony Flew also, poke a gaping hole in Augustine by arguing that God could have chosen to create "good autonomata" who still possessed free will.

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  14. Billy Smoke8:16 PM

    Larry-

    Gracious (and acerbic) as always.

    1. I suppose you’d need to explain more this notion that “God is a square peg.” If you only mean that prima facie God is incompatible with reality, or God is incompatible with suffering and evil, then we can argue over what is, at face value, logically consistent or not. But that’s not really important, is it? What you must do for an atheist apologetic is argue that God and reality and God and evil are fundamentally illogical. As far as the latter is concerned, in light of Plantinga’s defense, I don’t think you can do that.

    2. “Plantinga can come up with an eminently plausible theodicy or defense, but that fact he needs to come up with them at all is an indication that the concept of the all-powerful, all-loving God is intrinsically conflicted.” I wonder if you realize the implication of this. According to you, any apologetic for any supposition is indication of confliction. E.g. there seems to be intrinsic conflict between atheism and a universe that seems to have had no cause. Would you say, then, that these two ideas are intrinsically conflicted? Doubtful.

    3. “Plantinga's God is less than fully omnipotent. Please explain how I have this wrong and how Plantinga's God is omnipotent.” Plantinga’s argument is: In order for God to create free creatures, he must allow for them to make free choices. Which, in turn, means they will necessarily choose what is wrong/evil/unjust. Thus the presence of evil and an all-powerful God. But your point, I take it, is that if God were actually all-powerful he could will both freedom and non-freedom. He could will people a people free, but also will that they act only righteously. But that would be illogical. And for God to be God, he cannot actually go against his own nature.

    4. “I have not said ‘that there is no way to reconcile the existence of God and evil.’ I've suggested it has not been done well. I still feel the weight of evidence goes in the favor of my position.” Fine, but you'd have to concede then that it’s possible that God may not actually be a square peg.

    5. On the necessity of the existence of God for the existence of morality, the argument seems plain enough. Most people inherently understand that though ideology is ever changing (as you point out), some things are universally and atemporally unjust. E.g. torturing babies, sex trafficking teens, the Holocaust. And so my question, more narrowly asked, is, how does one determine what is universally morally wrong? Take the torturing babies example. I bet you're against it. Well, say, like Bill and Ted, you could go visit your future, older self. And say that you discover that your future self had changed his mind (for whatever reason) and decided not only that that torturing babies was fine, but had also had taken it up as a hobby. Would this be ok with you? If not, on what basis could you argue that your future self was wrong? In other words, unless there are universal moral standards, how could you object to his change in ideology, in his opinion?

    6. It is perfectly fine for you believe that there are no universal moral standards (i.e. that despite the appearance of transcendant conviction, we're bound only by the process of natural selection). This is logically consistent with atheism. I just can't tell if you're ok with this.

    -Billy

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  15. Billy Smoke8:17 PM

    By the way, Sartre seemed to understand the implications of a godless universe:

    “[I]f God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse. For if indeed existence precedes essence, one will never be able to explain one’s action by reference to a given and specific human nature; in other words, there is no determinism – man is free, man is freedom. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimise our behaviour. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. We are left alone, without excuse.”

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  16. Billy Smoke,

    I don't think Sartre had the state of things quite correct.

    You may know that there is some debate currently on biological determinism and its affect on notions of responsibility. There are folks, Dennett for instance, who maintain that we have free will without God. Others hold that all the available evidence consistently shows that "our actions are predetermined (largely or completely) by the nexus of genes and environments" [cite: Jerry Coyne].

    At the very least, contra Sarte, our actions seem to be explainable. I would add as a coda "No God required," but I'm not convinced God was required in the first place.

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  17. Billy Smoke,

    1. The square peg point is simply that claims about what God is and how great he art don't jibe with the universe he supposedly created. The main point of my post is not this, however. It's the stuff at the end.

    2. I am not sure where you get the idea that a godless universe is incompatible with the universe that we observe and hypothesize about. I have never said the universe has no cause; this is not at all the subject of my post. And yes, I see religious apologetics and defences as admissions of a(n at least apparent) conflict between God-hype and reality.

    3. Stop here: "But that would be illogical. And for God to be God, he cannot actually go against his own nature." God CANNOT act illogically? He CANNOT go against his own nature? Then he ain't omnipotent. If he were, he could re-define logic or transcend logic. Any way he acted would be his nature.

    4. Sure, it’s possible that God may not actually be a square peg. You should also concede that it's probable that there is no God.

    5. Stop here: "some things are universally and atemporally unjust. E.g. torturing babies, sex trafficking teens, the Holocaust." Sorry, but the historical record suggests that some cultures were fine with such behaviors to some extent or another. You are applying modern Western morality across all cultures and periods. It's just not so.

    6. Thanks.

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  18. Billy Smoke2:13 PM

    1. Ok, I understand now.

    2. On the cause of the universe, I realize it’s not the point of your post. I was responding to the odd idea that any apologetic for any supposition—theistic or atheistic—necessarily points to conflict. That’s false, and I brought up the atheist defending the causeless universe as an example. Of course a causeless universe may not be fundamentally incompatible (i.e. in conflict) with a godless universe, but just because there appears to be conflict—and just because the atheist finds it necessary to offer reason for there being no conflict—doesn’t mean there actually is any conflict. Same goes for the problem of a good God and the existence of suffering. Just because there appears to be a conflict doesn’t actually mean there is any.

    3. No you stop! ;-) I’m surprised you go here, actually. Two quotes: C.S. Lewis: “It [the intrinsically impossible] is impossible under all conditions and in all worlds and for all agents. All agents here includes God Himself. His omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense.” Or Richard Swinburne: “A person is omnipotent if and only if he is able to do any logically possible action, any action, that is, of which the description is coherent. It may be objected that in order to be truly omnipotent, a person should be able to do not merely the logically possible, but the logically impossible as well. This objection is, however, misguided. It arises from regarding a logically impossible action as an action of one of one kind on a par with an action of another kind, the logically possible. But it is not. A logically impossible action is not an action. It is what is described by a form of words which purport to describe an action, but do not describe anything which is coherent to suppose could be done. It is no objection to A’s omnipotence that he cannot make a square circle. This is because making a square circle does not describe anything which it is coherent to suppose could be done.”

    4.Amen, brother.

    5. “Sorry, but the historical record suggests that some cultures were fine with such behaviors to some extent or another. You are applying modern Western morality across all cultures and periods.” Exactly my point. The Nazi’s were perfectly fine gassing millions of innocent Jews. So, were those moral, just actions just because they were fine with it? Or is gassing millions of innocent people, despite the Nazi’s claim to “opinion” and “ideology,” universally immoral and unjust?

    6. Thanks to you too!

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  19. Billy Smoke,

    #2 - I don't think it's a particularly odd idea. Conflict and surprise stimulate people's curiosity. Apologetics, as I understand the practice, is speaking in defense of a religious position. Thus I take it as a practice borne from recognizing that a particular position requires defense.

    The second part of this is whether the conflict between the claims about God and the reality of the world God supposedly created. You seem to argue that the conflict is apparent and not real. Obviously, I disagree with you.

    #3 - Well, it seems like the argument is that God can do absolutely anything except for the stuff he can't do. Yet, if there are these limits on what God can do, it seems that everything he can do is easy for him. Creating a universe? No problem, just will it so. Flood the world? Bam, it's done. In this case, I don't see how God is a moral agent worthy of praise, since it would have been easy for him to do things much differently and with much less bloodshed for humanity and the planet. And in this case, I'm much less impressed by God being inscrutable and "he has his reasons that we cannot judge" because it seems like we actually can know quite a bit about him and we have a limit under which we are equals. There are, apparently, things that impossible for any being--God, humans, animals, plants--to perform. We are thus equal before that law.

    5 - My opinion of Nazi Germany and its murderous actions is, of course, quite low. I condemn that regime, its authors, and its policies. My outrage and their acceptance of those behaviors count for very little. There is no value to placing Nazi Germany in the category of "universally immoral." That government and that system acted in violation of principles that seem obvious to us and are dear to our heart: equality before the law, right to a fair trial, protection from harm, and protection from the government, and so on. I don't see what you're sticking point is. Our responsibility in the post-Nazi era is to continue arguing the case that no government should act the way the Nazis did.

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