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Did the Fall of Man Really Occur?

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FallOfMan

The Catholic Church asserts the truth that mankind has suffered a privation of grace as a consequence of disobedience. By the sin of our first parents we are saddled until the end of time with the defect of Original Sin. Man is fallen. To be born into this world is to be burdened with a life of toil, trial and torment. Adam and Eve were in a state of grace in the Garden of Eden before succumbing to temptation. The doctrine of the fall is a most obvious proposition expounded upon by nearly every religious and philosophical tradition in history. To deny man’s fallen nature is an unprecedented narrowness based on implausible pathology grounded in the denial of the most vital attributes that make us fully human.

Man is more than just material, he has an interior and transcendent nature recognizable by his intellect and will. When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden for disobedience, God described the consequences of their rebellion in Genesis 23:17-19 when He said “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” This is an obvious statement about the physical difficulties all men have faced throughout the millennia of human existence. What may not be so obvious is that this is analogous to the two other realms of human existence as well, those two dimensions of interiority we know as intellect and will. It is as difficult to cultivate the right use of reason and our moral sensibilities as it is to till hard earth. Agriculture on material soil is like education and spiritual formation on the inner soil.

It is real labor to cultivate the inner landscape. Just as there was no need for agriculture in the Garden of Eden, there was no need for education before the Fall. Education is after all intended to be the cultivation of habits of being most fully expressed by the acquisition of virtue and the deracination of vice. Adam and Eve had preternatural gifts of perception, clear intellectual sight, an acuity of judgment, a precision of the senses, and astounding memory retention. They were also gifted the infused knowledge of things as they pertained to their station in the divine economy. There was no need for virtue because the appetites were properly subordinated to the right use of reason.

The sin of our first parents resulted in the loss of sanctifying and sanitizing grace. We even find ourselves bereft of the original preternatural gifts. Our natures have been corrupted by the original sin and we are left with three wounds of the fall, a darkened intellect, a weakened will, and an inclination towards evil. Our lot in life became dreary, toil against the soil for man and painful childbirth for the woman. Strife, hatred, and enmity now characterize this vale of tears as we struggle to rediscover our purpose when dark shade prevents us from seeing clearly. Although the fall of man is expressed most comprehensively by the Catholic Church, the truth of the doctrine of the fall is by no means exclusive to Christianity.

Many traditions hold myths depicting the fallen nature of man. In Gnosticism, there is gratitude for the snake revealing hidden knowledge to Adam and Eve which liberates them from the “demiurge’s” constricting control. In Islam, Adam and Eve are deceived by Shaitaan who promised them immortality and other delights, but even after having been warned, they gave into Shaitaan’s temptations. In Zoroastrianism and Persian Myths, humankind is created to resist and endure through degradation and decay by cultivating good habits of charitable deeds, the correct use of speech and by the right use of the intellect.

The Hindu tradition has prayers to Varuna, Indra, and Agni which allude to a corrupt human nature by constantly asking forgiveness of their sins and for their offenses against the gods and their neighbors. In Buddhism the predominate theme is suffering and falleness, in the words of the Buddha in the Dhammapada, 147-8 “Behold this painted body, a body full of wounds, put together, diseased, and full of many thoughts in which there is neither permanence nor stability. This body is worn out, a nest of diseases and very frail. This heap of corruption breaks in pieces, life indeed ends in death.” Even Confucius in his Analects stressed the importance and difficulty of cultivating the virtues to live the moral life. He called for men to constantly remind themselves of the inverse golden rule. This is similar to the Ancient Greeks who clearly understood the need to cultivate virtue to combat man’s natural inclination towards evil.

Perhaps the most notable non-Christian tradition to elucidate man’s fallen nature is found in the myth of Pandora. The Titan Prometheus was charged with making man out of dust. Man was a feeble creature with a poor lot in life. Prometheus had pity on man and asked Zeus if he could give them fire. Zeus refused but Prometheus stole fire from Zeus anyway and got caught. Zeus had Prometheus chained to the side of a mountain while he planned revenge on Prometheus’ family.

In the meantime, the gods made beautiful Pandora out of clay. Pandora means “all gifts” and she is named so because Zeus had all the gods and goddesses each give her a gift as he made her a live person. Hera gave Pandora an insatiable curiosity. Zeus offered Pandora as a wife to Prometheus’ dimwitted brother Epimetheus and gave them a box for a wedding present with the instruction that she was never to open it. Of course Zeus knew she wouldn’t be able to resist and when she opened the box and let loose its contents, Zeus’ punishment was complete, for in the box were all the evils, sicknesses, and sins that ushered death irrevocably into the world. Of course, man has lived in this fallen state ever since. There is further corroboration in philosophy.

In book two of The Republic, Plato alludes to man’s fallen nature by having Glaucon assert that it is good to perpetrate injustice for gain but bad to suffer it. Glaucon further proclaims a fallen notion of justice by a compromise between the distorted notion that doing injustice without punishment is a benefit and suffering an injustice without the ability to retaliate is a great evil. Glaucon suggests that conventional laws are asserted to protect victims, “not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honored by reason of the inability of men to do injustice” without interference. Plato has Glaucon further assert that concerning the conventional law, “no man who is worthy to be called a man would ever submit to such an agreement if he were able to resist; he would be mad if he did.” To illustrate his point, Glaucon tells the myth of Gyges ring to demonstrate that the just and unjust man alike will find themselves on the same road if only given the right circumstances.

Plato later demonstrates that because of our fallen nature we are called to cultivate virtue and commit to moral formation for excellence if we are going to do the right thing for the right reasons. There is no doubt that most men in Gyges position would take advantage of invisibility for personal gain, even though it is immoral. This is an illustration of man’s fallen nature because our uncultivated inclinations do not square with natural law of goodness and truth.

All the major philosophical and religious traditions in the history of the world acknowledge the fallen nature of man. The obvious incongruity between the natural good and man’s inclination to do evil is a most evident thing. The history books are a record of the strife, sin and death that have plagued all peoples in all lands and at all times. We are in a unique time when a growing number “educated” souls operate in fields that systematically deny the fallen nature of man. Professions such as education, psychology, the social sciences and several more operate as if all of humankind’s strife has its root causes in genetic accidents and material inequalities.

Why such a radical break from the preponderance of history and evidence?

Aristotle said “the least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand fold.” The problems we face today began in the Garden with one bite of the fruit of the forbidden tree. That first deviation is the source of incalculable error multiplying a thousand fold in every subsequent generation. In the modern era, the movement to deny the fallen nature of man is the artifact of another original error. At the end of the period known as the scholastic philosophical tradition, William of Occam (1287-1347) asserted an initial deviation known as nominalism. He used his razor to begin to cut real things off from their real explanations. Universal realities had been severed from their images or signs.

By identifying the contrivance that universal truths revealed by God are mere names, we can observe one initial deviation that serves as the root for countless philosophical errors today. Specifically, the denial of universal truths is the first step to cut the image off from the reality. Since the advent of Occam’s nominalism in the 13th century, the ground was laid for the enlightenment which embodies the thousand fold errors instituted by Occam. In excising reality from images and images from shadows, the Enlightenment ushered in the philosophical age of inversion. Sir Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum inverted Aristotle’s deductive method based on first principles to the inductive method of scientific inquiry grounded in the idea that “man is the measure of all things.” The misapplication of the scientific method to philosophical, moral and educational concerns has made a wasteland of modern notions of interiority.

St. Pope John Paul II said in May of 2003 that the “drama of contemporary culture is the lack of interiority, the absence of contemplation. Without interiority culture has no content; it is like a body that has not yet found its soul. What can humanity do without interiority? Unfortunately, we know the answer very well. When the contemplative spirit is missing, life is not protected and all that is human is denigrated. Without interiority, modern man puts his own integrity at risk.” We risk exponentially expediting societal decay by the denial of man’s fallen nature, but we also risk incalculably more: eternity.

The atheist problem of denying man’s fallen nature is one of denying a proper understanding of the interiority of man. To believe that man is not fallen is also to deny the nature and existence of virtue and vice, which is a denial of the objective standard of truth goodness and beauty. To deny the Fall is also to deny the reality of nearly all of human history as well as to collected wisdom of nearly every philosophical and religious tradition. To deny the fallen nature of man is to arrogate to oneself the possibility of constructing a heaven on earth. The efforts have been made on a massive scale and they have produced catastrophic results sure to proliferate as the foolish rush towards an impossible utopia based on the false assumption of man’s natural goodness. These reductive utopian schemes are picking up even more momentum in this ever darkening age. The only possibility of surviving the denial of man’s fallen nature is for souls to hope to transcend humanity itself, and by the single trick of applied technology, this is a most impossible endeavor.

Steven Rummelsburg

Written by

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a Catholic convert after 40 years of secular humanism. He is a Catholic writer and speaker on matters of Faith, culture, and education. He teaches, theology, philosophy and Church history at Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta.

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  • Mike

    "To deny the Fall is also to deny the reality of nearly all of human history as well as to collected wisdom of nearly every philosophical and religious tradition."

    If things like the atheism of Pol Pot were not EVIL then what were they? just a "less optimal" organization model for society? Evil is real but bc most atheist philosophies can not account for it, they deny it exists, and in the process undermine their own moral beliefs.

    • Ok, so I assume your worldview and now Pol Pot is OBJECTIVELY EVIL. Where does that get us? It still takes humans to stop him. I fail to see what difference calling it EVIL makes.

      • Mike

        bc if you don't think it evil you can do it again and again...keep trying to mold the "perfect" society without a care for how many eggs get broken to make an omelette. There's a reason why all former officially atheist societies had the worst human rights records in history bc the "goal" is more important than individual human beings, which are really nothing more than carbon atoms anyway per materialism/naturalism.

        • But it being EVIL or calling it EVIL has done nothing to stop it, it's not like that makes your god step in and take care of the problem.

          • Mike

            "has done nothing to stop it"??

            really? is Russia the Soviet union? what about all of eastern europe that is now free and has way better human rights than they did before? there are many examples.

            don't you think it would help if the usa called what castro does to the women in white evil? sure it would it would shame the dictator at least.

          • "is Russia the Soviet union?...eastern europe"

            To me that looks like unsustainable economic policy and an increasingly dissatisfied population fomenting revolutions that caused that, but I often forget - as long as you can credit "good" stuff to your god and "bad" stuff to man or the devil or whatever without any evidence of your gods intervention...

          • Mike

            ok if you think the Soviet Union was just as you put it "unsustainable economic policy and an increasingly dissatisfied population"...then as i say:

            what pol pot did was not really "evil" just "unsustainable society policy and an increasingly dissatisfied/DEAD population".

          • ferlalf

            "you can credit "good" stuff to your god and "bad" stuff to man or the
            devil or whatever without any evidence of your gods intervention.."
            This is not at all how most Christians see the world. if it was there would be no freewill.

      • Darren

        SattaMassagan wrote,

        Ok, so I assume your worldview and now Pol Pot is OBJECTIVELY EVIL.

        But he's not Objectively Evil because Evil has no objective existence; it is only a privation of Good (or so I am told).

        So Pol Pot was objectively insufficiently good.

        ;)

      • Hmm, do you disagree with the aphorism, "The pen is mightier than the sword."?

    • Andy Rhodes

      To those people who say that a transcendent Christian god is necessary for objective morality, I have written a blog post to show that any god, especially the divine character from the Bible, who might have designed this universe, could not have any moral high ground or valid right to judge human beings:

      disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/did-god-always-behave-virtuously-in-the-bible

      Nature is too full of destruction, waste and suffering (both for non-human animals and humans). The biblical narratives, though they contain many positive and insightful teachings/principles, are overly packed with inhumane actions by God and encouragements or commands for righteous humans to follow in His/Her example.

      I agree that many humanist ideas come from Christianity, but they also are based on Greco-Roman traditions and some general human intuitions. I think that the insights from Christianity and all other religions/philosophies/spiritualities belong to humanity as a whole. There is no reason to hold on to traditional religions as fully operating institutions, especially when it’s clear that society can and has maintained the benefits of humane principles without a religious foundation. Secularization of religious teachings are fine as long as they work (and it’s furthermore helpful for people acknowledge where the ideas came from originally). Modern thinking has discarded many destructive teachings from the Bible and this is a good thing.

      Many conservative Christians have told me something like that “the whole notion of equal innate human rights is very difficult to justify without a high view of the sanctity of human life, which you certainly don’t get from materialism”. I partly agree in that it is hard to argue for transcendent ethics without supernaturalism. But, transcendent ethics might not be necessary, especially given that modern society is far more productive, healthy and peaceful than pre-modern Christian culture was. Today among Western nations and individual states within the U.S., those which are the most conservative and religious are the most violent and plagued with far greater social problems related to murder, infant mortality, environmental abuse, teen pregnancy, incarceration, CEO to average worker pay, life expectancy, number of paid vacation days and paid holidays, economic mobility, healthcare efficiency, income inequality, guaranteed paid maternity leave, obesity and minimal worker’s benefits.

      persuademepolitics.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/now-most-peaceful-time-in-world-history

      persuademepolitics.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/extreme-political-or-religious-views-create-dysfunctional-societies

      The moral instinctual pattern in all known people groups does not clearly link itself to transcendent morality. Given the great variety (and many times contradictory nature) of moral systems and the fact that other types of apes and dozens of other species categories demonstrate compassionate tendencies outside their nuclear family along with behavior analogous to varying degrees to that of humanity regarding guilt, shame, pride, love, sorrow, depression, fear, dread, etc., a natural basis for morality is easily explainable apart from a transcendent source.

      During various points in modern history, when people (including those of marginalized groups) have felt free and safe enough to speak their minds about what a fair and ideal world would look like, they have most often said that they desire a society that provides opportunities for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, much like that of the type of Enlightenment humanism (partly evolved from Christianity) that supports the philosophical foundations of the United States Constitution, Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva Conventions, Unitarian Universalism and United Nations. Why isn’t that enough? If the golden rule can be generally appreciated and the avoidance of severe pain and trouble be fixed as a utilitarian goal for society, and the results of this type of morality and sociology have been working so progressively well for the past 300 years, why go back to a traditional religious worldview?

      ===================================

      I've written about 20 articles on these kinds of subjects and would love to hear what you think of the content: disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com. I'm an ex-Christian who worked with two apologetics ministries many years ago and gradually moved out of the faith - although I really didn't want to. I became convinced more and more that 1) an all-good God would not make a world with such overwhelming brutality built into animal biology and other natural evils like earthquakes, disease and tornadoes 2) far too often, the doctrines of Christianity and behavior of God in the Bible were inhumane and disproportionately punitive. Though there are many good and beneficial aspects to Christianity, these elements are outweighed by the very large amount that is destructive and toxic.

      • Mike

        "especially when it’s clear that society can and has maintained the benefits of humane principles without a religious foundation"

        if anything it's clear that that is not clear!

        • Andy Rhodes

          From many years of research, I've found that during the past 300 years or so since around the time of the Age of Reason and then humanist Enlightenment, the world has become increasingly secular in various degrees depending on the location along with the truth that every category of physical violence has been dramatically sloping down. Further, among advanced Western countries the quality of life in virtually every category is significantly worse in the more extremely conservative and religious nations like America and the individual states there of the same general type of political and economic philosophy and practice.

          Terrible things like the following are in radical decline (or in some cases have been eliminated): warfare, rape, murder, judicial torture, child abuse, legal and illegal slavery, use of the death penalty, robbery, infanticide, bullying, lynchings, corporal punishment, misogyny, theft, domestic abuse, racism, blood sports, religious persecution, burglary, debtors’ prisons, sexism, abortion, dueling, property crime, witchhunts and animal abuse. This process started when societies began to organize away from hunter-gatherer communities between 7,000-10,000 years ago into structured civilizations, but shifted to an accelerated level of reform during the 18th century’s Age of Enlightenment and afterward. By absolute numbers and percentage of population, the trend is downward in violent behavior.

          The most conservative and religious are the most violent and plagued with far greater social problems in categories like overall crime, economic mobility, infant mortality, environmental abuse, teen pregnancy, incarceration, life expectancy, poor educational systems, murder, healthcare efficiency, average worker to CEO pay ratio, paid maternity leave, obesity, income inequality and minimal worker’s benefits. For example, on the Quality of Life Index for 2010, the United States - the most religious and conservative country in the developed world - ranked 33rd overall, 39th in health, 24th in education, 17th in wealth, 15th in democracy, 77th in peace, 38th in environment.)

          For a very large amount of supporting data on all that I said above, you may see these two articles that I've written :

          http://goo.gl/0BmuwY

          http://goo.gl/Fbykue

          • Mike

            "warfare, rape, murder"

            oh geez haven't you heard about syria, paris nov 2015 or chicago last week?

            ps how many nukes does russia have pointed at the US?

          • I'm talking about declines in every category of physical violence.

            Listing some violent acts or threats, like you did, doesn't address my argument at all. I'm talking about well-established long term trends. You're naming a few instances of anecdotal evidence. Very different.

            Why not check out the links I mentioned and then respond?

          • Lazarus

            Ah, good to see centuries of Christianity at last beginning to pay off ;)

          • Although Christianity clearly did contribute a lot of positive things to society up until the 1700s when humanism and secularism began to dominate, the effects the latter were far greater and more systematic. And many of the negative aspects of Christianity and biblical faith were increasingly downplayed and resisted from then on.

          • Mike

            i hear you but today with modern tech we can kill literally millions with one bomb. the comparisons you are trying to draw are imho unfair. north korea an officially atheist country is testing missiles that can easily kill 100,000 south Koreans or Japanese.
            look I think I agree with you but ppl thought almost something similar in the 1930s when Germany was the most sophisticated society on earth it had the most science nobel winners but was going insane. the league of nations was going to fix everything via humanist secular policies and then 1939 happened.
            either way i'd take the Taliban all day over north korea. theism is imho always preferable to atheism.

          • North Korea is a serious threat, but much less so than the Nazis or the USSR. Any nuclear attack from NK will be suicidal - they will be wiped from the map.

            Atheism doesn't have any beliefs other than that God doesn't exist. An atheist can be a communist or a republican. Further, as I defend with a lot of data on one of the articles I shared, the more secular among advanced Western nations and states in America are considerably less violent and have a better quality of life.

            It's a 300 year trend of decreasing violence in every category. That's substantial.

            Why would you chose the Taliban over North Korea?

          • Mike

            but in 'our' opinion for an atheist to deny belief in God has MANY implications that to our minds means you folks can not ground morality, purpose, can not account for science etc.

            so what i'd say about those areas and countries is that their roots are still very much Christian. see for ex all the Scandinavian countries - they actually have Christian crosses on their flags!

          • Andy Rhodes

            I understand that's your opinion, but what is it based on? How do you know that objective morality exists or is even necessary?

            Among advanced Western nations, those which are the most secular have the lowest crime rates and best overall quality of life in more than a dozen categories. Religion is centered around speculation and if you're not able to demonstrate why we should believe your particular one, why not focus on a secular system that is producing the greatest results?

            Pointing to Christian crosses on Scandinavian countries doesn't help your argument. If you want to connect those crosses to the behavior of those nations, then you'll have to take responsibility for the religious wars and many other atrocities committed by their ancestors who claimed they were applying biblical teachings. In fact, the Bible is quite brutal and so it's understandable why many superstars of Christian theology believed and endorsed horribly inhumane things based on Scriptural commands.

            See more on this topic in my article called, "Martin Luther's Fierce Anti-Semitism And How The Bible Inspired His Cause":

            https://disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/martin-luthers-fierce-anti-semitism

            Here's an excerpt:

            "One possible reason as to why traditional Christian leaders today, as official representatives standing by 'God’s one holy book', do not take considerable responsibility for the toxic effects of these portions of the Bible is that they are viewing it from within the unique position of a modern, democratic, post-Enlightenment and individualistic society that expects each person to critically examine how to apply instructions from religion, philosophy and spirituality in appropriately different ways for each circumstance. However, because separation of church and state is a fairly recent concept historically, whenever Christians of past eras came into political, economic or military power, they often chose the apparently best model to follow in governance: the Old Testament patterns of theocratic authoritarianism and violent defense of national religious purity. Unfortunately, the Bible didn’t provide clear enough tools with which to sort out the morally antiquated or irrelevant teachings within itself when Christians encountered complex problems and didn’t have the 'voice of God' present to tell them exactly how to proceed (assuming that God, if directly engaged in conversation, would have objected to these forms of political power in post-biblical times). Many Christian scholars of the past who are recognized by traditional believers to have had brilliant intelligence and mostly saintly character (especially in regard to the spiritual and theological quality of their writings), used the Bible to advocate and/or justify abhorrent conduct: Thomas Aquinas (misogyny), Martin Luther (murder of non-believers), John Calvin (murder of non-believers), Jonathan Edwards (slavery), George Whitefield (slavery) and numerous others. Were they ill-informed? Were they radically immature in their spirituality? It seems quite far-fetched to think these men were incapable of figuring out in their hearts or minds the very basic ethical components of 'loving one’s neighbor'. Instead, the evidence reveals substantial (but not total) culpability first with the Scriptures themselves because of the virulent content found in many of its texts."

            Consider Wikipedia's note on the Patristic era and slavery as an example of quite diverse interpretations on a basically obvious moral question (but not so obvious because the Bible is not clear on the subject):

            "Several prominent early church fathers advocated slavery, either directly or indirectly. Augustine of Hippo, who renounced his former Manicheanism, argued that slavery was part of the mechanism to preserve the natural order of things. John Chrysostom, while he described slavery as the fruit of covetousness, of extravagance, of insatiable greediness in his Epist. ad Ephes, also argued that slaves should be resigned to their fate, as by obeying his master he is obeying God. Saint Patrick (415-493), himself a former slave, argued for the abolition of slavery, as had Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-394), and Acacius of Amida (400-425). Origen (c. 185-254) favored the Jewish practice of freeing slaves after six years. Saint Eligius (588-650) used his vast wealth to purchase British and Saxon slaves in groups of 50 and 100 in order to set them free."

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_and_religion

            Early modern Western society was based on three main traditions: Greece, Rome and Christendom. During the Enlightenment of the 1700s, a radically different humanitarian movement developed that has continued until now. Though many positive social reforms occurred under the influence of Christians before the 1700s, it was quite small in comparison to the systematic reinvention of culture that secular humanism produced. Many good aspects of Christianity were retained and/or reinvented. Many unethical parts of Christian doctrine were discarded or diminished. This humanistic revolution was and is an imperfect process, but easily superior to what existed in pre-modern religious societies.

          • Mike

            ok I don't have the time to go over this again but I appreciate your reply.

          • Mike

            I would rather be with the Taliban bc with religion at least there is some hope for some spark of humanity whereas with an atheisms system there literally can not be any hope any supernatural help nothing. there is a lot to unpack there though.
            atheism reduce human beings to special apes when that happens it becomes very easy to get rid of some apes to make room for some ideology imho.

          • Andy Rhodes

            You said, "with religion at least there is some hope for some spark of humanity".

            What does that mean?

            You said, "with an atheisms system there literally can not be any hope any supernatural help nothing".

            Of what use is "supernatural hope" if it's not founded on something real? Would you prefer wishful thinking to restraint in claiming things for which we don't have strong evidence?

            You said, "atheism reduce human beings to special apes when that happens it becomes very easy to get rid of some apes to make room for some ideology".

            What evidence do you have for this?

            Although many Christians claim there is a connection between atheism and horrendous crimes against humanity committed by Hitler, Pol Polt, Mao and Stalin, this is very difficult to substantiate for at least one reason: atheism has no doctrine beyond the simple claim that there is not sufficient evidence demonstrating that God exists. Consider these explanations on why it's not reasonable to say atheism led or leads to mass killing:

            http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Adolf_Hitler

            http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Stalin_was_an_atheist

            http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Mao_was_an_atheist

            http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Pol_Pot_was_an_atheist

            Further, as I'm sure you know, an enormous amount of killing occurred in the Bible - millions of people died by God's actions and commands. And then many Christians followed that example, sometimes against Muslims, mostly against other Christians, often against Jews and Native Americans. It was based largely on the precedent in the Old Testament where God directed genocides of pagan communities who were spiritually "toxic" and in the way of the righteous people living dominantly on Earth.

            If you combine the details and historical veracity of what I've just written with the contemporary statistics I mentioned in the earlier comments showing how secular societies consistently outperform religious ones in the advanced Western world (and the planet as a whole) for quality of life and peacefulness, your beliefs and preferences toward what you think are the safer and more beneficial qualities of religious culture is not grounded in real life.

  • VicqRuiz

    Of course Zeus knew she wouldn’t be able to resist

    Did God know that Adam and Eve would not be able to resist?

    • Mike

      i am not sure if the past tense makes sense but do you think that if he "knew" that he shouldn't have done it, have created the world? or do you think that maybe even though he knew things would get messed up that he nevertheless "risked it all" bc maybe he figured that loving and losing is still more worthwhile than never having loved at all?

      • VicqRuiz

        I didn't ask about God's motivations. I was only asking, did he know?

        • Mike

          he knows all so yes.

          • Andrew Y.

            I would propose that despite the fact that God knows all, the answer is no.

            I believe God necessarily only knows all outcomes and their consequences (until the end of time). Our perception of time, that is our common binding to a particular moment in history, can be interpreted as a divine invention for our benefit that allows us to have and exercise free will with respect to both God and others. I understand our present state—the reality we now observe—as the product of a pure divine formula parameterized by choices made by any creature endowed with free will. In my view this is the ultimate divine gift: that we may participate in His creation, that we may act as creators ourselves, as creators of history whenever we act purely upon our own discretion. And this, I believe, is what is meant by being created in the image and likeness of God, whose nature is creation.

    • Peter164

      Adam and Eve didn't resist, but they were able to resist (as in capable of resisting), because they had a free will. Also I think Mike makes a good point that God knowing, in the past tense, or at some particular time or place, does not really make sense.

  • We can observe the difficulty man has to determine the good and act accordingly. We can note the inclination to do evil. However within philosophy, we cannot say that this is not the natural state of man, that man has fallen from a higher state. Of course, we might form an opinion that a fall occurred. This post's citing of many myths confirms the popularity of such a guess. According to the Catholic Faith the fall is known only by revelation because it was essentially a fall from supernatural grace.

  • David Hardy

    The doctrine of the fall is a most obvious proposition expounded upon by nearly every religious and philosophical tradition in history. To deny man’s fallen nature is an unprecedented narrowness based on implausible pathology grounded in the denial of the most vital attributes that make us fully human.

    Most religions propose there is a spiritual issue they are addressing. However, outside of beliefs based in the bible, this problem is not seen as resulting from the fact that people are fallen and sinful. In fact, studies into human nature suggest that, while people have many instincts that can lead them to immoral behavior, morality itself is a natural, instinctive behavior.

    It is as difficult to cultivate the right use of reason and our moral sensibilities as it is to till hard earth.

    I have not found this to be true. It takes patience and understanding, but it is not as though reason and morality are being imprinted on a mind not inclined to develop them naturally, at least in the vast majority of cases. One must only find and nurture the inclinations already there.

    There was no need for virtue because the appetites were properly subordinated to the right use of reason.

    Virtue and reason are separate processes. A person not inclined to virtue can use reason to better commit immoral behavior. The “right use of reason” seems to simply indicate that virtue should guide reason.

    I will address the religious points one by one. Gnosticism does believe in a fallen state, but there is evidence it was also influenced by biblical thought. I would agree Zoroastrianism is an interesting parallel to Christianity. Hinduism holds as one of its highest goals the realization of the oneness of the believer with the divine. Not communion, but oneness. This indicates that the nature is not seen as fallen. Rather, it is ignorance of this nature that leads to issues. This is a direct rejection of the idea of a fallen nature. Buddhism definitely rejects the fallen nature. In Buddhism, one of the core conditions is that of non-self and interdependent co-arising. A Buddhist would not attribute suffering to sinfulness, nor a fallen identity to be any more objectively true than an unfallen one. The Hellenistic pantheon all had vices, and certainly the religion did not hold that humans had fallen from the moral perfection of their gods.

    Professions such as education, psychology, the social sciences and several more operate as if all of humankind’s strife has its root causes in genetic accidents and material inequalities.

    This statement is so complete in its misunderstanding that I can only suggest that the author take additional time to study what these areas have actually found. I would challenge anyone to say that the influential person-centered therapeutic approach, or the area of positive psychology, has anything to do with genetic accidents or material inequality, aside from a possible concern in addressing social inequality.

    This article has taken a range of religious positions, noticed that they all include concerns over encouraging moral behavior, a universal human instinct, and then appropriated this as evidence of the Christian beliefs about the fall. Any of the other religions could do the same to justify their own theological positions. The universal concern of encouraging moral behavior does not prove the doctrine of the fall, which is an effort to explain this universal concern.

    • Mike

      "universal human instinct"

      "universal concern"

      Do you think that these things entail some kind of purpose or goal maybe like a moral goal for society like equality or are somehow trying to get us on "the right side of history" or something like that?

      • David Hardy

        They entail the utility of forming social groups. Humans have the most advanced moral behavior, but other social animals also have moral behavior. I would agree that it is an instinct that we can cultivate to promote social equality, and this is something we should work towards, because it benefits the community as a whole as well as individuals within that community. However, the right side of history is often written by the victorious society.

        • Mike

          "the most advanced moral behavior"

          by advanced you seem to be implying a goal as when you "advance" you move closer to something. do you mean that we as human beings can in a way "help" nature, the thing that put those instincts there in the first place, move us towards a more moral situation or place?

          • David Hardy

            I am sorry, but I have no idea what your are asking. We can form advanced moral thinking and behavior in the same way as advanced thinking. It is morality that is based on mental faculties that do not fully develop until adulthood. It is also something that not everyone ever is fully able to develop, if they have not been able to develop more basic processes upon which advanced moral behavior depends. For example, the ability to see areas of moral ambiguity, empathize with others who seem significantly different, and consider and integrate multiple perspectives in coming to a moral decision are all involved in forming advanced moral behavior.

          • Mike

            my only point is that you seem to believe that there is a goal a telos to something called 'morality'. I think you admit as much but indirectly.

            See if there is no moral progress to wards some telos some end some final cause then we can't honestly speak of someone or some group being more morally advanced than any other. one just will happen to be different on that kind of humean analysis i suspect.

            but you seem to believe that no there is real objective progress towards some goal and that i think is VERY controversial in atheist philosophy as by far most DENY ANY direction or intentionality anywhere and most especially in something as obviously not material as "morality".

            anyway i just find it interesting when most atheists DENY intention purpose goals etc but appeal to it ALL THE TIME. just seems like a glaring contradiction if reality really is totally reducible to matter and energy and there really is at bottom no goal no meaning no purpose whatsoever.

          • David Hardy

            my only point is that you seem to believe that there is a goal a telos
            to something called 'morality'. I think you admit as much but
            indirectly.

            I do believe there is a goal: stronger social systems that support their members. Every instinct has a goal: hunger to acquire food, the desire for shelter to preserve the body from being harmed from the elements, etc.

            I would agree we can judge moral systems, just as we can judge the expression of any instinct by how well it is accomplishing its purpose. We can do so in two ways: first, by looking at the real effect of the moral system on members and their relationships, both positive and negative; second, by looking at foreseeable effects in these areas.

    • [...] morality itself is a natural, instinctive behavior.

      Would you be a bit more specific? The Bible is well aware of groups of people who are nice to each other and awful to outsiders. Indeed, Sodom itself may have fallen into this category (if you define the poor as 'outsiders'), as did the Benjamites in Judges 20–21. Jesus refers to this phenomenon in the Sermon on the Mount:

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:43–48)

      Note that Jesus didn't deny any and all 'morality'—he merely criticized non-universal 'morality'. (I am with Emil Brunner in saying that when you've started talking 'morality', you've regressed from wanting the best for every other human being, but perhaps we can leave that alone for the time being.)

      Consider this: evolution operates via competition: one group propagates more effectively than the other. Universal morality is antithetical to this. Local morality is perfectly fine with this. Evolutionarily, those who are weakest (runts of the litter, diseased, socially dysfunctional) are merely pruned from the evolutionary landscape. In contrast, the OT and NT are very interested in taking care of those on the margins of society—of not just feeding and lodging them, but raising them up. (Contrast the mere feeding a homeless person with helping him/her obtain full human dignity.)

      • David Nickol

        As I understand it, the Ten Commandments were not originally a set of universal moral principles, but rather a tribal code. Note, for example, this footnote from the NAB to Exodus 20:13 ("You shall not kill")

        Kill: as frequent instances of killing in the context of war or certain crimes (see vv. 12–18) demonstrate in the Old Testament, not all killing comes within the scope of the commandment. For this reason, the Hebrew verb translated here as “kill” is often understood as “murder,” although it is in fact used in the Old Testament at times for unintentional acts of killing (e.g., Dt 4:41; Jos 20:3) and for legally sanctioned killing (Nm 35:30). The term may originally have designated any killing of another Israelite, including acts of manslaughter, for which the victim’s kin could exact vengeance. In the present context, it denotes the killing of one Israelite by another, motivated by hatred or the like (Nm 35:20; cf. Hos 6:9).

        So "You shall not kill" originally meant "You shall not kill another member of your tribe." I think morality, in one very significant way, "advances" by widening the circle to encompass more and more of mankind (and animals, too) into the "tribe." So I do think moral codes arise with civilization. Human groups cannot band together successfully without basic rules that everyone is expected to adhere to. But of course being a part of any group has its downside, because it requires giving up freedom and instant gratification. It does not seem to me, then, very mysterious why there is something about human beings that Christians have tried to explain by "original sin." It the result of sacrifices individuals must make in order to live in relative harmony within their group, whether it be a band of hunter gatherers or something much larger and more complex.

        • I think morality, in one very significant way, "advances" by widening the circle to encompass more and more of mankind (and animals, too) into the "tribe."

          What conception of evolution and "survival of the fittest" allows morality to advance so far such that there is no longer any competition whatsoever? And if there is competition, how can we reconcile that with morality? I see a fundamental problem, here. Furthermore, if evolution can explain any state of affairs (which remotely seems plausible), then I question its explanatory power. Conspiracy theories can also explain any state of affairs.

          I will note that plenty of people don't see morality as entailing equality for all. The fact of the matter in the world is that there isn't equality for all. Whether we're moving in that direction is highly questionable, given the growing wealth inequality. More and more, I suspect that it's merely a convenient propaganda spread so that the masses will not revolt. Or to quote Chris Hedges:

              The liberal class refuses to recognize the obvious because it does not want to lose its comfortable and often well-paid perch. Churches and universities—in elite schools such as Princeton, professors can earn $180,000 a year—enjoy tax-exempt status as long as they refrain from overt political critiques. Labor leaders make lavish salaries and are considered junior partners within corporate capitalism as long as they do not speak in the language of class struggle. Politicians, like generals, are loyal to the demands of the corporate state in power and retire to become millionaires as lobbyists or corporate managers. Artists who use their talents to foster the myths and illusions that bombard our society live comfortably in the Hollywood Hills. (Death of the Liberal Class, 10)

      • David Hardy

        The Bible is well aware of groups of people who are nice to each other and awful to outsiders.

        This is an example of in-group versus out-group thinking. Morality is a set of instincts that guide in group thinking.

        Consider this: evolution operates via competition: one group propagates
        more effectively than the other. Universal morality is antithetical to
        this.

        Look at how successful countries are that can trade with and cooperate with other countries. Universal morality has many advantages. Evolution operates by what causes a species to thrive the most, regardless of whether that is competition. Evolutionary competition involves the competition of genes, not necessarily competitive behavior.

        In contrast, the OT and NT are very interested in taking care of those
        on the margins of society—of not just feeding and lodging them, but
        raising them up.

        Caring for the poor and ill is also a useful evolutionary trait, through the instinct of reciprocity. Caring for those in need helps everyone through their times of need.

        I would argue that the Christian religious system has prospered in part because it is able to foster the ability to engage and integrate members of the out-group. This sort of social system is actually very powerful and robust. One sees a similar effect in Mahayana Buddhism, with a strong ability to spread to and be accepted by individuals outside of the original group that formed it, spreading past cultural differences that can block the spread of other religions.

        • It would appear that there's nothing in the moral sphere which your conception of evolution cannot explain. If that's the case, I don't have much more to say: you'd be using 'evolution' in the same way conspiracy theorists operate.

          • David Hardy

            you'd be using 'evolution' in the same way conspiracy theorists operate.

            If you believe my view is wrong, I would ask that you address my view, rather than make general negative statements that do not actually do anything to challenge my position. Please identify a single point in my response regarding evolution and show, specifically, how it is not based in a proper understanding of evolution. Moral behavior is a successful evolutionary strategy that is found, to some extent, in all animals that form social groups. Societies that are able to trade and cooperate with other societies are more successful that those that do not, meaning the genetic traits of member of the former societies tend to proliferate more. Social competition is not the way in which evolution operates, genetic competition is.

            However, I will add that I was also addressing the way in which universal altruism in a belief system increases its ability to spread, which is not specifically related to evolution. This quality help to engage in-group thinking among people who did not previously identify themselves as part of the same group. It engages the moral instinct that formed through evolution, rather than causing it, and by doing so helps belief systems that have this quality to spread to out-groups of those that hold them.

            EDIT: Slight word change for clarity.

          • If you believe my view is wrong, I would ask that you address my view, rather than make general negative statements that do not actually do anything to challenge my position.

            First, I think your other comment and my reply may resolve this.

            Second, I think you're being a bit sensitive, after having gotten dangerously close to equivocating between two massively different conceptions of 'morality', which are conveniently laid out at the top of SEP's The Definition of Morality. We can call these 'in-group morality' or 'i-morality' for short, and 'universal morality' or 'u-morality' for short. You seem to think that one can get u-morality very easily from i-morality; the ease with which you speak about this makes me worried that you're actually equivocating with the terms. Evolution very easily explains i-morality (see Robert Axelrod's The Evolution of Cooperation); I'm not aware of any well-articulated argument, dealing with the best objections, which gets you from i-morality to u-morality.

            Social competition is not the way in which evolution operates, genetic competition is.

            Can you explain how some genes can be eliminated from the population without some individuals being prevented from having as many [biological] offspring as others?

          • David Hardy

            I think you're being a bit sensitive

            I did not make my comment because I was offended. I made my comment to highlight the fact that you had not actually addressed my point, but rather made a vague critical comment and implied you could address it if you wanted to do so, in the hopes that you would then address my point. Thank you for doing so.

            I'm not aware of any well-articulated argument, dealing with the best objections, which gets you from i-morality to u-morality.

            Morality, whether i- or u-, involves social relationships. Specifically, it addresses how we relate to others in a stable way (For example, respect of life, property, needs, and so forth). I-morality involves those we see as similar to ourselves in some way. U-morality, as you put it, relates to how we can integrate others who seem dissimilar (members of the out-group). There is actually significant research in Psychology, mostly centered around racial and cultural differences, showing that this can and does happen naturally under the right conditions. While u-morality may be this function to its a more extreme form, of trying to integrate everyone, that does not mean that it is not based in a natural instinct.

            Christianity promotes strategies to engage members of the outgroup in a collaborative, non-confrontational way that benefits those individuals, which research currently supports as the most effective way to integrate members of an out-group into the in-group. In-group thinking is not an absolute instinct with preset definitions of what the in-group will be. U-morality arises as instincts to expand the in-group, which can be very beneficial. They are distinct but related social instincts. I would also add that u-morality and thinking does not negate i-morality and thinking. The majority of Christians I know still think it is important to work to make others like them in terms of religious thinking. Many also continue to hold negative stereotypes of those seen as "other", like atheists. This is not to single Christians out, since they are in no way unique in these areas, only to highlight that i-group thinking is still occurring.

            Can you explain how some genes can be eliminated from the population
            without some individuals being prevented from having as many
            [biological] offspring as others?

            This is not my position. My position is that social competition is not always the most effective approach to increasing biological offspring, and may lead to a person being killed and having fewer or no offspring survive. Other social instincts exist because they can be more effective. Christianity, like Buddhism and Taoism, arose primarily in the lower class. Many of the early followers were not in positions of power. Social competition is a strategy that is most effective for those in a position of power. It can be self-destructive to be too hostile when another group could easily wipe yours out. On the other hand, if one is in the lower class, taking a more subservient and collaborative posture is the more effective instinctive social strategy to take, and this is the approach that these religious viewpoints support.

          • U-morality, as you put it, relates to how we can integrate others who seem dissimilar (members of the out-group). There is actually significant research in Psychology, mostly centered around racial and cultural differences, showing that this can and does happen naturally under the right conditions. While u-morality may be this function to its a more extreme form, of trying to integrate everyone, that does not mean that it is not based in a natural instinct.

            I don't really know what you mean to exclude, via "naturally" and "natural instinct". Here's a way for me to probe what you mean: consider the three passages, Mt 5:43–48, Jn 13:34–35, Jn 17:20–23. The idea here is that unity amidst diversity (i-morality is insufficient for this; u-morality is required) is very, very hard. Indeed, Jesus seems to think that only those "touched by God" can actually manage it. I'm guessing you would disagree very strongly with this claim?

            U-morality arises as instincts to expand the in-group, which can be very beneficial.

            I'm not convinced that u-morality actually arises in this way. Consider what a radical decrease in standard of living the vast majority of US citizens—and citizens in the entire West—would have to suffer in order for true u-morality to reign. I'm not sure it really matters how many people have it nice when there are e.g. 1,000,000 slaves picking cotton. There have always been areas where freedom and liberty reigned, while oppression existed elsewhere. Athens itself was a nice democracy—for Athenians, not for surrounding Greek cities and towns.

            Have you looked into whether you have the same kind of problem that allows one thousand foot skyscrapers, one kilometer high skyscrapers, but not fifty mile high skyscrapers? That is, how do you know that i-morality can really expand and transmute into u-morality? One way to have confidence in this is to predict possible ways that would stymie this process, and show how they could be overcome. Surely you aren't treating the emergence of u-morality as inevitable?

            DH: Social competition is not the way in which evolution operates, genetic competition is.

            LB: Can you explain how some genes can be eliminated from the population without some individuals being prevented from having as many [biological] offspring as others?

            DH: This is not my position. My position is that social competition is not always the most effective approach to increasing biological offspring [...]

            I'm not sure I care whether you call it "social competition" or something else. The point is that as long as evolution is operating, there is competition happening which results in some persons leaving behind fewer offspring than others. Unless this choice is voluntary, it seems that this constitutes a failure of u-morality. The possible saving irony is that many of the most well-off people in the world—groups which probably have large overlaps with those who have done much oppression, especially when one traces back generations—have sub-replacement birth rates.

          • David Hardy

            Indeed, Jesus seems to think that only those "touched by God" can
            actually manage it. I'm guessing you would disagree very strongly with
            this claim?

            I would not disagree that u-morality is hard - look at racism and sexism still prevalent today. I would disagree that it is so hard that only divine intervention is needed. Unless you hold that people who are atheists or of very different religions are unknowingly touched by God, however, it is certainly not true, since an ideal of u-morality is not unique to Christianity. Some people practice it without a religious conviction, and many forms of Mahayana Buddhism embrace u-morality.

            Consider what a radical decrease in standard of living the vast majority of US citizens—and citizens in the entire West—would have to suffer in order for true u-morality to reign.

            I do not disagree that true u-morality would decrease the standard of living. I am saying that it is an extreme form of the effort to bring others into one's community. Even many people who do embrace u-morality as an ideal do not practice it fully, but rather follow a less extreme form of the instinct.

            There have always been areas where freedom and liberty reigned,
            while oppression existed elsewhere. Athens itself was a nice democracy—for Athenians, not for surrounding Greek cities and towns..

            I will refer to my previous post. Those with power are less inclined towards the instincts that drive u-morality, because being more competitive and dominant may be a more successful strategies. Those being subjugated are more likely to utilize the u-morality instinct more. Even if it still leave inequity, which it almost certainly will, it may prevent hostility from the more powerful group.

            That is, how do you know that i-morality can really expand and transmute into u-morality?

            As I said before, I do not believe i-morality and u-morality are the same. I believe they are related instincts. I do not believe that i-morality is likely to become u-morality, but rather that the two may exist together in a person, with one favored over the other. Almost always, this will be i-morality. To put it another way, imagine someone who barely gives enough food and clothing to his or her children, in order to feed and clothe some strangers, and tells friends in need he cannot help because he is dedicating his time to people he does not know. How many people will deem that person a good parent, or a good friend? While some may laud the effort to care for strangers, many people tend to place this as secondary to making sure those in one's immediate social sphere are cared for. I-morality often takes precedence to u-morality, but it not mutually exclusive to u-morality efforts to care for out-groups.

            The point is that as long as evolution is operating, there is competition happening which results in some persons leaving behind fewer offspring than others. Unless this choice is voluntary, it seems that this constitutes a failure of u-morality.

            Competition yes, but not only or necessarily social competition. Nor is it necessarily a failure in u-morality. A person may fail to leave offspring due to dying by a genetic defect, or an accident, or famine, or natural disaster, or a failure to secure a mate for whatever reason. There are many reasons that a person may not have offspring, some of which are not rooted in u-morality for their outcomes.

          • Some people practice it without a religious conviction, and many forms of Mahayana Buddhism embrace u-morality.

            I would need to look more into what Mahayana Buddhists think is involved in escaping suffering; my guess from the little I know about Buddhism is that their conception here, and of what 'morality' is, differ greatly from Jesus. I claim that (i) Jesus saw morality as secondary to restoring right relationship between people (contrast to some conceptions of detachment); (ii) Jesus entered into suffering for the benefit of others. There is a lot of wrongness in existence, caused both by those who are alive and those who no longer are, wrongness which acts like an acid on existence. I don't see a way to resolve it other than through forgiveness, repentance, and suffering. This is antithetical to e.g. what we see in 50 Great Myths About Atheism: "Unlike Christianity, atheist views of the world do not see that there is much redemptive value in human suffering." (69)

            Even many people who do embrace u-morality as an ideal do not practice it fully, but rather follow a less extreme form of the instinct.

            If you are not actually approaching u-morality, then embracing it as an ideal is telling yourself a comforting fiction. If it is more accurate to say that you are approaching something else (which you will possibly ever arrive at), then the very statement that you are approaching u-morality is deceptive. The function –1/x + 3 gets closer to the values 3 and 5 as x increases, but it is more accurate to say that it approaches 3.

            As I said before, I do not believe i-morality and u-morality are the same.

            If they're not the same [kind?], do different motivations undergird them? What I'm working with here is the claim that evolution provided the foundation for both; if you disagree with that, let me know. If you don't, then I'm curious about how u-morality possibly arose.

            Competition yes, but not only or necessarily social competition. Nor is it necessarily a failure in u-morality. A person may fail to leave offspring due to dying by a genetic defect, or an accident, or famine, or natural disaster, or a failure to secure a mate for whatever reason. There are many reasons that a person may not have offspring, some of which are not rooted in u-morality for their outcomes.

            To the extent that humans have increasing power over genetic defects, avoiding accidents, negating famines, and protecting against natural disasters, your objection seems to be fading. That leaves not being able to secure a mate, but this is easily a function of social conditions (over which we have control) which encourage us to see certain persons as more attractive than others.

            I also wonder whether your objection is logically accurate while functioning to obscure the failure to approach u-morality. This failure can always be dismissed as "we're heading here, and over there you find reasons that have nothing to do with u-morality". If we're not actually heading toward u-morality (if we're approaching 3 and not 5), there seem to be a few possible factors: (i) our conception of u-morality is somehow in error; (ii) approaching u-morality is impossible past some approximation; (iii) we lack the motivation to do what it takes to approach u-morality arbitrarily closely. Can you see any other options?

          • David Hardy

            I would need to look more into what Mahayana Buddhists think is involved
            in escaping suffering; my guess from the little I know about Buddhism
            is that their conception here, and of what 'morality' is, differ greatly from Jesus.

            If you decide to look further into Buddhism, I will offer the warning that many western conceptions of Buddhism are based in a poor understanding of translations of Buddhist texts. Some common errors in understanding include that Buddhism holds that all existence is suffering, that one should go through life detached, and that nothing real. None of these are commonly held Buddhist beliefs. In regards to your positions on Christ, Mahayana Buddhism would agree to the idea of establishing right relationship between people. Likewise, many forms of Mahayana Buddhism embrace the ideal of Bodhisattvas, enlightened masters who could escape suffering themselves, but remain in it to help others towards liberation from suffering.

            There is a lot of wrongness in existence, caused both by those who are alive and those who no longer are, wrongness which acts like an acid on existence. I don't see a way to resolve it other than through forgiveness, repentance, and suffering.

            While I agree that there is a lot of immoral behavior, I wonder if that is all you are referring to here. I also do not know what you mean by it acting like acid on existence. In my experience, the universe exists regardless of our behaviors. We can influence its shape, not its existence. I agree to the value of forgiveness and repentance. As to suffering, it depends on what sort. Suffering due to guilt that leads to positive change, or suffering out of compassion, or suffering to sacrifice for the good of others, would all be examples of "good" suffering in this context. Of course, if one sees suffering as meaningful, one has already escaped the suffering of feeling that one's suffering is meaningless, which might be a "bad" form of suffering, as would suffering due to the cruelty of others.

            If you are not actually approaching u-morality, then embracing it as an ideal is telling yourself a comforting fiction.

            I would caution against extremism in thought. As an ideal, u-morality can be applied where it is deemed appropriate. U-morality at its extreme would embrace all people truly equally. Consider the following example: a person is able to save one of two people from a collapsing building. One is a stranger, the other his mother. Preferring his mother would arise from i-morality. Does that make it ethically worse? By contrast, if the stranger is chosen through random selection because there is truly no discrimination and all are loved equally, is that truly a superior ethical position? Have you abandoned your friends and family to care for strangers, according your friends and family no preference? Whether you have or not, is this truly an ethically superior life?

            If they're not the same [kind?], do different motivations undergird them? What I'm working with here is the claim that evolution provided the foundation for both; if you disagree with that, let me know.

            Both arose as part of the instinct to form social relationships. The difference is in function. I-morality serves to maintain social bonds that are formed. The foundation of u-morality is the goal of establishing bonds not yet formed. Caring for strangers is the first step to forming a positive relationship with them. I-morality raises a question of how the in-group forms, especially when it includes people of very different backgrounds. The behaviors within u-morality provides an answer.

            To the extent that humans have increasing power over genetic defects,
            avoiding accidents, negating famines, and protecting against natural
            disasters, your objection seems to be fading.

            Yet we are talking about where evolution has led us, not where it will lead us given current conditions. It is conceivable that, as we are able to accommodate for genetic defects and do so, these defects will become more common, for example, unless we are also able to correct them.

            I also wonder whether your objection is logically accurate while functioning to obscure the failure to approach u-morality. This failure can always be dismissed as "we're heading here, and over there you find reasons that have nothing to do with u-morality". If we're not actually heading toward u-morality (if we're approaching 3 and not 5)

            Here, I think, we find the heart of our difference. To use your example, you are starting at 5, while I am starting at one. I look at the foundation of u-morality - what it is at its foundation, which is the care of strangers. You seem to look at its most extreme expression - an absolute, universal, moral response to all people regardless of i-group relationship, perhaps even transcending notions of an i-group. You are looking at less extreme forms and saying the do not seem to be the same, because they do not "measure up" to the extreme form (3 is not as great as 5). I am starting from the position that both your form of u-morality and lesser forms of caring for strangers are the same behaviors, but differ in the degree to which they are applied, not their nature. My option would be that u-morality at this extreme is not superior to u-morality harmoniously mixed with i-morality - caring first for friends and family, and caring for strangers as one is able, treating everyone in an ethical way.

          • If you decide to look further into Buddhism, I will offer the warning that many western conceptions of Buddhism are based in a poor understanding of translations of Buddhist texts.

            I'm not at all surprised; many Westerners have terrible conceptions of Christianity. This is why I tell people that if I'm going to really seriously investigate other religions, I will need a guide somewhat like myself, who has worked hard to penetrate a lot of crap in his own religion. For example, I would ask a Mahayana Buddhist if there is anything like Augustine's privation theory of evil in Buddhism, with the crucial feature being that suffering actually gives one a clue as to what is wrong, like pain receptors do when properly functioning. The world doesn't have to operate this way; it is a contingent property which one needs justification for asserting.

            While I agree that there is a lot of immoral behavior, I wonder if that is all you are referring to here. I also do not know what you mean by it acting like acid on existence.

            Travel to the Ukraine or Syria or Iraq or Egypt to see places where wrongs done in the past are still quite evident. Or just travel to most any Native American reservation. As to "existence", I mean human life, lived to the full (Jesus promised this: John 10:10).

            I would caution against extremism in thought. As an ideal, u-morality can be applied where it is deemed appropriate.

            I'm not sure what you're calling "extremism in thought"; I view myself as arguing that we should call a spade, "a spade". As to applying morality "where it is deemed appropriate", I question whether you are actually applying "morality", at least as understood by people who disagree with Machiavelli. If I refrain from murdering people "where it is deemed appropriate" (deemed by whom?), you would be within your rights to question whether I am "a moral person".

            Have you abandoned your friends and family to care for strangers, according your friends and family no preference? Whether you have or not, is this truly an ethically superior life?

            Well, Galatians 6:10 supports preference to "the household of faith". Jesus tore into the Pharisees for refusing to take care of their parents in Mark 7:9–13; he references one of the Ten Words: "Honor your father and your mother". The ancient nation of Israel was supposed to be a tight-knit society, with nobody falling through the cracks. Ostensibly, this strength would then allow them to fulfill prophecies where the nations would flock to them to learn how they manage to be so awesome.

            How then does the Bible differ? Well, we have a totally new kind of in-group specified in Matthew 5:43–48. Paul's "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." was extraordinarily radical at the time. It is as if these and other biblical authors expect the in-group to start diverse and expand rapidly—I'm not aware of anyone else at the time who believed this was possible, not to mention a good idea.

            There is also the haunting warnings by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: if Jesus is not raised, we are the most to be pitied. This strikes at the idea that we must protect our families to ensure they survive (and when survival is threatened, there things traditionally get very dirty). It strikes at the idea that we can merely apply u-morality "where it is deemed appropriate". But if Christ is not raised, refusing to make pragmatic judgments can easily leave your group to be an evolutionary dead-end. So there does seem to be an important difference.

            Yet we are talking about where evolution has led us, not where it will lead us given current conditions.

            I disagree: there is the critical question of whether u-morality is truly compatible with evolution. If not, then we can question whether evolution-provided resources would be sufficient for u-morality. Maybe some evolution-provided resources are antithetical to u-morality.

            Here, I think, we find the heart of our difference. To use your example, you are starting at 5, while I am starting at one. [...] I am starting from the position that both your form of u-morality and lesser forms of caring for strangers are the same behaviors, but differ in the degree to which they are applied, not their nature.

            You may be right that this is the heart of our difference. See, I'm very concerned that we are telling ourselves all sorts of nice stories that we're headed toward ever more u-morality, when actually we aren't. And actually, apparently among historians, the telling of the idea of progress has waned (Brad S. Gregory claims this in his 2012 The Unintended Reformation, somewhere around p10). As per usual, it is likely to take a few decades for this scholarly opinion to filter into the public realm.

            See, if our foundation cannot support the size of skyscraper we claim we're building, then at least one of two things will happen: (i) the skyscraper we build will come crashing down; (ii) we will fail to do what we claim to do. The latter is compounded by the human tendency to readjust expectations after-the-fact; it happens with consumerism (post-purchase rationalization) and with what is philosophically possible to do (Noam Chomsky has some great stuff on this, like his lecture on YouTube called "The machine, the ghost, and the limits of understanding").

          • David Hardy

            For example, I would ask a Mahayana Buddhist if there is anything like Augustine's privation theory of evil in Buddhism, with the crucial feature being that suffering actually gives one a clue as to what is wrong

            There is, to an extent. Suffering arises in a Buddhist view, in part, by a person's thinking, behavior and efforts being out of tune with the right state of these aspects of being. However, there are also important details that separate Buddhism and Christianity.

            If I refrain from murdering people "where it is deemed appropriate" (deemed by whom?), you would be within your rights to question whether I am "a moral person".

            If you defend yourself and loved ones from a violent attacker and in the process must kill the assailant, and did so to protect rather than out of malice, we can discuss whether this warrants no moral consideration. Do you similarly question whether all soldiers who have killed in battle to defend their country are "moral people?"

            Well, Galatians 6:10 supports preference to "the household of faith".

            Here we have i-morality thinking. Favoring the in-group with ethical duties not afforded those outside it. It is not opposed to u-morality thinking, but they co-exist, and both have value.

            Well, we have a totally new kind of in-group specified in Matthew 5:43–48.

            These may be presented as the in-group, but that does not make it so. If the in-group is all inclusive, then it is no longer an in-group. Yet, as we just saw, there is still an in-group (the "household of faith", and "honor your father and mother", from your examples).

            there is the critical question of whether u-morality is truly compatible with evolution.

            And the type of thinking that u-morality involves, concern for strangers, has utility in certain situations. That it can be taken to the extreme of all strangers does not fundamentally alter the thinking and behavior, only the degree. One can find extreme expressions of many instincts that, if widely applied, might lead to evolutionary dead-ends. Yet, they are often not applied to that extreme. In my experience, many admirable people (Christians included) who care for many strangers often still also engage in i-morality thinking as well, and act in pragmatic ways. Some simply do not recognize it.

            See, I'm very concerned that we are telling ourselves all sorts of nice
            stories that we're headed toward ever more u-morality, when actually we aren't.

            As I've indicated with my friends and family being abandoned example, truly moving fully to a u-morality without i-morality does not strike me as an improvement in morality. Nor does u-morality that does not consider the pragmatic needs of the people involved. It is the ultimate preferring of a universal ideal regardless of the reality, the reality including our actual needs and relationships.

          • I'm going to skip over a few things; feel free to ask me to address any of what I've skipped.

            Here we have i-morality thinking. Favoring the in-group with ethical duties not afforded those outside it. It is not opposed to u-morality thinking, but they co-exist, and both have value.

            If a given instantiation of i-morality does not contain the resources for promoting an ever-greater u-morality, then I claim there does exist an opposition. The devil is in the details.

            And the type of thinking that u-morality involves, concern for strangers, has utility in certain situations.

            Who defines 'utility'? For millennia, it was 'useful' to have the masses farm and engage in forced labor, so the few could have nice things. When it came to the Rwandan Genocide, despite the fact that the US had reputable knowledge that a 'final solution' was planned, you might say that intervention was deemed to have insufficient 'utility', especially in light of the considerable political fallout of the Battle of Mogadishu (there was little human fallout for the US).

            As I've indicated with my friends and family being abandoned example, truly moving fully to a u-morality without i-morality does not strike me as an improvement in morality.

            Well, you certainly need a plan for getting to a full u-morality. I'm more concerned with rationalizations and foundations which constitute a permanent obstacle to anything like a full u-morality. One should not claim one is heading places that are impossible from what one currently believes.

            Nor does u-morality that does not consider the pragmatic needs of the people involved. It is the ultimate preferring of a universal ideal regardless of the reality, the reality including our actual needs and relationships.

            I don't understand these statements. Why and how does u-morality ignore reality? An example of what it does do is insist that all people are equal before the law. You don't have multiple classes of persons, some with more rights than others. An aristocrat from centuries past might say that equality before the law is "un-pragmatic" or "unrealistic".

          • David Hardy

            First, I would like you to address my point regarding killing in self defense or defense of country as a response to your claim that one can never deem killing another as being the appropriate act in a situation. Many moral concepts, both i- and u-, require the ability of the person holding them to judge if and how they apply to a situation. This also touches on your question from this post, regarding who deems whether it is appropriate to apply a moral idea, and how to do so. Those involved in the situation make the judgment. Others, learning about the situation, may also make a judgment, leading to potential consequences if those with power deem the individuals involved failed to make an appropriate moral decision.

            If a given instantiation of i-morality does not contain the resources for promoting an ever-greater u-morality, then I claim there does exist an opposition.

            We seem in agreement now. I-morality and u-morality are related but distinct instinctive drives. Like many related instincts, they may cooperate or compete with each other.

            Who defines 'utility'?

            Utility in the evolutionary sense, since we have been discussing how the instinct for u-morality could arise. The ability to produce more offspring and be more resilient to factors that could lead to death. Beyond evolution, treating others with moral consideration often produces some degree of reciprocal behavior, and can expand the in-group (that is to say, lead to new friends), which has value to the individual.

            Well, you certainly need a plan for getting to a full u-morality.

            I am not talking about the means to get there, I am talking about a true u-morality that replaces all i-morality, which is what we have been discussing. This would replace the concepts of i-morality, including in-groups. Such a person would not discrimination between family and stranger, friend and enemy. Concepts like loyalty, which is fundamentally an i-morality concept, would become meaningless, because all people would warrant the same moral consideration, rather than some deserving a greater moral consideration than others.

            Why and how does u-morality ignore reality?

            I will draw from your previous comment to explain.

            This strikes at the idea that we must protect our families to ensure they survive (and when survival is threatened, there things traditionally get very dirty).

            People trying to survive may temporarily abandon a great deal of moral thinking in a crisis. However, the apparent suggestion we do not need to protect our family if possible seems highly questionable to me. It relates back to my previous comment, regarding the value of loyalty. The reality is that we have relationships, and within those relationships, i-morality plays a role that u-morality cannot play (see the previous comments on loyalty). We also have needs (such as protecting family), and caring for these needs in crises often mitigates a certain degree of morally questionable behavior. In this second case, I was responding to your apparent conception of u-morality, given the quote above.

            I will add, in case it is getting lost in the discussion, that I value idea of a u-morality that seeks to promote positive behavior in those we meet. I am questioning the idea that this replaces i-morality, and that there are not cases where applying u-morality responses is not helpful.

          • First, I would like you to address my point regarding killing in self defense or defense of country as a response to your claim that one can never deem killing another as being the appropriate act in a situation.

            I actually didn't claim that; here's what I said:

            LB: As to applying morality "where it is deemed appropriate", I question whether you are actually applying "morality", at least as understood by people who disagree with Machiavelli. If I refrain from murdering people "where it is deemed appropriate" (deemed by whom?), you would be within your rights to question whether I am "a moral person".

            Serial killers regularly "deem killing another as being the appropriate act in a situation", as did Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. We would call serial killers, and mass murderers, "immoral". What this means is that one needs something more than just "where it is deemed appropriate". Indeed, the difference here seems to be precisely between i-morality and u-morality.

            As to killing in self-defense or in defense of country, I struggle with advocating extreme pacifism (a position I have yet to take up and act on), given the absurdity in engaging in extreme violence (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan) and then all of a sudden asserting moral superiority and refusing to kill a fly. But I am wary that killing "in defense of country" can sometimes be an extremely evil act. And yet, as Noam Chomsky articulates well, we always have our rationalizations for why killing is acceptable. Given the Western hegemony in the world, there is great uproar over the Charlie Hebdo attacks and virtually none over the 1999 NATO bombing of a Serbian news station.

            There is great power in refusing self-defense, and we can see this in fiction where the bad guy desperately wants the good guy to pick up his/her weapon and fight. Mowing down innocents, whom even the evil person cannot rationalize as 'evil', is very hard. Prior to the killing in Rwanda, Tutsis were made out to be 'cockroaches' and the like via a massive propaganda campaign. In Nazi Germany, Jews were made out to be pigs, animals, and apparently the Germans went as far as to provide intentionally insufficient bathroom facilities in the concentration camps to help strip their humanity away and make it easier for the Germans to commit genocide. Shattering legitimation—composed of "where it is deemed appropriate"—is very important. Jesus' murder is the greatest example of this. The idea that society is the sole genesis of morality was fatally wounded that day.

            We seem in agreement now. I-morality and u-morality are related but distinct instinctive drives. Like many related instincts, they may cooperate or compete with each other.

            I'm not really sure what 'cooperate' would look like. I see i-morality as a necessary transition state to u-morality; the examples you use to argue that solely employing u-morality would be bad seem only valid in the transition region.

            Utility in the evolutionary sense, since we have been discussing how the instinct for u-morality could arise.

            This puts me back in the situation of asking how it could be falsified that evolution + human society could be sufficient for allowing full u-morality to dominate. And if you claim that full domination is either undesirable or impossible, I will ask what the optimal balance might look like in the long-term.

            Concepts like loyalty, which is fundamentally an i-morality concept, would become meaningless, because all people would warrant the same moral consideration, rather than some deserving a greater moral consideration than others.

            I don't see why loyalty is fundamentally an i-morality concept. Perhaps the idea that 'faith' in the NT is probably best understood as loyalty to God is a different kind of 'loyalty', given that it is not to a person who has a mix of good and evil within him/her?

            However, the apparent suggestion we do not need to protect our family if possible seems highly questionable to me.

            My understanding of history is that a whole lot of evil has been carried out under the banner of "protect our family". Now, if there is no being who transcends this reality who can ensure the continued existence of goodness, then we have to play that role, ourselves. So, whether it is justifiable seems to depend on whether a God like the Judeo-Christian one exists, but not in a "divine command theory" sense. God promises to resurrect those who are good; on your view resurrection is likely impossible. Under an evolutionary view, goodness which is pruned from the evolutionary tree is worthless; under a Judeo-Christian view, evil will ultimately be pruned not because it failed to compete, but because it was evil.

          • David Hardy

            Indeed, the difference here seems to be precisely between i-morality and u-morality.

            If you are suggesting the serial killers and mass murderers have a strong sense of i-morality and an absence of u-morality, I would respectfully disagree. Most serial killers and mass murderers are moral towards members of their in-group only insofar as they are not challenged. They display a self-serving narcissism, not i-morality, in how they relate to their in-group.

            As to killing in self-defense or in defense of country, I struggle with advocating extreme pacifism . . . But I am wary that killing "in defense of country" can sometimes be an extremely evil act.

            Then we are very similar in our views. Morality can be a very complex issue, with situational factors that determine where and how moral guidelines (such as not to kill) should be applied. That is true of any moral guideline, whether i- or u-.

            I'm not really sure what 'cooperate' would look like.

            Both function in a way that work together - ethical behavior specific to the in-group (i-morality), but also ethical behavior accorded to both the in-group and out-groups (u-morality). More on this below.

            This puts me back in the situation of asking how it could be falsified that evolution + human society could be sufficient for allowing full u-morality to dominate.

            I would ask if there are any examples where true u-morality ever has dominated. Certainly, some groups engage in it more u-moral thinking than others, but that is not the same as engaging in u-morality to the absence of i-morality. If it has not occurred, it seems premature to assume it needs to be explained how it has occurred.

            I will ask what the optimal balance might look like in the long-term.

            For me, this requires an assessment of the resources of the person being considered. I-morality is useful in part because it focuses our limited time and effort towards those also help to support us, making these efforts potentially more sustainable. Caring for others in hard times who will care for you in hard times allows for all involved to continue these efforts despite changing fortunes. Some u-morality behaviors, such as general respect and courtesy, do not require resources, and should be engaged in continuously as the situation calls for them. For those with additional resources to provide more costly care to strangers, this will have further possible benefits, moving beyond the individual offering the care to the larger community. However, burning oneself out by pushing past one's limits to care for others is evidence that this balance has not been struck, as is failing to care for others not due to personal limits but rather due to apathy or cruelty.

            I don't see why loyalty is fundamentally an i-morality concept.

            Loyalty is the idea that certain people deserve additional behaviors not accorded to everyone, and failing to provide these behaviors is unethical. As soon as you say you are loyal, the question arises "to whom?" Once that is answered, those receiving the loyalty can be distinguished from those who do not receive it, and you have an in-group to whom one feels an ethical obligation not felt towards those outside of that group. This is not a bad thing, however, since as I mentioned before we all have limited resources to apply in caring for others. For example, If I have a friend who needs help, I may still help even if it put me in a difficult spot, because my friend has (and would) do the same for me.

            My understanding of history is that a whole lot of evil has been carried out under the banner of "protect our family".

            I agree. However, a great deal of good arises out of the desire to protect one's family, too.

            Now, if there is no being who transcends this reality who can ensure the
            continued existence of goodness, then we have to play that role, ourselves.

            I agree again. This makes the duty to act ethical and uphold what is good all the more vital. We must do it if we value it and wish to promote it.

            Under an evolutionary view, goodness which is pruned from the evolutionary tree is worthless

            Only from an evolutionary standpoint. Evolution would look at what traits are passed down genetically. What values are maintained culturally, and the worth attributed to them, is a different matter.

            evil will ultimately be pruned not because it failed to compete, but because it was evil.

            I would be very happy if this occurs. I simple see no reason to believe it will happen, and all of human history to suggest that there will always be examples of immoral behavior.

          • I'm afraid that the abstractness of this conversation is getting less and less tractable for me. The excellence of science lies in its ability to say precisely one thing and not the other, to rule out even slight deviations in its most mature form. Now we have nothing close to mature science in this realm, but what seems to be happening is that your explanation of how things came to be can very easily accommodate much of any conceivable evidence. Contrast this to Newton's laws of motion, which made the precession of Mercury's perihelion a huge problem.

            You ask for examples of where true u-morality has dominated; I'm tempted to include Jesus, those who ministered to the sick during the Bubonic plague, missionaries who give their lives, a Czar and his wife in Russia who submitted to execution instead of calling their serfs to fight to the death for them, and stuff like this. But I'm not sure these examples actually match up with what you mean by u-morality. It seems like they don't; it seems like I mean something different from u-morality than you, when one gets detailed enough.

            I forget if it was Peter Singer or someone else, but the point was made that one is more obligated to take care of a poor person in one's immediate vicinity than in a far-away land. First, units of currency are generally less effective the further they have to travel. Second, you will generally be less good at helping someone in a far-away land than the person in your immediate vicinity. Third, your own sins, whether personal or institutionalized, are more likely to have contributed to the poor person's plight who is in your vicinity.

            In talking to my pastor, I made the point that it is actually easier to go on a missions trip to a faraway land for a week or two (living with them long-term is completely different), than it is to go to a homeless encampment a mile away and minister there for the same time period. He agreed completely. You can maintain a safe distance from short-term missions "charity recipients"; it is much harder to stand face-to-face with a homeless person from your neck of the woods and treat him/her as a full person.

            So, the thing I'm trying to pick out with the term 'u-morality' is not just the equivalent of liquidating one's assets and distributing them to all of humanity equally. It is, however, a system which is either being approached by one's actions, or a story one tells oneself while never in a million years would anything like the promised utopia materialize. I think the way forward is to examine different proposals for how to get to u-morality, see their predictions for the future, and test them in this way—scientifically. We could note, for example, that scientists and intellectuals at the end of the nineteenth century were glorying in what humans would do, all the way up to WWI. "Never again" was uttered, and then came WWII. These scientists and intellectuals clearly had false beliefs about something akin to u-morality.

            Finally, there is a question of whether we are constructing a morality out of nothing, or whether we are increasingly well-approximating some way that reality was designed. Furthermore, there is a question of whether true moral progress can be lost if it gets stomped out (e.g. Russian Orthodox Church by the Communists), or whether some being other than humans will preserve efforts somehow, 1 Cor 15:58-style. There is also the question of whether any divine beings are willing to aid us somehow—perhaps only if we actually want to take our medicine instead of remaining steeped in falsehoods and evil motives.

          • David Hardy

            I'm afraid that the abstractness of this conversation is getting less
            and less tractable for me. The excellence of science lies in its ability
            to say precisely one thing and not the other, to rule out even slight
            deviations in its most mature form. Now we have nothing close to mature
            science in this realm, but what seems to be happening is that your
            explanation of how things came to be can very easily accommodate much of
            any conceivable evidence.

            I appreciate the willingness to acknowledge that the abstractness is making the topic difficult, and the further efforts you have made to explain your position, both in this and prior posts. Rather than continue further into territory that is already difficult, I will simply end by stating that morality has had significant research in the field of Psychology. Much of my position is based on my understanding of what this research says in regards to how morality functions and how it can function, especially in regards to in-groups and out-groups. However, there is still much to learn. As I said before, I believe u-morality has an important role, and should be fostered. I will leave aside any disagreements beyond that point, since I believe we would both agree it to be a core point.

          • Thanks for the discussion to-date!

            Rather than continue further into territory that is already difficult, I will simply end by stating that morality has had significant research in the field of Psychology. Much of my position is based on my understanding of what this research says in regards to how morality functions and how it can function, especially in regards to in-groups and out-groups.

            Do you have some good suggestions? Preferably books or publicly available scientific papers, but if there's something really good, I can go to the extra effort of requesting it through my library or ponying up the money for the article.

            I'm particularly interested in those who try not just to explain all the evidence, but start making theories which could easily be proven wrong, like the precession of the perihelion of Mercury clearly proved Newtonian physics wrong. If the science just isn't ready to do that, okay—but it'd be nice to see that explicitly stated, as well.

            Also, do you know if this research has been appreciably damaged by results such as described in the August 27, 2015 NYT article Many Psychology Findings Not as Strong as Claimed, Study Says?

          • David Hardy

            Do you have some good suggestions? Preferably books or publicly available scientific papers, but if there's something really good, I can go to the extra effort of requesting it through my library or ponying up the money for the article.

            I will have to know what area you are looking into - are you wondering about how moral thinking develops (which is more on the i-morality side), or how it is expanded past the in-group to others (on the u-morality side)? Or is there a different area you are looking at?

            If the science just isn't ready to do that, okay—but it'd be nice to see that explicitly stated, as well.

            Part of the issue with making hypotheses about i-morality versus u-morality is that the study is often either purely naturalistic, looking at factors that impact moral decision making and out-group hostility, or is aimed at the efficacy of efforts to promote morality and social justice. The reason for this is that we cannot control the degree of morality thinking (i- or u-) a person comes into the study with, nor is it easy to manipulate this as a variable, making strict causal studies impossible. What I can say is that you will find the most research about promoting u-morality in studies on how to reduce racism. Out-group hostility based on race continues to be a major issue, and a great deal of research has been dedicated to how to promote ethical behavior across racial lines. U-morality is not distinct from i-morality in terms of the sort of moral duties endorsed, but rather the scope in which those duties are applied.

            Also, do you know if this research has been appreciably damaged by results such as described in the August 27, 2015 NYT article Many Psychology Findings Not as Strong as Claimed, Study Says?

            I would caution a careful evaluation of each replication study to assess the implications of whether the study is "damaged" by the replication. A point from the article:

            In an email, Paola Bressan, a psychologist at the University of Padua and an author of the original mate preference study, identified several such differences — including that her sample of women were mostly Italians, not American psychology students — that she said she had forwarded to the Reproducibility Project. “I show that, with some theory-required adjustments, my original findings were in fact replicated,” she said.

            These are the sorts of differences that themselves could be the focus of a separate study, Dr. Nosek said.

            Replication is very important. However, if the findings are different, that raises the question of why. Is it because of a systematic difference in the sample used, or alterations to the methodology or, If it is due to random chance, which finding is the chance finding? A replication that fails requires an evaluation of the sample, methodology, and, if these are similar, additional studies to evaluate which finding is true. If they are not, it may indicate a limitation of the implications of the other study, or methodology errors.

          • I will have to know what area you are looking into - are you wondering about how moral thinking develops (which is more on the i-morality side), or how it is expanded past the in-group to others (on the u-morality side)? Or is there a different area you are looking at?

            I'm perhaps most interested in whether scientific research into morality (u- or i-) has reached the stage where scientists can start making predictions and corroborate an interesting percentage of them. Compare this to the kind of work which has to take place in less mature science, where mostly one is trying to account for the facts that one already has. I'm not sure whether it's legit to compare between e.g. Baconian science vs. Popperian science. To illustrate the benefit I'm trying to get at, consider how Alexis de Tocqueville got quite a few predictions surprisingly accurate. His success points toward him having some things profoundly correct. He wasn't just making up stories to account for what he saw.

            What I can say is that you will find the most research about promoting u-morality in studies on how to reduce racism.

            Do you know whether these studies looked to see if the same underlying pattern—perhaps we can call it 'otherizing'—persists, even if racist attitudes desist? Suppose, for example, that the actual cause of racism is the refusal to acknowledge one's own contribution to a bad situation. In this scenario, one could stop blaming those of another race and then find a new target, thereby maintaining the belief that a nontrivial part of the problem is one's own approach to life.

            I would caution a careful evaluation of each replication study to assess the implications of whether the study is "damaged" by the replication.

            Oh, sure. Are you aware of Kenneth Gergen's Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge? He makes the point that a lot of behavior studied by social psychologists is likely socially constructed and therefore highly contingent. This contingency, however, is its own serious problem to theorizing.

            Note that my desire for corroborated predictions helps us break out of problems with respect to replication, bias toward publishing positive results, etc. The more you can successfully build on and extend a model, the more one can have confidence that one got something quite right, at least within some domains.

          • David Hardy

            I'm perhaps most interested in whether scientific research into morality
            (u- or i-) has reached the stage where scientists can start making
            predictions and corroborate an interesting percentage of them.

            Please give me an example of the sort of prediction you are meaning. Predictions regarding what moral decision a person will make, or what factors promote moral thinking, or some other aspect? As I said, moral thinking is very complex. Isolating a single factor and proving a linear causal relationship is unlikely with any complex behavior or mental process. Identifying strong correlations is far more common, or clarifying what sort of thinking leads to moral thinking or a lack thereof.

            Suppose, for example, that the actual cause of racism is the refusal to acknowledge one's own contribution to a bad situation.

            These are separate but potentially similar factors, that could probably be recognized even anecdotally. For example, unrecognized racist behavior is still quite prevalent in the United States, but many people can recognize their part of a bad situation with friends and family, or even strangers, where racism is not playing a role. On a side note, studies do suggest that reducing racism towards one ethnic group will not necessarily reduce racism towards all groups. Also, endorsing universal morality does not inherently reduce racism, and in some cases can increase it (Usually in the form of endorsing a specific cultural moral system as "universal" and forming negative evaluations of ethnic groups and cultures not given to that system).

            He makes the point that a lot of behavior studied by social
            psychologists is likely socially constructed and therefore highly
            contingent. This contingency, however, is its own serious problem to
            theorizing.

            This is an issue well recognized in the field now, although it was an unrecognized issue until about 20 years ago, when it finally became recognized as a serious concern. All studies, theories and concepts need to be evaluated with an awareness of what socio-cultural group was used to form it.

            In short, to answer your question as directly as possible, the field has not been able to create direct causal studies, due to the complexity of the issue. Instead, careful observation with a recognition of cultural (and gender based) differences has been used to form ideas of how morality forms and expresses itself, including what factors are correlated.

          • Please give me an example of the sort of prediction you are meaning.

            I mean the type of prediction which distinguishes just-so stories—after-the-fact accounts of evidence which can only be tested for coherency—and the kind of science which provides justification for The Miracle Argument of scientific realism. By no means does this have to involve predicting the moral decisions of individuals; it can function in a statistical sense. Note that I do not mean to derogate just-so stories; it is my understanding that science may have to start out this way. What is important is whether scientists portray their given scientific endeavor as existing in the "just-so story" domain, or in the more mature, "we regularly make falsifiable predictions" domain.

            This is an issue well recognized in the field now, although it was an unrecognized issue until about 20 years ago, when it finally became recognized as a serious concern.

            Is there a more up-to-date version of Kenneth Gergen's argument, hopefully which captures the historical shift from positivism to something closer to constructionism?

            In short, to answer your question as directly as possible, the field has not been able to create direct causal studies, due to the complexity of the issue. Instead, careful observation with a recognition of cultural (and gender based) differences has been used to form ideas of how morality forms and expresses itself, including what factors are correlated.

            I'm curious: do you think that there is any equivocation going on when claims are made that scientists now "understand" morality, in a scientific sense? Take, for example, the discovery of the Higgs Boson. It was predicted fifty years before being discovered. Its discovery demonstrates that the person who predicted it had something seriously correct. One might say the same about some of Alexis de Tocqueville's predictions. When scientists say that they "understand" how steel works, surely the word "understand" functions very differently than when it is used to say that they "understand" morality.

            In short, the difference is between correlation and causation, and it is possibly a FREAKING HUGE difference. I wonder whether scientists talking about scientifically understanding morality frequently omit to note this difference, especially in the more popular literature from which many internet atheists draw their thoughts on how much science knows about morality.

          • David Hardy

            I mean the type of prediction which distinguishes just-so
            stories—after-the-fact accounts of evidence which can only be tested for
            coherency—and the kind of science which provides justification for The Miracle Argument of scientific realism.

            One of the first things that I could think of would be the early research of Carl Rogers, which started the person-centered movement, since there have been a number of confirming studies on his early prediction - that a strong contributing factor in fostering morality and resilience is a relationship to another person who is empathetic, honest and unconditionally loving. Of these, empathy has had the most support as important, followed by unconditional love, followed by honesty. Another would be some of the behavioral research, which has clearly identified how consequences (reward and punishment), associations (conditioned versus unconditioned stimuli and response), and context (generalizing versus specifying of behavior within certain contexts) help predict what a person thinks he or she should do versus what he or she should not do. This extends beyond morality, but certainly does play a role in shaping moral thinking.

            Is there a more up-to-date version of Kenneth Gergen's argument,
            hopefully which captures the historical shift from positivism to
            something closer to constructionism?

            This is not an argument per se, but hopefully this section of the American Psychological Association's (apa.org) code of ethics will do (emphasis mine):

            9.02 Use of Assessments

            (a) Psychologists administer, adapt, score, interpret or use assessment techniques, interviews, tests or instruments in a manner and for purposes that are appropriate in light of the
            research on or evidence of the usefulness and proper application of the techniques.

            (b) Psychologists use assessment instruments whose validity and reliability have been established for use with members of the population tested. When such validity or reliability has not been established, psychologists describe the strengths and limitations of test results and interpretation.

            (c) Psychologists use assessment methods that are appropriate to an individual's language preference and competence, unless the use of an alternative language is relevant to the
            assessment issues.

            I'm curious: do you think that there is any equivocation going on
            when claims are made that scientists now "understand" morality, in a scientific sense?
            . . . In short, the difference is between correlation and causation, and it is possibly a FREAKING HUGE difference.

            Anyone who exits college with a degree in Psychology has had the difference between causal versus correlational studies hammered in. As far as morality, like pretty much any other area of behavior, some findings have a causal nature (like the behavioral principles above). Others are correlations (like the empathetic, loving, honest relationship to others described above). However, when a correlation is strong and consistent, and subsequent research shows that introducing this relationship in naturalistic settings has a similar positive effect, this has important implications, even if the causal relationship is not established.

          • [...] that a strong contributing factor in fostering morality and resilience is a relationship to another person who is empathetic, honest and unconditionally loving. Of these, empathy has had the most support as important, followed by unconditional love, followed by honesty.

            Thanks; this is fascinating. Christian theology establishes all of these: Jesus as high priest able to empathize, God as loving us unconditionally, and God as constitutionally not being able to lie. I've long wanted to correlate Christian theology with psychology. :-)

            This is not an argument per se, but hopefully this section of the American Psychological Association's (apa.org) code of ethics will do (emphasis mine):

            Thanks, but I'm actually quite interested in the history itself. Gergen notes that the established researchers had ulterior motives to remain with positivism. Some of them were staying employed; to make a major shift in what one believes ten years from retirement is quite difficult, especially if one's false beliefs are not completely false, and some fruit can still be extracted from them (or should I say "juice can still be squeezed from them"?).

            I'm not surprised that the experts these days acknowledge the truth of what Gergen says. However, I worry that many, including many internet atheists, are stuck in the past. I find that the best strategy for such people is to show them how the experts used to hold their position, but no longer do so for these reasons. It seems like there can easily be a multi-decade lag, between bleeding-edge research and what gets discussed on the internet by Christians and atheists. I would like to do what I can to decrease this lag!

            Anyone who exits college with a degree in Psychology has had the difference between causal versus correlational studies hammered in.

            Yeah, if only internet atheists could be taught this too. Anyhow, I'm always on the lookout for better ways to communicate this idea. There is this clever XKCD, but I still don't have a really good, robust way to establish the idea without a doubt. What I really want to do is sketch out the territory that is contaminated with "correlation ⇒ causation", and decontaminate it. That has proven to be fairly tricky.

            However, when a correlation is strong and consistent, and subsequent research shows that introducing this relationship in naturalistic settings has a similar positive effect, this has important implications, even if the causal relationship is not established.

            No doubt. Correlations are not useless. Indeed, usually they are prerequisites to finding causation. :-) And one can use them as proxies for causation in certain cases. This generally fails though, when one is trying to talk metaphysically, as theists and atheists often do.

          • David Hardy

            Since I largely agree with your post, I will just say that I believe one of the great strengths of Christianity is that it carries within it a number of insights, especially regarding building social bonds and prosocial thinking, that research in Psychology has also supported as being highly effective. I also wanted to acknowledge my appreciation for a fellow XKCD reader. Thank you for the interesting discussion!

          • But the disagreements are where it's fun! :-p It is a breath of fresh air to not have to pound on certain points that I'm highly confident are true, but the other person is über-resistant to considering even possibly true in the sense of "maybe I have a few other false beliefs and it could be probably true if I altered them". I'm glad you're aware of XKCD; when he gets it right, he really gets it right.

          • David Hardy

            Also, if you are looking for a good XKCD comic that points out the problem with jumping to conclusions in causation studies, I would suggest #882: Significant. It highlights how laypeople and the media often fail to consider that alpha errors will invariably happen even in sound causation studies.

          • Hahaha, it takes a bit of expertise to see the connection between 20 panels and a p = 0.05! :-D

            Do you remember Did the sun just explode??

          • David Hardy

            I do. Good statistics humor often makes me think of a quote sometimes attributed to Benjamin Disraeli -

            There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

          • Yep. Not only can one screw up, but one also has Underdetermination of Scientific Theory and Theory and Observation in Science.

            Oh, from Aaron Levenstein:

            Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.

  • Peter

    The fall makes sense even from a strictly materialist viewpoint. As humans evolved the intellectual capabilities which make them human, they will, unlike all other animals, have reached a point where they came to know the difference between right and wrong. By choosing from the very beginning what they knew to be wrong, such as murder, theft, persecution, injustice, aggression, greed etc., they brought over time a lot more suffering into the world and among themselves.

    For a materilaist, the fall is the moment where that extra suffering began as a consequence of humans first deciding to do what they knew to be wrong.

  • David Nickol

    Just as there was no need for agriculture in the Garden of Eden, there was no need for education before the Fall. . . .

    The problems we face today began in the Garden with one bite of the fruit of the forbidden tree.

    I would be curious to know how much of the rest of the story of Adam and Eve Steven Rummelsburg (and others who believe Adam and Eve actually ate a piece of forbidden fruit) takes to be literally true.

    • ClayJames

      I would be curious to know how much of the rest of the story of Adam and Eve Steven Rummelsburg

      I thought for a second you had discovered Eve´s full name. ; )

      As a catholic, I have never really taken any of the story of Adam of Eve as literally true but more as an explanation of our fallen nature and propensity to sin. So I don´t think there was an actual Adam, Eve, Garden of Eden, snake or apple. I don´t know how much of an outlier my view is among Catholics.

    • Robert Macri

      The Catholic Church maintains that while everything written in scriptures is inspired, and therefore preserved from doctrinal error, care must be taken to understand the context and literary style of individual portions of the text (ie- we must differentiate genres of writing, author intent--scripture was inspired, but God used people to write it--as well as audience expectations of the time, etc).

      By way of example, the parables of Jesus are embraced as genuine truth, but we wouldn't suggest that the precise details of each parable must have happened in some point in history (for instance, that there necessarily existed a prodigal son or the good Samaritan. In a similar way, aficionados of American history don't care whether or not George Washington actually cut down a cherry tree; we understand that story as a way of expressing the honesty of his character: "I cannot tell a lie.")

      While much of scriptures can be taken as a historical record, the first chapters of Genesis are generally understood to reveal truth by way of allegory and poetry. While there are certain things that the Church holds firmly (that all things were created by God, that the entire human race descends from a single human pair, that we inherited a fallen nature due to the sin of that pair, etc), she does not hold that strict belief in certain allegorical/poetic details (the strict "scientific" order or timing of creation presented in Genesis, or that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a literal fruit...) is necessary for the faith.

      So it is not necessary to believe that an actual ingestion of physical fruit took place. Indeed, the bible never mentions an apple, but only says that Adam and Eve "ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil", which is more appropriately understood in the sense that they chose to disobey God and decide for themselves what was good or evil.

      • David Nickol

        So it is not necessary to believe that an actual ingestion of physical fruit took place.

        You have given a very clear explanation of what I understand the Church's understanding to be. Note that even the Catechism says

        390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

        What has me mystified (sort of) is that an article has been posted for the Strange Notions audience which goes out of its way to incorporate elements of outdated, fundamentalist views.

      • Rudy R

        they chose to disobey God and decide for themselves what was good or evil.

        Since it wasn't literal fruit, don't Catholics wonder what the infraction(s) was, in terms of deciding what was good or evil? The god of the OT had a lot of crazy and arbitrary laws and allowed, if not encouraged, some horrifying acts that we deem immoral in our present day culture. Maybe Adam and Eve got a bum rap for siding with our modern day morality.

        • Robert Macri

          "...don't Catholics wonder what the infraction(s) was"...?

          Oh yes, we certainly wonder, but we cannot know the precise nature of their sin from reading Genesis, only that Adam and Eve took it upon themselves to decide what was good or evil.

          "The god of the OT had a lot of crazy and arbitrary laws
          and allowed, if
          not encouraged, some horrifying acts
          that we deem immoral in our present
          day culture."

          I would not say that the OT laws were "arbitrary", any more than my instructions to my kids are arbitrary (such as when I make them wait for something they want in order to teach them patience, or make them play boring scales on the piano to develop skills that will later enable them to produce beautiful melodies--these things are not immediately useful, but serve a future purpose).

          As for the "horrifying acts that we deem immoral in our present day culture", such things must be read with regard to proper biblical hermeneutics, noting the spiritual message. (For example, the dictate that Israel has to completely slaughter the inhabitants of the promised land as they take possession of it serves to teach us the necessity of eliminating all sin from our lives (especially idolatry, which the pagan enemies of Israel represented), and not to assimilate it in any way lest those evils overtake us.)

          "Maybe Adam and Eve got a bum rap for siding with our
          modern day morality."

          If Adam and Eve sided with out modern "morality", then it was not a "bum rap" at all! I have a very difficult time associating the words "modern" and "morality".

          • David Nickol

            Oh yes, we certainly wonder, but we cannot know the precise nature of their sin from reading Genesis, only that Adam and Eve took it upon themselves to decide what was good or evil.

            But according to the story, this is not what happened. Before they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they did not know what was good and evil. They acquired that knowledge by eating the fruit of the tree. Genesis 3:22 is as follows:

            Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever?

            This also strongly implies that bodily immortality was not a "preternatural gift" given to Adam and Eve. God is clearly alarmed at the thought that Adam and Eve will gain immortality by eating from the tree of life. I suppose one could argue that Adam and Eve were created immortal, lost immortality by their disobedience, and could have gotten it back again had the eaten from the tree of life.

            It seems in Genesis, God does not have power over the tree of life. He must physically prevent Adam and Eve from getting to the tree of life and eating from it, otherwise they will become immortal, like him.

          • Robert Macri

            "But according to the story, this is not what happened. Before they ate
            from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they did not know what was good and evil."

            I dealt with the issues associated with this interpretation of the word "know" in a reply to William Davis. I don't want to reproduce it at length here, but if you are interested you can look for it. In summary, did they "know" this in the epistemological sense or the experiential (eg, "And Cain knew his wife.") The word "to know" has more than one flavor. To the point: A&E clearly knew intellectually that God did not want them to disobey him (implicit in his giving of a commandment), so I argue that the "knowledge of good and evil" was not a matter of enlightenment vs ignorance, but rather their choice to abrogate to themselves the authority to decide what THEY accept to be good or evil.

            "God is clearly alarmed at the thought that Adam and Eve will gain immortality by eating from the tree of life."

            If God can be alarmed, then he is not God. The phrasing that leads you to that conclusion is merely the language the inspired ancient author used to reveal certain truths within the context of his time and understanding (and, unless you're reading in the original Hebrew, its a translation at that!).

            "It seems in Genesis, God does not have power over the tree of life. He
            must physically prevent Adam and Eve from getting to the tree of life
            and eating from it, otherwise they will become immortal, like him."

            Taken as allegory, the tree of life represents immortality, not an actual tree that God has to guard, or a challenger to his power. This is just the language the inspired author used to communicate the truth that humanity will never achieve immortality through their own means.

          • David Nickol

            If God can be alarmed, then he is not God.

            But God, in the story, is clearly alarmed.

            When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

            Would you argue that God does not walk, or God does not make noise when he walks, so this was not actually God? When dealing with the story of Adam and Eve, or any other biblical story, the very last thing one should do is invoke the God of Philosophy to interpret the story. (I am not saying it shouldn't be done, merely that it should be the last thing to be done.)

            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. [Genesis 6:5]

            It may be true that God as 21st-century theologians (or the God of Philosophers) cannot grieve or have regrets, but we're dealing with ancient texts here, and I think it would be a grave error to claim that the Old Testament authors and compilers shared our concept of God, but despite knowing that he could not grieve or have regrets, nevertheless depicted him as such in order to make some theological point.

          • Robert Macri

            "But God, in the story, is clearly alarmed. {...} Would you argue that God does not walk, or God does not make noise when he walks, so this was not actually God?"

            No, I would maintain my position that Genesis made use of allegorical and poetic language to illustrate certain truths. Thus, I am not forced into the conclusion that God was "alarmed" (as a creature might be alarmed) any more than I am forced into the conclusion that God possessed physical feet (before the incarnation, of course).

            "When dealing with the story of Adam and Eve, or any other biblical story, the very last thing one should do is invoke the God of Philosophy to interpret the story."

            Why? I hold, with the church, that reason and faith are not at odds with one another but must be taken together. I can grow in my understanding of Divine mysteries through both means.

            What would be the alternative, a strict literalistic interpretation of Genesis? Unless we are to postulate a flawless comprehension of God on the part of the human author of Genesis we must strive to understand both the scope of meaning intended by the text as well as the interpretation that enjoys the greatest logical consistency, considering revelation as a whole.

            "It may be true that God as 21st-century theologians (or the God of
            Philosophers) cannot grieve or have regrets, but we're dealing with
            ancient texts here, and I think it would be a grave error to claim that
            the Old Testament authors and compilers shared our concept of God, but
            despite knowing that he could not grieve or have regrets, nevertheless
            depicted him as such in order to make some theological point."

            I have three responses to this:
            1) Yes, we cannot claim that the OT authors shared our concept of God. But neither can we suppose that the OT authors understood the divine mysteries perfectly or in totality. What we can say is that God's truth was parceled out over time. For example, the OT authors learned and wrote of the unity of God, but the apostles of Jesus were brought deeper into the mystery and shown that God is triune.

            Now, why would we see the need to put aside everything that God has revealed through Christ when we read what he revealed to the OT authors? Do we expect to find two different, inconsistent revelations? Or should we expect to better understand earlier revelation in light of the new? I argue for the latter.

            "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
            " (Mt 16:17)

            2) Even if we say that the OT authors possessed an incomplete knowledge of divine mysteries, we cannot say that nothing more can be gleaned from their writings than what they themselves understood, for the God who inspired and guided them DOES have complete understanding of himself and is clearly capable of making use of them to record truths which would be more fully understood over time, with the aid of further revelation and development of the gift of our reason.

            3) Even if the OT authors knew that God could not grieve or have regrets, they were still free to portray him in such a way to suit their purposes.

            As an illustration, they also would have known that "night and day" do not make sense without Earth and Sun, but perhaps chose to present the appearance of these aspects of creation out of chronological order to show instead the RELATIONAL ordering of creation. First is presented the necessary environments (DAY 1: day and night; DAY 2: waters of earth separated from sky; DAY 3: dry land separated from oceans ), and then is presented that which dwells in or governs those environments (DAY 4: sun, moon, and stars to fill night and day; DAY 5: fish and birds to fill the waters and the sky; DAY 6: animals and man to fill the dry land). If we simply assert that the OT others had a primitive, mythological understanding of creation then we miss the truth that they were trying to reveal: that there is a purpose and interconnectedness in the way God created things.

            My point is this: the OT authors may have had very good reasons for portraying things as they did, EVEN if their understanding was greater than a simplistic reading of the text suggests.

            That is, just as an order of creation is presented relationally instead of chronologically (to show the logic and interrelatedness of God's design), so too might anthropogenic descriptions of God be employed to illustrate the severity of the offense of sin. Whether or not
            God can be said to grieve the way humans do, our sin against him remains the imposition of a grievance. (If Jimmy Olsen punches superman, superman can rightly be said to have been punched, even if the attack can in no way hurt him. And the severity of Jimmy's offense--attacking someone who is good--is not diminished by the fact that he can not harm superman. We might even whimsically say that superman was "hurt" by the attack of his friend.)

          • David Nickol

            No, I would maintain my position that Genesis made use of allegorical and poetic language to illustrate certain truths.

            Do you assume that the authors and compilers of Genesis conceived of God the same way that, say, Thomas Aquinas did, and consequently knew they were using "allegorical and poetic language" when the spoke of God walking in the garden or grieving or regretting? Or do you think they were simply speaking of God in the terms that reflected the current understanding of God? Do you think there was an author who wrote the story of Adam and Eve as a wholly original creation, or do you think the story was recorded from oral tradition?

            It seems quite reasonable to me to assume that much of what we take to be allegorical in the Old Testament was not the product of someone who sat down and said, "I'm going to write an allegory here. Of course, I know the actual facts of the first parents, but I'll create a roman à clef or an allegory to more fully get across the underlying truth"?

            What would be the alternative, a strict literalistic interpretation of Genesis?

            I think in interpreting Genesis, the very first step is to understand what the text says as objectively and literally as possible. A Catholic, a Jew, and an atheist, all with requisite knowledge of Hebrew and ancient history, should be able to be in substantial agreement about what a given text says. That simply must be a starting point, which is why I object to your saying, "If God can be alarmed, then he is not God." In the text we are examining, God clearly is alarmed. God clearly does walk in the garden. You can't deny that without contradicting the text. The absolute first step in biblical exegesis is to discern the literal meaning (or surface meaning) of the text.

          • Robert Macri

            "Do you assume that the authors and compilers of Genesis conceived of God the same way that, say, Thomas Aquinas did, and consequently knew they
            were using "allegorical and poetic language" when the spoke of God walking in the garden or grieving or regretting?"

            I do not suggest that the concepts of sublime theological truth entered the world in a fully developed state, such that ancient thinkers must have possessed an understanding identical to that of modern theologians. But I do suggest that God himself has not changed, and neither has the truth of his revelation, so that with a more informed perspective we can and must interpret the ancient writings in light of the fullness of revelation if we wish to glean all that which God wanted us to know.

            Neither of us can enter the minds of the ancient authors and thus say with complete certainty which parts of scripture were intended by them to be allegorical or poetic, but we must admit that they were under no constraint to write in a purely literal sense. They were certainly free to use any literary devices of their choosing, and we should take that into consideration. (As I've pointed out elsewhere in this thread, it's reasonable to assume that the author(s) of Genesis knew that the creation of Earth and Sun must precede the observance of "night and day", so can we not take their reversal of that chronology as a clue that their intention was not merely to provide a strict historical-temporal ordering? And if we accept that, should we not consider broader meanings within the rest of the text as well? Or that they might have employed literary devices to convey such meanings?)

            "Or do you think they were simply speaking of God in the terms that reflected the current understanding of God?"

            I assume you mean "current" to their time. I would say yes in general, but I object to the word "simply", because I accept that their writings were inspired, and thus capable of containing more meaning than even they realized. Their understanding, like that of modern individuals, was limited and fallible. The guiding force behind their writing was not.

            "Do you think there was an author who wrote the story of Adam and Eve as a wholly original creation, or do you think the story was recorded from oral tradition?"

            It was almost certainly passed down through long oral tradition (as well as influenced by contemporaneous traditions) before being recorded in writing. But the writings that ultimately made it into the canon of scripture enjoy the seal of authority which is guaranteed by Christ to his church.

            "It seems quite reasonable to me to assume that much of what we take to be allegorical in the Old Testament was not the product of someone who sat down and said, "I'm going to write an allegory here"

            Yes, and it is equally reasonable to assume that while they wrote literally at times, at other times they certainly DID knowingly use allegory (see my example of the order of creation above).

            "I think in interpreting Genesis, the very first step is to understand what the text says as objectively and literally as possible. A Catholic, a Jew, and an atheist, all with requisite knowledge of Hebrew and ancient history, should be able to be in substantial agreement about what a given text says."

            I have no objection to that as a "first step", but that shouldn't also be our "last step". Those of us who trust in the teaching authority given by Christ to his church enjoy a richer perspective, informed by the wisdom of great thinkers throughout the centuries. That which the ancient authors groped to understand has been reveled in greater clarity to us. An atheist would not necessarily accept such authority of course, but he or she would still be able to identify common threads of religious understanding through the ages to gain broader perspective.

            It is the same with science. Suppose that we were discussing "On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres" instead of Genesis. We might argue about which elements of the model of the solar system therein which Copernicus himself accepted as reality and which he considered to be merely a mathematical model, but with our modern perspective we are in a position to see which aspects of the model actually ARE consistent with the observations of modern science.

            Similarly so with scripture. (More so, actually, if you accept it as inspired.)

            "God clearly is alarmed. God clearly does walk in the garden. You can't deny that without contradicting the text."

            If I ever write the story of my life I might pen: "My heart leaped from my chest when I first saw my future wife. I soared upon the clouds and have yet to come down." Centuries later, might someone say that we must take the literal meaning first, so clearly I ended up with a massive chest wound but was still capable of the astonishing act of flight?

            So yes, I can deny that God was "alarmed" and all those other things, even if the ancient author for some reason thought that he was (and we can never know what the ancient author thought).

            Yes, literal readings are important, but if we stop there we risk serious error.

          • Robert Macri

            By the way, how do you get those nice indented quote paragraphs in your replies? I'm new to this and am just replying within my web browser... which gives me no such formatting options.

          • David Nickol

            These are the tags you need, which through a trick I am making visible here:

            Tagging text like <i>this</i> will give you italics.

            Tagging text like <b>this</b> will give you boldface.

            <blockquote>Tagging a sentence or paragraph like this will give you a block quote.</blockquote>

            This is how the formatting will appear when you save/post your comment:

            Tagging a word like this will give you italics.

            Tagging a word like this will give you boldface.

            Tagging a sentence or paragraph like this will give you a block quote.

          • Robert Macri

            Ah, so it's just good old html script.

            Thank you!

          • Michael Murray
          • Robert Macri

            Many thanks!

          • David Nickol

            so I argue that the "knowledge of good and evil" was not a matter of enlightenment vs ignorance, but rather their choice to abrogate to themselves the authority to decide what THEY accept to be good or evil.

            The problem with your argument, it seems to me, is that both the serpent and God use the exact same language to describe Adam and Eve and to describe God:

            But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” . . .

            Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever?

            God himself confirms that the serpent was correct! So I don't see how it is possible to argue that "knowing good and evil" means, for God, something different than for Adam and Eve.

          • Robert Macri

            How is the use of the same language by God and the serpent inconsistent with my position? My position involves the interpretation of that language, not who uses it. Let's substitute my suggested meaning of the word "to know" here into the biblical text:

            "But the snake said to the woman: 'You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who DEFINE WHAT IS GOOD OR EVIL.'"
            ...

            "Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like one of us, DEFINING WHAT IS GOOD AND WHAT IS EVIL! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever?"

            Besides, as I have defended in another post, God's revelation was given to us over time, not all lumped into Genesis, so we must read Genesis in a way consistent with the fullness of revelation of which it is a part.

            To say that Adam and Eve's sin was simply one of possessing knowledge is inconsistent with the totality of revelation.

            "Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” Mk 7:15

            That is,

            "Nothing that enters one from outside" (such as the reception of knowledge) "can defile that person; but the things that come out from within" (disobedience, rejection, abrogation of divine prerogatives onto oneself) "are what defile."

          • Robert Macri

            Oh, I left one out...

            "This also strongly implies that bodily immortality was not a "preternatural gift" given to Adam and Eve."

            A&E's original bodily immortality is implied by God's warning

            that disobedience will bring death. (Not much of a consequence if they were going to die anyway.)

          • David Nickol

            A&E's original bodily immortality is implied by God's warning that disobedience will bring death. (Not much of a consequence if they were going to die anyway.)

            Genesis 2:16-17 from the Revised Standard Version, the NIV, and The Jewish Study Bible (emphasis added):

            And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."

            And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

            And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die."

            If you check the interlinear Hebrew translation online, you will see that the key phrase literally translated is, "in the day that you eat thereof surely you will die."

            It does not sound to me as if the meaning should be understood to be, "As soon as you eat from it, you will lose your current preternatural gift of immortality, and consequently some day in the future you will die." It seems clear to me that the threat is of immediate death, not loss of immortality. The NAB, in a note, suggests that what God said must have meant loss of immortality, because Adam and Eve did not immediately die when they ate the fruit. I am not at all convinced.

            Here is a note from The Jewish Study Bible to Genesis 3:22-24 about Adam, Eve, and immortality:

            Neither the first nor the second account of creation portrays humankind as created immortal. Nor does the punishment of v. 19, which speaks to Adam's returning to the ground from which he was taken, mean that he would have lived forever, had it not been for his disobedience. In this passage, the Lord, alarmed at the very real, God-like status that the man has suddenly attained, resolves to deny him the opportunity to make himself immortal and banishes him from the garden in which the tree of life was found. The cherubim are supernatural beings who sometimes act as protectors of sacred items or places (e.g., Exod. 25.17-22; 1 Kings 8.6-7). The stance of jealousy about His status and anxiety about human being' acquiring immortality is not the only one taken by the God of Israel. Pro 3.18 asserts that the tree of life, in the form of Wisdom (therein personified as a woman), remains available to "those who grasp her." . . .

          • Robert Macri

            Two points:

            1) We must remember that in the broader, religious sense, death refers to the loss of sanctifying grace, the very indwelling of God within the soul. Jesus frequently used this meaning of death.

            As an example, when the daughter of Jairus died, Jesus said, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” (Mk 5:39)

            Although he spoke this way of some who were physically dead, about those who were spiritually dead he said, "Let the dead bury their dead." (Lk 9:60)

            With this understanding, God's warning that "as soon as you eat of it you shall die", is reasonably understood to indicate spiritual death. (By the way, this understanding also supports the loss of preternatural gifts, because death, even spiritual death, implies a loss. If nothing has been lost, in what sense has death occurred?)

            2) But the spiritual reading of the meaning of death does not preclude the possibility of loss of physical immortality. Both could be true.

            This physical interpretation of the word "death" as used in Genesis is implicit in God's words to Adam and Eve after the fall:

            "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gn 3:19)

            Why mention the penalty of returning to the ground or withering into dust if such would have been their natural destiny even in the absence of the fall?

            Now, I cannot rule out the possibility that Adam and Eve might have undergone something akin to the dormition of Mary even if they had never fallen, and such a thing may or may not have included something we might call physical "death". But this kind of "death" would be more akin to falling asleep, or transitioning in some way to a new life, without any intervening bodily decay or the necessity of interment into the ground. Perhaps the normal physical processes would momentarily be interrupted (or fall into inactivity), followed by immediate resurrection. (This is a possibility, not an assertion.) So whether or not Adam and Eve would have enjoyed immortality in the sense of remaining forever in this creation is not clear; but it is reasonable to suggest the possibility that the kind of decaying death we suffer today would not have been part of their experience.

            Note: We don't know much about this kind of "death" as the church has not defined whether or not Mary suffered a physical death before her assumption, but it certainly would not have been the gruesome "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" kind of death that awaits the rest of us.

            "For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor let your beloved know decay." (Ps 16:10)

      • VicqRuiz

        As I understand it:

        (1) God placed two human beings in an environment with a supernatural being of infinite malice and nearly-infinite wiles and power, and then blamed them for not prevailing against it. Catholic doctrine says "yes, that is so."

        (2) God then blamed every descendant of those two human beings for this original failure to prevail, and so arranged our genetics so that we can never undo that failure. Catholic doctrine says "yes, that is so."

        (3) At one time, snakes had legs. Catholic doctrine says "well, if you think that's a little silly, you can give that a pass."

        • Robert Macri

          "(1) God placed two human beings in an environment
          with a supernatural being of infinite malice and
          nearly-infinite wiles and power, and then blamed
          them for not prevailing against them. Catholic
          doctrine says 'yes, that is so.' "

          No. Rather, God endowed Adam and Eve with free will. They would hardly be free if they were insulated from every possibility of choosing against God.

          God also gave them every gift they needed to easily prevail over the temptation of the enemy (including his own friendship and presence, but they did not call upon him for help against Satan's tempting).

          It was through choice, not by weakness, that A&E fell. Furthermore, Satan had no "power" over them. He invited them to mistrust God and seek to become gods themselves, and they freely did so. (And what pathetic "gods" we have become, ruling as we do over our own twisted concepts of morality!)

          To say that he "blamed them" is misleading. If I warn a child not to stick his hand in a fire, he can hardly say that the burn he receives is my way of "blaming him". God is the source and sustaining principle of life; to reject God is one in the same as rejecting life. That is truth, not "blaming".

          Furthermore, there was no way for God to "commute the sentence" against A&E (that is, not to "blame" them, to use your language), because the punishment was the loss of God, which is precisely what A&E had chosen for themselves by deciding not to serve God but to BE gods.

          God: You may chose me or reject me.
          A&E: We reject you. We'll be gods ourselves.

          God: Aw, darn it. I can't punish you cute kids. You can still have me.
          A&E: Um, what part of "we reject you" don't you understand?
          God: Shucks.

          Unfortunately, the loss (rejection) of God entails the loss (rejection) of all things that God IS, namely life and perfect joy. So, actually, things could have been FAR worse for A&E. Pursuant to their choice to reject God, they could (should?) have immediately been consigned to hell, with no chance of repentance.

          One should also note that immediately after the fall, A&E were not instantly ejected. God took the time to converse with them. But instead of admitting their mistake and begging for forgiveness, they shifted the blame (Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent). In other words, A&E were stubborn in their sin. They made no apology, no admission of any fault. That is, they "stuck with it". How different might human history have been had they simply offered a mea culpa? There would still be death, for God had said so, but perhaps the suffering would have been less, or the resurrection more immediate...

          (By the way, there is no such thing as "nearly infinite". No matter how deceitful Satan is, the power and knowledge of God--which actually ARE infinite--are by definition infinitely greater than the "wiles and power" of Satan.)

          "(2) God then blamed every descendant of those two

          human beings for this original failure to prevail,

          and so arranged our genetics so that we can

          never undo that failure. Catholic doctrine

          says 'yes, that is so.' "

          Again with the "blaming"?

          Rather, God allowed A&E to pursue their own choice (which was to handle their own affairs without his help).

          Let's say that you are a rich benefactor who gives me a million dollars. If I then lose that money through my own foolishness, are you at fault for the destitution of my descendents?

          Adam and Eve could not pass along to their progeny gifts that they had themselves lost (such as freedom from suffering and bodily death).

          You might object that their children were born in a state of innocence, and that it is therefore unjust for God to "punish" them from crimes committed by their parents. But that supposes, then, that A&E's children could have fared better than A&E themselves did upon temptation. But if the children were to also fall, especially after seeing the example of what happened to their parents, how much greater would their betrayal then be?

          My personal thoughts on the matter of the inherited effects of original sin can be summed up this way: We have eternal souls, so each of our choices for or against God will have to constitute an eternal decision. We are also free, and will remain eternally free. But how can we expect to remain both eternally free and eternally faithful? I expect that our experience of responding to God's call from our fallen state is precisely that which will strengthen our wills enough to make possible such eternal decisions. It strengthens us in as much as we have experienced the effects of evil and accepted God's second, third, and Nth chances to return to him. In his wisdom, then, God uses the sorry state we have chosen for ourselves (original sin or not, we have also actually sinned) as the medicine by which we are healed.

          But surely in omnipotent and omniscient God could have accomplished the same thing without all the suffering? Well, not being omniscient or omnipotent myself I cannot think of a better solution, but, unlike Adam and Eve, I trust God in the matter.

          "(3) At one time, snakes had legs. Catholic doctrine

          says 'well, if you think that's a little silly, you can

          give that a pass.' "

          Catholic doctrine says nothing of the sort. In fact, Catholicism has no argument whatsoever against the theory of biological evolution as it pertains to our physical bodies. The church does defend certain religious truths on the matter, such as that the souls of Adam and Eve were created by God out of nothing (they did not "evolve"), and that all of humanity is descended from a single human pair (as is taught by scripture and required by the doctrine of original sin). Beyond such points as these (and similar ones), the faithful are free to believe (or not believe) whatever reason and science suggest to them concerning the development of our bodily form.

          Do you object to the Catholic church allowing people to believe what they wish concerning issues that do not pertain to critical doctrines of faith?

  • GCBill

    "Education is after all intended to be the cultivation of habits of being most fully expressed by the acquisition of virtue and the deracination of vice. Adam and Eve had preternatural gifts of perception, clear intellectual sight, an acuity of judgment, a precisionof the senses, and astounding memory retention. They were also gifted the infused knowledge of things as they pertained to their station in the divine economy. There was no need for virtue because the appetites were properly subordinated to the right use of reason."

    Two things immediately sprung to mind upon reading this claim:

    1) If A&E possessed "clear intellectual sight" and "an acuity of judgment" then they wouldn't have eaten of the tree. They would have listened to the omniscient guy instead.

    2) If virtue and vice only make sense in a fallen world, then that ruins a good bit of "greater good" theodicy. God has little reason to permit evil in order to allow for the potential cultivation of human virtue if said process is only necessary given the existence of evil.

    "Since the advent of Occam’s nominalism in the 13th century, the ground was laid for the enlightenment which embodies the thousand fold errors instituted by Occam. In excising reality from images and images from shadows, the Enlightenment ushered in the philosophical age of inversion. Sir Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum inverted Aristotle’s deductive method based on first principles to the inductive method of scientific inquiry grounded in the idea that “man is the measure of all things.” The misapplication of the scientific method to philosophical, moral and educational concerns has made a wasteland of modern notions of interiority."

    AFAIK Aristotle talked about induction as well as deduction; he was just less clear about the workings and implications of the former process. So as much as I'd love to give nominalism sole credit for the development of the modern scientific method, this is one of those cases in which the simplest explanation is not true. I would also be more careful not to insinuate (intentionally or not) that inductive science should be counted among any "thousand fold errors," though perhaps its abuses are deserving of such a rebuke.

    • Steven Jonathan

      Great comments- I didn't intend to credit nominalism for the scientific method, I also didn't intend to disparage the scientific method itself, but as you suggest, its abuses represent the thousand fold errors.

    • Robert Macri

      1) "Clear intellectual sight" is not the same as omniscience, and "acuity of judgment" does not imply that the will is subjugated to said judgment.

      Rather, these gifts suggest that A&E were given all the necessary capacity for knowing and judging required to freely choose the good. (They weren't computers, after all, but people, free to "change their own programming", as it were.)

      That is, their knowledge was finite but sufficient and pure (they were not given insufficient or corrupted knowledge, which would excuse their fall), and their capacity to judge was intrinsically ordered to God. In other words, they were given everything they need to succeed (and easily so), but granted the possibility of failure (to ensure their freedom).

      Even with the scope and clarity of their knowledge, they could reject what sound judgment advises by cultivating another desire, just as many take their chances in Vegas rather than invest prudently, in accordance with their "sound knowledge". For A&E, this desire was to become gods themselves.

      2) Statements such as "Virtue and vice only makes sense in a fallen world" simply mean that in a world where vice is impossible, no one can be praised for their virtue (and vice versa) (pun intended). Furthermore, it is not that God permits vice just so that we can learn virtue, but rather he permits our freedom, knowing that he can bring about a greater good even from our misuse of it. In the Easter vigil of the Catholic Mass we hear the odd but sublime refrain: “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” This illustrates our gratitude that, through the incarnation, we were lifted far higher than we fell through original sin, and through all our personal sins combined. We are no longer merely caretakers of a garden walking in the friendship of God, but, through Christ (if we accept this gift), sons and daughters of God.

      • David Nickol

        Rather, these gifts suggest that A&E were given all the necessary capacity for knowing and judging required to freely choose the good.

        How is it known that Adam and Eve were given specific "preternatural gifts"? The Bible says nothing on this matter.

        • Robert Macri

          Great question. Not sure I'm qualified to answer, but I'll take a stab at it...

          That our first parents were endowed with supernatural grace before the fall is laid out by St. Paul in his teachings on redemption (eg, Rom 5:12 et seq,), for that which must be restored must have first been lost.

          As for the praeternatural gifts (or "gifts of integrity") lost by our first parents through the fall, the church holds the following:

          A) They were free from irregular desire (concupiscence)

          As an example, before the fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed a state of innocence, devoid of shame : "And they were both naked...and were not ashamed." (Gn 2:2) Shame only comes into the picture after the fall (Gn 3:7-10).

          B) The possessed bodily immortality

          "The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die" (Gn 2:16-17)

          "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gn 3:19)

          "For God made not death." (Wis 1:13)

          "But by the envy of the devil death came into the world, and they who are allied with him experience it." (Wis 2:24)

          C) They were free from suffering.

          Suffering comes as a consequence of the fall. (Gn 3:16 et seq)

          D) They possessed knowledge of natural and supernatural truths infused by God

          This one is a little trickier looking at Genesis alone, but St. Augustine saw a "proof of transcendental wisdom" in the naming of the animals in Gn 2:20

          (I have gleaned most of the above from "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, and have referred only to a few scriptural "proofs"... but of course the Catholic teaching authority is threefold: scripture, tradition, and magisterium)

  • David

    No

  • Rudy R

    Adam and Eve had preternatural gifts of perception, clear intellectual sight, an acuity of judgment, a precision of the senses, and astounding memory retention. They were also gifted the infused knowledge of things as they pertained to their station in the divine economy.

    But for some reason, all those preternatural gifts couldn't prevent Adam and Eve from eating the apple.

    • David Nickol

      Great minds think alike. I didn't see your message until after I had written, "And despite all their alleged 'preternatural gifts,' they certainly messed up big time."

      • Rudy R

        Catholics don't believe in the literal fruit, but that the downfall of mankind came when Adam and Eve decided for themselves what was good or evil. Isn't it ironic that they decided not to follow all those crazy laws in the OT, that Catholics later hand waved in lieu of Jesus' new teachings?

    • Mike

      http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2085.htm

      is a start it seems to me.

      or maybe this is alittle more on point:

      http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2082.htm

  • David Nickol

    Adam and Eve had preternatural gifts of perception, clear intellectual sight, an acuity of judgment, a precision of the senses, and astounding memory retention. They were also gifted the infused knowledge of things as they pertained to their station in the divine economy. There was no need for virtue because the appetites were properly subordinated to the right use of reason.

    It is difficult for me to believe that anyone who has ever read Chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis would perceive Adam and Eve as anything other than very simple, childlike characters. And despite all their alleged "preternatural gifts," they certainly messed up big time. Since the idea of "preternatural gifts" is not in Genesis, where did it come from? Can it be taken seriously today, even by those who believe the human race had two "first parents"?

    • Mike

      are you saying we didn't all descent from 1 man and 1 women? but i thought the mitochondrial eve and adam established that all the other lines have died out.

      quote from wiki:

      "Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA), in a direct, unbroken, maternal line, of all currently living humans, who is estimated to have lived approximately 100,000–200,000 years ago. This is the most recent woman from whom all living humans today descend, in an unbroken line, on their mother’s side, and through the mothers of those mothers, and so on, back until all lines converge on one person."

      • David Nickol

        Discovering most recent common ancestors is quite different from concluding we descended from "two first parents." No one doubts that "Mitochondrial Eve," for example, had a mother (and father), or that "Y-chromosomal Adam" had a father (and mother). So while all women may have had Mitochondrial Eve as their most recent common ancestor, they also had Mitochondrial Eve's parents as common ancestors. The discovery of most recent common ancestors in no way supports the belief that the human race descended from two "first parents."

        • Mike

          i agree but it does prove that we all descended from 1 dad and 1 mom but yes those ppl also had parents. but at some point someone must've been the "first" human/s no longer neanderthal or whatever or maybe it was a gradation but even then there must have been a "first" mutation that singled out a new path.

          • David Nickol

            but at some point someone must've been the "first" human/s

            No, this is not how evolution is understood to occur.

          • Mike

            i don't think that's true as there logically must have been a "first" group or person who was no longer closest ancestor and now "human"...unless you don't believe classification is possible or that universals don't exist.

          • Doljonijiarnimorinar

            I think you misunderstand, if not than you're already aware of this information. There was never one breeding pair. There's not enough genetic diversity. There were never only 2 humans. The biggest bottleneck in our history (60-100 thousand years ago?) still had roughly 20,000 breeding pairs.

            Evolution is not a process that an individual organism undergoes. It's constant, occurring all the time over countless generations with noticeable, widespread changes across a population over the course of time.

          • Mike

            yeah i know that there was never just 2 ppl BUT it is more likely that the mutation which caused in us the ability to reason abstractly did occur in 1 individual first rather than in say 1000 at once.

          • Doljonijiarnimorinar

            Um, no. Brains were developed and developing gradually through populations. One child was not born who could think of a mathematical expression and no others could. If that's not what you're saying, then I'll need a clarification.

          • Mike

            that is exactly what i am saying...gradualism is passe btw among evolutionary biologists...it's now punctuated equilibrium i think.

          • Doljonijiarnimorinar

            Well then I don't know how you get to that view, because there's no science that suggests it. I wasn't using gradualism in the biological theory sense, (phyletic gradualism) as opposed to punctuated. I was using the word to denote that populations of organisms do change as a whole, not piecemeal. Stasis had nothing to do with it, or you'd have no way to even suggest that one homo sapien could and no others could.

          • Mike

            "as a whole, not piecemeal."

            that's interesting bc i thought that mutations occurred in individual members and spread out.

          • Doljonijiarnimorinar

            There's not an abstract thought mutation or gene is there? So I don't see what this is supposed to mean. I said populations of organisms change, reitering my original point that you agreed with. Not every mutation is harmful or beneficial - so individually it's irrelevant to this.

          • Mike

            no there is no gene like that.

          • David Nickol

            This line of reasoning would seem to assume that there is a single "abstract thought gene." To then bring that into harmony with the story of Adam and Eve, it would require that the "abstract thought gene" appeared (as the result of random mutation) in a man and a woman in the same location. But of course, virtually all "Strange Notions Catholics" argue that there can be no such thing as an "abstract thought gene," since abstract thought requires a spiritual soul. No amount of genetic change in a purely physical being can make it capable of abstract thought.

          • Mike

            of course, i know that. it's our Form that couldn't have evolved even in principle i am just using the gene example to show how it could still work even if there was such a thing as a rational thought gene which there isn't.

          • David Nickol

            Are you saying the theory of evolution is untenable because there are "kinds," and one "kind" cannot turn into another? Would you deny, for example, that dogs are descended from wolves, since a dog is one "kind" and a wolf is another "kind"? And that it is unthinkable that there might be, sometime in the ancestry of dogs, a point where it would be impossible to say, "It's impossible to say whether these animals should be classified as dogs or wolves?" Was there necessarily a "first dog"—say a puppy whose mother was a wolf but her offspring was a dog?

          • Mike

            well it seems you are trying to compare animals with human beings but that's precisely what's at issue.

            btw kinds exist and there seems to be something "in" evolution that causes a new kind and then "stabilizes" it - like jumps in evolution not Gradualism which i think has been mostly discarded.

            Genes which are information allow for jumps in evolution whereas the old mechanical idea doesn't i think.

          • Rudy R

            ...well it seems you are trying to compare animals with human beings...

            Are you suggesting that humans are not included in the animal kingdom? If so, what scientific fact is this based? You've already dug yourself a big hole in your lack of understanding of evolution, but now you are throwing dirt over yourself.

          • Mike

            thanks for the insult

            no he's begging the question against my position that where it matters ie precisely where the issue is he's assuming (burying the conclusion in one of his premises) that humans and animals are of the same kind and only differ in degree when it comes to our intelligence but i am saying that we differ in KIND in that only we can reason from proposition to proposition at all.

          • Doljonijiarnimorinar

            Are you saying that at some point in the history of humanity, we were infused, or given an 'intellectual spark' for the ability to reason? Or just one was? I'm not following. When you say our "Form" couldn't have evolved even in principle, what do you mean by this?

          • Mike

            too much to explain see ed feser or Ye olde statistician for further info.

          • Mike
          • Doljonijiarnimorinar

            Yeah... that was totally not helpful in any sense. I got a little bit farther than the angels being purely intellect or some such nonsense and I had to leave. I hope you don't put too much stock in people playing pretend on a blog.

            I'll have to look elsewhere to find any actual information on Form of a human as opposed to, you know, being an animal.

          • Mike

            ok cool best of luck.

          • Darren

            David Nickol wrote,

            No, this is not how evolution is understood to occur.

            We run into Sorites Paradox.

            Or, as the joke goes, “Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg?”

            The egg came first, but what laid the egg was not quite a chicken.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Sure. It's just that the dad and mom weren't married to each other. Kind of like a modern family. Hey, they maybe weren't even alive at the same time.

          • Michael Murray

            They might have frozen eggs or sperm and used IVF or surrogacy.

          • Mike

            ok sure but it still comes down to 1 daddy and 1 mommy for all of us. kinda makes you feel good about the rest of humanity knowing that we really in fact do ALL share 1 dad and 1 mom!

          • Rudy R

            You do realize that your dad could have been Neanderthal and your mom Homo Sapiens.

          • Mike

            yeah if they could reproduce then sure why not?

          • Mike

            and btw they would also then by YOUR dad and mom as we are definitely related.

          • Rudy R

            They wouldn't necessarily be my mom and dad. My mom and dad could have been both Homo Sapiens. Or just the reverse for both of us. Now I would tend to agree that it is likely that our mom and dad are from the Homo Erectus line, but again, not necessarily.

          • Mike

            ok i only mean that every human being whose every lived is related.

          • Michael Murray

            If Adam and Eve are homo erectus then you don't see any impact of getting a rational soul on their behaviour. I would have thought behavioural modernity would be a better time (if I believed in Adam and Eve of course)

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_modernity

            On the other hand the Bible based dating methods I've seen end up with Adam and Eve just thousands of years ago.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            but it does prove that we all descended from 1 dad and 1 mom

            No, no, no, no, no......

            Mitrochondrial Eve and Y-Adam were not even contemporaneous. You realize that Mitrochondrial Eve means that we are all descended from her matrilineally. It also means that she is the most recent common ancestor.

          • Michael Murray

            Of course you don't have to stop with humans. The same arguments apply to snakes with a common ancestor of human and snakes around 320 million year ago. We are all related.

            All together now:

            "From the day we arrive on the planet, and blinking step into the sun .... "

            This is a fun website to play with

            http://www.timetree.org/

            and you can get it on your phone. It tells you the date of the most recent common ancestor. Amuse your YEC neighbours.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It tells you the date of the most recent common ancestor. Amuse your YEC neighbours.

            God is just tricking our reason so we can have true faith!

          • Mike

            yeah i know that and it means that you and and everyone else alive today had the SAME mama.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            why is this theologically interesting?

          • Mike

            bc it means that we didn't "come from" different sources. so human beings all came from the same source one time. it's not as if australian natives are not related to swedes or jews to incans.

            the bible says that we are all one related we all have the same father and on and on.

            if not for that we would naturally assume that we are not related.

        • neil_pogi

          then if they have mother and father..

          what about your LUCA?

    • Rob Abney

      Yes, I think it can be taken serious. John Paul II describes it very well in The Theology of the Body, where he dives into the details of two very simple humans discovering each other and the world around them. Where man finds solitude because he is not like the animals, and where he finds unity with his fellow human in a physical and spiritual completeness.
      You may not come to that interpretation yourself but you know that Catholics don't rely on private interpretation.

      • David Nickol

        I don't see what anything you mention about Theology of the Body has to do with the "preternatural gifts" allegedly given to Adam and Eve before the fall. Catholic Answers lists them as follows:

        • impassibility (freedom from pain)
        • immortality (freedom from death)
        • integrity (freedom from concupiscence, or disordered desires)
        • infused knowledge (freedom from ignorance in matters
        • essential for happiness)

        You say:

        You may not come to that interpretation yourself but you know that Catholics don't rely on private interpretation.

        Again, I ask, where did the alleged knowledge come from concerning what Adam and Eve were like before the fall? How can it be known, for example, that the couldn't experience suffering/pain? I know Thomas Aquinas has a fair amount to say on the subject. How did he know? Is any of this actually Catholic dogma? Is any of it actually official Catholic doctrine, or can it be dispensed with at some point, like the Limbo of Infants, with the explanation that it was never an "official" teaching?

        • GuineaPigDan .

          Interestingly, I've seen some Jewish sites argue that the Bible supports the position that Adam and Eve were not created immortal. http://www.whatjewsbelieve.org/explanation5.html

        • Rob Abney

          We know it from the early Catholic Fathers, it's difficult to be more specific about which fathers right now but probably possible. The fathers and Paul compare three degrees of nature; our present nature, supernatural, and preternatural. We understand that Jesus restored our lost supernatural nature, now our souls are immortal but the preternatural nature is related to the material body and those gifts will be restored at the second coming.
          From reasoning the preternatural gifts are the materialistic gifts that we would possess if we had a higher level existence.
          Thanks for pointing me to that excellent catholic answers article.

        • Good questions. It seems to me that the Church adopted this interpretation from St. Augustine.

    • You might like Peter Enns' Does Evolution Cancel Out the Fall of Adam? Depends on Whose Adam You Have in Mind and in particular, the differences between Augustine's and Irenaeus' conceptions of Adam and Eve's moral maturity (or lack thereof) in John Schneider's “The Fall of ‘Augustinian Adam’: Original Fragility and Supralapsarian Purpose”.

      • David Nickol

        Thanks for the links. I gave them a quick glance and will check them out in more detail later.

    • VicqRuiz

      What I find interesting is that God puts two human beings in an environment with a supernatural being of near-infinite power, near-infinite persuasiveness, and infinite maliciousness......and then blames them for not prevailing.

    • David, do you have your own blog, or site? I really enjoy your comments here.

      • David Nickol

        Thanks so much for your kind words. I have for many years had my own site called ultimatequestions.com, but I have never written a word for it! If I figure out what to do with the site, I will no doubt mention it here.

    • neil_pogi

      if you think these adam and eve did not exist.

      then tell me how your LUCA was able to evolve into thousands of living creatures?

      where did it come from?

  • David Nickol

    If the fall had not occurred, would snakes today walk on legs? If we take God's punishment of Adam (Genesis 3:17-19) and Eve (Genesis 3:16) as literally true, why not Genesis 3:14-15?

    Then the LORD God said to the snake:
    Because you have done this,
    cursed are you
    among all the animals, tame or wild;
    On your belly you shall crawl,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life.

    I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
    They will strike at your head,
    while you strike at their heel.

    • Michael Murray

      So from the point of view of Australians the fall was a good thing. Who would want to live in a country full of walking snakes !

      • neil_pogi

        maybe the 'walking snakes' evolved from LUCA..

        what do you think?

    • neil_pogi

      the snake mentioned here in genesis refers to satan himself. read the entire context of 2 Corinthians 2:11. satan can even disguise himself like 'angel of light'

  • Michael Murray

    The answer of course is no. The evidence is clear. There is too much variability in the DNA of the humans currently alive for it to have all come from a single breeding pair in the past.

    • Steven Jonathan

      Perhaps you are right Michael, and perhaps you are not- But do you think Michael that this so called "clear evidence" provides rock solid certainty? Unchanging permanent truth? or are you more intellectually honest than that?

      • Michael Murray

        Perhaps you are right Michael, and perhaps you are not- But do you think Michael that this so called "clear evidence" provides rock solid certainty?

        Did I make that claim ? I said the evidence is clear. Evidence. Not proof. Proof is for mathematics not for modelling reality.

        Unchanging permanent truth? or are you more intellectually honest than that?

        So are you going to admit the scientific evidence is against you or you are more intellectually dishonest than that ?

        EDIT: Oops got my rhetorical flourish backwards.

        • Steven Jonathan

          Michael, you said "The answer of course is no. The evidence is clear." and if this is not a claim to certainty what is it? "the evidence is clear" kindof? "The answer of course is no" maybe? Does this really pass in materialists circles as honest talk??? Is anyone but you supposed to be clear about the fact that you are not making a claim of certainty by the use of the words "of course" and "the evidence is clear" or do you admit that scientific evidence can never be certain? I admit freely that the appearance of the miniscule scientific evidence you present goes against me sure I will admit that, but that is a little like saying a single drop of water is evidence of a torrential rain fall. There is no significance to the claim and it requires and act of faith to believe and an act of boldness to assert it as if it is certain and then claim it is no such thing..

          • Michael Murray

            Really Steven I think it counts as the kind of rhetorical flourish you often see people employ for effect in a short post. Like some people say things like "or are you more intellectually honest than that".

            What are you weighing my reasonably solid scientific evidence against ? Myth ? Legend ? Religious faith ? I don't see your torrential rain fall. I've been around these boards for a year or so now and all I see is a drought on the theist side.

          • Steven Jonathan

            Please do forgive me, I have only been here once before and I accept your calling me out on my greenness.

            "all I see is a drought on the theist side." Now that was honest, I couldn't have said it more clearly myself. thanks Michael!

          • Michael Murray

            No problem. I was indulging in a bit of hyperbole as you rightly point out.

            So what is your attitude to this particular piece of scientific evidence? I've asked this before here and the answers I get I think are:

            (1) Science is always provisional so we can ignore it. Or at least we can ignore the bits we don't like. I find that very strange coming from people using the internet. But people do say it.

            (2) Related to (1) are attempts to downplay the result, criticise the method and argue it's not terribly convincing. Point out I got it from wikipedia etc.

            (3) No problem. Adam and Eve got souls and their children had souls and they had sex with humans without souls etc. You have to assume that sex between a human with a soul and a human without a soul always results in a baby with a soul but given we have no evidence that a soul exists why not. What worries me with this argument is the idea that humans with souls having sex with humans without souls does't sound like the kind of unitive sex that Catholic's approve of. It sounds a bit like bestiality to be honest.

            (4) I don't think I've ever had anyone argue this but you could argue that God just inserted a bit of extra variation into human DNA either because it was needed or just as part of His general policy of making the world look exactly like He isn't there.

          • Steven Jonathan

            I wouldn't answer any of the four- but the line you present as evidence seems far too limited to draw any kind of conclusion. I never said anything about any material consideration of whether or not all humans came from two original humans. This was a consideration of man's nature whose origin is a matter of divine creation not material accident- I don't think your piece of evidence says anything at all except the assertion that DNA is too diverse to have come from a single source but consideration the materialists take on evolution, that seems narrow even for a scientist. So concerning my article, I think the evidence is inapplicable, like suggesting using a microscope to look at the moon when I am talking about the sun.

          • Michael Murray

            I never said anything about any material consideration of whether or not all humans came from two original humans.

            So you are not asserting we had "first parents" in the sense that Adam and Eve really existed as people? Perhaps I am misreading your article. What status then do you give Adam and Eve as people as people ?

          • Steven Jonathan

            I see Michael, yes our first parent in the spiritual and intellectual sense, and for your part the only real consideration is material- we are talking about different things here, but I understand why you said that now. I honestly don't know how that all worked out materially and I hope I never suggested I did.

          • Michael Murray

            So if it didn't actually work out materially because it couldn't have that is OK with you ? There never were an Adam and Eve but somehow they had "preternatural gifts of perception, clear intellectual sight, an acuity of judgment, a precision of the senses, and astounding memory retention. " All without existing. Or are you just saying they are myth and metaphor.

          • Steven Jonathan

            It is pretty clear that it worked out materially, that is not even a question- how it worked out exactly is unknowable, therefore your "of course not" and "clear evidence" must be articles of faith even though they concern material facts- I don't think you know exactly how it worked out materially any better than I do- and if you think you do, there certainly isn't any "clear evidence" of your position if you are only pointing to your observation of complexity-

          • Michael Murray

            What did you mean by:

            how that all worked out materially

            I assumed by that you meant that Adam and Eve were sole first parents in the sense of providing all the DNA of existing living humans.

            Or are you just saying you don't have any opinion on what Adam and Eve being first parents means in a material sense ?

          • Darren

            Michael Murray wrote,

            (4) I don't think I've ever had anyone argue this but you could argue that God just inserted a bit of extra variation into human DNA either because it was needed or just as part of His general policy of making the world look exactly like He isn't there.

            Young Earth Creationists (YEC) do this (I am being too lazy to dig up a link). It goes hand in hand with the speeding up of radioactive decay rates (to account for the "discrepancy" in radio-isotope dating, 13 billion years .vs. 6,000) and the speeding up of light (to allow images from all those > 6,000 light-year stars to reach us).

          • Doug Shaver

            I gave up my quest for absolute certainty a very long time ago. Religious apologists and misguided secularists can think they have it if they must.

    • neil_pogi

      quote: 'There is too much variability in the DNA of the humans currently alive for it to have all come from a single breeding pair in the past."

      --have you seen the very first original DNA?

      if you did, then what's it looked like?

    • Paul F

      Even in the story of Adam and Eve there were other people running around who their children married. But that is not relevant to the theology and genesis is not taken as a science book. It is intellectually dishonest to refute a book of theology as if it were a book of science. I think we can all agree that we know more science today than the ancient Sumerians did.

      • Michael Murray

        Then what are we supposed to make of

        When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humani_generis#Polygenism

        which seems to be taking a position on science. I'm just trying to clarify exactly what that position is.

        • Paul F

          I think it is a mistake for the Church to argue against polygenism in this way. As I have argued, personhood is what distinguishes humans from the rest of creation. Where God got the material (genes) to make the first two human persons is not as important as the fact that they were persons. Of course, the existence of personhood is no more provable than the existence of God, on which it relies completely.

      • Michael Murray

        The Bible by the way is a book of theology that makes other claims about reality such as the miracles of Jesus and Jesus' resurrection. Does that mean that they are not real but just some kind of theological metaphor ? What exactly is the difference between a theological claim about reality and a scientific claim ?

        • Paul F

          Jesus' resurrection is indeed a truth claim of the bible. It is real, not metaphorical. The Gospels are historical narratives of Jesus' life, though they definitely contain some inaccuracies.

          To parse between what means what in the bible is to study theology, and much work has been done devising methods for this. There are very few (none that i know personally) theologians who read the bible as if it were written by scientists. Theologians do their best to understand the worldview of the writers and extract the theology that is relevant today. For an individual theologian, his or her system of theology must be consistent. If inconsistencies are found then the theologian is rightly refuted. But that theologian is not refuted by not examining the work they have done and taking literally the story they examined.

          • Michael Murray

            There are very few (none that i know personally) theologians who read the bible as if it were written by scientists.

            Aren't there Christians who regard the Bible as literal ? A Gallup poll suggests 30% in the US:

            Three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God.

            I guess that is not quite the same thing as saying it is a work of science. God might have said it but still have meant it as symbol or metaphor.

            For an individual theologian, his or her system of theology must be consistent. If inconsistencies are found then the theologian is rightly refuted.

            Surely it must also be consistent with external reality ?

          • Paul F

            That 30% number is disturbing but I do not doubt it. But there aren't any serious theologians who read the bible literally. There is really no theology to do if you take it literally. You just read it and there it is.

            Yes, theology has to be consistent with the external world. But it would be a schizophrenic theologian who had a problem with that.

  • Doljonijiarnimorinar

    Pretty silly article. You have to be really generous with your time to engage with anyone who thinks this is anything other than a fable.

    • cminca

      And the attempts to stretch other traditions to agree with the alleged "fallen" nature in Catholicism was just embarrassing.

      ",,,,Plato alludes to man’s fallen nature by having Glaucon assert that it is good to perpetrate injustice for gain but bad to suffer it."

      How does that even begin to suggest that man is born into a state of having fallen from God's grace?

      "Glaucon further proclaims a fallen notion of justice by a compromise between the distorted notion that doing injustice without punishment is a benefit and suffering an injustice without the ability to retaliate is a great evil."

      "Fallen notion of "justice"?????? How did we get from man being born in sin to justice being "fallen'?????

      Like you said--pretty silly article.

    • neil_pogi

      then you should also consider your first LUCA to be a fable? a myth?

      • Doljonijiarnimorinar

        Not interested in your trolling. Move along.

        • neil_pogi

          i'm no troll

          i just wanted to know how the LUCA manage itself to survive in one or two days in an environment where food doesn't yet exist!

          • Phil Rimmer

            You are exactly a troll. You have been directed to the very best answers on this. Had you bothered to do a little work instead of basking in your shielding ignorance you would know that LUCA is made of its own food, emerging from its own soup.

            This willful, studied ignorance has to stop, neil, or accept the charge of troll.

          • neil_pogi

            quote: ' best answers ' -- i thought you provide the truth!

            quote: '....that LUCA is made of its own food, emerging from its own soup.' -- how did you know that?? it's simple question! has someone was there to observe it 'evolve'??

            where did it come from?

            just pop?

            like the universe?

          • Phil Rimmer

            how did you know that??

            Evidence and reconstruction. Read how good it is and why the probabilities are high.

            Learn about the vast amount of mutually supportive science before being so trite in your dismissal.

            You think it principled.

            I think it abject cowardice.

          • neil_pogi

            yes they can reconstruct, but they are still theories. theories are theories.

            direct observation is the best way to conclude that they are actually facts

            i'm not buying your explanations, even though it looks so 'scientific'

          • Phil Rimmer

            direct observation is the best way to conclude that they are actually facts

            Then you are doubly so a Troll, given your attitude to evidence and reason. What was the point of even asking about LUCA?

            Troll.

            All facts are theories. All your views of reality, are so.

            Independently corroborated observations are, in fact, the best way to conclude the facts (those theories with the highest probability of utility). Accounts of direct observation break down rapidly with our terrible ability to observe without editting bias. Independence in small comunities is impossible, so too any confidence in apparent corroboration. That great Christian and scientist, Newton, was appalled at how accounts of Christ were manipulated after any facts to deify the man, for instance.

            Your confidence in the Word is misplaced in the face of evidenced, over-arching theories that fit together with existing knowledge and indeed predict new findings realiably and consistently. Corroboration in science is mighty and multi-levelled.

          • neil_pogi

            so you labeled me as a troll when i was just asking for LUCA's origin? why not just say to me; 'just accept it by FAITH'

            origin issues are not settled entirely thru 'corroborations' of ideas and theories. i saw a video from national geographic on how the planets were formed, the narrator says, 'the debris begin to 'clump' together, and 'it came to pass' the planets formed.. so, what?? why there are volcanoes and water beneath my feet?

          • Phil Rimmer

            why not just say to me; 'just accept it by FAITH'

            But there is a huge mesh of interlocking evidence, multiple corroborations and and predictions confirmed that enhance the probabilities of all these theories we are discussing.

            Facts are usefully predictive theories. How often do your "facts" predict outcomes in your and others' lives?

            origin issues are not settled entirely thru 'corroborations' of ideas and theories.

            Excellent! Origin issues are never settled entirely. Nor are any issues. You may be a brain in a VAT, a holographic projection from the edge of the Universe. Cognitive perceptions get skewed...for everyone. All facts are those theories we find most predictively useful. Origin theories are refining and becoming more and more accurately predictive of their corroborating evidence in, for example, geology, atmospheric science, cell theory...

            Read the book.

          • Michael Murray

            He's read The Book. Sadly sometimes it seems to get stuck and the patient can't read any other books.

          • Michael Murray

            You are labelled a troll because you are told where to find the answers and you just ask the question again, again, again, again ...

            As for the National Geographic perhaps you watched the wrong video. This one

            http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/videos/the-birth-of-earth/

            talks about gravity pulling rocks together.

          • neil_pogi

            but the answers you/they provided me were merely claims, and not scientific, i ask for evidences, and you provided fairy tales..i ask you to explain even in plain language how's the mechanism of evolution is, and you offer no explanations.. 'just google it yourself'.. i am like a child who are so interested in my environment.

            just like the creation of planets. do you think the presentation of nat'l geo is a fact? as i've said before, origin issues are never settled. nobody was there to observe it, hence, just conjectures and imagination

            anyway, what about the gas planets like jupiter and saturn?

            why only the planet earth has fissures?

          • Michael Murray

            Did you ever see The Blue Brothers. They were on a Mission from God as well. They had a great song you would like:

            Trolling, trolling, trolling, keep those Pogi's trolling

          • neil_pogi

            it's happening again!

            by the way, 'pogi' means 'handsome'

          • Michael Murray

            I don't believe it. In what language ?

          • neil_pogi

            'pogi' is a tagalog word, means in english as 'handsome'.. if you don't believe then try to locate the nearest philippine Embassy in your country (am sure there is because filipinos are scattered worldwide and so proud of it) and ask a filipino there, what is 'pogi' :-)

          • Michael Murray
  • Peter

    Another way of interpreting the fall from a materialistic point of view is that at the point where humans began to know the difference between right and wrong, they also became painfully aware of how much there was to know about the world and how little they knew of it.

    Their acquisition of a greater intellect made them aware of how woefully ignorant they were in a world full of unknowns. This made them fearful and anxious, insecure and vulnerable to the extent that they were driven to learn.

    • Peter

      Driven by both intellect and fear to make sense of the phenomena observed in nature, humanity in its ignorance invented pagan gods to explain them. This went on until the true God revealed himself as the author of the unchangeable and universal laws which govern creation, making pagan gods redundant.

      By seeking out and discovering these laws, not only did humans learn about the world and cast aside paganism, but they also learned about the mind of the One who authored them. Such a mind was not dissimilar to their own since the laws created by it were perfectly intelligible to them.

  • Rob Abney

    Steven Jonathan, I really enjoyed this article. I am impressed with the amount of comparative literature that you considered in relation to the biblical account. Keep up the good work!

  • Doug Shaver

    Did the Fall of Man Really Occur?

    I see a lot of "Yes, it did" but not much "This is why it's unreasonable to think otherwise."

    • Paul F

      If a benevolent God created the universe, and by being benevolent He is not responsible in any way for evil, then it would be unreasonable to think that the fall of man did not occur, given the presence of sin and evil.

      If no God created the universe, then human nature is a product of evolution and man had nothing to fall from.

      • Doug Shaver

        If a benevolent God created the universe, and by being benevolent He is not responsible in any way for evil, then it would be unreasonable to think that the fall of man did not occur, given the presence of sin and evil.

        OK, but that just raises the question of whether I'm being unreasonable if I don't believe that a benevolent God created the universe.

        • neil_pogi

          i think only God knows how to distinguish evil from good. (then He 'hardwired' this to man's mind)

          that's why He 'clothe the first couple with garments of skin' Genesis 3:21

          then who or what caused the universe?

          • Doug Shaver

            i think only God knows how to distinguish evil from good. (then He 'hardwired' this to man's mind)

            You can't have it both ways. If we know, then it isn't true that only God knows. If it is true that only God knows, then we don't know.

          • neil_pogi

            that's why it is 'hardwired' to our mind.

            forget about God, can you walk 'all nude' in the streets of New York?

            can you make/have sex in the public?

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't distinguish between good and evil in terms of what I personally can or cannot do.

          • neil_pogi

            what are things that you can't do? and believe it is not good, or it is evil?

            will you cite an example?

          • Doug Shaver

            I can't play professional baseball. Do you think that has anything at all to do with whether professional baseball is good or evil?

          • neil_pogi

            the first thing you must learn is, baseball is just a hobby or sports. i never cross my mind that playing it is good or evil. it doesn't fall on morality issue, until you play it with gambling and foul plays

          • Doug Shaver

            the first thing you must learn is, baseball is just a hobby or sports.

            No, I don't need to learn that. I already know it. You asked me, "What are things that you can't do?" You did not ask me, "What are things other than sports or hobbies that you can't do?"

          • neil_pogi

            sports can be deadly too. here in the philippines, fanatics of sports do not lead to riots and burning of private properties. in south america and europe, football fanatics are on the loose, sometimes lead to vandalism, hurting, rioting and even killing!

          • Doug Shaver

            then who or what caused the universe?

            I have yet to find a compelling reason to assume that the universe ever needed a cause.

          • neil_pogi

            therefore, it just 'pop'..? is that what you mean?

        • Paul F

          That is, of course, a matter of opinion. In my opinion, you give strong evidence for God's non-existence and you use reason to conclude that God does not exist. This is reasonable to me.

          However, I of course think my belief in God is also reasonable. I try to explain your evidence in a way that allows for the possibility of God's existence and ask the further question, "what difference does it make?" I think the act of believing in God makes a huge difference in my life and in the world as a whole.

          You show great respect for the truth in not believing just because others say you should or because you would want to, or any other reason. The truth of the matter is clearly paramount to you. I, though on the other side of the fence, also have great respect for truth; and I would not disbelieve God's existence for any other reason than thinking it to be true. I clearly choose to believe my own arguments over yours; but this in no way makes your choice unreasonable.

          • Doug Shaver

            Thank you. One big thing I learned while getting my philosophy degree was that the range of issues about which reasonable people can disagree is much broader than I had previously supposed. That wasn't something I wanted to discover, either.

          • Andy Rhodes

            Hi Paul. When you mention how belief in God helps you and the world as a whole, it reminds me of my view that the positives and negatives of theism must be compared and decided upon. If, as I think is true, the size and depth of destructive and toxic elements in that kind of faith outweigh the beneficial and healthy parts, then it should voluntarily be transitioned out of and into a more humanistic form of spirituality or communal practice.

            As I'm sure you'll agree, it's important to the look at the facts and themes of history. From many years of research, I've found that during the past 300 years or so since around the time of the Age of Reason and then humanist Enlightenment, the world has become increasingly secular in various degrees depending on the location along with the truth that every category of physical violence has been dramatically sloping down. Further, among advanced Western countries the quality of life in virtually every category is significantly worse in the more extremely conservative nations like America and the individual states there of the same general type of political and economic philosophy and practice.

            Terrible things like the following are in radical decline (or in some cases have been eliminated): warfare, rape, murder, judicial torture, child abuse, legal and illegal slavery, use of the death penalty, robbery, infanticide, bullying, lynchings, corporal punishment, misogyny, theft, domestic abuse, racism, blood sports, religious persecution, burglary, debtors’ prisons, sexism, abortion, dueling, property crime, witchhunts and animal abuse. This process started when societies began to organize away from hunter-gatherer communities between 7,000-10,000 years ago into structured civilizations, but shifted to an accelerated level of reform during the 18th century’s Age of Enlightenment and afterward. By absolute numbers and percentage of population, the trend is downward in violent behavior.

            The most conservative and religious are the most violent and plagued with far greater social problems in categories like overall crime, economic mobility, infant mortality, environmental abuse, teen pregnancy, incarceration, life expectancy, poor educational systems, murder, healthcare efficiency, average worker to CEO pay ratio, paid maternity leave, obesity, income inequality and minimal worker’s benefits. For example, on the Quality of Life Index for 2010, the United States - the most religious and conservative country in the developed world - ranked 33rd overall, 39th in health, 24th in education, 17th in wealth, 15th in democracy, 77th in peace, 38th in environment.)

            For a very large amount of supporting data on all that I said above, you may see these two articles that I've written :

            http://goo.gl/2sxaem

            http://goo.gl/Fbykue

          • Paul F

            Hi Andy. I did not mean to make it sound like the effects of believing in God are a reason to believe in Him. The truth of the matter, of any matter, is the reason for belief. If believing in God brings me blessings, then thank God. But blessings are not a reason for acknowledging truth.

            I suggest that, instead of studying world history to see if God exists, you take a look at some philosophy of God first. Consider, if God exists, what must His attributes be? What is He like? How does He think? I often recommend Mortimer Adler's book 'How to Think About God' for this.

            The problem you have now is that you are trying to disprove the existence of a God that nobody thinks exists. Giving evidence of evil in the world, and how the level of evil waxes and wanes over time, is not in any way evidence for or against the God of Christianity.

            If God does exist, then He is good and wants good things for people. And as creatures it makes sense for us to hope and pray for good things.

            If God does not exist, then neither does goodness; or evil; or truth; or morality; we can't be sure of what is real in the world; and your rationale of finding an enlightened philosophy for people to follow in order to live with less rape, murder, violence, etc is purely self-serving and arbitrary and not at all grounded in truth.

            If God is real, we have a lot to think about and a lot to hope for and work for. If God is not real, we only have ourselves to worry about. Which do you want to believe in? (Not that wanting it makes it real; but at least it gives you some direction)

          • Andy Rhodes

            You said, "If God does exist, then He is good and wants good things for people."

            Are you saying that a partially or fully evil God can't exist?

            I'm not looking for ultimate objective truth, although it would be great to find it. What I'm primarily concerned with is well being for as many people as possible (and nonhuman animals and the rest of nature). We don't know if there is life after death, but we can try to make this life as enjoyable as possible for everyone. This is not utopian or idealistic or hedonistic. Instead, it's practical, fair, universal and reasonable. Imperfect progress. High quality of life, yet always necessarily imperfect. Religions like Christianity offer a utopian afterlife, but provide virtually no realistic or rational explanation for why this life is not a utopia already to begin with or how a creator could be trustworthy when this first world is dangerous for us. To say that life used to be different on Earth, such as in a Garden of Eden, is to assert a mythological state and link it to no evidence at all. When believers attempt to connect the problems of this life (because of environmental or human causes) and the human frailties that fail to fix them, this does nothing but describe our existence. It doesn't show any reason to believe in a very different state of peaceful immortality at the beginning of humankind. This is especially the case, given that a long list of scientific disciplines demonstrate that death has been in effect since the origin of single cell organisms and entropy was around at the time of the Big Bang.

            "If God does not exist, then neither does goodness; or evil; or truth; or morality; we can't be sure of what is real in the world; and your rationale of finding an enlightened philosophy for people to follow in order to live with less rape, murder, violence, etc is purely self-serving and arbitrary and not at all grounded in truth."

            You're speaking here from an extreme religious bias, one that I used to hold as well. We can know with a high level of certainty, as much as humans apparently can have, that we exist and can interact with a real external world. Extreme skepticism beyond this is not held by many philosophers because it's widely recognized as ridiculous and counter-productive to reject the general reliability of the senses - it's all we have to work with, at least in a way that we might possibly find a fair degree of universal common ground. To use phrases like "purely self-serving and arbitrary" is to assume a negative aspect in secular and practical morality - this is not logically necessary. The concept of selfishness is often used in religious circles to contrast human methods to God's perfect and loving methods. But, only from a particular interpretation of religious doctrine and scripture can one determine that God is perfect and loving. A person can try to use Aristotle or Plato or Aquinas or Augustine or Anselm to rationalize a belief in God's allegedly necessary perfect divine attributes, but this makes sense to few people outside those who already buy into the grandiose perspective of theology. Then, a believer can claim special knowledge through special revelation, but this is far-fetched and possibly arrogant. As is said often by critics of religion, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". By including the phrase "not at all grounded in truth" to dismiss the common sense insights that anyone can pass on and secular humanism as a methodology in general is to base your entire approach on supernatural ultimate truth, which is very difficult if not impossible to justify. Why not start from the ground up instead and focus on what the majority of humanity can agree on - quality of life?

            Practical morality is all that's needed. If the quality of life is better for a much larger portion of the population, including the poor and various marginalized groups, that's significant process. Religion has had millennia to improve the world and worked very slowly and often backwards because of convoluted theology and scriptures. Secular humanism has imperfectly adapted and innovated these traditions and earlier secular writings to make a much faster and larger impact towards a better quality of life. Religion is largely speculation and it's therefore not logical to elevate this to the front of our society as an organizing principle. Modern Christians, for example, don't like to acknowledge what earlier Christians accepted about the Bible: that it teaches the normative status of slavery, misogyny, seasonal/colonial warfare, capital punishment for moderate crimes and many other barbaric teachings. Yet, they want to take credit for the advances that Western secular society has recently made partly by using several Judeo-Christian principles and ignoring other aspects thought to be inhumane. The improvements to human history belong to humanity as a whole, not one particular religion - and honest religious people must be willing to honestly embrace the negative parts of their own tradition's scriptural teachings.

            You said, "If God is not real, we only have ourselves to worry about."

            This is a very wild statement. I know that it's common among religious people and I used to be one of those. Without God or without an afterlife of punishments and rewards, it's obviously true that we won't have to deal with things after death. But, we have just as much to "worry" about in this secular life. What we do affects other people. We live as beings that are simultaneously independent, dependent and interdependent - just like all other sentient creatures.

            I've written a short book (separated in blog posts) that critiques Christianity. I'd like to hear what you think of it, if you're interested:

            disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com

            Here is a section from it that relates to our discussion:

            -------------------------------------------------------------

            Many conservative Christians have told me something like that “the whole notion of equal innate human rights is very difficult to justify without a high view of the sanctity of human life, which you certainly don’t get from materialism”. I partly agree in that it is hard to argue for transcendent ethics without supernaturalism. But, transcendent ethics might not be necessary, especially given that modern society is far more productive, healthy and peaceful than pre-modern Christian culture was. Today among Western nations and individual states within the U.S., those which are the most conservative and religious are the most violent and plagued with far greater social problems related to murder, infant mortality, environmental abuse, teen pregnancy, incarceration, CEO to average worker pay, life expectancy, number of paid vacation days and paid holidays, economic mobility, healthcare efficiency, income inequality, guaranteed paid maternity leave, obesity and minimal worker’s benefits.

            The moral instinctual pattern in all known people groups does not clearly link itself to transcendent morality. Given the great variety (and many times contradictory nature) of moral systems and the fact that other types of apes and dozens of other species categories demonstrate compassionate tendencies outside their nuclear family along with behavior analogous to varying degrees to that of humanity regarding guilt, shame, pride, love, sorrow, depression, fear, dread, etc., a natural basis for morality is easily explainable apart from a transcendent source.

            During various points in modern history, when people (including those of marginalized groups) have felt free and safe enough to speak their minds about what a fair and ideal world would look like, they have most often said that they desire a society that provides opportunities for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, much like that of the type of Enlightenment humanism (partly evolved from Christianity) that supports the philosophical foundations of the United States Constitution, Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva Conventions, Unitarian Universalism and United Nations. Why isn’t that enough? If the golden rule can be generally appreciated and the avoidance of severe pain and trouble be fixed as a utilitarian goal for society, and the results of this type of morality and sociology have been working so progressively well for the past 300 years, why go back to a traditional religious worldview?

          • Paul F

            God, objective morality, objective truth; either they all exist, or none of them exist. The word objective means it's the OBJECT of SOMETHING. What is an objective definition of morality? It is what I should or shouldn't do. It is rightness or wrongness with regard to actions. If there is no God, then I have to define for myself what is right and wrong, and what I should and shouldn't do. Ergo, without God, morality is, by definition, SUBJECTIVE. It is not an object I can discover; it is my subject; a part of me. That furthermore means that every person in the world has their own morality. There may be a lot in common, but the minute you start acting like morality is objective, you are acting as if there is a God; like there is a being whose mere presence causes morality and truth to be objective.

            Therefore, no, it is not possible for an evil or partially evil God to exist. God's presence effects (not affects) morality. Therefore God is definitionally good. It is tautological to say that God is good, because He defines what good is. Now, that seems scary because we have an image of God that is very human-like. There is no human that I would want defining what is good and what is evil. However, in your article, you are actually doing exactly that. Instead of believing that there is a God who makes morality objective, you are looking in history and societies and grading them based on certain data that you find appealing in a society and defining that as morality. And then saying that this morality you have subjectively defined is objective.

            Anecdotal evidence can be used to build a case for any notion imaginable. I can assure you that it is easy to build a case that in many ways the 20th Century was the worst time in human history, especially if human suffering is the measuring stick. And that this human flourishing you find in some places in the world today is attained at the expense of much suffering for other humans. And some of the most brutal governments that were seen in the 20th Century began with a utilitarian goal for society.

            If you choose to believe that the universe has a creator, then you can humbly go about trying to discover His truth and morality. If you choose to believe that the universe has no creator, then you must proudly define for yourself what is true and what is right. I promise you, the world works better when we let God define morality. Look for that in your anecdotal history of the universe, and I'm sure you will find it there.

          • Andy Rhodes

            In my article called, "Does God Wisely Know What He Or She Is Doing?", I summarize several of my concerns related to our discussion above:

            ----------------------------------------------------------------

            What is the evidence that God knows what he’s doing? She created a Garden of Eden that collapsed after just one sin, thus ruining the entire cosmos. What kind of planning and love is that? He felt that he had to flood the Earth and kill everything on it to start over, but didn’t change the DNA of the human species that had been “infected” and “depraved” by sin. So the same pattern of rebellion against God was virtually guaranteed to happen again, even though God would continue to blame humans 100% for their actions regardless of the significant moral, intellectual and emotional weaknesses they received at birth. What could describe a more embarrassing track record of mismanagement and waste? She placed us on planet Earth, which is largely inhospitable to human life. Only through over 100,000 years of perseverance toward technological, social and moral development has our species learned how to survive consistently. Before the 20th century, the expected life span for all human history was 35-40 years or even lower. During that lifetime, people suffered from disease, famine, attacks by predatory creatures, ignorance, violence, fear, natural disasters, dread, etc., often limited like wild animals in the midst of a labyrinth of dangers and terrifying surprises, with no guarantee of anything beneficent or providential.

            Traditional monotheism certainly wasn’t obvious to 99% of world cultures throughout history, as only the three Abrahamic faiths and Zoroastrians believed that way. Comfort, guidance and protection deriving from a perfectly good, wise and powerful God eluded humans in their billions by no fault of their own – the genetic hardwiring of their brains didn’t lead them inevitably to see the world as being rooted in something other than pantheism, animism, polytheism, atheism, deism or panentheism. God made a cosmos that is built on the necessity of continual cycles in destruction-creation and life-death. Without the death of stars, there would be no galaxies or life in the universe. Without biological death and life processes integrated together, the Earth’s ecosystem would not function. The orthodox Christian assertion of a “safe” environment for human (or other) life in the Garden of Eden is completely implausible given these realities. God made a dangerous universe from the beginning. There’s no evidence of a biblical Fall away from an earlier utopian origin. The Bible says that in the future God will create a New Heavens and New Earth that is systematically designed to be without sin, death and severe pain and yet many people will be there who didn’t choose Christ – babies, the mentally handicapped and perhaps the unevangelized as well. So, why would God make our current universe so harsh and baffling? And why hide or make unintelligible the various essential revelations of God from most people for most of history?

            Given what I’ve said above, why would it be rational to trust that God is looking out for our welfare, here or in the afterlife? I can see goodness and wonder in nature, yet there is also a vast range in types of suffering, waste and tragedy awaiting living things on this planet. This is not because of sin. The universe has been like this since shortly after its existence was inaugurated 13.7 billion years ago. A conservative young earth creationist who wants to maintain that the cosmos began 6,000-10,000 years ago is stuck in the dilemma of explaining how the biology, physics, geology, chemistry, etc. of such a recent start could match with with the radically contrasting record found in the field of natural history and all other areas of science which have been studied and verified for centuries, many times by researchers with Christian beliefs.

            ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

            disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/does-god-wisely-know-what-he-or-shes-doing/

          • Paul F

            Thanks for sharing, Andy. This article is a strong rejection of every theodicy ever written, and therefore a rejection of God's existence. Rather than work to refute any of what you said, I will just point out that there is another way to look at everything.

            You point out much worldly evil in this article, but you fail to mention any good. It's evil that for most of history people died after 35 years. But you don't mention how good it is that people got to live for 35 years.

            For all the evil that you mention, I hope you would concede that there is good existing along side it.

            Furthermore, if God created the universe, then it is with great audacity the we would critique His work. Nonetheless, since we are made "in his image", let us be so bold. Let us try to imagine having created a world without evil; without pain; without any suffering of any kind. If I were a God who created such a world, would it have people in it? Is that even possible? I suggest that people as we know them could not possibly exist in this world without evil.

            So that is my theodicy. Your anti-theodicy sounds to me like underneath it is a dislike for people the way they are. If you created the universe you would do it without evil; well then you would do it without people. That does not sound like a good and loving God, throwing out the good with the evil.

          • Lazarus

            Your argument around pain, and the need for pain and death, is not a good one. The debate nowadays centers around not really the existence of pain, suffering and death, but instances where such suffering appears to be gratuitous. It is here where we theists have problems, and they should rather be conceded.

            On your reference to the "Problem of Good", there I think you're on much more solid ground.

          • Paul F

            Notice I said "people as we know them." I did not intend to argue for the necessity of evil, though now I see it appears that way. Maybe it is possible to create A world without evil; it just is not possible to create THIS world without evil. If, in the beginning, there was a chance that evil would never enter the world, but then it did, all is changed. And none of the persons alive today would be the same persons they are without the world being the way it is. So when you start talking about a world without suffering, to get there, you are talking about erasing everyone alive.

          • You said, "you don't mention how good it is that people got to live for 35 years".

            At what level in quality of life? Before the 20th century, very few people lived beyond 40 years. The extend life span available today is a hard fought accomplishment in spite of the incredibly harsh environment that God placed us in. I've read academic estimates of total world population for the whole of history: 109 billion, 2 billion of which existed before the time of Christ. Humanity started about 150,000 years ago and since then have suffered through the scarcity and violence that is built into nature. God specifically designed earthquakes, tornadoes, disease, meteors, weather patterns that cause famine and other overwhelming difficulties for sentient beings. The fact that all the disciplines of science show these elements are systematically integrated into the cosmos in normative ways contradicts the concept of a pre-Fall situation and the plausibility of the New Heavens and New Earth promised for Christians in the afterlife (especially if this universe reflects some or many of the core character attributes of God in a profound way). It's a grand leap of imagination to think it's reasonable to deny the role of smallpox, tiger fangs and hurricanes in any living environment that God would create, including the Garden of Eden and the New Heavens and New Earth - and the only justification we can have in order to honestly imagine a less painful living environment than our current planet is a promise from Scripture, which is based on a presupposed Fall of Humankind of which there is no evidence or even rational argument for.

            Will the lion lay down with lamb in the future? Did this ever happen before? Or anything else like that? Where is the evidence for any kind of state similar to the Garden of Eden?

            If you read more of my articles at disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com, I think you'll see at least one striking difference between me and virtually all other skeptics who critique Christianity: I often mention that there are many good aspects of Christianity (along with life as a whole). Yet, I think that the toxic and destructive components of Scripture greatly outweigh the positive and helpful parts, which can be better reproduced in a secular form without the immense and often convoluted religious baggage. We don't need far-fetched and grandiose stories or claims of invisible spiritual warfare in order to have a healthy, moral and productive society (far better than in more religious cultures - modern life in advanced Western secular nations has proved this, especially in the last 50+ years).

            You said, "if God created the universe, then it is with great audacity the we would critique His work."

            I fully agree with this statement. I don't take it lightly. As a former believer with a deep commitment to loving, knowing and obeying God, I only gradually and painfully moved away from the faith over many years. I tried to be as honest as possible during this process. Here's an overview of my story:

            disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/why-i-am-no-longer-a-christian

            However, I must use my own conscience and investigate these things in order to be sincere. I also need to be open to correction. The arguments that you've made may sound reasonable to a religious person, but they come across as crazy to a secular-minded person like myself. It shouldn't be so difficult to make sense of the basic relgious tenets if they are in fact true. If God wasn't inviting humanity to challenge and discover things like this, why would he say "come, let us reason together" in Isaiah and "love the Lord God with your whole mind (and heart and strength)" in the Gospels?

            You said, "Let us try to imagine having created a world without evil; without pain; without any suffering of any kind. If I were a God who created such a world, would it have people in it? Is that even possible? I suggest that people as we know them could not possibly exist in this world without evil."

            When Christians say things like that, I become very frustrated. It shows that some of the foundational premises of Christianity are not being considered in their full logical applications. The Garden of Eden and New Heavens and New Earth are rock solid pillars of biblical doctrine and are clearly worlds without severe pain, evil and death. They have differences and nuances that must be taken into account, of course. The former had the potential for evil to grow through rebellion and the latter will include billions of people who didn't choose to be there such as aborted/miscarried babies, infants, young children, mentally handicapped and possibly the unevangelized (the presence in heaven of these people greatly weakens the soul-making theodicy that theologians have used to say the built-in sufferings of this life are at least partly justified because they give us the opportunity to develop our spiritual character and that Hell is the result of our choices alone). To ignore the Bible's strong claim that God can, has and will again make utopian environments for humans to inhabit is to miss a gigantic aspect of Christian theology, apologetics and their criticisms from unbelievers. Unfortunately, I very rarely find apologists who recognize this obvious point.

            You said, "You anti-theodicy sounds to me like underneath it is a dislike for people the way they are."

            This is truly a wild statement. Secular humanism is well known for its guarded and tempered optimism toward the potential for human culture to improve. This is largely in contradiction to the fatalism of Christianity and strong conservatism in general. Christians and conservatives have long opposed humanistic movements because many of them were not only threatening to the staus quo but also seemed naively over-ambitious. In fact, since beginning radical social reforms between the late 1600s-late 1700s of the Enlightenment, Western society and gradually the rest of the world has become less violent and more prosperous for an unprecedentedly large portion of the population.

            See these two articles that I've written about this to see a lot of interdisciplinary data in support of these clams:

            persuademepolitics.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/now-the-most-peaceful-time-in-world-history

            persuademepolitics.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/extreme-political-or-religious-views-create-dysfunctional-societies

            The former article explains:

            "Terrible things like the following are in radical decline (or in some cases have been eliminated): warfare, rape, murder, judicial torture, child abuse, legal and illegal slavery, use of the death penalty, robbery, infanticide, bullying, lynchings, corporal punishment, misogyny, theft, domestic abuse, racism, blood sports, religious persecution, burglary, debtors’ prisons, sexism, abortion, dueling, property crime, witchhunts and animal abuse. This process started when societies began to organize away from hunter-gatherer communities between 7,000-10,000 years ago into structured civilizations, but shifted to an accelerated level of reform during the 18th century’s Age of Enlightenment and afterward. By absolute numbers and percentage of population, the trend is downward in violent behavior."

            And the latter notes:

            "When comparing quality of life conditions between advanced Western nations and individual states within the U.S., a growing amount of data available shows that those which are the most conservative and religious are the most violent and plagued with far greater social problems in more than a dozen categories like overall crime, economic mobility, infant mortality, environmental abuse, teen pregnancy, incarceration, life expectancy, poor educational systems, murder, healthcare efficiency, average worker to CEO pay ratio, paid maternity leave, obesity, income inequality and minimal worker’s benefits."

          • Paul F

            I'm sorry I don't have time for very thorough responses. And at the risk of repeating myself, anecdotes from history and data and speculation on suffering are not reasons to believe or disbelieve in God. The intellectual investigation of God's existence is done in philosophy of God, not in history or geography.

            When it comes to theology, you are looking for a very authoritative God who intervenes greatly and often in creation and judging that God to be evil and concluding that He doesn't exist. That is one intellectual choice. Another choice would be to realize that perhaps the creator of the universe is not like that. Maybe He exists but is not authoritative and intervening and evil. You chose the former, but the latter is not unreasonable.

            Your reading of history is still focusing on the bad and ignoring the good. You are attempting to measure suffering, maybe the most subjective and personal thing in the world. And you are ignoring love. Meaningless suffering, I admit, really sucks. Suffering for love of others is not difficult and is a source of great joy.

          • Andy Rhodes

            You said, "God, objective morality, objective truth; either they all exist, or none of them exist."

            If an all-powerful god made and sustains everything, then they can define what is good. Demonstrating that a god made and sustains the world is very difficult, if not impossible. The same is true about objective morality actually existing. If secular and humanistic morality is sufficient to support and encourage significant levels of peace, strong productivity and overall human flourishing at levels far beyond societies where religion dominates (the data reveals this), then why keep pursuing a millennia-old quest that remains radically unsolved, convoluted and based in speculative engagement (toward the possible existence of objective morality)?

            Religions are allowed to loosely explore the "supernatural realm" and typically are not required to thoroughly justify their outlandish claims. Within this environment, goodness can be described by them as whatever the god or gods allegedly decide in any given moment in time. For example, the Christian god supports slavery as normative in both testaments. He directs the Israelites multiple times to practice genocide upon their neighbors so that the Promised Land can be established. He destroys the entire planet through the Flood, demands better behavior from remaining and future peoples and yet doesn't change the root problem of a sinful nature that the Bible says is passed onto every new child. He decrees a lower level of cultural significance for women in many section of the Bible. There's a long list of inhumane things that the Trinity put upon human beings, the most disproportionately aggressive being an everlasting Hell for a finite lifetime of limited choices among inherent by qualities of ignorance, moral weakness and pain - all three were specifically designed by God. From the perspective of the average modern human, these things are immoral, cruel, short-sighted and nonsensical. To provide a compelling alternative of loving theism, one needs a far more robust answer than just wild assertions to the contrary. Evidence is required. As the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

          • Paul F

            If all that you are saying about God here were true then NOBODY would believe in him!! That is not the God we believe in. You are misreading all of salvation history and interpreting the entire bible in a way that accuses God of wrongdoing and thus proves He doesn't exist. That is utter nonsense.

            If you want to disbelieve in the God of Christianity, first learn who he is and then disbelieve honestly.

            If you study the universe you look for empirical evidence. If you study God you look elsewhere. I renew my recommendation that you study some philosophy of God, since you are taking an intellectual approach. Or 'Mere Christianity' gives a pretty good explication of what Christians believe about God. But I can assure that nobody believes in the God whose existence you are refuting.

          • Lazarus

            We do not believe in that God, but we most certainly should account for those passages in the Bible, and for some of what we see around us in real life, and there Andy is quite correct. I also don't believe that us theists should be all that happy with some of our objective morality arguments. They're popular and look good on the first passing, but there are significant weaknesses there. For example, name one instance of objective morality. And it gets worse from there.

            Atheists do sometimes set up a straw God, which then get taken apart, but I don't believe this post by Andy is guilty of that. Just like with the larger problem of suffering the theist should face these criticisms and deal with them as best we can. Denying that the challenges exist is not good strategy.

          • Andy Rhodes

            Thanks for giving my statements a chance, Lazarus.

            I call myself a theist-in-protest. I still pray and ask God to explain these things to me, at least at a basic level. I'm not expecting or asking to know everything. But, I haven't heard anything that draws me back to Christian faith.

            If I was just an angry skeptic, things would be different. But, in actuality, I'm a frustrated and alienated believer in God. My sincere fear, pain and dismay at the world God has made and the Scriptures he or she revealed led to the conclusion that the Church was no longer a home for me. I couldn't stand to take communion or praise God anymore. It was unjust. It was cruel.

            I could be wrong, of course. But, I've never stopped dialoguing with Christian philosophers, theologians, pastors, priests and lay people. I still kept moving further away from Christianity by what seemed like a drive of logical and ethical necessity (very uncomfortably).

            I officially left the Church in 2006. I recognized that I could no longer call myself a Christian in 2009 because I rejected so many of the doctrines as inhumane, regardless of whether they were true or not. And I became more skeptical of their plausibility as time, experience, debate and research went on.

          • Sample1

            But, in actuality, I'm a frustrated and alienated believer in God.

            Sorry for your predicament but that's an interesting position to be in. One that I find impossible to comprehend. I hope you discover a way out of your pain. Be careful of anyone or anything that would attempt to exploit suffering for their own purposes.

            I wish you well.

            Mike, faith-free

          • Andy Rhodes

            It's a lot less painful than it was when I was in the process of questioning the faith for the first time and also during the next few years after leaving.

            I think it's a lot like a child trusting their parents while growing up and then finding out that their authority figures didn't tell them the truth about some very important issues. I became really angry at God, the Church and the Bible for lying to me for years. I'm not so angry now, but I'm serious about criticizing Christianity because, even though there are many good aspects, the bad outweighs the positive in a long list of ways (much of which I've highlighted on this discussion thread and in my short book/blog on the subject: disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com.

            I'm now a practical secular humanist and learning to be comfortable with that. I have found other people who are like that, some who have a deeply religious background like I do but most who do not. I still connect with many of my religious friends from my church days, but to a lesser degree.

            I see extremely conservative religion and politics, especially in America, as doing a lot of damage. We don't have a problem in the other direction, given that ever other advanced nation is more liberal than we are and so many of them have a better quality of life in so many categories. And that's one reason that I dialog and debate these issues - to try to moderate extremists and challenge people to look at the logical extension and application of their beliefs. I invite them to challenge or correct me if they think I'm off base. Here's a lot of stats I've gathered over several years about the extreme affects of extreme conservatism in America compared to other advanced countries (especially in the West). Individual states on the fringe have a worse quality of life as well:

            persuademepolitics.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/extreme-political-or-religious-views-create-dysfunctional-societies

            I don't think we have strong evidence about what supernatural reality is or regarding whether it even exists. I think we should attempt to be rigorously honest about what can make living conditions on the planet better here, now.

          • Paul F

            Andy, it occurred to me that what was missing from our discussion was the meta-narrative of Christianity. This is not clearly defined by doctrine because it is not clearly known by anyone except maybe some mystics on a very personal level, and you can't base doctrine on them. It goes something like this:

            Before the universe and time, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit existed. Not out of need, but out of love, the Father created the heavenly court, with all of the angels. All was perfect and good and in perfect unity. No evil existed.

            Then it happened: God the Father had the concept for His next creation, the universe. It would be a temporal place, mostly inanimate, that would grow and change over time until a place existed where things would become animate. The culmination of this would be that the epitome of the animate beings would become sentient, have total freedom, and be able to love God if they chose to.

            At the moment the concept was divinely conceived, God's best angel, Lucifer, cried out "NO!" Lucifer did not want evil to be possible. He did not want these blind sentient beings to have the option to disrespect God the Father. He did not want God to have to capacity to suffer based on the actions of these very lowly sentient beings. And so Lucifer fell like lightening from the sky.

            In this meta-narrative, God the Father weighed the good against the evil of the universe at the very moment the idea was conceived. Lucifer, God's greatest angel, with the greatest intellect of any creature, also weighed the good against the evil. Lucifer said NO, God said YES.

            So it is not a new question, whether or not the universe deserves to exist the way it is. But to God the Father, it is worth it to Him to allow the evil in order to love and be loved even more.

            I am saying all of this because this is THE narrative in which Christianity makes sense. It tells us, as the bible does many times, that we do not think like God. We like to be mathematical about things. We might ask, "what if out of 100 billion people who live on earth in the fullness of it's existence, only 10 billion make it to heaven. Is it worth it to create the universe anyway?" We might say no, but God might say, "for the love of 10 billion people, it is worth it."

            The numbers aren't what drives God's decision here. What if you, Andy, were the only one to make it to heaven out of the entire universe. God would still say YES, it is worth all the suffering we all go through for the love of Andy.

            So we can look at everything wrong with the world and say "NO, God can't exist." Lucifer looked at everything wrong with the world and said, "NO, the universe can't exist." But neither of us are reasoning like God when we say that. So if you are in search of a rationale that will allow God to exist, place an infinitely higher value on love, and it will sway the equation in your favor.

            I anticipate that you will say that it follows from this narrative that God created evil. This is not the case if we define evil as the result of the choice to not love God. Clearly Lucifer always had this ability in the narrative. But he never exercised it until the Big Bang occurred. Many angels did not fall. There must be greater love in a being that can make the choice than in one who cannot. So in this equation, as in the previous, love is the decider, and it's value is high enough to sway God to allow freedom.

          • How does that relate to the intense suffering built into the cosmos for sentient beings through things such as disease, earthquakes and predation? This was active and integrally normative for creatures living during the 300+ million years before humans made choices.

          • Paul F

            Are animals capable of suffering? I guess there are a lot of definition of terms and metaphysics lacking in our discussion as well. I have a working definition of 'person' that puts humans, angels, and God into a category. What you have referred to as being sentient (I think) I refer to as personhood. To me persons are far removed from other life forms on earth, and they have an eternal character. Personhood is a locus of perception, knowledge, and will that differenciates humans from animals.

            I am in favor of cruelty to animal laws, but not because of the "suffering" of animals. I am in favor of them because cruelty to anything is de-humanizing. A person who will vent his anger on an animal will do it on a person as well.

            To me, persons are in an entirely different class from animals. I do not think that animals suffer, nor that their life and death has any eternal significance outside of providing sustenance for human persons.

            I don't think there is another practical way to see it. I spray my garden for insects frequently; I swat mosquitos; I kill the ants on my walk way. If I personified all of those animals I would have to just lie down and let them devour me.

            There has to be a line between us and the rest. I think the only persons on this planet are human beings. I will lay down my life for another person; I won't do it for another animal.

          • Andy Rhodes

            To say that you don't think nonhuman animals suffer is to have an extreme view that very few people share. Do you think they're just machines?

            An enormous amount of scientific data shows that nonhuman animals react to pain very much like we do biologically. If you intend to separate pain from suffering, the scientific community will disagree and point out the arbitrary nature of trying to split them. See a collection of interviews with scientists on this subject here:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLSwRcvX72M

            Sentience is not the same as personhood, the latter only applying to humans. Wikipedia defines the former this way:

            "Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience)."

            "In the philosophies of animal welfare and rights, sentience implies the ability to experience pleasure and pain."

            It quotes a documentary on animal rights:

            "Granted, these animals do not have all the desires we humans have; granted, they do not comprehend everything we humans comprehend; nevertheless, we and they do have some of the same desires and do comprehend some of the same things. The desires for food and water, shelter and companionship, freedom of movement and avoidance of pain"

            I wrote about this on my blog:

            "[Beyond humans,] other types of apes and dozens of other species categories demonstrate compassionate tendencies outside their nuclear family along with behavior analogous to varying degrees to that of humanity regarding guilt, shame, pride, love, sorrow, depression, fear, dread, etc."

            ---------------------------------------

            Along with your theology, your view on nonhuman animal suffering is outside of human observation, scientific study and what ought to be common sense (unless one is already committed to certain types of religious presuppositions).

            You said, "I am in favor of cruelty to animal laws, but not because of the 'suffering' of animals. I am in favor of them because cruelty to anything is de-humanizing. A person who will vent his anger on an animal will do it on a person as well."

            That is very anthropocentric, which is an arbitrary position to start from. Why don't nonhuman beings that can feel and suffer deserve consideration on their own, apart from how various actions may affect humans?

            I think your view on nonhuman suffering is incredibly callous and inhumane. You don't need to take a extreme position in order to protect human welfare. There's room for all of us on planet Earth.

            I don't think a loving God would create beings that can experience intense pain and then be indifferent to it to the point where protecting them from harm is justified only because it's not good to encourage one species (i.e., humans) toward being abusive in general. Or would a loving God even create beings that could experience intense pain?

            How can you say that animals don't suffer? If a dog, cat or monkey is starving, are they not suffering? Are they not conscious of their pain? What possible justification can you offer?

            ---------------------------------------

            As one blogger commented:

            "The fact that innocent animals suffer through no fault of their own should be very disconcerting to the faithful, for if God is willing to allow innocence to suffer without cause or reward, why should we believe we are any different?"

            https://500questions.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/42-why-does-god-allow-animals-to-suffer/

            To connect this with what you said about having animal cruelty laws so that humans won't be cruel to each other, here's a related quote from that blogger questioning how a God that designed tremendous suffering into the basic functionality of animal life could still expect us to trust him to be fair and kind to us:

            "To use a parable: A woman once began dating a handsome man, only to later find out he had a ferocious temper, and had beaten and killed several dogs. He tried to reassure her by saying, 'Baby, those were just soulless dogs! I would never do that to you!' But in the end she left him, because even if he never laid a hand on her, she would always fear that he would, and did not want to be with someone who could justify cruelty to innocent creatures."

            "...we don’t know what we don’t know, and God may have a good explanation. Assuming He does, He is still guilty of placing us in a deceptive environment, one that leads us to conclude He is evil, for only evil creates innocence and leads it to suffer. We only know what we know, and what He has given us to know is a creation that seems to bare false witness against its good creator, which leads us to incorrect conclusions about imperative matters."

            ---------------------------------------

            A veterinary surgeon and academic researcher writes this about the state of scientific understanding regarding animal suffering in 2015:

            "The debate around animals' capacity to experience pain and suffer raged in the 20th century, but as we developed a greater understanding of pain, and studied its impact on the aspects of animal life that we could measure, we veterinary surgeons, along with many behavioural and animal scientists, recognised the significant impact of untreated pain, and we now believe this experience causes them to suffer....For example, we know that animals and indeed birds with clinical signs of pain (limping) will choose to eat food containing pain-killing drugs (analgesics) over untreated food, and by measures of behaviour, they will improve....Similarly many studies in a range of domestic animals have indicated that animals who have had surgery but not had adequate pain relief demonstrate behaviours reflective of pain which are alleviated when they are treated with analgesics such as morphine....We also know that it is not just our dogs and cats that can suffer pain – there is an equally strong evidence base for the presence and negative impact of pain in sheep, cattle, pigs and horses among other species."

            http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/do-animals-feel-pain-in-the-same-way-as-humans-do-10371800.html

            ---------------------------------------

            You said, "I don't think there is another practical way to see it. I spray my garden for insects frequently; I swat mosquitos; I kill the ants on my walk way. If I personified all of those animals I would have to just lie down and let them devour me."

            This is another wild and unrelated statement. What modern person in a Western nation is saying insects are sentient? Please address actual arguments that I'm making instead of these misdirections.

          • Paul F

            The definition you give for sentience includes subjectivity, which implies an ego, which in my definition of person I included as the locus of perception, intellect, and will. Can you draw any distinction between persons and animals? I do believe there is a metaphysical difference between them, but I do not believe this arbitrarily. I believe there are horrendous real world consequences of personifying animals.

          • It's not about personifying animals.

            It's very simple.

            Of course, animals can feel pain. Watching creatures suffer should draw out compassion from the viewer.

            Why do you continue with such an extreme viewpoint that denies a practical straightforward interpretation?

            As I asked before, do cats and dogs not suffer when starving?

          • Paul F

            We are equivocating terms, which is why I am trying to establish a definition of person that is distinct from animal and is not dependent on biology.

            The word suffering is distinct from the word pain. Suffering connotes a duration or an emotional or spiritual nature.

            Humans are capable of tremendous suffering on all levels: physical, psychological, and spiritual. Animals are capable of physical pain, and their behavior can be altered by pain. I stop short of saying animals suffer because they lack the depth of a person. When you apply the word suffering to animals I hear it as an equivocation where the word pain is more appropriate.

            I don't think I have extreme views; I think I have precise definitions. I find that most discussions of philosophy need to begin with definitions of terms. Most questions are answered as terms are defined.

            Do you have a definition of person? Is personhood what makes humans distinct from animals? If so, how does that differenciate human suffering from animal suffering? If not, what is the difference?

          • Andy Rhodes

            I define personhood as something only found in humans.

            With the exception of the spiritual aspect, nonhuman animals experience suffering as you defined it:

            "Suffering connotes a duration or an emotional or spiritual nature."

            Chimpanzees and zebras likely experience more depth of pain than rats and salamanders.

            We can have a wide range of speculation about the intensity and comprehensiveness of pain and suffering, but modern science has discovered a lot of evidence to show that suffering and pain look very similar if not essentially the same among humans and nonhuman animals. Labeling what is for sure a biological experience in humans as including the spiritual as well is very hard (if not impossible) to justify.

            Even if nonhuman animals could not experience suffering in the way you want to define it, that doesn't remove the burden of theodicy. In a way analogous to the pain for adult humans in comparison to infant humans or mentally handicapped humans, of which the latter two are not as "conscious" in the higher intellectual or maybe spiritual sense too, nonhuman animal pain is very significant and a true ethical dilemma for omnibenevolence.

            Pain without suffering, if there is such a thing, is a huge problem for thestic ethics in the design and sustenance of nature.

          • Paul F

            The theodicy is simply that it is worth it. Time did not exist before the universe. Therefore change did not exist. Nothing became anything. Everything was what it was.

            God is Creator. He could have continued having only heaven and not the universe. But He had an idea for a new creation where time exists and things change. Pain is part of the evolution; it's an awareness of a stimulus that demands a response; it can be terminal. But without it, we don't have life on earth.

            God could have forgone this creation; He was encouraged to do so. But He decided it was worth it. Andy was worth it.

            Suffering is not a commodity. Individual people experience it differently, have different concepts of it, respond differently to it. I've seen people take great suffering like it was nothing. I've seen people crumble under what seemed to me a minor annoyance. Suffering is always an opportunity for change. It's an integral part of who we are. How we respond to it determines our character to a large extent. Suffering really just ain't that bad. I certainly don't think it's a reason to forgo the universe.

          • Sample1

            Suffering is always an opportunity for change

            As I look skyward a raptor brings me joy, for others not. Going to have to down vote this.

            Let me ask you a question. Think of the most sublime joy and pleasure you can imagine. Would you trade one day of suffering the most excruciating pain that you could think of just so you could experience your day of pleasure?

            How about just one hour of intense pain (how about throwing emotional pain in there too, like watching your spouse suffer too) for one day of perfect joy?

            Worth it?

            Mike
            Edits done

          • All of that is undercut by what I've mentioned above: the design of the Garden of Eden and the New Heavens and New Earth.

            These are places where full human flourishing was and is intended without severe pain, depression, alienation, confusion or death. Yet, only two people were able to experience the first one and then were everlastingly banished along with their descendants after just one significant rebellion. In the second environment, many billions will be there that did not chose it: miscarried/aborted babies, young children, the mentally handicapped and possibly unevangelized adults as well. The soul-making argument, the theodicy that claims the opportunities for character formation justify the monumental suffering that humans are confronted with as normative aspects of nature intrinsic before their arrival on Earth, collapses when the aforementioned details are taken into account.

          • Paul F

            Bible passages are very unique among other forms of literature. There is incredible depth of meaning that can be discovered, seemingly endless. If I delve into one story, I begin to discover new meaning and theology and I learn new things about God.

            I cannot give an apologist account of the entire Old Testament if I work tirelessly for the rest of my life. It comes down to a question of belief. If I belief in God and that the bible is His revelation, then I find great fruit in it. If I believe God is evil and the stories of the bible prove it, then the bible is useless to me. The bible is not there for us to judge whether or not God is good; and approaching it that way just reveals a misconception of philosophy.

            Objective morality is instantiated every time I sin or do good. The 10 commandments and Love thy Neighbor are the rules that help us be more objective about morality. I cannot write all the rules or classify every act according to moral precepts because I am not the master of morality. But that is precisely what makes morality objective.

            I cannot answer all of Andy's objections on his terms because his terms presuppose the non-existence of God. It makes sense to say "I don't believe in God and these are the real world consequences of that choice". It does not make sense to argue non-existence with a believer from that viewpoint. The difference of viewpoint is a difference of belief. All I can say is "God is Good", and accusing God of evil is senseless. The very classification of good and evil is senseless if there is no God.

          • David Nickol

            If I delve into one story, I begin to discover new meaning and theology and I learn new things about God.

            Could you give an example?

            And when you say delve into one story, do you mean that you think about a text, or meditate on it, or do you mean that you read from various commentaries?

            It seems to me that unless you attribute some kind of supernatural power to biblical texts, they are like any other texts. Texts are texts. This does not, of course, mean that a shopping list is the same kind of text as a Wallace Stevens poem. It does not mean that an intricately plotted trilogy is not different from a diary. But it does mean (to me) that a biblical text or collection of biblical texts cannot convey information in a way no other text or set of texts can.

            Believing as I do, the only way I can get an idea of what you mean when you say the above is for you to give an example (or two or three).

          • Paul F

            I am mostly referring to contemplation, which does involve thinking about a text, meditating on it, and perhaps even reading commentaries. Contemplation involves placing ones self in the setting of the story and experiencing it in the imagination in a prayerful way, and afterward savoring the experience in conversation with God.

            An example is the story of Jesus healing the leper. Imagine the setting: lepers rejected by society, believed to be guilty of sin and punished with a disease. Then imagine you are the leper. Hear yourself asking Jesus for healing and hear Him say "I do will it."

            Then see what you learn from that experience. Things like: Jesus is willing to talk with the outcast and the sinner and willing for forgive sins; Jesus responds when He is asked for healing; Jesus does not need popular approval, he's gonna do what he wants to do regardless of what people think; and many other things.

            This experience of contemplation can happen in the context of believing in God, believing the bible to be inspired, and asking God for the grace to experience it. It is an experience that I studied before I experienced and went in very skeptical. I remained skeptical throughout, but now the memories of it are memories of experience, not memories of imagination.

            I am not claiming that biblical pericopes have supernatural power. But I have had a depth of experience with many of them in a way I have never encountered any other form of literature. I am sure that a good empiricist can come up with many skeptical explanations for the experience of contemplation, but they obviously will not change my perception of what I have experienced. Many mystics and saints have testified similarly. Not that I am either but nobody reads the testimony of a regular guy like me.

          • Alexandra

            >>> I also don't believe that us theists should be all that happy with some of our objective morality arguments. They're popular and look good on the first passing, but there are significant weaknesses there. For example, name one instance of objective morality.

            Would you mind listing some of the weaknesses? (Or a reference).

            I might not be understanding your question, but I think one of the strongest examples of an objectively moral standard is "you should not rape"; although a personal favorite is each person is equal in human dignity.

          • Lazarus

            I could bore you with a very long list of books and authors where the objective morality argument gets taken to task. One recent example would be Ray Bradley's "God's Gravediggers" where he points out that even apparently objective moral statements such as your example cannot be regarded as always wrong for all people, as God himself allows rape and pillage at times (see Numbers 31 for an example).

            Some of those same passages will show us that, on the theistic view, not all persons are equal in human dignity. You and I have probably both found ways to make peace with these debates, but that is where my "all that happy" statement comes from. There are other views out there that can be forcefully argued.

          • Alexandra

            Thank you for the response and reference.
            I'm more interested in a list of your strongest objections.

            Regarding the first objection:
            If Bradley's example about rape is true-it doesn't invalidate objective morality -it invalidates my understanding that rape is universally wrong. Under Bradley, God is still the rule maker- thus objective morality, since the source and ordering of the moral law is still external to the person.
            Additionally, our private interpretation of the Bible, like Bradley is doing, does not determine the rules of our morality. Nowhere in the Bible does it say rape is morally righteous or approved by God. There is a distinction between allowing and condoning.
            You should not rape is a universal human law. The Bible does not contradict this.

          • Lazarus

            I'm not so sure that Bradley's example isn't a good one. As a Catholic and non-literalist I simply do not accept that God ever sanctioned, ordered or condoned any of that. But, and that was my point, we need to understand that there are several strong challenges mounted against the absolute morality argument, and that not everyone is a fan.

          • Andy Rhodes

            You said, "If all that you are saying about God here were true then NOBODY would believe in him!!"

            What specifically are you referring to?

            I'm simply restating very obvious details about nature and the Bible.

            As far as I tell, the primary difference between us (and between myself and theists or Christians in general) is that you believe God is good ahead of time, before looking at nature. I think that nature must be part of the evaluation of whether God is good or not.

          • Lazarus

            Like a lot of Christians, I struggle with some aspects of the problem of suffering, especially as it pertains to nature, predation and so on.

            What would be your thoughts if we accept for the sake of debate that this is the only way that creation could have happened, that God's choice was between this and nothing? I know that such a scenario raises some hackles because of the common conception of God's omnipotence, but by framing the question in that way it really boils down to "Should God have created or not?"

          • Andy Rhodes

            If we use the moral logic that almost all modern people use to evaluate difficult ethical options, we have to vote against the creation of this cosmos. The score is at least 1,000,000 to 1 when comparing intrinsic suffering to possible or actual benefits. And the sentient nonhuman animals for the past 300+ million years get nothing everlasting out of the terror of being eaten alive or the pain of starvation.

            Further, there's no need for a tree of the knowledge of good and evil or this "fallen" life if the New Heavens and New Earth to come will offer full human flourishing without the potential for sin, death or severe pain and at the same time will contain many billions of miscarried or aborted babies, young children, mentally handicapped and (possibly) unevangelized people even though they did not chose God or God in Christ. This is a vast gap in Christian apologetics that I've been trying to get believers to see for years.

            I did not want to leave Christianity. It was and still is very painful and disrupting to me. My whole family is very religious (pastors: dad, mom, sister; apologist: me) and so were most of my friends. I had been part of great church communities in CA, NC, AL and GA. I never had a bad experience with the Church that drove me apart from God. And I still have never doubted God's existence or that God is at least partly good. But, I became more and more disturbed by what I saw as the unethical nature of the disproportionate punishments in the Bible, the lopsided obsession with sin and salvation, the very little attention that nature got in the scriptures with thus negatively or negligently affected ecological concerns and the grotesqueness of an atonement system that God designed to solve the disastrous effects of just one terrible decision by the first humans. It's really crazy and these kinds of things seem crazy to believers when they critique other religions and philosophies. But, as I've said above, if one has a commitment to the omnipotence of God and has a deep need for life to make sense in an authoritative way, the viewpoint used to interpret and intake religious ideas will be deeply filtered away from seeing God as responsible for the structure of inevitable suffering in the cosmos. Who else has the ability to cause earthquakes, disease, famine and volcanoes? Just a little common sense observation or simple science reveals the need for all of those destructive and creative forces to exist in our present world in order to have our present world. And yet, Christians have long said that this is not the way the world was meant to be. We sinned and fundamentally changed the condition of human (and maybe nonhuman) life. Really? Where and what is the evidence for this or is it just another assertion without justification?

            If interested, I've written a relatively short article explaining how and why I gradually left the faith:

            https://disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/why-i-am-no-longer-a-christian

          • Lazarus

            Thank you, Andy. I will read that article later, we have a long weekend around here.

            Your experience and thoughts mirror a lot of my own, and I can't say that I'm making much progress, either in understanding or in accepting. Like you, I want to hang in there, as difficult as that may be sometimes.

            All the best on your journey. I communicate and identify better with people who, in my view, understand the problems realistically than the "What, me worry?" crowd.

          • Paul F

            You are not talking about the God of Christians here. God is not in the dock. It doesn't make sense to judge whether or not the creator of life is good. He defines goodness by His essence, not by fiat. If you learn what is good, you learn what is God.

          • Sample1

            Can you provide some examples of:

            defining goodness by his essence?

            Secondly:

            If you learn what is good, you learn what is God.

            Was it good to kill heretics or enslave Galileo? Many people thought so (some probably still do). Forgive me, but this rule of yours seems pretty flimsy. Perhaps answering the first question will help bolster your claims.

            Mike, ungodly

          • Again, I'm not talking about ultimately objective morality.  I'm not talking about morality that God dictates.  I'm not talking about morality that is a reflection of the character of God as defined by the Bible or Christian philosophy or Greek philosophy.

            I'm asking you to acknowledge that the parts of nature and divine commands and actions in Scripture that appear inhumane or barbaric when one uses the same humanistic criteria that modern people (most Christians included) on a daily basis are real challenges to the appearance of God being all loving and good.

            I understand that you have very deeply held presuppositions that a partly evil god equals a non-existent god, but from a finite human perspective these things are always evil: chattel slavery, murdering millions of humans and nonhuman animals in a flood, directing genocide of neighboring pagan people groups, legislating or creating radically disproportionate punishments (such as death for sex outside of marriage, working on the Sabbath and disrespecting one's parents or everlasting hell for a finite lifetime of offenses).  The biblical God did all of that and much more that offends a basic sense of fairness and compassion, not to mention the fact the modern history shows that capital punishment is not an effective deterent away from criminal behavior (crime rates have continued to dramatically move downward even though capital punishment has become increasingly rare).

            I understand that you believe God's actions and commands in the Bible and in the design of nature are fully righteous, but can you understand how and why someone could sincerely complain to God or just to other people about the Bible's description of God regarding what appears to be cruel and callous behavior?

            To be direct, why do you believe in Christianity?

            If the supernatural realm cannot be critiqued from the physical realm (as you seem to saying), then what justification do you have to believe it even exists?

            I think you should, if not simply for the sake of reason, restrain your charge that if someone doesn't agree with your traditional religious epistemology, then they must not have studied the philosophy of God enough or with full sincerity.  That is something you cannot possibly know.  It would require one to authoritatively and absolutely read the intentions and intellectual interior workings of other people.  All you can fairly say is that a particular claim correctly or incorrectly represents official Church doctrine and legitimately reflects what the biblical texts actually say.  For both of those categories, I'm well-versed and depending on two decades of studying Christian (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Reformation-influenced Protestant) and non-Christian scholars.

          • Paul F

            You are asking me for a theodicy for Noah's flood and the slaughter of the Philistines. I'm sure many have been written better than what I can do. But these are not big obstacles to my faith. I can see why they could be, but I love the natural world and the cycle of life.

            God is eternal. The universe is finite. Do you consider it cruel that the eternal God chose to make a finite universe? If you do, then you are giving petty, human motivations to the One who needed nothing.

            There is no empty space in God; no need; no lack for anything. But He is so full of love that He decided to make room for this little finitude we call the universe. I'm glad He did. I hope to spend my time here learning about Him and the good things he did; not trying to blame Him for what is clearly my fault or the fault of my brothers.

            My operant theodicy is that God wanted us to be free. The one freedom nobody can take away is our freedom to choose what we believe. Many things try to convince of a lie; any lie. When I look at the world, it does not make me think that some evil villain designed all of this as a ruse to play games with us. It makes me think that somebody loves me. A lot. And that He has total respect for my freedom to believe what I choose. And it would not surprise me if He became man and died for my sins. That is why I believe Christianity.

            Think about this: I keep telling you about the good in the world, and that it is the reason I believe in God. You keep telling me about all the evil in the world, and that it is a reason to doubt God's existence. Do you want to believe good or evil?

          • Andy Rhodes

            It's grossly inaccurate to describe what I've written as being based on a total focus on evil. I've already said that I acknowledge a lot of good things about Christianity and nature. How many non-Christian skeptics do that?

            Your approach to the apparent good and evil in God, the Bible and nature is radically arbitrary reductionism. You want to focus on what you see as the good and then say the things not caused by humans that appear evil are not a big problem for Christian theology. In fact, I've heard religious or irreligious philosopher say that there is a more daunting dilemma in the doctrinal structure than the formal problem of evil and suffering. During the past few centuries of accelerated scientific knowledge development, the problem of nonhuman animal suffering has become more obvious as well.

            I'm describing things in a very straightforward manner, in fair measurements (to the best of my ability). Because a person shouldn't be put to death for disrespecting their parents. Because it's not ethical or productive to create a world with smallpox and tsunamis when the next life will not include tremendous suffering for billions of people who get into the New Heavens and New Earth by no choice of their own (babies, the mentally handicapped and possibly unevangelized people). History shows that many people are so overwhelmed by the physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual challenges built into nature that they never recover - that suffering was far greater than the capabilities they had through birth - even though a significant portion seem by all accounts to have been sincere and hard working.

            The Bible says that we cannot achieve sinlessness and yet it claims were are headed for everlasting torment because of our lack of sinlessness. What could be more unjust than that? And we're supposed to praise and love a god like that? How is that not the ultimate form of bullying, callousness and manipulation? It's like a kidnapper and torturer expecting the victims to wholeheartedly embrace and honor them. The good aspects of reality that you and I both can point to are infinitesimal in the context of such hellish brutality.

            Early in our conversation several days ago, you skipped over the terrible sufferings of the human race not typically living past age 35 for at least 100,000 years until the 20th century by saying I wasn't recognizing the greatness of being able to live for those 35 years. With all of the built into ignorance, confusion, sickness, pain, starvation, etc., that inherently exists in human life aside from our good or bad choices........no modern person would be considered anything other than a despicable character if they allowed or caused this situation for other sentient beings. You're letting God's behavior remain exempt from scrutiny because of your prior commitment to theism and whatever other motivations you may have. This approach of yours is highly selective. If your religion is correct, then why not admit the seriousness and validity of these very direct and earnest critiques and then provide strong answers.

            I sense that you find abstract perspectives on the nature of God compelling and the logical necessities that are typically included. But, as I said before, that's only addressing the logical theory of coherence as the ideas may be rationally in congruence with each other. This doesn't mean it's true. There are innumerable examples of philosophical systems that are coherent. But, if they don't effectively connect with the theory of correspondence and fail to match up with the world as a whole or in practical detail, then the probability of their truthfulness drops significantly, possibly to zero.

          • Paul F

            We see dimly now as through a glass. There are so many unknowns that will never be known on this side of eternity. There are no scientific advancements that are going to tell us what the first humans were like; or whether they were besieged by small pox and tsunamis and tigers and all manner of natural evil. In order to have a dilemma we need two statements that cannot both be true. Can you make those statements?

            The Bible doesn't say everlasting life is impossible; it says it's difficult; enter through the narrow gate. Jesus is the Way; etc. No Christian takes the bible to be saying salvation is impossible. Why would there be any Christians if that was the message?

            Why are you comparing God to a modern human? Do you find modern humans to be the epitome of reason? I do not. And you were once again listing the many evils that have befallen mankind as reasons to not believe in God. There is no need to beat this horse any more.

            Animal suffering? Not concerned about it because once again we are invincibly ignorant. We can't know that animals even suffer the way humans do, or what their consciousness is like. Why would you presume to know that the situation is such that God is guilty of evil?

            I'm telling you philosophy of God is intellectually prior to all of these thoughts. There are attributes that God must have if he exists. So either God is not there or he is all good. But there is no chance that He is there and guilty of evil. Your arguments here are like this: there is evil in the world, way more evil than good; despite my invincible ignorance of where evil came from, I declare that evil either came from God, or there is no God. Therefore either God is evil or there is no God. Whatever the case, modern man is certainly more reasonable than God.

          • Andy Rhodes

            "If you want to disbelieve in the God of Christianity, first learn who he is and then disbelieve honestly."

            Wow. What are you talking about? What about my statements have been dishonest?

            That really is offensive of you to say. I was a sincere believer for most of my life. I have presented a very direct case. I've studied theology and the Bible my entire adult life. Where is my mistaken interpretation?

            I've been very straightforward. Believers are denying the horrendous suffering built into nature and not admitting that only God could make the world that way (Lucifer and humans cannot recreate the structure of the cosmos). Then, they explain away God's inhumane behavior throughout the Scriptures. Why? For many reasons, but however it happens in their psychology they end up accepting God's goodness so that all "evils" from a humanistic standpoint get excused.

            You said, "I renew my recommendation that you study some philosophy of God."

            How much more arrogant can you get?

            You're apparently assuming that I haven't already done that because I don't agree with your position. Can you not see how condescending and presumptuous that is?

            There are many good qualities about Christianity and one of them is humility. Please demonstrate that you care about this teaching and expectation as one of Christ's followers.

          • Paul F

            No, I'm saying that because you are making a categorical mistake by giving empirical evidence for God's non-existence. And you are accusing God of acting inhumanely. That just means that you do not understand who God is. In the Bible you see humans acting inhumanely, and you see God trying to teach them to love authentically.

            God rules the universe, but as a father, not by fiat. This is incomprehensible to the via moderna, but is crucial to understanding Christianity. I am sorry if you find me arrogant, but I promise you do not understand Christianity. And Jesus didn't allow for taking parts of Christianity to build a great society. He was either God, or He was mad. Pieces of His teaching will not help to build a new tower of Babyl.

          • Andy Rhodes

            If we use the only definition of good and evil that we as humans actually know for sure, which is from our own experience, feelings, reasoning, scientific knowledge and compassion/empathy for others and the modern humanism that has produced the highest quality of life in general welfare and human rights in history, then the actions of a god that would a make a cosmos like this one with so much built-in suffering for human and nonhuman animals along the apparently barbaric elements within the god portrayed in the Bible means that god is at least partially evil. This is not "objective" in the ultimate sense, because a supreme god could override any claims that we make and just say it's good because god says so. And that's really what's happening in orthodox theology. This character of the Christian god does not possess complete and well-rounded love, justice or goodness when looked upon from a humanistic perspective (where slavery is either wrong or right, mass murder is never justified except in large scale direct self defense and it cannot ever be ethical to treat women as second class members of society).

            You said, "Instead of believing that there is a God who makes morality objective, you are looking in history and societies and grading them based on certain data that you find appealing in a society and defining that as morality. And then saying that this morality you have subjectively defined is objective."

            Again, the burden of proof is on the theist to provide substantial evidence for such a grandiose claim as saying there exists an invisible all-powerful being for which we have virtually no strong evidence. Objective morality would be preferred by most people, but please offer reasons to believe that it exists other than wishful thinking and that it seems true in the opinion and intuitions of many people. I'm not saying that there definitely is no such evidence, but after studying theology and apologetics for 20 years (half of that time as a Christian), I can say that the evidence and arguments available are quite weak. They often depend largely on nearly overwhelming innate human desires for safety, order and meaning in life. And like the monumental gaps of logic in the Strange Notions article above, just providing a big list of examples of how people through diverse cultures and time periods had many similar longings and insights into the human condition has no necessary connection with a supernatural source for these characteristics or the potential historicity of mythological stories about a Garden of Eden and falling away from this state.

          • Andy Rhodes

            You said, "anecdotes from history and data and speculation on suffering are not reasons to believe or disbelieve in God".

            I agree, but they can be reasons to seriously question the goodness of God. Nature by necessity of it being a very complex created thing says a lot about God's character. When I use the word "good", I mean the normal human use of the term. Humane. Fair. Kind. The God of the Bible is only like that occasionally. Much of time, he's brutal and reactionary.

            The use of philosophy to explore the existence of God and his attributes is worthwhile, but far from fully effective. In logic, we have to keep in mind both the theory of coherence and the theory of correspondence. Innumerable intellectual systems can and have been developed that are coherent in themselves, but few correspond fully or even mostly to the real world.

            You said, "Maybe He exists but is not authoritative and intervening and evil."

            Taking a more deistic route doesn't help your argument at all. A deistic god with the kind of intelligence to create a universe like this knew full well what it would be like for sentient creatures to live among entropy and tremendous suffering. This kind of god cannot be all-good if we use a humanistic criteria to evaluate his moral character qualities.

            You said, "Your reading of history is still focusing on the bad and ignoring the good."

            That is simply not true. I don't have to list out all of the good, true and beautiful things about life or Christianity. They stand on their own. I'm pointing to the horrendous things because they are so gigantic, easily overshadowing the positive. You're not using appropriate scale and proportion when comparing good to good and evil to evil. You said, "Suffering for love of others is not difficult and is a source of great joy." This is really insulting and unsound for you to say because, whether you fully mean it that way or not, to dismiss the massive amount of suffering built into nature itself for hundreds of millions of years of sentient life is to skip over the daunting truth that the benefit of some suffering for love doesn't even closely match those terrible intrinsic pains. Do you really think that earthquakes, smallpox and predatory killings of humans by lions is justified by some people suffering for the love of other people? Do you hear how incredibly inaccurate and callous this viewpoint is? We're taking trillions of instances of awful suffering for sentient creatures versus maybe millions of examples of human to human love. On top of that, Christianity blames it all on human beings, the first two ignorant people who made one large rebellious choice and all those after them who could do very little to avoid the dominant sinful nature prevalent within themselves. How loving, intelligent and wise is a god who makes a moral and living system that is so frail that it will break into such astounding disarray so easily?

            If after I've said all that, you still appeal to God's fiat in making what God wants to be moral be actually moral, even if the level of harm is far larger than can be justified in any way that we plainly discuss, then how can you feel sure that your belief in God's goodness is plausible? Why do you believe it?

    • neil_pogi

      yes, indeed! if no Fall, no sin, no curse, no death!

      all living things are subject to the laws of entropy..

      entropy leads to disorder, suffering, pain, disease and finally...

      death (as the eternal punishment for sin)..

  • neil_pogi

    yes it's true, that's why sin exists.

    then why would allow sin (evil) to exists? because He respected man;s decision to freely choose evil

  • Andy Rhodes

    Unless I overlooked it, there's not any actual evidence in this article of a pre-Fall state or a Fall itself.  The author provides many examples throughout the ages of human perceptions that something is not right and normative with our species and the ecological conditions that cause us to suffer.  What proof is there that this is not the way humans have always been forced to live?

    The moral instinctual pattern in all known people groups does not clearly link itself to transcendent morality.  Given the great variety (and many times contradictory nature) of moral systems and the fact that other types of apes and dozens of other species categories demonstrate compassionate tendencies outside their nuclear family along with behavior analogous to varying degrees to that of humanity regarding guilt, shame, pride, love, sorrow, depression, fear, dread, etc., a natural basis for morality is easily explainable apart from a transcendent source.

    While acknowledging the majority of traditional orthodox theological interpretations until the past two centuries, how can the validity of the Bible’s claim that physical death came into the world through sin (including the suffering of both humans and animals) be maintained since death is an integral part of the universe (according to common sense observation and today’s scientific community in paleontology, evolutionary biology, embryology, cell biology, botany, astronomy, astrophysics, geology, geography and math)? And if this classic Judeo-Christian belief has become untenable, the entire doctrine of the atonement falls apart and salvation from damnation is not needed because it is clear that the universe (made by God) has always operated within the parameters we understand now. In recent centuries, growing scientific knowledge about the ages of things like galaxies and rocks and species has forced many Christian theologians to develop other explanations in which death of some or all sorts existed before sin. But these viewpoints make it much harder to defend God’s goodness, given that natural evils for nonhuman animal suffering and humans are then recognized as being apparently congruent with the original divine plan, with or without sin.

    I've tried to address these topics in more detail here: disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com.  Check it out if you feel so inclined.

  • Andy Rhodes

    What is the evidence that God knows what he’s doing? She created a Garden of Eden that collapsed after just one sin, thus ruining the entire cosmos. What kind of planning and love is that? He felt that he had to flood the Earth and kill everything on it to start over, but didn't change the DNA of the human species "infected" and "depraved". So the same pattern of rebellion against God was virtually guaranteed to happen again, even though God would continue to blame humans 100% for their actions regardless of the significant moral, intellectual and emotional weaknesses they received at birth. What could describe a more embarrassing track record of mismanagement and waste? She placed us on planet Earth, which is largely inhospitable to human life. Only through over 100,000 years of perseverance toward technological, social and moral development has our species learned how to survive consistently. Before the 20th century, the expected life span for all human history was 35-40 years or even lower. During that lifetime, people suffered from disease, famine, attacks by predatory creatures, ignorance, violence, fear, natural disasters, dread, etc., often limited like wild animals in the midst of a labyrinth of dangers and terrifying surprises, with no guarantee of anything beneficent or providential.

    Traditional monotheism certainly wasn’t obvious to 99% of world cultures throughout history, as only the three Abrahamic faiths and Zoroastrians believed that way. Comfort, guidance and protection deriving from a perfectly good, wise and powerful God eluded humans in their billions by no fault of their own – the genetic hardwiring of their brains didn’t lead them inevitably to see the world as being rooted in something other than pantheism, animism, polytheism, atheism, deism or panentheism. God made a cosmos that is built on the necessity of continual cycles in destruction-creation and life-death. Without the death of stars, there would be no galaxies or life in the universe. Without biological death and life processes integrated together, the Earth’s ecosystem would not function. The orthodox Christian assertion of a “safe” environment for human (or other) life in the Garden of Eden is completely implausible given these realities. God made a dangerous universe from the beginning. There’s no evidence of a biblical Fall away from an earlier utopian origin. The Bible says that in the future God will create a New Heavens and New Earth that is systematically designed to be without sin, death and severe pain and yet many people will be there who didn’t choose Christ – babies, the mentally handicapped and perhaps the unevangelized as well. So, why would God make our current universe so harsh and baffling? And why hide or make unintelligible the various essential revelations of God from most people for most of history?

    Given what I’ve said above, why would it be rational to trust that God is looking out for our welfare, here or in the afterlife? I can see goodness and wonder in nature, yet there is also a vast range in types of suffering, waste and tragedy awaiting living things on this planet. This is not because of sin. The universe has been like this since shortly after its existence was inaugurated 13.7 billion years ago. A conservative young earth creationist who wants to maintain that the cosmos began 6,000-10,000 years ago is stuck in the dilemma of explaining how the biology, physics, geology, chemistry, etc.(1) of such a recent start could match with with the radically contrasting record found in the field of natural history and all other areas of science which have been studied and verified for centuries, many times by researchers with Christian beliefs.

    (1) disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/if-physical-death-entered-the-world-because-of-sin-why-does-science-contradict-this

    ==========================================

    The paragraphs above were copied from one of the articles on my blog site: disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com. I'd love to hear feedback on any of the 20 articles there, if you'd like to share.

  • In all these stories, there is only one entity to blame-God (or the gods). Hera gave Pandora her insatiable curiosity, Zeus knew this would lead to opening up the box. God put the fruit in the Garden, when simply not doing so would prevent everything. Yet even if one believes Adam and Eve guilty, how are we? It was not us who did anything-how are we guilty for what our ancestors did? There is no logic or justice in that. I fail to see how nominalism relates in any way. Also, you assume all atheists are utopians who believe in humans' total goodness. That is hardly the case. Nor is this utopianism limited to the nonreligious. I have no problem saying humans have bad aspects to ourselves. That is different from saying we are fallen, however, since this assumes some height we "fell" from.

  • Mikahel

    is the man fall? That's impossible, unless we believe in Darwin or we have such a gap on our mind.
    If the man fall into the earth for his sin, means that the Creator of him was unaware of the creatures's weak nature and was unaware of the shaitan presence on the even.
    It is obviously a tale for young boys, then the boy grow in a man and he has to figure out what is behind the curtain of smog.
    And by the way, if the Almighty gifted a eden-land, He can't take back his gift, what kind of God is this?
    That means that Adam and Eve and their inheritors (us) are still on the Eden garden, but because of our presence out of that garden means that our "shape" is not like we think.
    So Adam and his sons are in the same time in and out of Eden, the human been has not fallen down but a portion of him is exploring him-self in a strange and difficult environment (the earth) that is testing him.
    The man has, as a duty, the need to know him-self trought the senses, because it is hard to know him-self and then his Creator without experience just trought the heart.

  • Doug Shaver

    The atheist problem of denying man’s fallen nature is one of denying a proper understanding of the interiority of man.

    I know of no atheist who denies that we are imperfect. What we deny is that there was a time when we were perfect.